It’s the last day of the year. Outside is a day of cold, grey blahness, the type where morning, afternoon and evening are indistinguishable. It’s just light until it’s not.
I’m sitting here thinking about impermanence, wondering how people exist.
I had a fire in my apartment on the 28th of this past September. That was a Thursday. The prior weekend, I had finally moved all of the books I had stored at my Mom’s house. There were enough to fill up the trunk of my car, along with the whole front seat and both foot wells of the back seats. I hadn’t had time to put them all away, so they were still stacked up in my living room.
The fire had activated the sprinkler system, which then flooded my place with grimy water that had sat in the pipes for years. Other than two Rummbermaid tubs that had lids, pretty much all of the books had disintegrated into slimy heaps of mush that fell apart upon touch, when I was able to come back into the apartment weeks later to inventory the damage.
Over two months went by before the repairs had finished and I could move back in. I went from hotel to hotel with Moose. I had to buy new clothes, since I had nothing with me.
Even though I still went to work, the days and weeks melded together as a sort of slow, surreal viewing of my life as if external to it. The evenings, in a room with Moose, took on a timelessness wholly disconnected from the rest of the universe.
Then around Thanksgiving, two things happened: I turned 40, and my Mom’s appendix burst. I do feel extremely fortunate that I was not only able to be around to help her out, but also to witness endearingly groggy moments, including a sudden compulsion to do laundry, lamenting in a tiny voice as I walked her back to bed that the dogs had alerted me of her being out of bed, because they were “John spies.” All part of the healing process. My Mom is the greatest.
Then came the uninterrupted stretch of maddeningly cheerful music from which one has no hope of escape, no matter how hard one might rum pum pum pum his head against the wall. Thus, my time removed had extended.
Initially, it felt as though my life paused, and I entered into some sort of different existence. Now that it’s almost time to return to my default settings, I’m not sure what to do with the discovery that the two are really the same.
I used to think that periods like this were akin to putting on a mask, assuming a temporary alteration that may later be removed. But what happens when removing the mask just reveals another mask underneath?
Which one is you, er, me?
Well… maybe both.
Maybe they both exist, one no more valid than another. What is, as they say, is. It could be that all we are is just a bunch a masks, each serving a purpose. Who we are, then, would be comprised of the pile of masks we manage to accumulate and later cast aside.
Who we were, who we are and who we will be is all part of the same whole.
It’s all one, just like the morning that becomes afternoon on a grey day.