That first morning alone I made fried eggs. I scooped out a glob of coconut oil and watched as it seeped to the corners of my grandmother’s cast iron skillet. The heat, turned up too high, made this short task an emergency. I frantically fanned the shrieking smoke alarm with a nearby cutting board, quickly switched the stove vent to HIGH, and uttered a concise expletive underneath it all.
The economists smoked too much. Once done, their smoke trails followed behind, lingering in the stairwell, tracking their presence. They were always in heated discussion, these economists. And it would stem from having just fervently read aloud some text – where they would emphasize words like monopoly and time value – or from a once meaningful class discussion gone awry. When this happened their argument expletives would reverberate against the walls of my office as they challenged each other’s theories about who was a greater genius- Marx, Hayek, themselves- this was important business, but it was also loud, and frequently unsettling, and I would get up and make a big to do about closing my door- saying EXCUSE ME, well maybe it was more- excuse me– but I would clear my throat and all of that- but these economists, they gave no notice of my presence.
The economists wore funny shirts, ones that required me to look at them just a little too long when we passed in the hallways. It was awkward for us both- me staring at their chests, them suffering through the social niceties exchanged in such situations- the hellos and good mornings and all that. Their shirts said things like: “Keynesian economics is so demanding,” and, “I like your ideas, however…” and, “Hayek is my homeboy,” and my personal favorite- “Maybe Hayek is right and you’re wrong.” I loved the irony of these economists, going out of their way to find and buy these shirts, then becoming disgruntled by the attention it gave them, the obvious discomfort from my passing chuckle.
The economists never ate. They would sometimes have food brought in, but it would be for other people. Mostly for non-economists in suits, to whom they spoke to for hours on end. I’d watch our economists through the enormous glass window that let people like me see how hard they were working, immersed in their presentations and their books, and their heavy stares. They would prepare for hours, sometimes days, for these events, and when they were over, you could find them again, smoking just outside the stairwells, this time quiet because they had used all their words, now only able to offer the world cigarette butts, thick plumes of smoke.
Occasionally the economists would have personal problems. And they would burst from their offices on their cell phones, trying to get a doctor’s appointment or talk to their insurance companies or explain to their mothers why they hadn’t called. They would roam and pace our hallways, their voices growing faint and loud and faint and loud, providing added annoyance to the situation. Their fuses were short, and their frustrations quick when stuck in a circular call center cycle, which usually ended in enragement and further expletives to no one and everyone in particular.
The economists seemed sad. I wondered where they would go at night, like my childhood version of grade school teachers- I never considered they would exist beyond this space, allowed only to teach, research, posit, and repeat. Maybe they were alloted some sad snack machine sandwich, to be eaten alone and quickly, but they were mostly kept in isolation from the rest of society until needed again.
I saw once this economist wander away from the others. He stopped, aimlessly near our shared hallway statue. It was one of those Greek types, with a carefully placed leaf and the man-god’s face looking away, one arm dangling unhumanly by his side, the other above his forehead, either sheilding his eyes from some eternal shock or forcing a hardened state of relaxation. This one economist, he even went so far as to lean against it, forcing a sad juxtaposition, getting the form all wrong, with the exception of that limp dangly arm. They both stared together towards nothing, everything.
I remained steady towards my task so as not to appear concerned, but i was very.
The clouds were angry. They were moving swiftly as if racing away from a storm they preferred to not be a part. They moved so fast that the cover they provided was quickly uncover then cover, then uncover again, overly purposeful in a way that seemed unusual for clouds, because, for whatever reason, I have only afforded clouds attributes of puffiness and timidity.
I wish I didn’t notice such things like angry clouds, but I do. And then a small voice, who had been following my gaze, said quietly: the clouds are dirty. I looked down at the source of this voice, and he said it again: The clouds are dirty mommy, and they need a shower. But clouds are a shower, so how will they get clean?
How will the clouds get clean?
