Day 18 of 30: Inside Seeing
A meditative prompt from a seven-year-old guru
On Friday, I took my first flight since the pandemic started, and it was surreal in every way. The feeling began even before I left my house, when I realized I had forgotten how to pack, then began worrying I’d forgotten how to chat with anyone outside my quaranpod. Heading to the airport, Jon and I each donned two masks, and we carried a giant stack of antiseptic wipes to wipe down any surface before we touched it, including all seats and tray tables—more than once.
In the airport, I experienced something I had always dreamed of: seeing my book for sale, not at some elite prestigious place like the New York Public Library or some chichi bookstore, but at a Hudson News. But by the time I found it, I was so overwhelmed by the whole airport experience, I couldn’t even really process it. Jon says that when I reach a certain level of overwhelm, my eyes go vacant, like a deer in the headlights—and behind those sunglasses, I was like an elk on I-95.
After more than a year of extreme isolation, it’s a shock to be back in the world, not least because of the reason we’re traveling. Jon was nominated for an Oscar for the score of the Pixar film Soul, so I’m not just being forced out of sweatpants into jeans with zippers, but I also have to dress for the red carpet—to find a gown and heels and a hair stylist and a manicurist and someone to fix my pallor. In the winter months, I don’t just look pale—it’s like I have jaundice crossed with anemia. (That might be partially explained by the fact that I actually do have anemia.) So, good people of LA, send along recs for someone who can either give me a spray tan or a blood transfusion!
Of course everything about this is fabulous and such good fortune, but it’s also kind of a lot after a year on lockdown—and in the next few months, as we all begin venturing out, I imagine we’ll all feel this kind of shock to varying levels. So today, we’re re-sharing a very grounding, very meditative prompt, called “Inside Seeing.” It’s from my young friend, Lou Sullivan, who like me spent too much time on Planet Cancer.
Lou and his mother Alexa Wilding are extraordinary people who have met life’s interruptions with joy, creativity, and unvarnished honesty. And who can help but just love Lou? He’s a tap-dancing, fedora-donning, regularly meditating seven-year-old, and he has given us this beloved prompt. We hope that in the months to come, it’s something you can return to when the outside world seems like too much.
Fifty shades of pale,
P.S. In case you’re wondering what it’s like to fly with Jon and me.
Inside Seeing by Lou Sullivan (with his mom Alexa Wilding)
My six-year-old son, Lou is no stranger to quarantine. At one-year-old, he was diagnosed with a rare form of pediatric brain cancer. After four years in remission, Lou relapsed in the spring of 2019 and we spent much of last year cooped up in a hospital room, gloved, gowned and masked, so bored we were talking to the Purell dispensers. During the worst of it, when Lou could barely move and I couldn’t write a word, he came up with a game called ‘Inside Seeing’ that saved us both.
“Close your eyes,” he said, “and tell me what you see!”
“No, mama, really look. Inside!”
We lay together in the hospital bed, closing our eyes until shapes and light flecks began to form behind our eyelids.
“I see fireworks,” I said.
“I see a monster,” Lou said, “but he’s actually nice.”
After our journeying, Lou would draw what he saw, and I scribbled down ideas, amazed that my bald six-year-old was now my personal shaman and writing coach.
“What’s it called when stars make pictures?”
“Constellations?” I guessed.
“Yes! I see constellations. The lines are a jungle gym, and we’re going to climb all the way back home.”
A few months later, we did make it home. Lou was even able to join his twin brother, West, back at school, only to have COVID-19 force us back to a way of life we know all too well. We’ve been playing a lot of ‘Inside Seeing’ to pass the time, and Lou thinks you should try it, too.
Your prompt for today (From Lou):
Okay, close your eyes. Maybe lie down so you’re cozy? A blanket is nice. Okay. What do you see? At first, it’s dark in there. But if you really look, you will start to see pictures. Maybe it’s a bear with claws, or an ice cream cone, or a memory. Like, cuddling your mom. Maybe it’s words, like LOVE or DANCING. Sometimes it’s just tickly lights. Whatever you see, write about it. Really explain it until it becomes a story. I like to draw what I see, too.