Call me Platespinner.
You know Platespinner, don’t you? He’s the guy, that vaguely Eastern European-looking guy who wore a red satin shirt and tight-but-balloony black pants, who ran around the stage on the Ed Sullivan show, while some invisible orchestra played The Sabre Dance in the background and the guy, the Platespinner guy, ran around the stage to keep the thirty-seven five-foot tall dowels spinning in mad counterpoint to the music, all to keep the plates that lay on top from toppling.
Manic. Frenetic. Exciting. Exhausting.
No time to think – just act. Keep it all spinning. Forever.
Call me Platespinner. Welcome to my life.
I don’t remember a time that this hasn’t been the metaphor for my life. Some people have theme songs – I have a metaphor. And okay, I probably have a theme song, too, but that’s a subject for another time, a different essay. Because this is all about
This is about
What I’m trying to say is
Here’s the thing: Why are there so many fucking plates spinning on top of those fucking spindly dowels, for God’s sake?!
Who the hell put them there? And what the hell do I care if they spin or not? And why, God – God of Infinite Mercy, God of Sneaky Irony, God of Whatever Thing You Want – why do I never once stop to question why I keep adding plates to this unholy fucking mess? Seriously. Even this has become merely a new plate to spin. And it has already become lost in the forest of all those naked dowels. Just add one more to the pile. To the pyre.
Because at some point, this forest, this pile, it all becomes a pyre and those flames will burn hotter than my guilt and shame put together. They will skip and dance up to heaven itself, and carry me – consume me – along the way. And I just keep adding more fuel. And more plates, over and over.
There’s work stuff and Nate stuff and house stuff and God stuff. There’s carpools and repair shops and therapy for me and grocery shopping and what do we do about Mom and did you remember to pay this bill and what about that library fine and you promised we could, you said that I could and have you talked to Dad lately and can you help with homework? And can you bake for this? And can you fix that other thing? Can you talk – write – pray – sing – do – run – drive – go – cook for me? For them? Just a little? Just this once?
And that’s just the Stuff stuff. The tip of the iceberg, everyday, ordinary stuff. That doesn’t even come close to the other stuff – the Dream stuff, and the Fear stuff and the Hopes stuff – all those things you put into all those boxes you’ve labeled “Pandora.” Mostly you keep those lids on pretty tight, but every so often, almost like that scab that you just can’t quite leave alone, you pick at one, open one, just a crack, and out slips – something.
All those Dreams you had, of becoming something – someone – great. Or maybe that secret fear, that really is mostly just shame dressed up into something so much finer, that you thought you had conquered that last time, but there, in the dark, when you’re tired and maybe a little lonely and, ok, let’s face it, cranky, which you’d really like to blame on the hormone thing, but, if you had to be honest, it really is that you’re angry – out creeps that shameful, dressed up fear. It crawls out of the box and up onto a plate, spinning now like a whirling dervish and singing at the top of its metaphoric lungs.
And don’t forget your Hopes. For you. For your son. For your friend, who’s been struggling some lately, whose mom just died, whose dog is sick and her husband got laid off and left and what hope is left for her? And, of course, you can’t forget your hopes for the world, and all the starving people who seem to multiply daily and the poverty that threatens to drown entire countries, and maybe even continents in endless, insatiable need, and all the oppressed people, and the dolphins and baby seals and bees. What the hell is happening with all the bees, and what the hell are we going to do if they all just die off? Who is going to fix that?
Have we hit thirty-seven plates yet?
In a walk.
I breathe, and six more plates pop up, almost of their own volition. And I never once stop to question why, God, why do I just keep adding fucking plates. I never once stop to ask what would happen if a couple dozen of them came clattering to earth, scattering into shards and dust and broken, jagged pieces.
And right now, this very second now – there is nothing left. The field is full. Fuck the plates and my insane drive to keep them all spinning and unbroken. If I try to put in one more dowel, add one more plate – no matter how fine and delicate the pattern – I will break.
This has happened before. I live my life, spinning and whirling and running as fast as I can, gathering up plates and piling up stuff and sealing boxes that keep cracking at the seams, just moving until I am lost, and moving for the sake of moving, mindless and driven by all the hounds of hell. There’s no fucking reason, other than to keep it all in the air.
Because I can. Because I must.
I am the Fixer of Broken Things. I fix. I heal. I mend. I do. And I do. And I do. No help. No questions ever asked. No hesitation. No pause. Fix it all. Take it all on. Take it all in. Alone. Because you hurt. And you need. And you want. And you ask. All for you. And please don’t confuse my frenzied action with selfless sainthood! Good God. It is all self-preservation! Because if I can fix you and mend you and focus on you, then I don’t have to look at me.
Because I could do it all. Because I didn’t need anyone. Because asking for help meant being less -than and wrong and horribly, painfully vulnerable. Because that’s when the white hot pokers came out, looking for all the soft spots. Because I would rather die than admit that I needed help.
Because I knew I would die if I asked for help.
Because I knew, way deep down, that if I asked for help, it wouldn’t come.
So you breathe. And you breathe again. And you add a plate – then another, and another and another. Just pile ’em on, do more, run more, breathe and gasp and stumble and spin and spin and spin. Keep spinning. Just keep it all going, more and more, until you’re bowed and bloody and broken. And then you just – do more.
Until it all comes crashing down. Until you are buried under the weight of your failure and your guilt.
Please God, you whisper, no more. Please. And you ache and you twitch, like an addict desperately seeking – and hopelessly dreading – her next fix, you tweak and you sweat and you crave, actually crave setting up the next plate and setting it into motion. It is your motion of the Heavenly Spheres, perfect and glorious and deadly in all that vast and empty space.
Please God, you whisper into that dark and dangerous place, please – I am so tired. Please – can I stop now?
And you wait. And you listen, straining past the breaking point to get an answer, that it’s okay to stop, to rest. To just let it all go, plates be damned, because the world will spin on its axis without any help from you. And you feel as if you could die from listening so hard, and your body is fairly thrumming with the effort, and your chest is about to explode because you haven’t actually taken a breath in a while.
And it is silent. And it is cold and lonely and vast.
One more plate. Just one. Promise…