Thursday my new iPad arrived. Today, I returned it.
In the two days with my iPad I tried to get Google docs to work for when I would want to edit my poems or write new ones on my new portable electronic device, I spent time downloading apps so I could read the news in flashy formats, listen to Pandora, play words with friends and tweet about how much I was not doing, I even ambitiously figured out how to download books from the public library.
I decided to stay home this summer to relax, finish my manuscript, and plan a cross-country move. The iPad, I realized, was useless for progressing any of these goals.
Friday night, I cried through yoga class (for reasons which are inexplicable or which I will not explain publicly) and then through the movie, Crime After Crime. Debbie, the subject of this impassioned and inspirational movie, lived 26 years in prison, wrongfully incarcerated. Two attorneys spent six years of their personal time and money to get her out. Debbie was a devout Christian and Joshua, one of her attorneys, is an orthodox Jew. I was grateful to be in a movie theater, the darkness and the ticket I purchased that contracted me to sit and listen for two hours to a story that reminded me to believe in the power of faith and in the compassion of humans. I cried for Debbie and for myself.
Where had my faith gone, when I had no reason to lose faith and Debbie, who had no reason to hope, had faith in abundance? Through faith, the attorneys achieved what seemed impossible and gave the gift of healing and liberation. My lack of faith leaves me exhausted and keeps me from the joys I am given each day.
I went home to work on some poems on my iPad. It would have been more effective to do nothing. Pen and paper would have been more efficient in capturing what my soul was trying to learn. I set up apps to help me plan my trip to San Francisco. I longed for maps I could fold, that would not, with the wrong swipe of my finger down a road, turn into an advertisement.
Add up all those wasted swipes I could have done my yoga practice, read another chapter of a book, or practiced with a choir like Debbie. I missed being in a choir. I felt guilty for thinking this. Debbie could only sing in prison; I could sing wherever I want, but can’t seem to find the time. I felt I was squandering my time, yet I can never see the end of the list of things to do.
Saturday I felt depleted. I went to another movie. I did not enjoy the movie, but felt the relief of the sanctuary of the movie theater. There is nowhere to go. All else will wait.
I have trouble waiting. This staying put is challenging. It is the hardest part of writing. It is the hardest part, for me, of living, particularly when I know what I want. I want to be there, forget that being here is as important. The iPad, the traffic of LA, the tedium of online applications, the fear that my poems are not ‘good enough’ do not help. I want the next thing, but there is no form to complete, no fee to pay to make it happen sooner.
And it shouldn’t. This is where I want Debbie’s faith. I want to believe that each moment is where I need to be, is a gift, that will lead me to the next one.
So Sunday morning I went to church, another place we are allowed to sit for an hour and do nothing except listen and sing and greet the people sitting around us. It has been about a year since I went to church on a non-holiday. The sermon was about the sacredness of everyday language, how we speak and transform ourselves and others with words. Like, thank you and I love you and you are beautiful and it will get better. And poems. I was sitting, doing nothing, so I could hear that God was saying, “Lisa, just go write. Don’t do anything. Write and love.”
The anthem, Simple Gifts from God, was how I felt about the movie theater, the church, this act of truly doing nothing. It is in these places that the fix for the line that is not working comes, or the right word to finish that unsettled poem, or the peace to ease my unsettled heart.
It really is simple. Get paper and pen and make words. It is simple to buy a map and highlight the route you need to follow. It is simple to fill out an application and then find gratitude in whatever comes your way. It is simple because I am free to do what I want.
Like to love someone and to know I matter and make others feel they matter. Because we are there, together doing nothing, saying things in everyday language that becomes sacred because it is said with love.
On my way home, I stopped for groceries and bought a used paperback book for my trip. I went home and un-Lisa’d the iPad (thankfully a less time-consuming task). I printed my manuscript for me to edit and revise on my trip. I downloaded an audio book to my old iPod and I finished a job application.
I made time for yoga. I was a few minutes late. As I lay down on my mat a put my legs up against the wall, inverted my body and the racing of my mind, my yoga teacher asked “How does it feel to surrender to simply being here?” Simple. It is simple to show up and reverse the idea of always doing. It is simple to not fix what isn’t broken. It is simple to accept that things take time and that if I do nothing, life will unfold.
I stopped by the post office to send the iPad back. Thankfully they have a self-service machine to simplify this process and to allow me to do this on a Sunday.
I packed my journal and planned to buy a map when I get to my destination. I look forward to the long drive of doing nothing except growing my faith that I will arrive where I need to be safely and ready to love.