SURFACE ROULETTE



Today I drove after work to the last stretch of beach before the border and walked barefoot along a deserted shore until the sun caressed the horizon. My roommates (in good Baja custom conditioned to bundle up at even the prospect of 55 degree weather) would slap me for exposing my bare feet to the “frigid” SoCal earth and air, let alone for allowing the winter waves to wash over my ~ work pants ~ up to my calves as I danced the boundary where wave meets shore.


Consciously taking slow steps (Midwest hustle culture translates into all bits of me, including the pace at which I walk), I was passed by a woman (sporting a puffer jacket and hiking boots, as an aside) walking her dog along the water’s edge. It’s quarantine days, which consequently often means to our reductionist minds that it’s the days of pretending passersby are in a world different from our own. But in this particular instance (and I think because I was in my office attire and felt like an asshole wearing a peacoat on the beach) I felt an urge to pause my sad girl music and ask her if I could pet her dog, whose name was GiGi.

GiGi snuggled up against me like a toddler does to their parent upon returning home. The woman thanked me (have people always thanked others for greeting their pets??) and made a comment about how usually she (the dog) doesn’t go up to people, saying I must be a real animal person! Idk, I assume this lady could just tell I was being all contemplative and wanted to “Be that person to change someone else’s day.” Anyway, afterward, the dog was elated, jumping all willy-nilly (what a fun adverb to type) and gaping up at her owner as if she’d just been granted a treat.

THE TREAT WAS MINE, GIGI. They got far enough ahead of me that I shrank securely back in my solitude and a soft wave of tears overcame me. Yeah yeah, I get it -- we both know where this is going. Epiphany and shit: this sap is my pattern & destiny and at least it’s not going in an Instagram caption; but post-nearly-a-year into not petting a single stranger’s dog and post-three-months-or-more of not having shed a single tear (a red flag but maybe it doesn’t need to be), the moment was ~ inspiring.

{CAVEAT}

The intended subject derived from this inspiration was something I have completely forgotten now, because after walking for a while I sat down in the wet sand to type but my fingers were frozen and so was my phone as it teetered on 3% battery. And how could I wallow in my sad girl moment if my sad girl music could no longer play?? So I walked back and had a different ~ wave of inspiration ~ while sitting back in my car. (Wooahhh how about THESE #bts deets!)


{CAVEAT WITHIN THE CAVEAT}

What I had already written sets the context well enough for what I have now written and I can’t think of a way to bridge the two parts without making something up, so instead I am going all meta and exposing this explanation of my jagged writing process, which happened entirely within my phone notes. Okay, here’s part two:


There’s something interesting about walking on that part of the sand between the dense, packed part where the tide rolls in and the feathery, separated part on the other end. This literal middle ground is a surface roulette. The sand looks like sturdy terrain, and sometimes it is, but sometimes the crusty top crumbles into air pockets of damp dirt, testing your balance. It’s neither compacted nor fluffed. It’s a workout; it’s a trust exercise.

I’ll equate it to “grey area.”

In this game (or, depending on how dark/light you’re feeling, dance) of surface roulette, each step is one, one could say, in faith. Faith that you will continue to walk, whether the ground holds you up effortlessly or whether you have to dig your heels in a bit.

I recently heard (not for the first time but afresh at a time that the subject matter didn’t completely repulse me to the point of turning my ears off) that — and this is simply the quote as I heard and wrote it, I think a reference to Richard Rohr’s words but Pete Holmes said it — “The opposite of faith isn’t doubt; the opposite of faith is anxiety. Meaning, faith is the ability to not know. To not have the answers and not panic, because you know you’re in the river and you can just let go.”

For a while I’ve rejected the mere idea of faith. It feels foolish and like voluntary blindness and an invitation to be coerced into something deceivingly hypocritical. I don’t mind the idea remaining largely unresolved, perhaps forever, but I can say this: the shakiness of the unknown, the gamble of it, makes it interesting enough to engage. Why else did I continue treading the center sand?

Is it in fact more interesting (fun?) to live in the challenge of the interface? Is constantly contemplating extremes simply a form of living amid them?

Maybe the question of sustainability was the wrong question. I realized after expelling the last post (I say expelling because that is the sensation and felt purpose of these stupid ass (parenthetical within a parenthetical: I will never not value the rhetorical power of the phrase “stupid ass” and no mature orator may sway me) published indulgences) the utter irony of my desire to conclude EITHER grey area OR black/white as good or bad. It’s comical really, the levels to which a brain will go in order to make sense of such an integral part of our existence that we cannot even notice its playing out as we investigate it.

