Yesterday, suddenly, I remembered why I quit my job in NY and eventually came to live in Japan. And how I learned about my heart’s wayward behavior.
I remembered that one day I was at my desk in Midtown Manhattan, looking around at the people I spent day after day for 7 years looking at, and suddenly I realized I didn’t really know any of them. I remember feeling that I existed but I wasn’t really alive, just going through the motions of being alive, like a spectator watching my life through my eyes, experiencing it vicariously through some stranger who had inhabited me for some purpose, neither good nor evil, light nor dark…in fact, it seemed quite natural. Like this was the way it was supposed to be. And everyone around me was in on it or were similarly strangers with front row seats to their own lives, unwilling or unable to affect change.
Sounds paranoid, I know, but it scared the shit outta me, it did! I wanted nothing more than to live again. I would put in my 2-weeks notice the next day. That night, while I was typing up my notice, trying to find just the right way to kiss off a job while I was on top of my game (I was one of the top salespeople, definitely being groomed for management), I panicked.
I had procrastinated about making such a move for the past couple of years. A five-figure bonus for an outstanding year was due the following week. I’d saved up a nest egg in anticipation of finding the huevos to do it. And if that weren’t enough of an incentive, I’d even written a novel and found an agent of some notoriety with an outstanding track record. By all appearances I was not making a mistake, I was not about to undertake something I would spend years regretting. I was making a change the way wise people make changes: with forethought and preparation.
But, apparently, my heart hadn’t gotten the memo because it was racing like I’d just pulled an Antonio Montana and hoovered up a mound of cocaine, reminding me of how stable I was, how comfortable I had become with a steady income, toys at my disposal, a circle of support filled with friends and family nearby, a girl or two poised to make a commitment to accompany me on my path to greatness. I snapped, aloud, “What the fuck am I doing???” fell to my knees and prayed.
My christian roots tend to find their way to the surface when I have a crisis, though I’ve rarely found my way to a church. Like the man said, "There are no atheists in foxholes." I kneeled before my queen-sized cherry sleigh bed with the posture-pedic mattress, fingers clasped, head bowed, mind and soul open to answers from the powers that be, from the Creator I wholeheartedly believe was looking out for me, and waited.
He (or She) didn’t answer.
Someone once told me that coincidence is the The Creator’s way of remaining incognito, so I waited for a coincidence. There was silence in my bedroom. Nothing but the buzz of the fluorescent light above and groans of the century old Brownstone I lived in, and the thumping in my chest. I broke the silence.
“If I’m doing the right thing, Lord, don’t say anything.”
The Creator, in his consummate wisdom, said nothing. No coincidences occurred, either. I didn’t suddenly receive an email or text message. The phone didn’t ring with some caller bearing an ominous message vaguely connected to my plight. The door bell didn’t ring prompted by a visitor with a message of ye or nay, little to his or her knowledge. Not even a bird budged outside the window, or called out in that avian language of theirs that I seem to understand at moments like these. It was the kind of silence that only the Creator could produce, I told myself as I rose, sat at my computer and completed the notice.
Flash forward to today. I woke up this morning feeling...lonely.
What's left of my friends and family are far away, literally, emotionally, physically…I hardly know them anymore. It’s a phase, I know. I’ve been here before. It’s not homesickness, though. I hold no more illusions about where and what home is. The cliché is true. Home is where your heart is. The problem is, my heart is on furlough, on an excursion to points unknown. It’s not in NY. It’s not in Yokohama. And, it’s not inside of me where it ought to be. It’s on a walkabout leaving me to my own devices for a spell. It does this from time to time. A little heart appreciation period.
And during these periods I am quite inconsolable. Unreachable. I survive on heart memory. I go through the motions of having a heart, which is unfortunately enough for most of the people I know here in Japan. They don’t know me. Maybe some of the more perceptive of them can see through the amiability and passivity I display during these heart-free periods. They go through the motions of admiring and adoring me and I perform as I'm expected to, mostly because a paycheck hinges on this performance. But, they don’t know me. None of them do, really. And that's OK. Who really knows anybody anyway?
My heart has been MIA for a few weeks now. I really don’t mind him taking off like this. Only, when he does, the major drawback is: Writing becomes a chore because I write from my heart. When I can’t write I feel useless. It’s hard to forgive my heart (and myself) for putting me through this. So, I spend my days alone going through the motions with my Japanese friends and colleagues; watching them. Everything appears to be on the surface. Often, there’s an artlessness about them that I’ve only experienced with real friends and yet these are people I don’t really even know. There’s an openness and a vulnerability that I feel totally undeserving of. I had never really experienced such un-sophistocation before coming here except maybe with children. Sometimes I'm even tempted to reciprocate. But, when my heart is MIA I simply can't. I have very little to share with them. I only have platitudes and the verbal equivalent of flatulence. It’s enough to make you afraid. Sometimes, if you let it, if you’re weak or vulnerable or predisposed, it’s enough to make you hate. It was enough to make me think about those co-workers I deserted years ago back in NY. And the feelings that prompted my flight to Asia. Someone once sang, “You can’t run from yourself. Everywhere you go, there you are.” No one ever told me my heart could depart.
While my hearts away, I spend my time occupying my mind with mind-numbing stuff…reading novels, watching TV, overeating, over-drinking, over-smoking and over-analyzing everything to the point where the point of the analysis becomes moot or exaggerated beyond recognition.
Colds feel like cancer. Hangovers feel like Leukemia. The city feels like a Jungle. Home feels like a cave, sanctuary or a monastery. Nothing I think or feel is worthy of being recorded in any way, especially in writing. Not while I’m going through the motions of being a real person.
But, I’ve been down this road before, and I know when my heart will be back. It’s waiting for my call. It comes when I really need it or rather when I demand its return through action. Its obedience is absolute. Its allegiance is unquestionable. It only leaves because I secretly, sometimes unconsciously, command it to go. When I need time away from it; time to see the world without feeling the world. Time to collect myself, my thoughts, my energy. Time to appreciate time, to remind myself of the gift each day is…
For I know one morning, I’ll be walking down the street, and an idea will pop into my head…not necessarily a brilliant idea, just an idea; one with promise. And, I won’t lay it to the side to be addressed later, and promptly forgotten. I’ll stop wherever I might be and whip out my handy pen & pad, or rush into the nearest café to grab a seat, a cup of caffeine, and jot it down. Or, like today, upon reaching my office, I'll head directly for the computer and begin writing a text message (in the form of this post) to my heart telling it that it's time it came home...
...with utter certainty that it will soon be here.
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