The unseen process between the question and the answer

An acquaintance messaged me today asking in the most genuine of manners, how I am doing. I don’t know her well, so despite the tug I felt to bear my heart and soul, my response was polite. I safely and lightly danced around the question in order to avoid troding directly upon the depth which her inquiry had stirred up.

It’s a curious thing that I would rather write an honest answer to the question in my blog, and to people I don’t know, rather than people I do. I wonder what that says about me, really? Am I just participating in an unspoken but pervasive societal rule, assuming that nobody really wants the true answer to the question “How are you?”
How often do I truly want the answer? All the time I want to tell myself. Sometimes I don’t have the bandwidth or the time for the real answer, it’s true, though often, I do. I want a true answer in response to my inquiry of others’ well-being. So why is it that when I have a true, deep answer to give, it feels like such an imposition to give in all that depth?

And so, I turn to this blog, to say what I really wanted to say (and may still send as an amendment)…

At the bottom of it all, I am okay. We are living in quite a paradox, or at least I am. Perhaps it is not fair of me to lump the grand ‘we’ in with my solitary observations. With every thought, action and deed, I am willing myself to just accept the unknown with grace, and a dash of trust – in order to avoid slipping off the sharp cliff and into despair. There is much melancholy within and all around – and yet, so. much. beauty.
The roses in my neighbor’s garden are blooming with such a ferocious strength and in such great numbers, that when the wind is just right, their scent wafts into my open window. The branches from their mulberry tree lean over into my yard and drop their fruits at my door. When I pause long enough to see these gifts of unexpected beauty, the melancholy lifts like a marine layer in the afternoon. It will be back, though.

I have been making art as often as I can, though not as often as I would like. My deepest satisfaction has been coming from painting mandalas with oil paints – deeply meditative, pressureless acts of devotion, focus and simplicity. Pressureless because they will not be for sale or exhibition, so the inner critic takes a vacation. I must say, it is immensely enjoyable to create without a drill sergeant hurling insults at me. My lines are more precise, the time passes quickly, and there is a deep sense of satisfaction at a day well spent. These paintings are not meant for the world, they are a simply conversation between my heart and the divine, whomever that may be. Perhaps that is why the critic is not interested? Is the critic only present as a representative to my ego when there is the question of reputation at hand? I wonder how I might silence the critic more often as I approach my artwork?

I took a long walk early this morning; 5,600 more steps than I did yesterday, which sounds like a lot, but I only took 65 steps yesterday according to my phone. Between my gym being down (obviously), and confusion as to what outdoor activities were allowed, I have been moving my body somewhere between not nearly enough and not at all. Which may also explain the pervasive melancholy. On my walk today, I spotted a little library of books, a well-fed but skittish coyote, a cooing morning dove, a tiny starling, 3 squirrels darting up and down the trees, a bamboo forest with its own cooler climate, and 3 humans. It’s funny to me that even in a large city like LA, there’s still a small-town vibe in the early morning hours, a sense of community as we pass each other and nod good morning from our mutually safe distances.

I’ve noticed a new favorite word popping up for me lately: agency.
Agency as in: the capacity, condition, or state of acting or of exerting power
(thank you Miriam-Webster).
It’s no wonder, really, that the word would get my attention the last few days, as it is the vital ingredient I have been most lacking since the quarantine began. In waking up early today and taking that walk, I found a sense of agency once more. And now that I have properly reflected on the original question, I can answer you honestly…

I am well. Thank you for asking. How are you?