Monday, March 27, 2017

Much More or Less Myself (At Any Given Moment)

"You used to be much more…'muchier.' You’ve lost your muchness."

[The Mad Hatter
 Alice in Wonderland, 2010
director: Tim Burton;
writers:Linda Woolverton; Lewis Carroll]
Today, I have a bit of sad nostalgia. Nine years ago I left a failed marriage. I'd lost my "muchness." I'm not sure I've fully rediscovered it, or if I will. When I was younger, the world seemed so much more conquerable. No dream was too big to be attained.  Nothing was beyond the scope of imagination, and determined hard work. I didn't realize every choice I made (or didn't make) was a door sealing shut on a potential path in my life, not until much later, when it became too late to retrace my steps, because opportunities had passed, along with their companion, time.

This morning, I drove to work, thinking how I never would have imagined I would make my home here in Casper, that I would prefer "city-life" (in loose Wyoming terms) to being in my mountains. I would have never ventured a guess that I'd be pursuing a degree in accounting, or wondering if I should re-take the Pre-Calculus class I'm having such a hard time with over the Summer semester. I never thought I would be divorced and re-married, or that I would be so "settled" into my ways as my teenagers began exhibiting their "muchness." I never thought my education or life would be jokingly temporarily suspended for other pursuits, as time marched persistently on, and the joke lost it's humor, and took on a more serious inertia. Doors closed as choices, and refusal to make choices directed me towards an ever narrowing path. And the only person, ultimately responsible, was myself.

Now the path is widening again. Imagination is returning, although tempered with reality, and an older wiser person in the back of my mind telling me that there is some nonsense worth indulging in, and some that is better left to itself. I'm regaining some of my muchness, although it seems a good portion was laid to waste with time while I was choosing and refusing to choose.

It strikes me this evening that nine years ago, I was pondering similar things. But I was so much more hopeless and despondent. Dreams crumbled in my hands and threatened to disappear altogether. I threatened to disappear into a veil of domestic obsolescence, forgotten, and absorbed into the identity of other, bolder, stronger people. My muchness struggled for air, and threatened to give up entirely. It threatened to leave me stranded, a Stepford shell of my former self, draped in fabric and a masked smile to hide the decay. I wondered if I was destined to live the rest of my life in the prison I'd built for myself out of choosing, and not choosing, from fear and insecurity, unable to see a better way out. There are many reasons I left nine years ago. some of them good, some of them right, some of them regrettable and painful. In the end, it became less a question of how to live with the person I was married to, and more a question of how I would continue to live with myself, as I allowed my muchness die to an ember, and threaten to extinguish all together. In all it was the right choice, for everyone, I believe. I sometimes mourn what was lost, what could have been. There are so many things I wish could have gone so much differently. But it didn't, and I am where I am today. In some ways, I have worked and succeeded at rebuilding, in others, rebuilding is still in progress.

But I will always pursue being much more who I am, and to keep that spark fanned into a small flame, hoping to inspire my children to be the raging infernos at life I'd once thought I could be. Maybe I'm too old to climb mountains anymore, but I can still manage a hike up a good hill or two. The view is still worth it, even if not quite as breath-taking.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Being Human

A soft glow of light emitted from an apartment window, contrasting against a lightening dawn sky. A man stood silhouetted at a kitchen sink. Maybe he was making his morning coffee. Maybe he was packing a lunch, or loading the dishes from the evening before into the dishwasher. I'll never know why I looked up to catch sight of it through the windshield of my car at the intersection below. I was only stopped long enough for a brief glimpse. Something about it was quiet, calm, comforting. Seeing another human being going about whatever daily routine they had, unaware they were briefly being observed by someone on the street, slightly envious of the peace a brief objective moment of observations affords, and curious if anyone had ever observed me in such an objective way, for a brief moment before continuing on with their day.

Another moment, driving again past the cemetery, to see a lone woman standing and having a conversation with a head stone. Maybe she was saying a final goodbye. Maybe she goes there to talk to the person the stone represents on a regular basis. Maybe she was telling them how the kids were doing, and how much she missed them. Maybe she was telling them they were a jackass and she was glad they were dead. Who knows? It was just a moment, another one, I had the privilege of noticing someone just being human.

As I sat in the waiting room, waiting for word that my 16 year old daughter was safely out from under the knife, but more importantly the anesthesia, an elderly man and his two adult daughters were waiting for word about his wife. From the little I overheard, she was suffering from some sort of cancer, and it had taken an unexpected turn for the worse. (I suppose it makes sense to have the ICU next to surgery, but it's a bit nerve-wracking for non-critical families in waiting.) I listened to them make plans for care, once she was discharged. I heard them say how grateful they were for the time they already had with her. I saw an old man cry because he was not ready to lose his wife. I saw two daughters strengthen and shore up their father, even as they tackled the prospect of losing their mother. I don't know what news they got. My daughter was wheeled out and I escorted her to a recovery room before the Surgeon came back to let them know how their mom/wife was doing. My heart goes out to them though.

I notice people. I fell out of the habit for a while, although I can't altogether say why. But it's coming back. Little mundane un-heroic moments of human existence; unnoticed in an ever busy world. They never make it into movies or stories. But somehow I feel they deserve to be recognized. Moments that we are not airbrushed and perfect, where we are framed by the light of a window for a brief moment, while doing something as ordinary as standing at the sink in our kitchen, or head-banging in the car to "Bohemian Rhapsody." Those moments although un-glamorous, are so human, and there is something intimate about catching a glimpse of it, even in passing.