Troubled Waters

by Mark Nepo

Robert is a man of pure yet troubled spirit and we have journeyed far these thirty years, waiting and watching for each other to open into new beginnings we barely thought possible. It is more than friendship. For we’ve been forced to hold—onto each other, onto what matters, onto life—like spirits clutching in a fire so ancient and hot that our centers have molded to one grip.

We were in grad school when we met, and Robert tells the story; how he saw God in my eyes, no mask or refracted speech, just raw, unharnessed energy. I knew him also as an immediate spirit, someone I wouldn’t have to explain things to, someone who understood the wonder that was my open secret. Here was a compadre I would not have to convince of the world of Original Perception.

But we were far from whole, each bearing his own fracture for surviving narcissistic parents and each sputtering and steaming at the need to be of this world. Both of us were addicts; internally addicted to the Absolute Nature of Things, and externally addicted to whatever could soothe our pain at living in the world. For Robert it was drinking. He is recovering. For me it was making. I am a make-aholic. He was driven to drink to flee a relentless sense of never measuring up, while I was driven to make and achieve to alleviate the oppressive nothingness of not being loved. But these are common maladies, which is why I bother to address them.

On this side of dying, Robert and I have taken turns being the foam and the clearness, the turbulence and the quietude. Don’t we all carry both as we meet the days: part of us ready to stir up whitely at anything we meet, and our deeper self, ready to come closer and glove what we experience clearly? Isn’t he in his drinking and I in my making—aren’t we, in those moods of imbalance, the foam stirring whitely back on itself at the cost of all else? Isn’t it the white agitation alone that ruins a life, whatever form it takes?

Enduring our own agitation, we must ask ourselves: Do we look for things to be troubled? Do we seek out troubled waters? Do we want to be whole?

See Notes.

Photo © Janet Waters

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