Just some thoughts from this morning…
This is one of those days where I sit and agonize over how to start my story. It’s been a lazy morning and I can’t seem to shake the groggy feeling that began last night. It’s Friday and I’m tired. Tired from too much activity during the week.
I’ll be honest with you. I’ve been moping around for about four hours. The first hour was simply to move on from last night. The next three were spent thinking. I was piecing together far too many thoughts that haven’t crossed my mind in ages. These are things that can be kind of depressing if taken out of context, but rewarding if you analyze what they are supposed to be.
About a month ago, we were laying in bed. She had almost fallen asleep and like usual, I was up staring at the ceiling. Over the past decade or two, the ceiling and I have become good friends. The darkness of it past midnight lets my mind wander places that it just can’t seem to find during the day. I start off knowing what I’m doing. I’m completely conscious of it and recognize that I’ll think the typical things before I drift off only to wonder what happened as I lift my legs to pull them out of bed in the morning. Nighttime is good to me because it’s like getting drunk. It lets you go from the all day stuff and allows you to focus on the things that matter.
Just as I heard her breathing relax and start to find that familiar rhythm, I rolled over and said, “Let me ask you something. What if the time is now? Right now?” As you can imagine, she didn’t take too kindly to this, but nonetheless she humored me. We have been together for too long and she realizes that the pain in her side isn’t just going to go away by itself. All it takes is a few words of encouragement and I’ll eventually crawl back into my own mind and leave her alone. First though, I need to hear myself talk. I continued on.
I remember saying something to the effect of how people romanticize anything that has happened in the past. We like to read about the roaring twenties, the ends of wars, culture shifts and vibrant times in general. We also like to ramble on about how things were in our own lives. We tell our friends about how we remember when gas was cheap and that if you couldn’t find a job back then, you were a fool. Either a fool or just lazy. I think there’s something else that just a handful of us like to have passing conversations on…and this is what I was thinking about when I started talking in bed that night.
The Dawn of the American Main Street
Main Street has always fascinated me. It’s an idea that people have attached to the pulse of our country. If main street is doing well, we all are doing well. True, main street isn’t what it used to be because of shifts in society, but the term “main street” is connected to the stock market, jobs and the economy in general. Probably jobs and the unemployment level more than anything else.
When I was a kid, I remember my grandmother driving down to my house to pick me up. Every so often, she would call me and ask if I wanted to go to Hope’s Drug Store in town. Since I was about six years old and usually had an open calendar, I excitedly agreed. She would drive me in and we would do our thing. We’d walk around and I’m sure she would point things out. Eventually, we would end up in the drug store and would sit at the counter and order either a vanilla or chocolate soda. Hope’s was the only place I had ever known to sell vanilla and chocolate soda.
I remember that my grandmother would oftentimes ask me, “Isn’t this nice, Honey?” I always said yes, but that was just because I didn’t have much to compare it to. Now that I am older, I can certainly say that what we did together was indeed nice. The places we went and the things we did were so simple. They were less crowded and the people were friendlier. It seems that they almost knew where they were.
As I write this, I can’t help but to feel old. These are stories for people who were born before me. It’s saddening to think of how things change so fast.
Looking back, I realize that the time I spent with my grandmother over all those years was important. Since she wasn’t charged with raising me, we had the opportunity to talk about things that weren’t skewed towards a certain behavior or to get a certain result. The grandparent/grandchild relationship is obviously different than a direct parent/child relationship in that it can sometimes be more open and honest. It seemed that instead of telling me something, she informed me and we discussed. I wasn’t going to get in trouble and she could tell me that my time was up whenever she wanted to. That was nice. I think about those times often and wish that we still had them.
The main street I am referring to isn’t anything out of the ordinary. It was a hub of activity for our town. We had a post office, a library, town offices, a movie theater, a diner, some shopping and a few churches thrown in for good measure. I’m sure you can find the same setup in any of the more relaxed places in America. Unfortunately, for the main street I am referring to, economic growth has torn it apart. The post office is across town, the movie theater is closed down, the drug store is gone, many of the stores have shut their doors, but the diner carries on. Needless to say, people don’t really get in their cars to travel down to main street anymore to run their errands. They now have to drive triple the number of miles to accomplish the same thing.
So, as I lay there, I continued on. I said, “There have been so many times we look back with awe at how good things where. The question I have is something like – when times are good and as they should be, do we know where we are? I mean, do we know that things are in fact the best they are going to get – or do we just remember them in hindsight?”
I don’t know – I think I talked a little longer and after I heard some heavier breathing I gave up and fell sleep.
The thought I had this morning…and this is truly tragic…was whether or not we as a people know when the best days are upon us. Now, when I say the best days, I mean our best days as individuals…our best days in our minds and in our souls.
I use the words tragic and tragedy because they hold the perfect description of what I’m talking about. The tragedy is that millions and millions of people on this earth have died never knowing that they were truly having one of their best days while they were having it. They may have looked back a few years later and thought about some great times, but while they were experiencing those great times, they were somewhere else. The usual place people’s minds are is in the future. They hope, they plot and they plan, but they don’t realize when it’s actually happening. They don’t appreciate all the hard work that put them at the very point of time they’re in…all they do is plan for the next moment they think they’ll enjoy. The tragedy is that the reward never comes. All that remains is the hard work they put into it.
