True to its namesake, this Sunday was bursting at the seams with light. I looked up at the sky and the clarity of its color—clarity as a pure and as vivid as the pinprick of a needle—took my breath away.
Not true to my namesake (Emma, from ermen, meaning “whole”), today my attention is being pulled in a hundred different directions. Work, play, friends, partner. Family. Sad, bad, happy. Regretful.
The way my attention divides is like cells multiplying: each instance of division represents continuation, forward momentum, the progression of linear time, but, also, by those same gilded tokens, decay, inertia, and eventual collapse of being. You cannot be in many places at once without the quality of your presence diminishing. My eyes scatter out, profligate propagation, through the textured skin of tough calls, ruinous moods, and pits of anxiety. Each time my mind moves out to seek another task, another problem, another email, another text, the quality of my focus suffers as a result. It splinters, then fractures. It flushes, then reddens, then bleeds. I lose my train of thought. I become unable to name the right word, to follow the flow of a conversation, to keep myself from wandering off into the thorns of the next thing To-Do. I listen less intently, and respond less intentionally, and behave less thoughtfully. This, I know, puts me directly on the path of becoming a woman I am not and don’t want to be.
But life demands a fractured being. Staying in touch requires ten different apps bearing pastel-colored logos with soft, curved edges, elegantly curated feeds with custom typefaces, and consequences to my psyche that feel like being emotionally pulverized with a hammer. Keeping up with work trends means five subscriptions to magazines and trade papers, all eager to costume the truth in whatever disguise best suits the cause of sensationalism. A healthy body deserves rest, food, and exercise, but I cannot consistently provide all three, or even two. I have now been trained to seek distraction, to fear introspection, to submit to the transformation of hours of my life into ad revenue, to split my presence into forms that are “real” and “digital,” that are “personal” and “public-facing,” that are “work” and “life”.
My mind, flattened until it disintegrates, floats through the digital meadows of Asphodel. The day shifts shape. My mind returns to my body, filling out its contours like water crowding a bay. I come home and drop my bag onto the hardwood floors. I roll my tired shoulders, turn on the light, and fall onto the couch. Momentarily whole, momentarily true, momentarily at peace.