Lately, I’ve been more weighed down by certain stresses in my own life, as well as a bit worn down by the deluge of daily political calamities streaming through my newsfeed about our country at large. I sense that some of you might be feeling like me, a bit starved for replenishment and curious to find a way to refuel without disengaging. I hope this month’s musings form a sort of pleasant bread crumb trail to meander through and piece together in your own way, or perhaps inspire a journey all your own, not to escape but expand your current capacity.
My breadcrumb trail began with reading Maria Popova’s review of Bill Hayes’ new book called Insomniac City, a memoir and collection of journal entries about his love affair with New York City and his beloved partner Oliver Sacks. Now love stories don’t typically entice me, but there was something fascinating about finding myself gliding into some alternate emotional space, tracking with delight the shift from personal frazzled-ness and political despair to a felt sense of openness and tenderness for New York City and much to my own surprise for Oliver Sacks. Before I knew it, I was out the door to my local bookstore and half way through the book.
“He was without a doubt the most unusual person I had ever known, and before long I found myself not just falling in love with O[liver]; it was something more, something I had never experienced before. I adored him.” – Bill Hayes (2017), Insomniac City
I had read some excerpts of Dr. Sacks books in the past and more recently was deeply moved by his remarkable Op-Ed in the New York Times right before his death from cancer in 2015. I was in awe of his candor and bravery and expressing these very intimate reflections about dying. I felt his Op-Ed peeled back a layer to reveal another dimension of humanity that we can rarely touch unless we are faced with or in proximity to mortality, some more pure or clear vision for what life and living are all about.
“I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.
Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.” – Oliver Sacks (2015) My Own Life, NY Times
I think that part of why I was so enchanted by Insomniac City was that it was an opportunity to feel immersed in the intricacies of the resolution to Dr. Sack’s monkish phase of life. A gleeful opportunity to experience the incredible relief that he had made it after all this time to that seemingly sacred other side of existence of being seen and loved by another human being.
Warmly…and somberly, and tiredly and gratefully,