“If you go slowly enough, six or seven months is an eternity—if you let it be—if you forget old things, and learn new ones. Even a week can last forever.”
Rick Bass, Winter

"In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer."
Albert Camus

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Day 87: The Time Travel Meditation

I used to walk with my dog and plan the ideal schedule.  When would I teach?  When would I write?  Before she woke me from my trance I would debate Fridays off and Thursday marathons, and Thursdays off to make the weekend less onerous even though Friday would be packed.

Living this way I often had to be shown the first spring buds, the trillium march, the stealthy approach of Angry Bicyclist Man who hates jumping dogs, but eventually, I wised up some--not a lot, but a little.

So I know now that the now is the be-all-and-end-all, but still I like to mix it up the way I imagine certain physicists do and think of the past, present, and future intermingling as in some fantasy theme park where your long-dead fourth grade teacher works the fried dough booth and the friend who will gossip with you in the home is skittering by on roller skates with a rat terrier in her arms and some kind of shiny violet ribbon trailing off her hair like a kite string.

Imagine it's a century from now and you get to go back and relive a day.  You're a ghost, but no one knows it.  The characters of this story are the people from your ordinary life now.  You don't return to a sunset clam bake, a wedding, a falling-in-love or spying-a-lion endorphin high.  It's a coffee, toast, drive, work kind of day, full of mundane conversations with people you don't pay complete attention to now, and prickly little problems that can sometimes be solved, just like that.

Just think, first, how happy you would be to see your old self.  Hello, feet.  Hello, hands.  Hello, soft belly.  It was nice to be in there, wasn't it?  We had a good run.  Thanks for the good work.

Then there's the person who used to bug you if you hadn't slept enough because of a few unconscious tics, hair tugging, maybe, or the repetition of the word "relatable," which you could never bring yourself to say isn't really a word.  Imagine this is the first person you run into.  You've been dead for a long time.  Here's someone you sort of knew.  You're beyond delighted.  Hello, you!

And maybe there's this person who said no to every great idea you ever had.  Your gate-keeper/cop who moonlights as the accountant.

Maybe that person was you.

There she is, lumbering along, keeping the peace, and you understand now that it isn't easy to do this work, bringing gravity to the world when everyone wants to fly, and this person is just another mortal who likes a hot bath at the end of the day and a good book and maybe some green Thai curry shrimp on jasmine rice.  The burden of carrying the weight of all those dumbass dreams has made knots form beneath each scapula, her stricken wings.  You are so moved by the sight of her you want to give her a back rub.

How sad for all these people who don't know that they're all so ten-decades-ago, that they will dissolve, as you did, and their preoccupations will fade, and all that will linger is the love--I have started to believe this is really true--and a few glimmers of images from the quotidian that fly up into collective memory: violet ribbon, trillium, toast crumbs, the dog jumping to greet the man on the bike.

When students come to me about big decisions, a choice between this or that, I ask them two questions.  Imagine you chose this.  Live with that for a while.  Do you feel peace?  Then do the same exercise for choosing that.  And finally: what's the kindest thing you can do for your self of thirty years from now, a middle-aged person who would prefer not to have regrets.  And what about the deathbed you?

Maybe that's more than two questions.

Outside right now what looked like a foot of snow, ample enough to stop flights going out and mess with many people's plans, is starting to melt a little.  Things that insisted fiercely give way today.  It's so nice to wake up to beauty, even ordinary beauty: coffee, toast, snow, and pages like fields of snow waiting for the dog to run all over them.

Namaste, gentle reader, Namaste.
Hello 2012 self.  It's nice to be back!  Nice necklace.

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