We all have those moments, those trips in life that give us some space and perspective. Some quiet time to release thoughts and ponder of decisions and as my travel partner takes a nap I type on the balcony, fingers flying across the keys like they have not done in quite a while.
My writing and creativity has been a bit stifled as of late. Sometimes you have to work through things before you can write about them. And I plan my future, adding details and filling in the blanks about what, where and how to get there. It’s a universal theme for many these days, the planning of what is to come, the goals we record to attain the life we want, well lived and well loved.
And as a cool breeze crossed my café, I think about many things when I was younger, and all that has brought me here today.
When I was 23, I knew I was good with words and good on a dance floor on a Saturday night. I knew I was petrified of relationships but desperate and anxious for a man to love me. And I did fall in love, ridiculously in love, with a man who is still known as the love of my life. Whose name I called, whose voice I still know, whose laughter still rings in my ears, even now when I talk to him and both of us have moved on from that place.
I knew I was hard-working and kind. I knew I’d spend the rest of my life devoted to my parents and my family. I knew my address wouldn’t last long in the stifling, sticky enclaves of south Georgia.
But, I didn’t know a hell of a lot more than I did know.
Because you can’t anticipate the explosions, the messes, the deaths and the self-destructions of your 20s 30s and 40’s. You simply cannot anticipate Life. You’re unable to forecast adultery, deceptions, newfound passions, and those alluring and unexpected opportunities that rock the certainties you’ve stood upon for as long as you can remember. You can’t calculate and control feelings. You can’t anticipate that moment you’ll become so entirely undone that you don’t even recognize the strands of self billowing out behind you, catching the wind and drifting away before you can grab hold again.
And there’s no escaping any of it, of course. There’s no preparation either, other than the slow, steady build of a reserve of good friends, good wine, self-confidence, humor, and courage—the pillars that, like Rome, won’t fall down when everything else does.
The pillars that, years later, decades later, remain, however cracked, however faded, however damaged.
I told this bright and eager young woman my heartbreak story tonight, and that time, those years, that one man, that part of me—it sounded so far away. It sounded old. And maybe that’s because even though my life has taken a radically different course than I’d ever imagined or hoped for, I’m making it work for me now, and I’m happy, fresh, acutely present and appreciative.
She studied me, and she crinkled her beautifully unwrinkled eyes, and said that it takes quite a woman to bounce back from such blows, such bleeding.
It takes quite a woman for many things:
Birthing a child, raising a good citizen of the world, burying a parent, contributing thoughtfully to society, giving generously, moving through the days mindfully and healthfully, constantly pushing against barriers and prejudices, surviving the betrayals, heart aches, lies and mis judgments, supporting and nurturing partners and families and friends, learning, teaching, loving, loving always—even when the heart beats slow and heavy and weary, and those pillars you yearn to lean against stand oh so far away and out of reach.
And as the sun sets, and the waves rise, as trees on the balcony shake their leaves, I sit back and let out a long, deep breath. It’s quite and adventure, this illusion of planning, this game called life that goes on. .And I think, maybe I have found my place, this weekend away, where I can write, where the wood meet the water, and both country and beach can exist. But life always marches to it’s own beat, and all we can do love well, be our best and hold on tight.