Got an email today from friend and sole sister, Margot, with this photo attached and the subject line “Sometimes we just need to be reminded.” I know she is thinking of her uncle (and my friend) Chuck, who is in the hospital awaiting his bone marrow transplant tomorrow from his brother. We thought he had whipped this lymphoma thing in the ass, but it came back a few months ago. Whenever I think of Chuck’s struggle, I want to kick myself for every moment I spend worrying about the loss of a job. In less than two weeks, I don’t know where I’ll be. The uncertainty gnaws at my self-confidence. I know I won’t be on the street, but where will I land?
But this…this poster…this manifesto for how to approach life—it seems so simple and yet challenging to enact day in and day out. And yet a wonderful reminder. Who knows what tomorrow brings? One of my favorite quotes comes from Thich Nhat Hanh…”The best way to take care of the future is to take care of the present moment.” I can’t say I’ve gotten good at this yet, but I will keep trying!
Thanks Margot for the reminder…
Reverb 10—Dec. 10—Wisdom. What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out? (prompt author: Susannah Conway)
On the first day of this year, I told my husband of 11 years I was moving out. I felt suffocated by the walls of a big house where my anger and resentment bounced around; a dark cloud followed me like a shadow and an elephant sat on my chest. Most of the time I didn’t even know why I felt so unhappy, but I knew I needed a place to figure things out—to ask myself some hard questions and to find the answer to at least one of them. Did I want to remain married to this person?
I moved from 5 bedrooms and 3 baths into a tiny cottage where very little of my material stuff fit. Our six year old son shared time between us and in this small, lovely space, I began the process of figuring out how our marriage had come undone.
It was much like the first loose strand unraveling slowly from a knitted scarf. Nearly imperceptible at first, perhaps snagged by the playful claws of the cat or caught on the rough edge of a wooden chair. And yet it begins, the knot undone, a bond untwined. Till one day it drags, pulling behind it the rest, loosening in the wind and blowing free.
A few weeks after moving, I sat alone one evening over dinner and a glass of wine, reading an interview between Oprah and the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. A pull quote printed large on the page jumped out and smacked me in the forehead. Hanh was talking about happiness and how to find it…”People sacrifice the present for the future. But life is available only in the present. That is why we should walk in such a way that every step can bring us to the here and the now.”
I stopped chewing and just sat still with the sudden knowledge that this explained why I left. I had grown so tired of putting life dreams on hold that I wanted to share with a partner. And I felt guilty when I pursued my own dreams because I felt it further separated us; his focus was always in the future, down the road, eventually. But I wanted to live life fully in the present. Too many times I’ve been reminded that we are not guaranteed our life beyond today—who knows if there will be a tomorrow?
It wasn’t the house and the material trappings that suffocated me, although they had become a cumbersome weight, but the marriage. I’ll treasure parts of our journey together, but we were no longer traveling the same path. They had diverged some time ago. I’m letting my heart guide me on this new route and savoring the experiences along the way.