Red Balloons

Posted in Everyday Life, Musings by ameliadean on May 5, 2010

I used to get this distinct feeling when I was a child, waking up naturally in a room full of light. It was concentrated in my gut, as if my stomach had transmogrified into some kind of warm gel. For me, this sensation is the closest I have come to pure relaxation. Unlike my experiences in meditation, unlike anything I can experience while fully awake, the feeling is unmistakably corporeal. It comes from within, from some deep, dark, fleshy place where all the color has been shut out. I cannot make it come, or keep it when it does. On those occasions when I wake to find my innards have turned all warm and soft, I remain still.

I wouldn’t say the feeling washes over me, like pain tends to do, but instead hovers, like a steady glow. I imagine a pearl of light beneath my navel, illuminating me from the inside, so that the morning light from the sun and the pure light from within meet on the surface of my skin. So that when I close my eyes, it seems possible that the blank rosy gloom of my eyelids may very well be the result of flesh lit up on both sides. Somehow. And then the feeling contracts, the light is snuffed, and my stomach is empty.

As I grew up, that weightless warm light visited less frequently. For a long time, I blamed this decline on a lack of crucial elements: Summer sunlight, nights of unperturbed sleep, mornings in which I was allowed to wake naturally. But then the feeling would come unexpectedly, on a gray day, or following a night of restless tossing. Once or twice it set in after I was prematurely roused. So I began to conjure another hypothesis. You know when you first wake, and all the feelings are there, but they merely float, temporarily detached from meaning? Like balloons they seem to bumble about, moving on their own accord, bumping into one another. And for a moment, you are transfixed; you have no words, no thoughts. You are only feeling. And then, all at once, the meaning gushes back, flooding you with the right names and events, and all their accompanying significance. Suddenly the balloons have strings, strings tied to recollections of real things, tethered to the impressions left by experience. They remind you: You feel like this because…

What I am trying to say is that I think it is only here, in this precise moment, between feeling and thinking, between non-sense and sense, that that wondrous flare of warmth, that sense of literal levity, is allowed to flicker and swell.

The length of this necessarily liminal period is subject to variation. And, as far as I can tell, this variation is distinctly patterned. It seems to me that the greater the intensity of an emotion, the greater its attachment to the explanation of its genesis, and, consequently, the more quickly its import tends to be restored upon waking. Like a red balloon, potent emotions make their presence known, demanding we acknowledge, identify, explain.  In the mornings following a breakup or a death, I awake thrashing for air, drowning in a flash of unidentified despair. For a suspended instant, my chest buckles under an unnamed anguish, my constricted lungs unable to expand, and I do not know in what direction to seek release. And then I burst through that invisible surface of meaning, into a world of words. I suck in sense, and pin my grief to something static. I feel like this because…

These days, red balloons are rare. There exists no overwhelming feeling, imploring me to return to the realm of reason. Often I do not notice as orphan emotions reattach themselves to some greater cosmology. The two fold together quietly, like shadows. It seems my emotions are so evanescent, so blurry, that they elude capture for some time. They are helium with no shell, amorphous and clear. They have no obvious strings. My thoughts lie thick like fog, immune to the organizing impulses of my vertigo-eradicating, order-obsessed interpretive machine. I am able to rest on the threshold of dreams, where topographies of feeling and knowing are as discrete as cup and saucer.

I am trying to explain why I feel so good in the morning. I am trying to understand why I experience this euphoric incandescence more often. Surely the early sunshine of a northern hemisphere spring helps. The fact that I am extremely well rested must be a contributing factor as well. But the true answer has less to do with my exterior surroundings than it does my inner being. I think it bespeaks a distinct state of mind, one which I have not felt in years. It is as if the dust is starting to settle, and I am able to see a bit more properly. I am starting to discern what matters most to me, and trying to cultivate apathy for all that isn’t worth my time. I like to think I am biding farewell to some of those tiresome red balloons, one at a time. In the morning, instead of being greeted with a tangle of worries and concerns (Am I any good at anything? Am I inherently lazy? Will I ever make money? What if I am never satisfied?  Where am I going to live next year? Where am I going to make my first home? Will I ever be willing to settle? Will I ever be able to have a family? When will I see my cat?), I am able to feel the warmth of the sun on my face.