how the story ends

My university closes for Good Friday every year, so I’m off today. Norah is with my mom so that I can volunteer in Jude’s class this afternoon. I rolled out of bed later than usual, and I walked Jude to the bus stop this morning in jeans and a hoodie and came back to write a bit in a quiet house when I’d normally be commuting to work and planning for a full day. Space to breathe and sit in silence is so rare this time of year, but even little bits of time can create the opening I need to regain perspective.

Birds are busy outside as I type this, and I can hear them singing. The grass is greening up. April always feels like a swollen bud that’s about to bust wide open. I felt it so intensely last year as I moved into this new space, and I feel it now again.

Yesterday was Norah’s egg hunt at school. I slipped out of my office for a bit to join her.

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I noticed a few colleagues and university staff stepping out to the front steps to watch the madness. Dozens of kids running as fast as they can to gather what they find. It’s the simplest of ideas, and yet they get so excited.

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She dug right in and ate more candy than I should have agreed to, but indulgence and celebration can do so much to carry us through the mundane, so I gave her no limits. There’s more value in these indulgences the older I get. Life, responsibilities, worries, bills, chores, expectations – it all feels like a lot sometimes. But it fades to the background in these little moments of celebration.

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I clamored into work yesterday with 2 crates of strawberries I’d hurriedly bought on the way in. Norah’s class was having a picnic after the egg hunt, and I volunteered for that item. It was spring picture day as well, and my fervent scrubbing of her St. Patty’s Day tattoo didn’t remove it, so I had to ask her teacher to tilt her in the photo pose so as not to show her right arm. This week, I have also stuffed 96 Easter eggs for 3 different celebrations – each set with its own slightly different instructions. Like “add a few pennies to each egg for a math activity.” “No chocolate, please.” etc etc. Last week, Jude had to make a “leprechaun trap” as a “family project.” And there are at least three different forms sitting on my kitchen counter right now informing me of field day and fundraisers and field trips.

My coworker was laughing along with me yesterday as I unloaded my strawberries in the office kitchen to rinse and cut them for the picnic while lamenting over the everlasting tattoo featured on picture day. Her kids are grown, but she remembers this season and the thousand demands it brings. She dug up a passage from her office bookshelf with a copy of Jenny Offill’s Department of Speculation about the “rememberers” and the “non-rememberers.” I recall a time when I was a rememberer, always on time for everything. But lately I feel like a non-rememberer. A mom who throws supplies on the table as I make dinner so that my son can finish the “family project” assigned 6 days ago that is due tomorrow. My “family project” at the moment is keeping us alive and fed and reasonably happy. That is all I can manage.

I haven’t had much time for dreaming lately, for looking at the big picture or what is ahead. This is good in ways; it keeps me grounded in the present moment because I only have room in my mind for this minute and the next 72 hours or so. Beyond that, I cannot tell you much.

But I’m feeling a tension emerge in that way lately that I haven’t felt in a long time. I sometimes feel a huge opening and such immense gratitude for the open road in front of me. That sense of possibility I’ve written about here before. But I am also surprised, in some less steady moments, to find myself craving a sense of certainty. It’s human nature to do so, but I’ve grown so accustomed to the mystery in my past year that I always find myself surprised when the old discomfort of uncertainty creeps up again. Jenny Offill also says, “You think you want the blue skies, the open road, but really you want the tunnel, you want to know how the story ends.” I think that is true for each and every one of us. It’s human nature to want certainty. But I’ve made so much progress in the past year, become so comfortable with the not-knowing. Anytime I step into new territory though, it’s back again.

I picked up Things Fall Apart again this week to revisit some passages that brought me so much last summer when I read them for the first time. Chodron insists, “As human beings, not only do we seek resolution, but we also feel that we deserve resolution. However, not only do we not deserve resolution, we suffer from resolution. We don’t deserve resolution; we deserve something better than that. We deserve our birthright, which is the middle way, an open state of mind that can relax with paradox and ambiguity.”  She’s right. The middle way, the questions, have brought me so much. It’s staying in them after the bulk of the storm passes that is the hard part. To stay here, to be here in the truest way, to not get anxious or itchy or hurry for resolution. That is the difficult work at hand for me right now, but it’s where the magic happens. I don’t have to know how my story ends to know it’s a good one.

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Thanks for sharing your passages on my last post here and over on Facebook! The winning number was 9, so Melissa is our winner! Interestingly, she shared one of my favorite passages I encountered when reading Tiny Beautiful Things: “It’s just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal.” Congrats, Melissa! And thanks for reading. I will message you soon to ship the gifts to you.

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One thought on “how the story ends

  1. Debra

    Your story and expressed feelings are all too familiar…keep your head up! It’s amazing to see who you really are when the dust settles!!

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