The slow turning forward of my time on earth

I’ve written almost incessantly about my particular struggle to live in the present, about the way my near-constant preoccupation with both yesterday and tomorrow quite often entirely obscures today. On Saturday morning I felt a simultaneous impatience for fall to arrive and a desperate sorrow that summer was ending, and the moment perfectly captured all of this agita: push-pull, hurry-slow, there-here.

There are lots of reasons that I’m this way. I’m just wired that way, sure. I’m sensitive and I cling and I fear farewells and abandonment and things cut me deeply even when they are not about me.

I recently decided, too, a connection might exist between when I was born and my difficulty with living now: I think my late-summer birthday may contribute to my sense of myself as liminal, to the automatic way that I lean forward or back, turn the page sooner than I need to, generally feel frantically unable to just be here now.

I think my childhood of hopscotching across the Atlantic may also be part of this: I was always in constant motion, always either anticipating a goodbye or getting over one.

But something hit me hard this morning. This is true Captain Obvious territory, I realize that even as I write it, but it was insight to me. I was at my parents’ house in Marion, which represents summer to me, sitting still for a moment, windows open. I listened to the cicadas outside (which always remind me of summer nights spent at my father’s parents’ house in Long Island, lying in a narrow twin bed at 90 degrees to Hilary’s, summer wafting in through the screens). I watched the light flicker on the trees and thought of Lacy, whose hair is like mine and of whom the turning-to-fall light always reminds me, and suddenly it occurred to me why it is that I’m so impatient, so forward-focused, so quick to dwell in the past.

It is often simply too painful for me look this moment in the eye. Doing so requires me to accept the loss inherent in every minute of my life. To recognize the red leaf in the green grass is to really live with the fact that summer turns to fall, that life cranks forward and I walk closer and closer to the end of it every day.

Suddenly, this morning, I understood. I’m hurrying into the future and hiding in the past to avoid staring into the sun of my life. To escape the reality that every minute is gone as I live it. To pretend that it’s not true that I can never have any of those moments back, ever. My life’s single most painful truth is the slow turning forward of my time on earth and the inherent loss that that represents.

It hurts to stare into the sun. I blink and my eyes water and sting. But that’s not a reason to hide. I know that in my head, and even in my heart. Making it so is harder, though. The impermanence of this life is truly heartbreaking to me. Every single day contains goodbyes and I find fact the of that nothing less than brutal.

But what is my option? I will be a lucky woman if I have another 36 years ahead of me. May I not squander them in the same fear that so eroded many of the first 36.


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16 Comments

  1. Posted August 29, 2010 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    “My life’s single most painful truth is the slow turning forward of my time on earth and the inherent loss that that represents.”
    Such a powerful statement.

  2. Posted August 29, 2010 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    I am hit deeply by your words here, so beautiful and tender. There is so much we take for granted on a daily basis and yet your struggle seems to be that you are aware (unlike many of us) and just how fleeting our moments are. What a weight to carry and somehow it’s wonderful at the same time. Thank you for sharing this. It feels to me so vulnerable and sacred an epiphany. I am honored to be part of it.

  3. Posted August 29, 2010 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

    I am always cognizant of time passing – something I deal with almost on a daily basis. I am afraid of living fully sometimes as I anticipate what is yet to come. You’ve captured what I feel so elegantly in your prose. Thanks for these words.

  4. Posted August 30, 2010 at 5:52 am | Permalink

    I love the metaphor of the red leaf in the green grass. Like all good metaphors, it says so much more than words ever could. Although YOUR words have done a pretty good job here of capturing the fleeting nature of life in the now.

  5. Posted August 30, 2010 at 6:08 am | Permalink

    I was thinking of the impermanence this morning as I lay snuggling with my 3-year-old in bed. We can take all the photos or videos we like, but there’s no way to bottle and save the feeling of a small child in your arms long after she’s child no more.

    All I know to do is to soak it in and let each moment change me somehow, so perhaps my heart can be its legacy.

    So with you in this.

  6. Posted August 30, 2010 at 6:19 am | Permalink

    You’ve described a beautiful, hard truth. I can’t help wondering if there’s not a way to embrace it, revel in it somehow. I’m thinking of the artist Andy Goldsworthy, who makes things out of natural materials in natural settings that inevitably disappear or change in some way: a snowball pierced with a crosswork of sticks, leaves stitched together with thorns, precariously balanced rocks. The unavoidable end of his art is a fundamental part of the work. This idea, and his work, fascinates me no end.