This small human decides God takes care of clouds, but they don’t get a bath, they just get God, and that should be enough.
God should be enough.
And it was enough for him. He had reasoned through to this answer in less than ten seconds and returned happily to his task of investigating ants and dragonflies and the ever present bug unknown that were passing along our sidewalk, content he had solved this problem. So why couldn’t I accept this offering with the same quickness of faith?
God should be enough to make things clean.
I’m at once ruminating in my sin- it is a layer of pollen that covers every conversation, falling on every aspect of my person, clinging and showing itself despite my efforts to brush it away. Nothing seems ever enough to rid me from it.
I feel there is sin that doesn’t just sit on the surface, it’s under and part of every (in)action. But this sin, it snuck up like an unexpected change in season, I found myself stuck out in the sudden cold with no protection, and in one breath felt my entire world change course. I stumble foolishly, hoping there is water somewhere meant for all of this, but somehow, although I seek, I remain caught in a labyrinth that folds only into itself, reminders at every turn of my shame, lost in a system built solely to remind me of pain and lingering disappointment, begging for me to submit myself here, not promising relief, but a numbing solution.
But these walls know nothing of my confession. The confession I offer has been said in silent pleading nights, many times before, legs curled close to my body, hugging tight to the convulsion of pain that steers through me. I cried out to Him. And when I couldn’t breathe, when my eyes were swollen shut, when my pulse raced outside my temples, when the only way I found sleep was through exhaustion. I cried out to Him. What is next, where do I go, what do I do, how do I know what is Truth? Who do I trust, where do I turn? I cried out to Him. What will I tell my children? What will I tell my family? What will I tell my church? What do I tell my friends? I cried out to Him. Should I return to my marriage? Should I run from this life? I cried out to Him. Where will I work? Where will I live? Will I be able to provide for my children? I cried out to Him. How do I make this right? How do I make this right? How do I make this right? How do I make this right? How do I make his right? HOW DO I MAKE THIS RIGHT???
I cried out to Him.
I never thought about the enormity of her choice until I held my own child. I waited six agonizing hours after giving birth to hold him, and it felt like another nine months. And when I did, I felt a wave of love wash through me and I snuggled this sweet boy close and promised silently to never let go. I was holding the first blood relative I may ever meet. His face a combination of history and future, at once a reminder of a woman I had never met, would most likely never meet, a woman who chose life not once, but twice for me.
I don’t know much about her- her name, where she maybe once lived, what she named me. I often wonder what she looks like and if I see her every day without realizing it, if she is in the face of my sons, in their laughter, in their hugs.
I don’t know much about her, but I have had a few dreams that feel like truth, some more sensical than others. The last one began oddly, as dreams usually do. I had crossed over and found myself in a place best described as a movie theater. And although I was in this place meant for dead, it wasn’t just for those who had lost their lives, but the death of all things. Death of friendship being one. I found a familiar face, one I hadn’t seen since college, ours a friendship that had ended abruptly and for me, for no apparent reason. She was there urging me to quickly sit. She gave me a run down of the rules here, told me to act natural, blend in, and not bring any attention our way. Watch the movies she said. So I did. They were beautiful. I saw a beautiful bride. Her skin radiating and the dress just glimmering. There was sincere clapping somewhere in the audience. The movie at once changed to a side by side with another similar movie- another bride, another dress- the clapping erupted again. And I immediately realized we were watching someone’s happiest moment of their life. I could tell because the feeling of that same happiness ran immediately through my body. I was happy not for them, or with them, I was happy as though I was them. Suddenly there is someone else on the other side of me. He tells me he knows I’m not from here, he knows I’m just passing through. He’s talking so fast, but as I glance back to the screen I realize he’s telling me the story above me as it’s happening. It’s his story. He was a writer. He wrote beautiful novels and poetry and love songs. But no one ever heard them, no one ever read them, because he never dared to share them. He told me how it haunts him, even here. And I knew, just as with the brides’ happiness I knew his truth, full of sadness and regret.