Perhaps that previous version of myself, which I had defined as drowning herself in extremes, was not doing that or anything extreme at all. Perhaps she was just living. In light of the turning of a page (it's January damnit!) and thanks to beach walks, I am getting the sense (surprise!) that the perpetual slew of futile questions I’m always asking (which, yes, is exhausting, thank you) just lead to MORE QUESTIONS! This is nothing new. And must be for good reason. And while it's not exactly an answer, and probably in five days I will think of myself as having another epiphany and denounce this denouncement (are you lost yet in my cerebral rabbit holes? yeah, join my therapist), there is a sort of relief that comes with the realization that I am draining myself (and anyone else who lends an ear to my bullshit) dry with this "sensory" illusion -- this illusion that with enough _______, I can make sense of things.

To say this is not to condemn Socrates for his whole “The unexamined life is not worth living” thing. I’m not that full of myself at the moment, and actually, mere rationality and/or enduring bouts of depression post-unexamined-living will undoubtedly lead you to the conclusion that yeah, the unexamined life is not worth living... and therefore I must examine every fucking bit of my life and everything in it and everything about it and everything around it. (Make friends with and make jokes about your coping mechanisms!)


So actually I am speaking to his point — or trying to — by saying, in a weird roundabout way, (GiGi gad no idea she was evoking this kind of reflection) that meaning-making is the whole gig. And while the whole gig is an illusion (because, like faith, it’s something that exists and remains in existence due to our human necessity to comfort ourselves and provide some sense of grounded-ness within an untethered and answerless existence), it’s worth living. The gig, the gag, is worth living. And even when you’re toggling between what seems on the surface to be opposite shores, you’re really just swimming.

In the game of surface roulette, you can ponder whether or not the ground will hold you, but it will. You can ponder whether you are anchored or drifting, but it's irrelevant. You don’t transcend/escape/outwork/evade the water because you are the water.

And it’s not wrong to ponder these questions, even to the point of exhaustion because even though our therapists kindly remind us that we don’t need to waste our energy like that, sometimes it’s just how we want to live, and sometimes searching for meaning becomes meaningful in of itself. Do what helps you, as long as you’re honest with yourself.


Just know: what is unknown is not asking you to know it. If you want to try to wrap your head around paradoxes, sure. (It took a lot of self-control for me not to say "shore" there.) You will create another one, and find yourself entangled within it all the same. (I'm thinking here of that scene in HP where the more the three struggle in the branches, the tighter the branches grip them... By the way it took me nearly 15 minutes scouring the internet typing synonyms for "branches" to find that clip to link... Apparently the correct term is "Devil's Snare," which, from a spiritual standpoint just further confirms by point. So thumbs up.)

I’ve been thinking lately about how much paper and plastic has been used in the service industry during the pandemic. Isn’t it funny that by now, the number of plastic cups and cutlery we managed not to use in that while-long wave of pushing for sustainability (RIP to dialoguing over a coffee bar about my Keep Cup) have probably been surpassed by now? Everything balances out. We make all our efforts to change things, to make a dent, and of course often we do, and things can change, but it’s like inevitably the opposite will occur, somewhere, even if only apparent to you in small doses, whether or not you asked for it, just to over and over prove Newton right and your desire for control wrong.

I can’t remember the specific video I saw once upon a time but it’s from this dude who likes to explain quantum physics, and in this particular one he talks about how when going into deeper levels of **term which I can't recall but wish I could so that I could seem very smart**, there were just more levels and levels of those **term which I can't recall but wish I could so that I could seem very smart** repeating. It was biological inception. That’s what life seems to be. The depths repeat what could have been seen from the surface. There are no answers to uncover, no patterns to escape, no unknowns to make known. The ocean already is, and will continue that way, and your (my) struggling against its force is what's drowning you (me), not the waves.

I hope even just a waxing moon sliver of this made sense. I promise I’m completely sober. If it didn’t make sense, take with you two items: 1) the thesis of this piece: stop trying to make things make sense; and 2) this is all for my own indulgence and, further exemplifying item 1, these 283 paragraphs are me trying to make things make sense.


Ok, swim on, my fish. Walk on, my reptiles. Fly on, my doves. XO

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