We all have those times when so much is happening, either on the center stage or, more likely, in the wings and out there, in the seats and maybe even the lobby, that the processing, sorting, and prioritizing systems become jammed (and we use way too many vague metaphors to describe the normal ups, downs, and side-ways of life). So many of the scripts being written and revised around me are not my own. As parent to a teenager, my role continues to shift from director to producer and even audience. The once and future kiddo is in the throes of life, liberty, and the pursuit of everything, and I can facilitate, fund, and transport, but my constant input is rather resented. I watch, wait to be called upon, and intervene only as necessary.
As this awesome and terrifying drama unfolds forward and beyond me, another drama, no less amazing, spools, unwinding. While the child’s reserves are long and full and unspent, and my own are at the half-way point (though I shall not admit that every day), my parents’ lengths are not quite as plentiful as they once were. They have been living here, nearby, for just over six months, but they’ve been living a bit in a holding pattern, waiting for their house to sell, for boxes to unpack, for streets to become familiar. Six months in, and it feels like we’re at the beginning. And every day is awash in all the contradictions, of youth and middle career and retirement. On two sides, so much is still new, so many challenges arise, with such disparate perspectives: is this an opportunity or an obstacle? Here, in the middle, it’s difficult. At times, the waves are so tall and long that I cannot fathom them ever cresting, and so I ride and steer as best as I can. Other times, I sit becalmed in my boat, open to the still air and the infinite water, waiting for the next swell. Often, I am struck with the desire to paddle my own way, or better yet, to turn on the motor and flee to islands uninhabited and uncharted.
Only, I’m not done with my own journey, yet. Perhaps I’m misinterpreting my desire to get lost in the waves. Could it be that I am but itching to lay a heavier hand on the rudder? I look at the maps behind me and the blank space before me. Halfway means the horizon is still unknown. This is my vessel; am I not the captain? But how far can I roam? Whose interests must I honor most at any moment of any day?
from “First Gestures” by Julia Kasdorf
Living, we cover vast territories;
imagine your life drawn on a map—
a scribble on the town where you grew up,
each bus trip traced between school
and home, or a clean line across the sea
to a place you flew once. Think of the time
and things we accumulate, all the while growing
more conscious of losing and leaving. Aging,
our bodies collect wrinkles and scars
for each place the world would not give
under our weight. Our thoughts get laced
with strange aches, sweet as the final chord
that hangs in a guitar’s blond torso.