My lost friend pulls me back, tells me not to get caught up with him. She told me to go, to keep looking. I said I would, but I had no idea what I had come here to find.
Suddenly I was outside. I did have a car. I didn’t have keys for it, but I had a car. I opened the hood and started to poke around to see how I might get it to work and suddenly my friend is there again. She’s mad. She said to stop making a scene. To just drive the car. I told her I didn’t have keys. She said plainly- you don’t need keys.
So I got in and drove. I drove with that feeling I was being followed. Looking immediately for a place of safety. I found it in between two apartment complexes, and what my safety was, was amazing. There was a luscious green bank with the softest grass I had ever felt. There was a small beach and the smallest, blueist ocean with perfect waves. I laid back and was buried in comfort. As I settled in a creature popped out of the grass, ridiculously close to me. He was all the colors at once, and every few seconds would glow bright fuschia or burnt orange or olive green. He handed me food, knowing I was hungry. He told me I had to keep going, and told me where. I asked him to join me but he said he had no feet, could he have mine? And then he lunged for me. I immediately rolled down the bank and started running. The beach turned back to city streets that eventually gave way to a winding river. It was there I stopped. I saw them dancing, the bottoms of their colorful skirts just barely touching the top of the water. Their white blouses shining bright in the sun and the crinkly red, blue, and yellow embroidery sending me back to a time in my childhood where I had seen these dresses before, those dances before.
I knew at once they were costarricense. I was running to catch up, worried they were only a mirage. I followed the river around and there they were- two Costa Rican women, maybe they were in their thirties, maybe older, and one was holding a baby girl. As I looked at her I could sense her truth, just as I sensed the others back in the movie theater. She held the baby out to me. I said, I don’t think I can, I mean, I think you’re my birth mother and I think that’s me, I don’t think I- and then all the sudden I’m holding this baby, this baby who is also me, and my birth mother smiling at me and nodding yes, yes, of course, all of that, because we don’t speak the same language, and as she passed this baby to me, I felt her pass the weight of her entire heart. And she says to me- esto es lo mejor- this is what is best- and I felt it with the full sincerity of her being, the sadness and guilt and pain and love and hope and faith, all wrapped up together as she handed me her child, and in her eyes an understanding- esto es lo mejor- and finally, I understood it too.
Sometimes the most painful decision is the best decision.
I looked down at this baby, mesmerized by her acceptance of me, and then back up to muster some sort of thank you in broken Spanish to this brave woman, but she was gone. I knew she had joined the group ahead, dancing and singing down the river, joining in with their strong voices that caught the wind and filled the air.
And then it was over. I woke up in a fit of coughing, and was quickly reminded of the fading Alka Seltzer cold and sinus medicine that must have put me in this hallucination dream. But it felt so real, and I remembered every part. I could still hear those voices, and see the wide brown eyes of a peaceful child.
Sometimes the most painful decision is the best decision.
And so I am once again where I have been many nights before. Not sure what is real, what is truth. Holding close to the coolness of my sheets, I have nothing left to cry, nothing left to ask. I lay still.
Esto es lo mejor.
What is done is done, there’s no erasing it, and no way to make it right. The only thing now is, what is next. And my choice is painful, it hurts to places I’ve never before felt, but it is what is best.
And maybe one day my sweet boys will understand the choice I made, and feel the sorrow and guilt and pain and love and faith all wrapped up together as I continue the journey of finding the water that will make me clean.
Sometimes I have dreams that are mostly nightmares. And in the nightmare I know that it is a nightmare but I also know that it is a truth, or at least a truth that is trying to be a Truth and one that is trying to make itself known to me.
The other night I had one of these nightmares.
I was in an enormous amphitheater. The kind where you might find both a Greek play or a ballet recital on any given weekend. The arena was packed. There were people milling about the stage. Some were waiting for me. Some were waiting for something or someone else. Some were extremely invested and attentive, others were just present.
