The worst thing you have to learn over and over again is that you are alone in your head. What a terrible thing to know so definitely. There are so many things in life that make me sad. Life is magical in so many ways, and painful in so many others. But god, isn’t it heartbreaking that we will never fly? That no matter how hard we want or hope or try or struggle, our two feet will never lift off the ground without some outside assistance? I wasn’t a One Direction fan, but now that Harry Styles has gotten all feminine and artsy, I like him alright. He has this music video for “Sign of the Times,” shot on the Isle of Skye. He winds up slowly, lifts off from a mossy rock and then floats, soaring above a beautiful evergreen forest. It’s like he’s being raptured. I remember watching it for the first time and thinking, “Yes, that’s it. This is what I’ve dreamed of.” But if some deity came upon me one day and asked, “Phoebe, would you rather fly, or have a visitor in your noggin every so often?” I’d pick the latter in a heartbeat.
I took the kids at work insect hunting today. We happened upon a snake, so into the tub he went. And when it was time to go, the kids did not want to say goodbye. So much of child care is imposing rules that are not technically necessary, but are for your sanity. Even so, every time I say no, I think, “Why am I saying no? How terrible and unfair and frustrating it must be to live your whole life based on others’ whims.”
Anyway, this boy really wanted to see the snake again, and wouldn’t get in line. There was no real reason for me not to let him, but still, I said no. I often feel like my answers to children depend on my mood. But if you give a mouse a cookie, all the kids will want to see the snake, and then will think whatever snake they want to see in the future, they can, without asking. So I said to him, “No, we’re done with the snake. Pick up your water bottle and get in line.” He was so pissed at me. He really, really wanted to see the snake. I could tell he was thinking, “But I want it so bad! There is nothing I want more right now than to see that snake. What can I do, what can I say to see that snake?” Yet I looked down at him, and denied him his snake, and said, “Get in line. Now. I’ll count to five.”
Similarly, I often think that if I could say the right thing, I could fly. And I get so close, looking up at something towering over me, feeling like yes, this is finally it. I’ve finally found the words to convey exactly what I’m thinking, and feeling, and how my mind works, and why you need to let me fly right this instant, why I want this so bad that I’ll destroy myself over and over for it. And then the towering thing looks down at me and says, “Nope. Go get in line.” And I’m again reminded that oh, yes, here I am. Down on earth, alone in my mind with my desires and only my voice to convey my soul.
I had dinner with my friend Evie the other night. I’m trying to get my kicks in before it gets too cold to hang out outside. I told her, “I’ve been thinking about being alone in my mind so much recently, how we all are stuck up there.” And she responded, “I love that.” “What do you mean?” I asked. “The sentiment?” “No,” she responded, “I love being alone with myself. Sometimes I catch myself laughing at my own jokes in my head and I look in the mirror and I think, ‘Oh, a friend.’”
My favorite thing about this terrible truth of the human condition is the joy of observing others’ joy without understanding its root. The knowledge that although I will never understand how another’s mind works and they will never understand mine, I can see its signs in the laugh lines in faces and creased brows of excited explanations. Sometimes I love not to understand. And sometimes I hate to know myself so intimately. But I’m not even sure that having someone else inside my head would solve anything. I don’t even understand myself. Maybe I just need to look in the mirror and find a friend. But honestly, I just want to fly.