I am a balloon.
I’ve tried and tried (and tried and tried) to find words that apply in this After Time. Which is to say, I’ve tried and tried (and tried and tried) to find words that apply to this Life. The era in which I exist is just a conceit. An important one, I think, for the After Times is an era of chaos and uncertainty and triumph and tragedy and looking for the helpers and being disappointed and uplifted, sometimes at the same time, but a conceit nevertheless because if we were honest we’d just admit Life has always been thus and thus will always be.
So I’ve tried and tried (and tried and tried) to find words that apply in this After Time, and I have come to a conclusion.
I am a balloon. A stretchy vessel with great capacity for air, and I can be filled and filled until my skin grows thin and taut, and I am amazed that I have not burst from containing too much, when pop! I shatter, withered and undone.
You know what I mean because you’re a balloon, too. A walking container, filled to overflowing. Watching the world. Puzzling over it. Wondering how we’re here and also why and what for and who put us in charge, anyway? Us, with our big feelings and wonky wishes and murky motives. Us, in these silly, beautiful bags of flesh. Us, and our fractured mosaics of pain and pettiness shot through with all that’s noble and holy and precious and perfect. More than the sum of our parts. Impossible art.
We expand and expand and expand, taking on more. Taking in more. Until boom! We burst, and our pieces scatter.
And I admit I wonder: What good am I then? When I’m suddenly beyond capacity. When I can’t take on or in another thing. Not one breath more.
Which is, of course, ridiculous. Utter, confusing nonsense. Because the balloon wasn’t ever meant to hold everthing, dummy. That was never the balloon’s purpose.
The balloon can only hold some air. The tiniest bit, really. The balloon is only meant to give us the shape of the thing. To catch the gust of wind. Fleetingly. So we can hold it for a moment and bat it around, watching it drift and fall.
But we’re not good at impermanence, are we? We’re not good at being temporary or small when we feel so very eternal. So very large. So we put expectations on ourselves to hold more than we were ever meant to carry. And then blame ourselves when we shatter.
P.S. I realize, belatedly, that I’ve been away from this space for months. I’ve kept up on Instagram (@BethMWoolsey) and Facebook (Beth Woolsey), but not here. Our little town has been falling apart, a battle-ground for racism and bigotry, and I’ve been laser focused on doing my small part to remedy that. And on the foster kittens. And on binge-watching Ted Lasso and Sex Education. But mostly the town thing. I’ve popped at least 53 times in the past 4 months.