As I walked in, a path cleared and I kneeled down in the middle of the stage, only then realizing it wasn’t me they had gathered to see, it was this incredible albino translucent frog. It lay on its back on that blue rubbery stuff I hadn’t seen since dissection day in seventh grade.
As I peered down, I could see every part of its insides. The veins, the arteries, the organs. What ran through this frog seemed foreign and real, and suddenly I felt at one with it, as if I was looking down into a reflection of myself, and what I saw was obscenely familiar.
This frog, so obviously in pain, looked up with an earnest face that met mine as though it had been in a state of patient impatience for my arrival. It was the only being in the place relieved to see me, happy to see me. This frog, my frog, smiled at me the most warm and human smile I had ever felt. It smiled at me in a way that I felt at once an intense and sincere connection, and it was at this very instant someone thrust in my hand a scalpel. The intent in this action was immediately understood and appalling.
I could not.
I would not.
As I searched the crowd for someone that might help I felt something grab my other hand. I looked down, and this frog, my frog, had reached for and grabbed my hand. I stared in disbelief- first at our hands, and then up to meet the gaze of this frog. No words were exchanged, but I heard his voice in my head- do this for me. It’s what I need. Please. It’s what must happen. Don’t leave me like this.
There was a sense that this frog, my frog, knew that its purpose here was to be exposed, to be made known, to be seen in a way that might force others to learn, feel, and understand just how deep pain lies, and that, even in an incredible pain that is seen by all, known by all, ignored by all, that it is still in fact pain, and will course through veins poisoning our being, weakening our bodies, destroying our purpose, as though it knows that the very act of bravery it needs will never be committed, because only in that act could this pain be released and allowed a journey that becomes part of somewhere else, someplace else… because even in the release it then becomes the worst possible act of another, an act that the other, well there is no other, just me- an act that I never thought nor felt nor could have imagined was even possible to commit.
I stood in place, and tightened my grip on the scalpel in hand.
I continued this gaze with my frog. I felt in my heart the rush of sadness. The rush of hurt. The rush of supplication. The rush of movement all around, but in this place, in this magnetic space between this frog’s face and mine- time was standing still just for us, so that I could receive what I needed to receive, to understand what needed to be understood, so I could do what needed to be done, without turning back. And it was amidst this rush that I pressed the scalpel just hard enough through the space where its heart was pumping. A tiny trickle of redness fell to the side and ruined what was once pure. What was once contained was now not, and the trickle grew to a steady stream as I continued in the task. Mixed with its blood was an expulsion of sadness, pain, guilt,… loneliness. I hadn’t realized I was violently crying through the death of this frog, my frog, and that also, among this incredible surge of emotion, was a calmness, a peace.
I stayed in my responsibility until I felt my frog lose its grasp from my hand and lose its grasp from a life observed, critiqued, and mis-purposed.
And suddenly I was awake.
The peace was gone. In its place was a heaviness. I was heavy with sweat, heavy with confusion, heavy with hurt, heavy with the image of this frog’s gaze keeping mine, and the rush of its emotion that had pushed its way into every crevice of my being.
I couldn’t shake the images of this frog. They followed me for days, weeks. And even now, months later, its face still haunts me, reminding me of an act equally terrible and freedom-filled. How does this get reconciled? I’m certain it can’t.
I wanted to be rid of them. Those images. And the rememberence of feeling another’s pain so completely that it led to me doing the one thing I never thought possible.
I wanted so badly to be rid of them. I fell asleep intentionally tipsy on the warmth of bourbon so that I might have some other awfully fantastic dream that would at least not be this dream, but I was never allowed that possibility. When sleep did come, it came in short interrupted bits that constantly awoke me in fits of sweat and disgust.
