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.
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.