I keep my journaling in files month-by-month. It is not as satisfying as the various soft covered writing books that I wrote in and then lined up on book shelves but far more practical and convenient. I still carry a small paper journal but it is for quick jottings that, if I am still interested in hours later, I transcribe to this screen. Where I was once meticulous to finish each journal before moving on to a new one, I am likewise meticulous about keep each month’s scribblings in its own computer file. And so, it is odd for me to still be writing in the August 2021 file on September 3. I know the intent yesterday was consolidate what I had written during our days in Maine and to publish something with the Maine photos, but I could not concentrate on a vacation summary. Descriptions of charming towns and water and sky slipping away into explanations, systems of ideas explaining our present reality. Trying to make sense of my own present “where.”
This was our second Covid summer vacation. We did not go far, we do not go for long. We stay away from crowds, eat at outside tables or buy take out for hotel rooms, mask inside, avoiding most inside activity and any sort of entertaining gatherings. This is so different from traveling in the before-time. That time when it was a month or six weeks galavanting in Italy or England or, our last journey, Australia. I have been waiting, almost unconsciously planning, to resume the kind of travel that I promised myself after David died. The promise: No waiting for some perfect, comfortable time, I would indulge in travel as extravagant as I could manage as often as I could afford. I have been waiting to do that again, waiting for the all clear horn, ready to rush to buy tickets and get hugs from people who are far away and even to talk to perfect strangers.
Driving home two days ago, clarity hit like a ton of bricks—I think of our present as the aberration to live through in order to get back to what was. In fact, I have been holding onto so many, possibly irrational, plans from that before time of how I would settle into Boston, how I would find community, how I would find an intimate or two to drink one too many glasses of wine with and solve the problems of the world, how I would involve myself in Julia’s schooling and our new church, how I would find a home with a garden to do with as I pleased, to paint walls and decorate again and have a party. Or two. And how I would travel from Boston which is so much closer to Europe.
Like the widow leaving her husband’s shoes by the back door, rationally knowing that the man will never tie those laces again. And yet, by the back door the shoes remain. I have been holding on tight to my plans like those shoes by the door, believing, however irrationally that the before time would return, slowly or with a sudden jolt, but return it surely would. After all, I had made plans! And yes, I can hear the gods chuckling as I put that exclamation point into place.
But there are other possibilities, including the one that starts with ‘This is life as it is and will be.’
When the ton of bricks fell, it hurt as I tried to catch it. And admittedly, it pulled me down with it. I have been sitting with it for a few days, and the ‘what if’s’ are beginning to bloom. What if I can never travel again, or can’t travel for another 5 years, or deciding to travel for ever more requires a risk assessment? What is all social encounters require masking for the next few years, and meetings and classes remain via zoom? What if I never again have the kind of friend who will grab a beer or go to a movie with me? What if Julia’s transition program cannot be done in person this winter and beyond and her independence remains an elusive goal? What if . . . .
What if . . .
The answer whispered in my ear is not novel or extraordinary. It is simply “Change.” Love and live into those questions, as impossible as that may seem today. Throw out those sneakers by the door. Fearlessly! Holding on is utterly useless. Let go of the ton of bricks, step over the pile and begin once again.
Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens and the giant troll exhibit.