I wanted so badly to be rid of this frog, but I couldn’t. It was there. I was there. It was indeed a part of me, and I had to stand up, next to it, scalpel in hand and look up and into the faces surrounding me that had gathered; the only real benefit being that because of this concert of pain my sins were already known, already seen, already ready for judgment.
And once I had accepted these acts, this nightmare was nightmare no more, holding its cruel power over all my hours. This nightmare is now my Truth and I will accept its awkward invitation, staying instead in its warm quiet presence and sinking finally into its arms, in restful needed sleep. Knowing that tomorrow would hold time enough to converse with this Truth and all its likely companions.
Mostly I feel like running. I would run for days if I could. To feel the pressure of each breath, to feel that hard place in my chest beating incessantly in a way that was controlled only by the beating of each hard step, foot to pavement, and then again, and then again. Until I couldn’t any more.
Mostly I feel like running. I would run out to this pond I found once, only it reminded me of no pond I had seen before, it was really a lake with the potential to be an ocean, but the sign said it was a pond, so pond it remained, even though, if I had been consulted, I would have asked the non-pond pond if in fact it was a pond or if it felt more like a lake with dreams of becoming the ocean, or perhaps it felt like it was an ocean in hopes of being a pond, or even further, perhaps it actually felt it was a desert, despite the so obvious moisture that filled its crevices, obvious of course to those only with the benefit of seeing this non-pond from the outside, a luxury this non-pond, lake, potential ocean, possible desert never had nor could dream of ever being able to create.
I would run to this difficult to name place. Once there I would strip of myself and dive immediately deep, amongst the algae and the water plants that would have, in any other world, kept me on the shore, constricted and contained, I would brush past these plants to hit the muddy bottom of this place, pushing my hands deep within and hoping, expecting, wanting and needing to feel the earth in its nascent state, to the possible places where life begins, where life began, until that incessant beating in my chest returned, reminding me, calling me, pushing me to either go further in this task or return once again to find temporary relief in the uncertainty of all that remains above.
Mostly I feel like running. Only then can this pressure, this intensity of understanding, confusion, doubt, and truth, only then can the pressure of these items be relieved and replaced by the limitations of physical ability and desire to replace burden with burden, building of course until something has to give.
Once, while I was busy enjoying my non-pond pond a stranger appeared and asked rather innocently if I was enjoying this beautiful gulf.
I looked out as though I was seeing it for the first time.
Eventually I said yes, it is a rather amazing gulf, and I have been enjoying it quite nicely, thank you. Becoming aware that my pond, my non-pond, lake, almost ocean yet desert had been none of these things. It was a gulf. And yet it wasn’t. It was this stranger’s gulf. It was still my pond/non-pond/lake/hopeful ocean/almost desert place that I just easily gave away to also being a gulf.
That is about the amount of truth I hold.
That is about the amount of truth we all hold. If we are looking out, and there is a clear sign that says what we’re seeing is a pond, and I see a lake and you see a gulf, we both get to see our lake and our gulf. My insistence on the existence of a lake doesn’t detract or deny you of your gulf. Sometimes, in a potential universe that I hope may someday exist outside my mind, I believe in a small intersection where your seeing of a gulf and my seeing of a lake brings us both to a realization that we are instead looking at the headwaters of something grander than each of us was able to see on our own. That the existence of your truth and my truth can complement not conflict, and allow for new truths, new paths, strangers no more, allied and capable of slowing the ever charged ever energized never ending desire for running, possibly finding a moment sheathed in a time within a time where for, just a moment, the sweat tears are wiped away, and the sun, a sun that has overwhelmed me in its intensity, exists instead to provide an internal warmth and comfort. If even for just a moment.
If for just a moment I could give up the expectation that for this enormously orchestrated event to occur you must even see my lake. Should you never see my lake, and I never see your gulf, we could still get to that moment, lying in the sun, basking in a realness that can only exist when you’ve relieved yourself of the burdens of carrying your own truths, exchanged for the truths of a stranger, exchanged again for the truth of a place that doesn’t even really exist nor can be drawn on a map to be returned to again and again.
