Losing my grip
There’s a small love seat in the front of my somewhat largish kitchen. It is L-shaped, and sits snug between a front window and a portable chopping block on which I have a blue banker’s lamp. It’s proven to be a perfect little nook to retreat to immediately upon the completion of eggs, toast, and tea, or freshly-drawn espresso, or when the lemon juice has just lighted upon the seared salmon. Feet up on the long portion of the “L,” iPad tuned to www.steephill.tv or http://www.lynda.com or http://www.vimeo.com, and I’m all set to be inspired, by the aromas of the food, the instruction of the learned, or the antics of the professionally two-wheeled.
This morning’s culinary self-cuddling was interrupted, however, by an increasingly frequent — and always jarring — occurrence. Something that I’m beginning to wonder about as being either an inevitability of having more and more laps round a certain dying star, or just a consequence of not paying better attention to my surroundings.
With my last morsel of fried egg, toast, and apricot preserves waiting for me on the plate, I reached for the large, frosted glass mug of milk that I always set on the far edge of the wide arm of the love seat.
I know what you’re thinking. You’d never allow anyone to balance plates and glasses on the arms of your furniture while eating. “You deserve what’s coming, Sam.”
Well, what came probably isn’t what you thought.
I always savor the last nibble of whatever I’m eating. What’s more, I actually plan for a little oral celebration, carefully pacing the drink and bite sizes. It’s kinda like that old Oreo commercial of making sure you’ve got that perfect final gulp of milk in order to make the entire culinary session a reflection of universal harmony.
Mug in hand, I brought it’s frigid glassy heft to my lips. On the plate below was the final, buttery, fruity-clad corner of toast, and an artful ooze of golden yolk. I was poised for the finishing stroke.
Next thing I knew, I was playing the part of a mis-dressed contestant at a roadhouse wet t-shirt contest. Extra kinky, because it was milk, not water.
Somehow, I had lost my grip on the mug’s handle. My warm, flavorful melange was now a pale wash of white, and my favorite button-down shirt was arrayed in a holstein pattern. How apropos.
I sat there, shoulders hunched, glass held aloft. As I felt the slow, cold creep of milk through my shirt and underwear, making contact with my skin down in the fragrant depths, I watched the yolk and milk mingle on my plate. My toast corner was now a sponge.
Like a statue with language, I muttered to myself, “No use crying over…”
I stopped short. Still motionless, I tried to get a handle on what had just happened. And not just because I was confused: Did I not hold the handle tightly enough? Did I hold it too tight, causing the handle somehow to squirt out of my grasp? Did I experience a bizarre spasm of some sort?
No, I was so deep in retrospection because — this hasn’t been an isolated event.
For example, I have developed a growing angst regarding stairs. Invariably, partway up a flight — no matter how long or brief — I will misstep. I will get out of sync with the process of walking up stairs. It’s almost always my right foot. It won’t lift quite high enough to clear a step, and then, let’s just say I’m thankful I’m gripping the bannister so tightly.
Routinely, I will:
- hit my head on an open cabinet door
- knock over a cup or glass with an unnecessarily forceful reach for something else
- close my fingers in a door I’m closing
And, what’s worse, little did I know that, as they day would unfurl, I would build upon these experiences.
This morning, not terribly long after my nipple-hardening iced milk experience, I was eating my mid-morning snack at my desk. A bowl of banana and strawberry slices sat in front of my chest. My forearms cradled the bowl, as I typed out some meaningless blather designed to make a pharmaceutical company richer. Two or three spoonfuls in, amidst a loud clink and a wet thwack, I had somehow come down on the handle of the spoon resting in the bowl. The result was a catapulting of a strawberry slice in a way that would have impressed Moe, Larry, and Curly. Its summersault ended in a rosy, damp face plant on — I kid you not — a manuscript regarding schizophrenia.
Deep in my cold-shirt reverie, a number of these events fast-forwarded through my mind. If these experiences remained wholly physical, having only to do with coordination, I’d probably not be so concerned. One of my kung fu teachers (I studied for a total of 12 years, in New York and Michigan) used to constantly intone, “Mr. Lowe! Hold your head UP! Your body goes where your eyes go!” He’s right, of course. As both a cyclist and a motorcyclist, I know very well just how the whole body follows the gaze of the eye.
But dang it, I was looking right down the barrel of that milk, this morning.
My real concern lies in what I feel must be the peripheral victims of whatever is causing these awareness snafus. And I believe my soul-sapping day job is the biggest culprit.
Forgetfulness comes in many forms. The mind can be dulled by bad habits. Your brain is a muscle that must be used — or else atrophy will set in. Rust never sleeps, and it doesn’t only gnaw away at metal.
When I write, or sketch, or paint, or prepare a complicated photo or video shoot, my heart and mind are engaged in a level that animates my entire body. I’ve been told by others that I “change.” I’m focused. Confident. Alive. When I’m on my bike, I have no need of a GPS, I am sensing my way to my destination; my body is an antennae, and my brain is the receiver. However, behind the wheel, I’m forever referring to the snaking cartoon map playing out my progress on the screen of my cell phone. I have become a dumb terminal.
About a month ago, I was sad to the point of depression over yet-again misplacing an item that’s dear to me: my black fountain pen. It’s the one I use for sketching rather than writing because it’s line is just a smidge too broad. My last memory of it — before misplacing it — was of finding it. After the joyous reunion, I distinctly remember having placed it, with a satisfying click, on the desk upstairs in my home. The visual was as clear as a Kodachrome transparency.
And yet, again, it was lost.
I had absolutely no recollection of putting it anywhere or using it at any time after it had been firmly put on that desktop.
Yet I found it when I randomly opened all the zippered pockets on an old, too-small camera bag. I had no real reason to explore that unused bag, other than a simple curiosity regarding anything that I may have left in it. Bang. There it was, tucked away and zipped closed, snug and safe. Apparently, right where I put it, albeit not nearly as definitively as when I had put it on the desk. I held it, dumbfounded, turning it so it’s glossy black and chrome caught the light. It really was as if I didn’t believe I’d ever see it again. I stared with a look that must have been very similar to the one I threw at my nearly-empty milk mug this morning.
The experience of finding things in places completely divorced from any remembrance of putting them there has given birth to a new quirk: I will now randomly open a drawer, just to see what’s inside. I’ll pull a coat out of a closet, never knowing what rabbit I might extract from a pocket. If I were more of an optimist, I’d think the whole world is just there for the discovering. But I’m not. The truth is, I have a list of things I’ve misplaced, and I’ve sort of acquiesced into the role of “passenger of my body,” a scavenger body. I have become both gremlin and gleaner.
A new perceptual paradigm was reached yesterday, as I relaxed into a relatively low-thought exercise for a photographer: calibrating my graphic monitor. As the various colors appeared before me, and I moved sliders and dials that made them juicy and saturated and then soft and grayed, I had recollections of happy childhood memories; events I’ve not relived and experienced for years.
The zinger was my own response to these memories, rich with visuals and sensory recollections: “I forgot how much I loved to do that…”
Talk about a wake up call to self.
With your head down and your hands punching the clock, you forget that a potent side effect of tunnel vision is “happiness atrophy.” Physically, you begin to move and make decisions as if you’re isolated. But you aren’t. You’re just as close to your environment and your fellow terrestrials as the rest of us.
The extended winter has caused races I’ve been signed up for to be postponed. But this aging cube-dweller is anxious to get to the start line, and into the thick of it. My trick ankle is happiest when riding hard and often. My heartbeat has become stronger and slower during the past few months of hard and focused training on the bike.
Here’s hoping for less spilled milk and smoother stair climbs.