  7. Posted August 30, 2010 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    Relishing the beauty and fragility of the present moment is a very difficult thing for me, as well. It is so much easier to think “what a great memory this will be later” than it is to think “this is a great moment now”. Thank you for this beautiful reminder.

  8. Posted August 30, 2010 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    I’m very much like you. Longing for the good old days, looking forward to the “I can’t wait until” days, and meh about the present. Of course, the funny thing about the present is that it often turns into the good old days.

    I most often have these thoughts at 3:00 AM when awakened by one of my kids.

    Paul

  9. Posted August 30, 2010 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    I wrote a post today about how I am right now struggling just a little to deal with all the very many changes that have taken place in my daughter this summer, wistfully wishing to slow down the passage of time if only a little. But yet I also absolutely believe it would be so very awful to find myself stuck in this moment, in the life I am living now, in this groove for ever more. Even though I cherish every moment right now, I’m also looking forward, eagerly and excitedly wondering what comes next.

    Also I think, quite honestly, it would be awful to know you were going to live forever (my husband totally disagrees with me on this and he is not the only one). Then nothing would ever seem that special, that extraordinary and there would never be that great urge to do something knowing that the moment might never come again in which to try it. Every season is beautiful in it’s own way and every age and stage we pass through in life is also so.

  10. Posted August 30, 2010 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    the ache you feel (so resonant) is also testament to life fully lived. you are in it. saturated in both the radiance and the shadow. and i am inspired by the way you dance it all.

  11. Posted August 30, 2010 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    I resonate very much with your words and sentiments. I’ve been “home” for a surprise party for my father’s 75th birthday. My awareness of life marching forward and its very fleetingness has been palpable.

  12. Posted August 30, 2010 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    You notice and feel and write and yearn and treasure and think just a little bit extra than most… doing it all, at some level, for the group.

    My sense is that you are steadily rising toward the eternal moment and that you will find your present moment down the very path of your own words and feelings.

    Once the cicadas practically were summer’s chorus, and even though they do not buzz as often nor as insistently in the trees in Studio City as they did in my midwestern childhood, I know that they are not gone forever.

    I look back and see that those ARE eternal moments, hardly gone at all in the grand scheme. Maybe your push-pull is exactly the way you experience this present time, maybe this dialectic of opposites is its very essence.

    I say dare to eat a peach and surrender to the perfect presence in your way of experiencing the world.

  13. jj
    Posted August 31, 2010 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    I love reading your posts about this struggle and these feelings because I share them and have never been able to express this sensation of simultaneous loss, joy and nostalgia in the actual moment – hard feelings to describe, let alone experience.

    For myself, I’ve tried to make peace with these feelings, recognizing that the ineffable is what makes life painfully sweet.

    The older I grow, the more the happy and sad, past and present blend together.

    It’s just as you wrote in your post, even though you were desperate to cling to every summer day with your children, by the time fall comes around, there is something natural about wanting to re-enter routine, even though when June arrives, it’s natural to want the exact opposite.

    As much as we want to impose our desires and feelings on the universe, it keeps tilting along, with it’s own logic and order and wisdom.

    We will all die and when we really grasp that, that is what makes us live more intensely. Can’t have one without the other.

    I try not to fight that as much now, but accept it and even, on my brave days, embrace it.

  14. Posted August 31, 2010 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    Although I’ve tried, I couldn’t have said it any better myself. This post is hauntingly true and beautifully expressed. Thanks for sharing your gift.

  15. Posted August 31, 2010 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Have you read T.S. Eliot’s Little Gidding, the last of his Four Quartets?

    (http://www.ubriaco.com/fq.html)

    Your post made me think of it. It deals with time and eternity.

    …We shall not cease from exploration
    And the end of all our exploring
    Will be to arrive where we started
    And know the place for the first time.

  16. Angelg
    Posted August 31, 2010 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    Your words spoke exactly how I feel. Maybe we feel these losses as we get older. I don’t know. I want so much to enjoy my life right now, but there is the constant buzz in my head about the future and the wanting to slow down the time now. Everything is going by way too fast. I hate to see the summer end, but yet I look forward to the fall…until all the leaves fall. I count the days until the trees have all their leaves back and the flowers fill my garden again. I found your blog through reading several others. It was an accidental finding, but you expressed how I have felt for a very very long time. Thank You, Angel