Again and again I am in pursuit of a moment, one instance of solace, a moment that will require years of work, effort, steps, timing, and all the acts of dispensing and replacing the truths that have been told in a way that honors even the un-truth truths and doesn’t allow the darkness held within these un-truths to merge with my identity, my soul, my being. And yet, my desire to separate truth from un-truth is a naiveté that must also be confronted and exchanged. Still, the potential for discovery of this moment is worth the effort involved, to uncover even a glimpse of a small space in this universe where there exists a sign that says pond but is your gulf and my non-pond/lake/potential ocean/possible desert, and we are strangers no more, running no more.
There was this white, worn ford ranger pick up truck. It drove cautiously. Steadily. Intentionally. It’s driver peering over the steering wheel. I found myself driving behind it for what was easily forty miles, probably more. It was going the speed limit. This truck was going the speed limit, and yet I fell in line, not once looking behind to see if I might pass. Go around. Get by. No, I had no intention of passing this truck.
There was a solace in driving in this manner. In allowing one’s mind to be free in the space of not worrying what will happen next. Will this driver speed up, slow down? Not likely. This driver is maintaining. Going. Plodding.
I was in the middle of a long drive. A drive I was in no rush to finish. I really enjoy driving. I enjoy the long stretches of road when the songs on the radio become a blur of all things country or all things talk, and the best solution to the static mayhem that inevitably happens every twenty minutes or so is to just turn the thing off.
Driving without music.
I never used to understand driving without music.
Growing up we would take road trips, long ones. Florida to Arizona. Florida to North Carolina. Florida to Canada. I would sit shot gun in the family van, my dad driving. That’s where I learned to pop my gum. You know, that ricochet of pop pop pop pop pop pop. That was definitely a learned annoying habit, and I think I finally figured it out somewhere in the middle of Texas, my dad equally laughing and crying that I had, indeed, finally figured it out. I used to tear through packets of Big League Chew. I’d spend hours trying to blow bubbles that would break the Guinness book of world records, because the only goals back then that were worthwhile, were ones that could break whatever record was in that book.
So we would take these road trips. I’d have my gum and my mad libs, the occasional irritated round of I Spy with my brothers, and conversations with my dad. The conversations with my dad would go something like this:
Me: Dad, can we listen to the radio?
Me: Can we listen to the radio now?
Me: What if I just turned it on really low?
Dad: That’s even more aggravating than if it was on all the way. No.
And yet, on shorter road trips we would listen without question, and we’d listen to the oldies station. I know every well-played 50s and 60s song by heart. Occasionally we’d even listen to this cassette with some old guy on front with an enormous bushy grey beard and a twinkle in his eye. No, it wasn’t Santa Claus’ greatest hits, it was some guy who I’d later learn was Kenny Rogers. Those were the days. For those trips we’d take his Corolla, and I’d sit in the backseat, near the window if I was lucky, and when we’d get to the part of the drive where the pavement gave way to gravel then dirt, my brothers and I would take off our seatbelts and we’d giggle and scream as that Corolla hit every bump as my dad drove into them like he was in the Dukes of Hazzard, our heads just shy of hitting the top of the car, and for this one time only we’d fall onto each other without worrying about who was touching who. But that was a short road trip.
So I guess I didn’t really understand why there were times when driving with music made sense and other times, when it just wasn’t even an option.
Until I had kids.
That make sounds and noises, loudly.
And that talk. And have opinions.
So many words.
When driving in silence there is somehow an ability to turn the back of the car noise into road noise and, if you’re lucky, it just disappears. Focused on the road, sure. But lost in thought, pure thought.
That’s why I love a good road trip. A long road trip.
And that’s where I was, when I had been traveling for days, alone but with my children, and I found myself behind this white ford ranger pick-up, complete with rust and camper shell, and I was overwhelmed by a sense of safety and a remembrance of someone I had once loved, still love.
