I’ve written almost incessantly about my particular struggle to live in the present, about the way my near-constant preoccupation with both yesterday and tomorrow quite often entirely obscures today. On Saturday morning I felt a simultaneous impatience for fall to arrive and a desperate sorrow that summer was ending, and the moment perfectly captured all of this agita: push-pull, hurry-slow, there-here.
There are lots of reasons that I’m this way. I’m just wired that way, sure. I’m sensitive and I cling and I fear farewells and abandonment and things cut me deeply even when they are not about me.
I recently decided, too, a connection might exist between when I was born and my difficulty with living now: I think my late-summer birthday may contribute to my sense of myself as liminal, to the automatic way that I lean forward or back, turn the page sooner than I need to, generally feel frantically unable to just be here now.
I think my childhood of hopscotching across the Atlantic may also be part of this: I was always in constant motion, always either anticipating a goodbye or getting over one.
But something hit me hard this morning. This is true Captain Obvious territory, I realize that even as I write it, but it was insight to me. I was at my parents’ house in Marion, which represents summer to me, sitting still for a moment, windows open. I listened to the cicadas outside (which always remind me of summer nights spent at my father’s parents’ house in Long Island, lying in a narrow twin bed at 90 degrees to Hilary’s, summer wafting in through the screens). I watched the light flicker on the trees and thought of Lacy, whose hair is like mine and of whom the turning-to-fall light always reminds me, and suddenly it occurred to me why it is that I’m so impatient, so forward-focused, so quick to dwell in the past.
It is often simply too painful for me look this moment in the eye. Doing so requires me to accept the loss inherent in every minute of my life. To recognize the red leaf in the green grass is to really live with the fact that summer turns to fall, that life cranks forward and I walk closer and closer to the end of it every day.
Suddenly, this morning, I understood. I’m hurrying into the future and hiding in the past to avoid staring into the sun of my life. To escape the reality that every minute is gone as I live it. To pretend that it’s not true that I can never have any of those moments back, ever. My life’s single most painful truth is the slow turning forward of my time on earth and the inherent loss that that represents.
It hurts to stare into the sun. I blink and my eyes water and sting. But that’s not a reason to hide. I know that in my head, and even in my heart. Making it so is harder, though. The impermanence of this life is truly heartbreaking to me. Every single day contains goodbyes and I find fact the of that nothing less than brutal.
But what is my option? I will be a lucky woman if I have another 36 years ahead of me. May I not squander them in the same fear that so eroded many of the first 36.