Dude, what happened to your chest?  Whoa, I can see right through!  That’s awesome!  Can I stick my arm in there?

It’s not easy walking around with a gaping hole in your middle.  It’s drafty too.  But that’s what happens when you lose your center.

Where did you lose it? dumbstruck friends want to know.

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They ask like I inadvertently misplaced it, as if my very core were nothing more than a TV remote.  They offer friendly, sleuth-ful suggestions: OK, when did you last see it? 

To be honest, I am not even sure what my center would look like if it were to turn up, say, under the seat cushions.  On a good day I imagine it might be shining and pulsing.  On a bad day it is probably flat and in need of batteries.

My wife is concerned.  She worries that along with my center I might have lost my moral compass too.  By habit, I pat down my pockets checking for lumpy silhouettes as if morals were nothing more than a stack of shopping cards in my wallet or downloaded Apps on my cellphone.  I reassure her that only my center is missing and that I no longer have the ability to make decisions.  

It happens this time of year.  When one-word responsibilities compete for my anxiety: schedules, requests, demands, obligations, commitments.   When there isn’t enough time in the day to address them all.  When it is important to remind myself that everything is important.  When I haven’t even scrolled through my email yet.

That’s when my center leaves the building.  Poof!

I stand in front of the refrigerator hungry for something that isn’t there and can’t figure out what it is because I am thinking about something else.  It doesn’t matter, whatever staple I don’t find will fall out my insides anyway.

Oh yeah, it’s the cat food.  I need to feed the cat.  The hungry thing strokes figure eights around my ankles and mews helplessly as if I am the only one on earth that can keep it alive.

Why did I come to the refrigerator again?  I know it was something important.

When I lose my center I wallow in resentment for all I am expected to do, and then make sure everyone around me knows how much I sacrifice for their benefit even though I am not sure they benefit much from my sacrifice.   When I lose my center, self-pity seems like the only thing I have left for myself, and even that feels hollow.   

But that doesn’t stop me from complaining.

I snap for no good reason, usually at inanimate objects that blatantly ignore my will: containers that won’t open, pens that won’t write, drawers that stick because I haven’t fixed them in ten years.  Even random cosmic dust points its wispy finger at my gut, covers its mouth, and laughs at the void in my completeness.

I use words that suggest I have spent a lifetime at sea cursing deaf oceans into self-deluded submission.  My family hides.  They are afraid to be in the room with me.

I desperately need a plan to find my center.  But I can’t make a plan because my center is gone. 

I wonder if I can get a transplant?   Or get some guidance at a center Center?

I put fliers up in the neighborhood, on telephone poles and library bulletin boards.  Missing:  One center.  Last seen in the vicinity of my torso.   If found, please return.  No questions asked. 

Though I can’t imagine anyone would want to steal my center, even a politician. 

I call the police station to see if any centers have turned up recently.  Then, knowing myself as I do, I ask if any centers have filed a missing person’s report.  Because I realize that without my center, the universe may not be swirling around me anymore.

Panicked, I tell my kids to paw through the trash in case I accidently threw my center out.  They are reluctant, but I tell them in no uncertain terms that it is important. 

If I have lost my center, they want to know, then how do I know it is really all that important?  I don’t have an answer for them.

Here it is!  yells my son pinching his nose.  He is holding up a rotting chicken carcass.

Look, it still has a wishbone! says my daughter.

And a funny bone, adds my teenage son wryly.

They are right, it could be mine.

And that’s how I find my center.  It is usually right where I left it.  It is usually after a severe jolt to the system reminds me where it is, like when I witness my kids selflessly sifting through all my garbage to help me.

Now if I could just locate my mind.