The last time I saw a truck like that old ranger I was not driving behind, but sitting behind the wheel. I was probably twelve. I could barely reach the gas, if I had to break I would probably have had to stand straight up. But there I was. Actually driving. Scared out of my mind. My grandpa said, “why not?” He said he was driving by the time he was eight. And he said when he got stopped, he would just say he was ten and he’d be back on his way. I asked him what I should say if we got stopped, and he said, no hesitation, that he’d just tell the officer that my 12 year old eyes were better than his 72 year old eyes and it was clearly a better risk to just let me go ahead and finish the drive and also we’re mostly there anyways. Oh, and twinkle toes (his name for me), don’t forget to smile.
A few years earlier this man, my grandpa, had driven that white ranger from Florida to Alaska. Alone. When I asked him which hotel was his favorite, he just laughed and laughed. When he finally caught his breath, he told me the finest hotel in the world couldn’t beat listening to the crickets and a sleeping bag laid out in the back of his truck.
When he finally made it to Alaska, there was a story about him getting cut off the road and his truck going down the side of a mountain. He was somehow able to climb out the back of the truck and back up the mountain with not much more than some bumps and bruises, on him and the truck.
To me, this man was a super hero.
There have been times when I’ve been scared to drive to a different part of town. There have been times when I have refused to drive because I didn’t know the way, I didn’t have a map, and I didn’t want to try.
There have been times when driving alone, in all that silence, just would not have been ok.
But the thing about my grandpa, when my grandpa wanted to go somewhere, he got in the car and just went.
Anywhere, everywhere. Gone.
The first long road trip I remember taking on my own (and with one small child) was from Florida to Maine. I plotted and charted. I packed blankets and snacks. Overnight bags and car chargers. I made plans with friends, family, all those who I hadn’t seen in years but would take me in, in a heartbeat.
I planned, then I went. I drove. I stopped on my terms. I stopped on the toddler’s terms. But I went.
I was aware, constantly, of being alone.
After two days, however, I found my “I’ve got this” face, and just had fun. I sang, we sang, I ate entire bags of gummy worms, blew through gobs of double bubble, threw disgusting amounts of chicken nuggets to my back seat driver, I missed exits and phone calls, and just drove.
And what a range of feelings this brought.
It reminded me first of the feeling when I was behind the wheel, at 12 years old, the feeling of being overwhelmed with a power of which I wasn’t yet ready, but was offered. Something that someone else recognized I could achieve, accomplish, or at the very least, TRY, even when it hadn’t even occurred to me that it was something I might want to do, love to do.
I had a feeling I could drive forever. Why stop at Maine, why stop at all?
I had a feeling that I wished I had tried this earlier. I wondered if these new acquaintances, these feelings of confidence and self-reliance, might stay for the long haul, and why had it taken so long for us all to meet?
So I drove. First cautiously. Then steadily. And ever so intentionally. And there was a solace in it, in that space of not worrying what might happen down the road or if I missed the next exit. I got lost a couple times, sure, but I was finally right where I needed to be- behind the wheel, listening for the crunch of gravel and the occasional cricket- and finally on the road towards my Alaska.
I remember being seven. Lying awake at night. Dreaming. Wondering. Thinking. If only.
If only I were older.
If only I could make my own choices.
If only I could get through elementary school.
If only I could get through middle school.
Then I’ll be in high school.
Then I’ll be closer to college.
Closer to the first day of the rest of my life.
But back to being seven: I remember lying awake at night. I remember squeezing my eyes shut so tight that I would force tiny specks to appear, bright little lights that would shimmer and make me think I had dreamt up a magical place and this power, this ability to create shimmery specks, meant I could do almost anything that I ever would want to do in all of life.
Years went by, as they do, and my dreams changed, but the idea of a dream remained. I didn’t see my shimmer as often, and I grew increasingly uncomfortable in the waiting for my dream to come true, as if it were in queue but its number never called.
