Death or distance soon consumes them: wind
What most I may eye after, be in at the end
I cannot, and out of sight is out of mind.
Christ minds: Christ’s interest, what to avow or amend
There, éyes them, heart wánts, care haúnts, foot fóllows kínd,
Their ránsom, théir rescue, ánd first, fást, last friénd.
--The Lantern Out Doors, Gerard Manley Hopkins
In the middle of the night I woke up from one too many bad dreams, and felt a kink in my neck. Oh fudge, I thought, desperately trying all sorts of different neck supports and sleeping positions, in a desperate attempt to appease whatever neck muscles had already begun to spasm and pull and wind themselves into a knot.
But I woke up to find that the knot had traveled from my neck down into my shoulder blades.
Aggravated by stupid teenage boy misogyny, immaturity, whining teenagers, stressful emails, mixed-up schedules, and too many gchats bearing bad news, the knot took over my entire back.
Throughout the course of the afternoon, I felt the knot travel down my spine, curling and twisting down my vertebrae. I have never felt my muscles tie themselves into knots like that. It was if all the pain and uncertainty, all the doubts and fears that generally confine themselves to my heart and mind took up residence in my back.
As I rode the train down to rehearsal, we were stopped at the 96th street station for an unspecified delay, due to an "incident," and I could feel my back arch and stiffen at the unwelcome news. I felt myself grow hot and frustrated. And I prayed a silent, desperate prayer, as the knot in my neck tightened so I could barely turn my head.
As I crammed my way onto the downtown 5 train, I felt my spine tingle and the muscles roil, protesting the swarms of commuter crowds surrounding me.
There is the kind of prayer you offer up in the middle of commuting crowds, as you begin to feel yourself grow impatient. You mutter: Lord, Lord, and hope that is enough to get your voice into the Kingdom of Heaven. Your heart is so desperately trying to lift itself up to the Lord. But you are so weighed down by your own heaviness, it is hard to focus on anything other than the knots you have tied yourself into. Your prayer reaches up, and it seems like the rest of your body refuses to follow. Your prayer tries to reach beyond the darkness, into light, but it seems like the rest of your heart just wants to stew in the darkness.
As I waited for the elevator of the office building in Flatiron, I examined my face in the mirror. It looked like it was tied up in knots as well. My forehead looked like a string of knots tied in a rope.
And then, as I began to read the words of the script for rehearsal, I felt all the knots inside of me come undone, unraveling, and twisting into something coherent, a narrative I could understand. It is not, really, my own narrative. It is the story of the play I was acting out. It is another woman's story, written by a playwright, not my own story.
But that drama I participate in helps me sort out my own drama. It helps me understand the fears and sorrows, loneliness and pride, unhappiness and pain inside my own heart. It makes clear to me what I cannot understand on my own.
The knot is still in my neck. I can feel it pulsing in my right trapezius muscle. Despite repeated back massages from kind friends and roommates, my back is still rigid and tense.
Knots, once created, are difficult to unravel.
But there is a certain Joyful and stern grace in our prayer that is dry, our prayer that struggles upward, our prayer that reaches for God when we cannot desire to reach outside of ourselves.
I cannot raise my eyes heavenward, because of this knot, but I desire to lift them so.
And I pray that--for now--that is enough.