Day 94: Gratitude for what is Illuminated

Derek DelGaudio does a one man show called “In and Of Itself.” In it, he uses magic skillfully in the telling of a story about the seen and the unseen in the human experience. He says (not a direct quote, but I’m close), “When you look at the sun, you can’t really see much. But if you turn away from it, everything is illuminated.”

I’ve been looking at the sun for a long time. Reaching for it as though that reaching were a virtue. I think a lot of our obsession with success is cloaked in the metaphor of reaching for the sun. “Get more clients,” “Grow your email list,” “Live your dream!” There’s nothing wrong with succeeding, or fulfilling your dreams. But we get carried away and end up mistaking the sun for what it illuminates.

We run and run and run…reaching for the light, trying to make ourselves bigger so our pockets will hold more of it. We try to gather more light, per the five steps we just learned about in whatever webinar we just watched. We keep checking, looking up directly into the sun — thinking if we train our vision on what we want, it will manifest. And all we’re really doing is going blind.

Stop it.

Turn around. Get the sun behind you. Turn away from the sun…
and everything will be illuminated.

Turning away from the sun,
I have my dog who every morning
coughs himself awake, enduring spasms,
deep explosions of death breath,
trying to clear his lungs so he can
start his gentlemanly day with us.
We walk together down the sidewalk,
him and me. We’ve been walking each other
in the morning for years now.
We know the drill.
I change directions when he’s bored.
I bring him home early when he’s tired.
I run with him when he’s up.
I don’t let him pee on people’s garbage cans.
Only telephone poles and trees.
Every morning we do this.
Our walk is illuminated.
He is illuminated.

Turning away from the sun, there is
the moment in my mother-in-law’s kitchen.
She is ninety-two years old,
living in the same phrases,
the same seven stories.
She tells them and retells them.
They are guardrails keeping her in conversation.
They are bodyguards against the terror of right now.
She tells them and retells them —
with the same physical gestures,
the same words, same rhythm, same point.
She tells them close to my face,
tugging on my forearm with a strong bony finger
to make sure I’m listening. And all I want

is for it to stop…for please dear God not again
with the aunt at the cemetery, or the mom
at the back of the classroom, or the
thing that her grandfather always used to say and why.

All I want is sun and more sun.
But this is what the sun is illuminating.
This is what it’s showing me: the sweet human
contact of a very old woman, pulling time into
a longer length, stalling, puttering around, forgetting…
“Mrs. T, let’s take your blood reading,” and she
takes fifteen minutes instead, just to put her shoes on.
Struggling in the other room, moving at a snail’s
great grandmother’s pace. Percussive little exhales
of her own death breath with each part of this simple endeavor,
grunting as she reaches down,
finds the edge of the shoe,
brings it toward her foot,
lifts her foot,
places it in the shoe,
every action so fraught with difficulty
it’s like she’s moving furniture.

And she is.
She’s moving the furniture of her ancient,
fragile little body — a body with an inexplicable,
ox-like tenacity for all its ‘weakness.’
She’s still here.
She’s still here and she’s pissed.
She’s still here and it confuses her.

When I turn away from the sun of my ambitions,
I am here too, with her in her kitchen;
and somehow it’s sweet, because I’ve stopped
waiting for something better. I’ve turned my back
on the sun, and I am taking in the
illuminated world around me.
I’m at 85–40 258th Street
in Floral Park and it’s fine here.
It’s more than fine.

But even if it weren’t, this is all there is. And it’s holy.
Everything Not This is a shell game designed to
separate me from this grace.

I had bigger designs for my life.
I was supposed to sing at Carnegie Hall.
I was supposed to write a Tony-Award-winning musical.
I was supposed to make shit happen.

As it turns out, my life had bigger designs for me.
She wanted me to learn about the sun, and
the turning away, and patience, and
attention, and kindness, and
the illuminated world.

How I came out so far ahead, I’ll never know.
But on this Day 94 of my 100-day challenge, I am grateful
for the sun, and the turning away,
and everything I’ve seen because of it.

I’m a patron of Ninja Writers, and this is part of the Medium Post-a-Day Challenge of blogging for 100 days. (This is Day 94.) If you enjoyed this, please let me know. Comment, or click on the clapping hands at left and give it some love, or share or follow me. And thank you so much for reading.



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Novelist. Poet. Musician. Buddhist. Quilter. Animal lover. Visible grownup. Hidden child. Secret dancer when all alone. Makes good bread.