When I was younger, I had an eternal view on time. Since every day seemed to last forever and every year (especially the school year) was simply an eternity, I never really gave any thought to what things were about. I was pushed one way and shoved another. I followed orders and remained occupied until I broke free to think for myself. For better or for worse, these days are here and a thinking I have done. Much of the thought that consumes me now is full of epiphany and realization. The realization that time is no longer an eternity. If something doesn’t happen…if I don’t experience something, it might not get experienced. Not experience it for the sake of an experience, but experience it to grow as a person.
I think the main challenge in life is to get to know yourself and the environment around you. If you start to get to know either of these things, there are a few things that can happen. One is that you can become bitter. Once you realize the game the world is playing, you resent it. You also question your role in it. The second is that you resent many of the people around you. Everyone seems to be out for themselves and whether it’s true or not, the collective attitude of the masses begins to bear its weight. Luckily these are only temporary stages and as the journey continues, you move past them.
I remember sitting on the floor talking on the phone. I was twenty four years old and ever since I had made the decision that she was the one, we had made it a habit that Wednesday and Sunday nights were ours. We would talk for hours. I would tell her that I was having trouble handling the pressure of not spending time with my friends. They were much more social than I ever was and since I was trying to save for graduate school, it wasn’t in my best interest to spend my money on alcohol and good times. I chose to occupy myself differently – I read and we talked.
She would tell me about work and her family…her animals and her friends. I have no idea how we passed so much time together while remaining more than a thousand miles apart. I suppose relationships have a way of handling that.
I had a very difficult time admitting to myself that I had fallen in love. For years, I tried to avoid it. I can remember the conversations I had with a good friend of mine from college. We would spend time in the school gym and talk. I would mention her without him asking. I would tread lightly because I knew that the moment I admitted to myself that she had in fact snagged me, something would change. I wasn’t sure I was ready for that change. So she and I just floated along.
It was the oddest thing. I’m not sure what happened, but I recall a distinct feeling I had one day. I looked up and said, “I’m done.” I got on the phone and the rest is history. I was never one for planning things and this was certainly no different. I’m not sure one can plan the moment when you admit to yourself that you had better go tell that special someone that they have captured your heart – better tell them before they get a better offer. Luckily she is the type of person who wouldn’t take up that better offer if it came along. Luckily, in her mind, I was that better offer.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
It’s funny, but that old saying is true. I was twenty five years old, laying in bed, staring at the ceiling. This time, I came very close to bursting out with laughter. I was happy. I was happier than I had ever been. I remember so vividly the tickle welling up in my chest…it was hard to control. Between the moment I made that first phone call and the moment I felt that feeling, I had done so many things in my life to make that moment happen.
She was next to me and I heard that soft breathing I have come to rely on today. I couldn’t believe it. I was next to her and we were living together. The time was then and I knew it. The moment I looked up and stared into the darkness I was experiencing something I had never experienced before. It was unarguably the first best moment of my life. It was all mine.
I remember the day so clearly. I don’t remember the time, but I remember the day. I was fifteen, sixteen…who knows. I was standing in my front lawn under that maroon maple tree that’s probably three times the size now than it was back then. That’s if it hasn’t been cut down already. I walked out the porch door on the side of the house. Instead of the front door. I don’t think we were using the front door as much back then. Once we removed the back door, the other two took its place.
I walked off the porch and got half way across the front lawn when I saw my best friend walking toward me. His head was down and he was visibly shaken. Back then and even today we greet each other by saying something trivial. I was about to do just that when I saw the top of his head lift to show his face. He looked at me and said, “Did you hear about the accident?” I told him I hadn’t. He just walked away. It wasn’t until later in the day that I learned what had happened. A group of kids a year older than me had been killed in a car accident the night before.
I don’t know why I mention that. I think it’s because I’m putting together the pieces of when life changes for people. There’s a point where individuals start thinking differently…a point where they stop seeing things only a few feet in front of them to a point where they see things at a distance. It’s a tough time and I wonder if these kids had made it to that point. I think of how their families felt that day and I think about them today.
Sometimes it takes a tragedy to recognize a tragedy. We’ve all heard the stories of people having their lives flash before their eyes. We’ve heard the stories of people losing their loved ones. We’ve heard the stories of people growing old together and having a partner pass away, only for the other to pass away not too long after. This is part of life, but it’s also something to look at and reflect on. It’s something to understand.
I guess I need to ask that question again. The question I asked that night while lying in bed. What if the time is now? Right now? What if there’s nothing to look forward to? What if all the hard work we’ve put into our lives is meant to be used up to stop and look around and to enjoy at this very moment?
What if we’re not meant to constantly gloss over our present? Not meant to work in the past only to prepare for the future?
My question is – if not now, if we’re not supposed to do this now…if we’re supposed to save it all up and wait and wait and wait…if not now, then when?