Three Things

Failing at home. Rehearsing the truth with my dead dad. Being eaten alive.

Three Things
Photo by Tony Hand / Unsplash

Three Things. A short little shared meditation about three very different moments in the week that have a similar resonance. I guess it’s my way of seeking understanding through Three.

That seeking is an old tradition. Philosophers use trichotomies to explain one thing through three parts. Plato said man was made of Mind, Soul and Body. Hannah Arendt said the active life was made up of Labor, Work and Action. Religions like Three too. Buddhists take refuge in the Three Jewels. Christ rose on the Third Day. Zoroastrians follow the “threefold path”, known as Asha - good thoughts, good words, good deeds. Mathematicians love Three too. Pythagorus was a mystic before his theorem was taught in our tenth grade classes. He and his followers believed the world was made of numbers. Three was the perfect number because it had a beginning, middle and an end.  

I don’t imagine my three things will help any of us achieve transcendence, but maybe they’ll help us see through the glass, darkly, sometimes.

Tuesday : Failure at home 

I was making dinner for my kids when I found out I didn’t get a job I’d applied for the week before. It was a writing job with an online publisher. The rejection was a form email. They were pursuing candidates more aligned with their company’s needs. 

Honestly, it was the email I deserved. 

In the moments after I submitted my application, I realized I’d written my cover letter all wrong. I knew my resume looked cobbled together. I didn’t know how to present my self-education and non-traditional writing experience. It’s embarrassing that things like cover letters and resumes are so hard for me. Forms that make sense to other people are always the most difficult for me. And I guess when I say forms, I am not just talking about cover letters and resumes.

The kids played outside with the dog while I sat on the back porch applying for the job. They’d asked in the days since when I’d hear about it. 

Riley was at a work late that night. Dinner was a little late too. I went upstairs to cry before I finished cooking. And then I sat down to dinner with the kids alone. Over beans and rice, I told them it hadn’t worked out. It isn’t ever their job to comfort me, but I do think they should witness me fail. I guess I want them to know failure has a seat at the kitchen table too. They gave me hugs and told me to keep trying and then we ate. 

Friday : Rehearsing the truth with my dead dad

Riley and I watched the first episode of Nathan Fielder’s The Rehearsal. Alissa Wilkinson describes the show’s premise and the first episode in her excellent essay Four Ways of Looking at The Rehearsal

(First episode spoilers below)

“As the show’s name suggests, it starts out as a kind of social experiment slash therapy innovation: Nathan locates people (on Craigslist, apparently) who need to have difficult conversations or otherwise emotionally fraught scenarios. Then he meticulously recreates the conditions under which they will have this interaction, hires an actor to play other people in the “scene,” and rigorously rehearses the encounter, trying to anticipate possible outcomes and prepare the “real” person for the conversation.

Two of the major story beats in The Rehearsal’s pilot episode rely on the fact that Nathan has also rehearsed his encounters with Kor, building a replica of Kor’s house, practicing their first encounter, and later revealing a secret of his own to Kor — all of which happens with the aid of an actor (K. Todd Freeman).”

I was shocked by my reaction to the first episode. I cried as Kor practiced his most feared conversation over and over again. I know what it is like to construct a dozen different realities to steel yourself to survive one. Still, before we fell asleep that night, I marveled to Riley that I didn’t have any conversations I’d want to rehearse. 

But then that night in a half-waking thought experiment or a fully submerged dream, I can’t tell which, I practiced telling my dad that my family left the Mormon church. The set was the place we always got breakfast before first period when I was in high school. Instead of an actor, I practiced the conversations with my dad. My dad is dead. So in the dream it made some sense for him to act as himself in life, I guess. 

He sat across from me. There were versions of the conversations that ended with him crying. Others with distant hurt. More often his eyes took on that bewildered hurt look I found so gutting the few times I saw it when he was alive. It was incredibly painful. 

But when it was time to have the conversation for real, I didn’t have to. He was next to me. Before I said anything he pulled me into his side, the way he did from the time I was so small until he died. 

“Meggi, I know. Everything is good. Don’t worry.” 

And then I woke up.

Saturday : Eat me up

Yesterday, I went to work in the Denver Botanic Gardens. Many of the spaces were roped off for weddings. I wandered for a bit looking for a spot to write, listening to the buzz of bees and clatter of caterers. Families and couples wandered around hands entwined. There were people there alone like me, a book in hand or nothing held at all, winding through the grass and flowers. 

I settled on a bench underneath a grape vine. The leaves were lacy with bug bites. An invasive species of beetle eats up Colorado’s grape leaves and rose petals every year. They descend in a green metallic swarm in the summer just as everything is about to move from bud to bloom. The only way to effectively get rid of the beetles is to pick them off a plant one by one. So there’s really no effective way to get rid of the beetles. They get to have their fill. 

(Here’s a little video I took of them at the gardens in August.)

There was too much leaf missing from my working vine to provide much shade. But there were some clusters of grapes. And I imagine if I’d reached up to pick one, they would have tasted sweet. 

Later in the afternoon, the Gardens filled with wedding guests. Every half hour or so, a tendril of bridesmaids unfurled in front of me. The bride followed, attended by a parent or two. One father looked straight ahead, another fussed with his daughter’s hair. The mothers mostly smiled, one was crying. Aunts, uncles, cousins, sisters, brothers, friends and grandparents trailed, their heads turning at the first grouping of catered tables - was this the right wedding? When it wasn’t they climbed further into the garden. 

A little boy in shorts and a baseball cap stopped in front of me and touched my knee. When I smiled, he laughed. His mother called him away, “Peter, she is working and it is time to go home.” He turned to and moved toward her like she was the sun. 

There’s little, I suppose, to keep the things that swarm from having their fill. But there are shoots that still manage to bear fruit. And it is so, so sweet.