A sampling

[And I thought, mmhmm, mmmhmm, mhmm. I thought of the time I was running through my neighborhood and the six-yearish-old boy shouted at me, “hey, big butt!” Anyone who knows me…well, my butt is miniscule. I thought of the teenage boys playing basketball who said, “hey, girl.” I thought of the man who turned around and followed me on the river trail after I went past on that cold winter afternoon. I thought of the old men this morning who let their eyes linger on me as my pace quickened on the treadmill next to them.]

[Sure, it’s not immersion, but it’s observation. There are different ways of learning. Ultimately, travel should bring you closer to people and to the experience of the world, but I get this. Sometimes what you need more is to be brought closer to yourself; to face your fears; to staunch that drip. And so I recognized her agency and her privilege and her ability to get there. I respect that. I admire that. Do one thing everyday that scares you.]

Then what?

[So she is running? Oh, Hillary. And I thought about how people of little raise people with a lot and how it’s easy to forget that when you’re the one with a lot, but how even being exposed secondhand to what it’s like to have a little gives you a perspective that is necessary. Realistic. If you can understand it. How the story of my father without soles in his shoes haunts me every time the pile of my own shoes starts to creep out from its orderly stack. How the things we think we need, we don’t need at all.]

I remember how I used to have a plan for everything until Ireland. Until Ireland two summers ago when I was just too tired to plan, when I didn’t have the necessary tools to make a plan, when I was so frustrated with my travel companion that out of spite I resisted plans. How wonderful things somehow still happened regardless of my lack of plan. How even when the plan I hoped would fall into place didn’t, I survived.

I could plan for tomorrow but I’m not sure about tomorrow, so I sit here today.

I think the best thing about getting older is that you get used to your emotions like you get used to your routine. You know, like, oh, I’ve driven down this road before, I remember that curve. I’ve had this coffee from this restaurant, I know how much milk to use.

My feelings are becoming like that. Oh, I remember when someone treated me this way before and I reacted like this. But I recall the state that left me in, so I’ll try something else. Or, I’ve felt this way before and know the result. I can see through to the other side, so it’s familiar and easier-going. I think the best thing about getting older is realizing that while I know myself, I’m not permanent. I’ll never be unchanging.

A year ago, a PhD was the worst thing I could imagine. And now the thought of it motivates me to read constantly. A week ago, a 6am alarm and subsequent workout seemed unlikely. Now I’m awake before the alarm, chugging my stale glass of night water and pulling my hair into a pony I’ll have to refresh with my first sprint.

I dreamt I was smoking a cigarette. Languidly. How I long to ask for a cigarette when I’m down south.

Maybe the best thing about getting older is just learning to live with that sense. That sense of being pulled to something more, always, constantly, ever, but knowing that stability is the true presence. That center, that core, is what I really want. What I should really be chasing is not what tempts me, but what retains me. Maybe getting older is understanding the difference between being really happy in a satisfied sense vs having moments of happiness. Chapters instead of lines.

“Certainly ‘safe’ is what I am now—or am supposed to be. Safety is in me, holds me straight, like a spine. My blood travels no new routes, simply knows its way, lingers, grows drowsy and fond. Though there are times, even recently, in the small city where we live, when I’ve left my husband for a late walk, the moon out hanging upside down like some fantastical mistake—what life of offices and dull tasks could have a moon in it flooding the sky and streets, without its seeming preposterous—and in my walks, toward the silent corners, the cold mulchy smells, the treetops suddenly waving in a wind, I’ve felt an old wildness again. Revenant and drunken. It isn’t sexual, not really. It has more to do with adventure and escape, like a twisting in me like a bolt, some shadow fastened at the feet and gunning for the rest, though, finally, it has always stayed to one side as if it were some other impossible life and knew it, like a good dog, good dog, good dog. It has always stayed.” -Lorrie Moore

Maybe getting older is being at peace with changing your mind.

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