My earliest memory is of being in one of those automated swing chairs. I can feel the weight of my baby tummy smooshing into my baby bottom, all scrunched up. And my poor little fat legs suspended above the floor.
My mother swears I am too young to have this memory, but I see it clearly. The swing is made of blue rough fabric, probably a heavy cotton. The sound of the chair is a loud tick-tock. And I’m aware of my mother and my Aunt Dolores moving around me in the kitchen, bustling about their own affairs. I am left to my own devices.
I want out of this chair. I want out. And yet, try as I might, I can’t make my legs extend long enough to get my toes to touch the floor. I’m trapped in this endless ticking machine, waiting for someone to notice me.
Perhaps I cried and was ignored. Perhaps I began to wail and I was immediately tended to. I don’t know. All I know is that there was a moment of blinding clarity where I wanted to be anywhere but here.
I heard on the news or read in a book somewhere that your earliest memory reveals much of your present-day self. That’s certainly true in my case. I spend the majority of my time just passing the time, waiting for someone to pick me up out of this cage. Or struggling with all my might to release myself.
When I lose myself in my work or my music, am I really here? Am I present? Or am I dissociating? Tick. Tock. Relentless.
Time forces me down a birth canal I am too large to fit. Towards what destination? I cannot tell. I have given up most of my hope for a new life. Even for a different life. Sometimes I think it will just be no life at all. But mostly I think it will just be the same life, trapped in a swinging chair.
The one thing I know I want to do is music. Specifically, Kaia. I’ve thought seriously about changing my career (history professor, music teacher, even UU priestess), but nothing appeals to me. It’s as if my mental tastebuds have gone flat. The only thing that gets my attention is Kaia. The music, the message, the experience.
I love my house. I love my yard. I feel rooted in that sense. And I have Kaia. Everything else seems distant. I sometimes wonder if I’ve lived on my own for so long that I’ve lost the ability to connect to other human beings in any meaningful way. If I lost my connection to music, what then? Perhaps then it really would be time to let the clock tick to its logical conclusion.
I don’t have a sense of where else I would like to be, except in an abstract, Christmas movie sort of way. I desperately want a husband and community. I still want children even though I can never have them. I want to be a thrumming chord in an orchestra of family and friends and neighbors. I can even see the movement of many people in and out of my house, hear the sound of many people talking and laughing and singing. It all seems very Little Women. It is hyped-up Technicolor in my spirit.
But that doesn’t seem to be in the cards for me. What does? I cannot see. All I see is more of the same and frankly, that’s not good enough.
Whenever I think of this particular memory, it leads me to Oingo Boingo’s It Only Makes Me Laugh. I think it’s the similarity in rhythm to “anywhere but here.”
I don’t know why I feel this way
I don’t know if it’s right or wrong
To laugh at misfortune
Darkness can never last too long
Perhaps it’s just cynicism on my part. Or some self-conscious gesture, laughing in the face of death and all that. Suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Yadda yadda.
But I know someday there will be a reckoning. Someday the urge to get out of the chair and go somewhere, anywhere, will be too great—and that’s where I’ll end up. Anywhere but here.