“You’ll just have to let things unfold,” she told me. I don’t know if I was more confused by “let” or “unfold.” “Let” is difficult, but “unfold” is even more unimaginable, suggesting as it does that someone else folded things (theist though I may be, a personal God who folds things up? madness) or that things are folded (The Passive Voice), whatever that might mean. They just are folded. No by or because. But this was one of my sister friends, nun friends, and she knows what she is talking about. I try to listen to her.
I am really terrible at origami. Years ago I bought my friend an origami calendar, and the way that unfolded was that I went into her office every day and folded the paper of the day into the thing of the day, if I could. Frequently she had to help me. Sometimes this is the way gifts work out.
With effort, though, I made cranes, boxes, ducks, a peacock, a whale, flowers. The squares of calendar were unfolded, and I folded them, for approximately 365 days.
When I was beginning my mourning of a bad breakup, I asked my godmother what I should do. “You’ll figure it out,” she said. I was very disappointed, as I had hoped she would put me on some kind of Program that would both occupy me and enable me to feel I was accomplishing my healing in the most efficient way possible. She wouldn’t play along with that game.
It was winter, and I read, and I puttered around the house in socks, and watched TV, and checked on the snow, and heated up meals in the microwave and ate them and left the dishes for later.
I’ll go see my grandma before I go back home to New York. She’s not eating much now. She is unfolding, I guess. Or she’s already flat, memories flattened, just some pesky creases bothering her, here, there. I will see Grandma, end my month-long summer travels, fold myself up into my airplane seat, take my little wrinkled mind home.
So much training in building, and so little in unfolding. The sisters try, while I am at the monastery, that is, they keep up their hundreds-of-years-old plan for sanity, and there is plenty of room to unfold, in theory, and no reason not to. They are quite unfolded. They are even less wrinkled than others their age.
I like to fold up very tightly.
While at the monastery, I read a book by a Muslim woman who discussed the importance of the concept of submission. Her idea of submission had nothing to do with submitting to any sort of temporal authority. Her submission was closely related to “let,” and also, perhaps, to “unfold.” Submit to what is happening, submit to God, of course, to your way, to what is.
“Extended child,” in yoga terms, is the pose of submission, folding down without completely folding up. You might feel your forehead on the floor, and some Muslims get a permanent little bruise there, where they submit all the time.
Funny to me that this is also what writers do: submit, submit, submit. That kind of submit is sending your work in to try to get it placed. Offer it, and let someone have the chance to take it, or not take it. Submit, let others have or look at your work. Let them say what they say.
In the process of doing origami you make some creases, unfold, and use those creases as markers, dividing lines, or sometimes you fold them back the opposite direction to make something pop, to make something three dimensional. This is always a tricky point in the process, when your fold is not forever, but is just intended to prepare for the next step, to get to where you are going.