'PETS, KIDS, & HEARTBEATS'
The sample real life story (a.k.a. memoir) and companion essay below
speak to our connectedness to other living beings and our planet.
By Massimo (Max) Majorana
with assistance from Trayce
My head hurts so much
I wish I could die.
"I have cold sweats. I know it is time to get near the toilet. The vomit stays in my sinuses and it takes a while to get rid of that taste. I shower again, spitting and snorting.
I manage to sit up and email Trayce. I promised to contact her, and this makes me feel bad too. To her I write, I have been nailed on my bed with neck and back pain for the past 3 days. I hope this is not Corona?! What if I die? What about Mateo? She writes back to me:
Massimo, breathe, breathe, breathe.
Imagine soft pink. Play meditative music.
Don't fight and get upset and scared
by whatever is going through you.
Comfort your mind and body.
Even if you can't initially feel the impact,
I do this. I breathe and it works. I sit in the shower and focus on the slight variations of temperature, understanding the comfort that the cool gives from the heat and the comfort of the heat over the cool. We need them both, like yin and yang. I feel the water on my bald head, imagining myself on a tropical island, soft drops ease my pain.
Finally I lay down in bed, my company a nightmare migraine. I breathe. I breathe. I breathe. Longing for relief. And for the first time in three days, I can summon up the face of my son, Mateo, his toothy, joyous smile. Knowing the worst is about to pass. Just a few more moments and I know the pain will go…….zzzzzzzzzzz
I wake up hours later. I have peace. No sweats. No vomiting. I do a virtual doctor’s visit. He suspects all my neck and arm problems are from a pinched nerve on the elbow or the neck. I am a drummer. Phil Collins, the singer, started out as a drummer, one of the best, but his pinched nerve ended his drumming. As a drummer, he is my idol. I hope my drumming career does not end like his. Though already I have become bald like him!
So at least I do not have the virus. I can think about Mateo and be happy that I can continue to be there for him – even though he annoys the ‘heck’ out of me with his nine years old can’t-stop-telling-me-off sassiness !
He’s over four feet tall, very skinny, and likes carrots and pickles, the Whooper from Burger King and the fries from McDonald’s. He loves most playing video games, I think because he loves to be in control. When he plays with other kids, he wants to make the rules.
I am Italian, born and raised in Verona. I came to New York City in (2004) to pursue a music career. I made money playing gigs with songwriters performing their original music, as well working with bands doing covers. And in the mornings I walked dogs. I ate ramen noodles until one of the songwriters recommended me to the catering company she worked with, and my diet became much richer.
My son Mateo is Black. His mother is very dark skinned; he is light skinned though he tans very dark. It is strange how sometimes people can’t imagine me to be his father.
We went to the park and it was white moms sitting on the benches watching over their children. Mateo is that age where he wants to be independent and he went to play far away from me as though we are not connected. So I was sitting there alone. A white boy, maybe six, came up to me and asked, 'Excuse me sir, which one is your kid?'. I knew that the mothers didn't know which child to connect me to, so they feared I was a pedophile. I said, 'Tell your mother my son is the most beautiful Black boy here.'
It feels so wrong that I have the white privilege that my son doesn’t. I am overwhelmed by all the news of Black people being murdered under the cover of law and order. It makes my heart beat so fast, too fast. George Floyd’s killing finally brought people to the street. But I was already so appalled by the lynching of Ahmad Arbury. It sums it all. Racist father and son, ARMED ex-cop, corrupted investigation, and false testimony. It could have been my son Mateo jogging, his mother, anybody with brown or black skin.
The pandemic and the murdering of innocent Black people has made me think, I must stay alive to be an ever present heartbeat for my son. I must help raise him until he’s a man able to understand how he must protect himself at all times from irrational and dangerous racism.
It scares me to think, and I think about it now, what if I died? What about Mateo? I recently did something I never thought to do before – I bought life insurance. I was so happy that after the insurance company had my medical information they judged me healthy and even reduced the premium. I am strong ! I will be here for my son.
Crazy times, but I am somehow glad this is happening and hopefully will bring a change. I have not taken Mateo to a demonstration, but one came to us when we were out on the street. We watched hundreds of demon-strators pass us. I said to Mateo, how powerful it is to see millions of people, black, white, all colors, out on the streets around the world – all wanting to protect him!
BLM - Black Lives Matter!
MSM - My Son Matters!
PETS, KIDS, & HEARTBEATS
We are made greater
We are kept sane
We are frightened by
We are humbled in our appreciation of
We are inspired to go beyond
what is known because of
We guard with our very lives
For months now there has been national / worldwide focus on so many anguished cries: “I can’t breathe…I can’t breathe…I can’t breathe…” Breaths that fuel the heartbeat being cut off by brute human force and by a vicious virus attacking the lungs. These endless reminders of death weigh the environment that surrounds all of us.
Which is why we need to constantly remind ourselves of, and go towards, that which nurtures our own heartbeat – pets, kids, and other heartbeats (plus healthy eating and exercise !).
Caring for and responding to other heartbeats beyond our own, takes the attention off our own sense of vulnerability. Being receptive to others is by no means always easy, but from the time our umbilical cord is cut, it is what we are meant to do.
“The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe;
to match your nature with nature.”
- Joseph Campbell, Author & Expert on Comparative Religions
Living alone, I am forever grateful for the company of my two cat friends, YoYo (12 yrs) and Sol (1 ½ yrs). Since I have been at home so continuously YoYo has acquired a new habit that makes us both happy.
There are times I put a mat on the floor and set up my laptop on a small raised stand, then sit yoga-style on my heels and write. One day YoYo tried to jump into my lap. But how I was sitting, I had no lap. YoYo flopped off me, then jumped again, trying to find my lap. Of course I had to stop everything and focus on YoYo ! I rearranged my legs to create a lap and scooped him in. He immediately melted over my thighs, and feigned a deep and instant sleep (I knew if Sol went by YoYo would be after her in an instant!). I so enjoyed soaking in his comfort, his surrender, and feeling the pulse of his heartbeat against my legs.
“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart
that one can see rightly;
what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
― Antoine de Saint Exupéry, ‘The Little Prince’
The heart itself is a small vulnerable fist-like vessel, yet its beat can convey us into a state of wonder and grace. It does not matter if you live alone – no kids, no pets, only you flushing the toilet – that does not limit your ability to connect to the heartbeat of others.
In May Debi Blaney lost her dog Finn in the woods of Northwest Washington, D.C. Starting with a few people who knew Debi, the word spread of the search for Finn. As each day went by that Finn was missing the network of searchers grew; even a teacher’s third grade ‘Woodpeckers’ class and their families joined the quest. In a time of social distancing, many individual journeys were made into the words and surrounding areas. At the end of the day they checked in as a community to report where they could look the next day. On the sixth day Finn, fur matted and frightened, was found in someone’s yard. Debi and Finn were reunited. Hearing the news, never having meet Debi and Finn, the searchers who started as strangers were filled with joy, for they had matched their heartbeats to Debi and Finn’s.
“People say that love is blind, but I would say that love doesn’t need to see.” - Jui Moi
It’s strange how being aware of another’s vulnerability can remind us of our own, while at the same time inspiring us to new levels of courage and commitment. Perhaps this is the most mysterious human attribute, what some might call our ‘spirituality’ (which need not be attached to a religion). Share your story about Pets, Kids, or Heartbeats, so we can match up! - Trayce