I don’t think my seven-year-old self would ever invent, understand, or imagine that a dream could be lost or unfulfilled. And yet that is exactly what happened as the courage and wonder of thoughts I had at seven faded only to thoughts of: if only. As I grew closer to if only, I grew further from that little shimmer that encouraged my desire to dream and seek the impossible.
I seldom let myself be completely honest with myself. That’s a terrible space to be in, to hang around in. A space of complete honesty. It’s a space I do visit occasionally, but if I were to spend real time there, I might start into an alarming path of unraveling, which is unthinkable, as I’ve spent the entirety of my life completely satisfied within a personal labyrinth.
Despite my desire to keep my honest self secure and hidden, I occasionally meet another who sees through my fortress with ease. I find that annoying. I tend to avoid these people.
One of those people once told me I needed to spend time alone. Well, alone, but out in the world. Does that make sense? To be alone in the world, not running errands, but being. Maybe in a restaurant, or to a concert. To those places where, traditionally, it should be group event or shared experience. Not sitting at a table with a book or journal, but just alone. Eating. Staring. BEING.
Sounds awful, yes?
It was. But this person in my life, well I saw her then and still do, as: confident, smart, and independent. And amazing, generally. Qualities I wanted and desperately ached to call my own.
I completed the task and it was grueling. I have complete unease, distrust, and skepticism about time spent in solitude or any time spent not on (a) task. It doesn’t matter what the task might be. It could be scrubbing grout, or cataloging spices and their expiration dates. It could be pulling weeds. Painting a room. It could be reading or re-reading a favorite novel. It could be writing. It could be cooking. It could be making lists for future tasks. I have complete comfort in the doing of all these things and even doing them alone. But it would be something. It wouldn’t be idle. It wouldn’t be just being.
And yet, I have finally opened the door just wide enough to my honest space self to know, really know, and accept and welcome, that this is one of my burdens to bear, and hopefully, eventually, overcome and love and squeeze-hug ever so tightly, this concept, this ability to (just) be.
The weight of decisions overwhelms me. Sometimes to the point of inaction, but usually to the point of overexertion and overthinking. I fervently want my life, my path, my career, my family, myself to be on the right trajectory, I’m concerned only with outcomes.
And the space between those outcomes? That is my personal misery. That is where I fall apart. Over question. Over process. Over think. Over do. That is where my sea of if onlys begins to swell in infinity and I lose any ability to BE.
And yet, that is where I need to be. I need to be in between outcomes. I need to be in that ocean. I need to be in that state of not yet there and no longer where I was before. I need to be okay in the in-betweens,
in the hallways.
It’s the hallways that matter.
It was in one of these hallways that I became a mother.
A thinker. A musician.
I’ve avoided the hallways, quickly hoping to duck into the next door, hoping it would be THE door. Any answer, THE answer. Desperate for the relief that this door might hold my path, my yellow brick road, my calling.
All these years of rushing through the halls and I’ve finally realized: this is where life is lived. Where joy is found. Where love is had.
It’s the hallways that matter.
The more time I spend in preparation, the more courageously I can open and enter and choose not to knock on just the next door or any door that I find. Hallways are where I meet others, learn of their experiences, learn about the lives they’ve had behind the doors they’ve ventured, packing their experiences and lessons into my bags as my own, as I continue on, forge ahead.
Hallways are where, if I allow it, I can understand that the door I have just left, was not wrong, but was just next. Next on a delicate path that only asks from me to be on it. To be aware of it, embracing it, and finding the joy in its space, so that I might be closer to propping open the door to my honest space. To begin to live in it, dwell in it, explore it, and BE within it.
Will there be another door? Almost certainly. Hopefully. But until then, I’ll be in the hallway. Singing, writing, creating, playing, laughing. And finally, oh-so-finally loving every minute of just BEING in it and rediscovering the shimmery specks left there by my seven-year-old self.