- ABOUT US
Steffie Corcoran, Editor
Photo by LORI DUCKWORTH
By Steffie Corcoran
April 16, 2015
Week before last was intense—unexpected text changes in the last days of deadline, work-related disappointments, the usual flapping gate in the communication triangle. I’m ashamed to admit that I seldom process these hiccups with equanimity, a smile on my face and an encouraging word to my colleagues that this, too, shall pass and we shall overcome. Instead, because I am both a verbal processer and in the 95th percentile of emotionality, thousands of words are said emphatically and intensely, input is desperately sought, tears are shed, and it sometimes takes awhile for me to recalibrate and get back to matters at hand.
No one—not the philosopher, not the natively mellow, not even the Libran—yearns for balance like those of us who are creatures of strong, and powerfully expressed, emotion. But for us, equilibrium is equal parts elusive and seductive, like Clive Owen. We hunger for it but can’t find a restaurant that serves it. We are exhausted but unsure how to replenish. We try to meditate but are afraid we’re not doing it right. We have a hard time having a hard time.
Awhile back, during a social media exchange in which I was talking about how painful it can be to listen to The Diane Rehm Show’s Friday News Roundup, Julia Kirt wrote that I might want to offset Diane Rehm with an episode of On Being. (Executive director of Oklahomans for the Arts, Julia is someone I admire greatly who wears her equilibrium like an expensive tailored suit.) I love On Being—Krista Tippett, the woman behind the show, is one of my favorite Okies—but being more habitually geared toward grist for the outrage mill than food for the soul, I don’t tend to seek it out.
I was reminded of Julia’s Facebook comment recently when I stumbled upon On Being on my way home. Tippett was talking with Fr. Greg Boyle, a Jesuit priest in Los Angeles who operates a gang-intervention organization called Homeboy Industries. The episode is guaranteed to give you an infusion of positive energy, even if you’re feeling great.
One of the things I appreciated about Fr. Boyle’s conversation with Ms. Tippett was the way he sees the notion of service: as kinship, a mutuality that makes helper and helped indistinguishable from one another. He also recounted a delightful anecdote about the Dalai Lama. Asked about his thoughts about his own impending mortality, the Dalai Lama shrugged and said, “Change of clothing.”
Several touchstones in that conversation made, as Wordworth once said, my heart leap up. Julia was right. You can’t listen only to the “news,” which often translates to “bad news” and keep your heart right.
Other moments of light from my bad-but-also-good week. In the midst of emotional distress, Nathan, who had been out on some work-related errand, returned to Walker Creative and placed a slice of Key Lime Macadamia Nut from Pie Junkie in front of me. (Karlie got a piece of strawberry rhubarb, Megan banana cream, while Nathan himself had a slice of Bird Dog.) He had no idea I was having a spell, but this simple act of generosity and kindness did more to make me feel better than the 45 minutes of verbal processing that preceded it did.
And finally, I fell helplessly and temporarily in love with Richard Blanco, star of the seventeenth annual Thatcher Hoffman Smith Poetry Series at OCU. I was late to an in-service for teachers, poets, and others the night before his public reading, which meant I was ushered in to sit at the only open seat at the table, the one next to him. My inner introvert immediately worried about the small talk that would likely be expected of me at the break. The break came, I insipidly asked about his trip, and he seemed utterly uninterested. I took a breath and told him that as the editor of a magazine about Oklahoma, I, too, was obsessed with notions of place and home. (He, a gay poet and civil engineer whose native country is Cuba, had expressed the same obsession earlier in the evening.) That’s all it took for us to become entangled in the kind of conversational vortex that’s so strong it almost takes on its own shape and texture.
Driving home, it occurred to me, not for the first time, that the universe provides. A sweet colleague bearing gifts of pie, a selfless priest with messages of kinship, a quick conversation with a superstar poet. When it does, the old hurts and angers and disappointments either fall away or take their place in the natural order of things (Richard Blanco > communication snag).
One of the poems Blanco discussed during his in-service was one of my favorites, James Wright’s “A Blessing.” The poem’s last pair of lines are among the greatest in the canon: “…if I stepped out of my body I would/break into blossom.”
If everything is going as it should, aren’t we supposed to be falling in love and breaking into blossom all the time? The cardinal flitting around the neighborhood. A kid’s adorable and sweet moment. A random connection with a “stranger.” I’m going to seek balance so they’ll break me over and over again.