For… um, I’m sorry, I never asked your name. Travel safe.
Today is the first day of the rest of my life. How about yours?
How do you feel about me throwing that cliche at you? Are you embracing it joyously—are you filled with the desire to use PicMonkey or equivalent to turn it into an Insta-Graphic and send it into social media memeland?
Or do you want to throw a handful of mud at my smug face and tell me to go fuck myself and my empty platitudes?
My kitchen sink is, miraculously, empty this morning. Flora put all the dishes away before she went to bed, and, as Cinder is 600 kilometres away, he did not spend the night eating and filling it up again. I stand in front of the empty sink in the morning and fill up with gratitude… and then immense sadness.
As I make the coffee I’m no longer really drinking, I cry and miss my son.
(My face, by the way, is not smug.)
I drive 500 miles and 500 more to Kelowna most years since my Marie and her brood moved out there. I didn’t go last year, and we suffered. I mean, Marie and mine’s connection. There is only so much you can do by text, Facebook, the occasional phone call. Real relationships require real life, real time, person-to-person investment. Snotting on each other’s flesh and blood shoulders, not just cyber ones.
So this year, I drive Cinder and his friend to Kelowna, to visit their forever friends, and mine, over four days I wrench from a too-heavy schedule. I leave Calgary a few hours after attending a “can’t-miss-it-you-are-so-important-to-me” event; I come back a few hours before an important (yes, it really is) community planning meeting.
In-between, Marie and I squeeze in urgent together time. Precious but also exhausting: we do not have time on this visit for leisurely conversations that meander and unfold. We have very little time for each other, really: we are mostly ferrying six manic boys (and their bikes) around.
It’s all right, we tell each other.
It’s their time more than it is ours.
Our time will come… when?
I am having an uncomfortable relationship with time right now. It feels like my most precious and most finite resource. I feel I don’t have enough of it—I hate feeling that way. After all, time is… time is time. We actually have all the time in the world, right? Sixty minutes in an hour, twenty-four hours in a day, seven days in a week, 365 days in a year…
Where the fuck have the last 365 days gone? Actually, the first half of them, I can account for rationally. The last half? These last six months?
I feel I have blinked and they have disappeared.
My time in Kelowna is both too short and too long. Too short, because, Marie, soul sister conversations, beauty, beaches—and the world’s best Value Village—I swear, people, the Kelowna Value Village is a fucking treasure trove. (Would that I had more time to explore it this time: I do find a pair of gorgeous yet practical and virtually unworn shoes.)
Too long, because… so much to do so much to do so much to do.
I hate it. I hate that feeling. That feeling of time slipping through my fingers, of the pace of my days moving too fast, of never feeling on top of things, of never feeling done… or allowed to rest.
I hate it.
I watch the boys plan their days and all the things they want to do on this trip with a total disregard for the reality, the tyranny of time.
I love it.
I envy them.
I watch them with love—and envy—and maybe, I think, maybe I learn something.
I leave Cinder behind in Kelowna and I leave Marie’s house early in the morning on a Sunday for the near-eight hour drive back home.
(Don’t throw the mud pie at my face.)
I am aware that today is the first day of the rest of my life. As they all are.
And that I can think I don’t have time, I don’t have time, I don’t have time… or I can have all the time in the world.
I plug my phone into the AUX port and start playing Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons podcast.
She’s going to be my companion and the background to my silent meditations on this precious solo trip home.
Eight hours. Alone.
If you’re a parent, if you live amidst a web of obligations—no matter how willingly entered into—you know how precious each of those eight hours is.
I pull over to pick up the hitchhiker just outside Revelstoke. It’s 10 a.m., and I feel the bone-tiredness and fuzzy-headedness that comes not so much from not enough sleep but not enough good sleep.
He’s in his 50s—maybe 40s. He has the weathered-withered look of a person who works outside, who works with his body. Also, the withered-weathered look of a person who’s suffered.
All his worldly possessions in a backpack about the same size as the backpack I took with me to Kelowna.
It’s sweltering hot already, and there is no shade where he is standing. I see car after car whiz by and I actually whiz by too… I want to be alone. With Liz Gilbert (who’s already annoying me, but I am learning things in-between), and with my thoughts and meditations. With myself.
I look in the rear view mirror, and I see his shoulders slump, and I think—fuck it. I can make one human being’s life easier today.
And I don’t actually have to make mine harder.
He runs to the truck. And looks startled when he opens the door. It’s interesting: I hear the thought as sharply as if he had spoken it, “Lady, you should not be picking up hitchhikers.”
“Where are you going?” I ask.
“Calgary,” he says.
“I have a request,” I tell him. “I’m happy to give you a ride all the way to Calgary. But I don’t want to talk. About anything. Not where you’re from or where you’re going or the weather. Nothing. I’m going to be listening to these podcasts the whole ride and thinking and occasionally murmuring to myself. From you, I would like silence.”
“Works for me,” he says.
And we go.
Ferrying six teenage boys around Kelowna, from beach to park to waterfall to beach, one becomes hyper-aware how precious silence is. Ditto–living with three children, in a community full of children, in which gangs of seven-year-old boys alternate places with gangs of preteen-oh-no-they’re-teenagers-now! girls in my living room.
Their noise—especially when happy—is precious too.
But silence—fuck, silence is a gift from god.
The hitchhiker does not say a word for five hours.
Our ride is a prayer.
Elizabeth Gilbert and her guests share a lot of insightful things in Magic Lessons. Although—did I tell you, I find Liz annoying? It’s because she’s… so fucking perky.
I guess that’s why I didn’t like Eat Pray Love, either.
I’m not perky.
But every once in a while, despite being annoyed by Gilbert’s perkiness, I do… perk up.
It’s a nice feeling.
(this, by the way, is the point in the composition at which I was thrown off by life. Ender was hungry. Flora needed a hug. A bookstore owner pinged me in a panic, and I had to run to the print shop and then the post office. In-between there was also lunch, four attempts to set up interviews, and a phone call from the dentist. But, there was also a nap and meditation (interrupted by the phone call from the dentist). Still. With all of that, I am having a hard time picking up the thread. Platitudes. Time. Silence. Perky.
Today is the first day… Yes. Right there.)
Today is the first day of the rest of my life.
On Sunday, I shared five silent hours of my life with a stranger.
I came home to joy and hugs… and then was promptly abandoned by the children who “We missed you so much, Mommy!” but who wanted, in the moment, to be with their friends more.
I took the opportunity to fold into Sean’s arms, and he took the opportunity to take me down to the bedroom and take off my clothes.
Ender knocked on the bedroom door about three seconds post climax.
“What do you need, dude?”
“I need to hug Mommy!”
Also… you know. Other things.
I am not sure my mountain meditation to the soundtrack of Elizabeth Gilbert and the silence of my traveling companion solved anything for me. Or gave me clarity. Penetrating insight.
But I wasn’t really looking for that, anyway.
I was looking for… time.
And time… I got.
All the time in the world.