A few times a day I press my fingers to the left side of my neck to feel my heart rate. I don’t particular care how fast my heart is beating (or even that it’s beating at all), this is just my way of being present with my stress level. Stress, my constant companion, the little ball of terrible black energy that skips across the wakes of my life, waterskiing from a rope attached to my heart.
Or let’s use skateboarding behind a truck, not waterskiing.
All day and night I interrogate myself: Am I doing enough? Am I present enough in the lives of the people I love? Am I a good partner? Am I good dad? Am I challenging my kids enough in the moments that matter? Am I giving them the space they need to to find their own voices? Am I giving enough to my job? Am I doing enough writing? Am I a useful part of the communities I demand attention from? Am I headed in the right direction? Do I use my time on this planet appropriately? Am I putting the right things in and on my body? Am I appropriately heeding (or railing against, as the moment requires) the slow decline of my flesh? Am I paying attention to the things I most need to be paying attention to? Am always I being the me I am most meant to be, in word and thought and action?
No. No! The answer to all these questions, and everything, is always no. Yet I somehow think of myself as a person who continually says Yes, an eternal force for positivity, flinging Yeses in every direction as I wing my way down the street. But somehow never doing enough, or the right thing, ever. In this way I sometimes think of stress as my protector. The glacial crust over the Manhattan-sized cavity of sadness slowly carving itself out deep inside me.
The other day I was behind a skateboarder at a red light on Comm Ave. This really happened: while we were waiting for the light to change a pickup truck drove by, driven by a clown. A literal clown, red nose, painted face, frizzy wig, etc. As he sped past he yelled out at the skateboarder: HEY POP AN OLLIE. That’s me, pressing my fingers to my neck, making sure everything is where it’s supposed to be.