All the World in One Day

In the Hsin Hsin Ming, there is a line that says “one instant is ten thousand years.” Today felt like that.

I seem to have covered the entire range of human emotion and experience through my connections with family and friends, all in a single day. First thing this morning, a friend called to say she’d just been released from the hospital after a dangerous alcohol-induced diabetic reaction, finally acknowledging that drinking was a problem. Another friend called just an hour later seeking advice, because her teen-age daughter was suicidal. I was hit hard by both phone calls, pulled deep into emotional response, feeling helpless and scared.

But the day didn’t stop there. We had a full social agenda. My best friend was celebrating her 40th birthday in the afternoon, so we went to congratulate her, socialize and meet up with other acquaintances.

Then, right on top of that event, we had to race to Santa Rosa to a special event at the senior living complex where my grandmother resides, where they were hosting a special open house in her honor. The two-hour event, with champagne and desserts, was a celebration of her years of service in the community. They had asked a member of the family to write something about her, and I, as the family writer, was designated. The previous night, I had written a one-page tribute, and I read it aloud to a packed dining hall of strangers. I am used to reading to audiences, since I often do it as a writer. But I have a hand trembling problem. A podium is what generally saves me. I can lay the pages on the podium, slip my hands into my pockets, and no one is the wiser. But tonight, there was no podium. I was standing up in front of this crowd holding a single sheet of paper in one hand and a microphone in the other. Two paragraphs in, my hand began to tremble so badly, I couldn’t read the page. My partner Sabrina came to the rescue, pushing a high-backed chair out for me to lean the paper against, and I was able to finish the presentation. Despite my self-criticism, annoyed that it was not perfect, the piece was well received and drew smiles, laughs, and compliments. Grandma, who will be 100 in August, was in high spirits, loving the attention, and all in all, the evening was a success.

So now I am at home, sitting down at the computer, after not posting for four days, trying to wrap my mind around this vast universe of a day. Celebration and loss, medical scare and longevity, emotional pain and family support, nerves and confidence, empathy and bewilderment, friendship and fear…this last day seemed to encompass the entire human condition, in some way or another.

And I have come to no solutions about any of it. The only answer has been to keep showing up: answer the phone, return the message, bring flowers to the party, write the tribute. I guess that’s what I’ll keep doing.

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