return

Found myself walking the old track this morning after many years. At this hour, the streets are quiet and the air is cool. My old friend – the cheerful man who would wave and call out to me when he saw me descend the green wooden stairs to the track – was not there.

One other woman circled slowly. A man joined us later, walking in the opposite direction.

--

I’ve been working with my hands because my head is too full of small, urgent details and my heart is too anxious to be of much use. I am filled with worry. It surges, spills out through the tips of my fingers. I keep them moving.

--

We are in transitions. I am leaving my job in a field of work I have been in -- in one way or another -- for the entirety of my adult life. I am not quite sure what comes next, but I want very much for it to be something different.

I talk to people about my interests, what I think I might do, and occasionally – although not always – I get a response that suggests I am doing something unusual. That I am “changing careers.” I don’t think of it this way. I think of my life as my life and that I am walking a path that only becomes visible as I follow it.

--

My daughter is moving out. They are not going far but their things – clothing, shoes, art supplies, stuffed animals -- are gone from the room they occupied for nearly two decades. It is not so much nostalgia or sadness I feel as worry: Do they have what they need?

--

I know that transitions are fraught times. I hear my own voice repeating to friends you are going through a lot, these are difficult times, be kind to yourself, etc., but I am impatient with my own sense of disorientation. I have writing projects and manuscripts in varied states of disarray and I can’t bear to look at them. It has been this way for days, for weeks? Weeks.

--

Rebecca Solnit accompanied me on my morning walk. She talks about our obsession with certainty. How we choose certainty over hope. How the simplicity and clumsiness of narratives of certainty leaves no room for narratives of hopefulness, no way to accommodate the unpredictability of our lives. The long arc of our lives, the longer arc of history is like the weather, she says. We want the narratives to be more like bowling -- we take this ball and throw it, the results of our actions are clear, visible. But we all know it is not like that.

--

I have always been good at leaving. Jobs, relationships, homes. Not that there have not been costs to the leaving, not that I have not paid dearly. But leaving – turning away – is a familiar act. I have built muscle memory.

If this first half of my life has been learning crisis, learning leaving, I wonder whether this second half will have something to teach me about return?

There is so much work to do in mid-life, of course, around letting go -- of expectations, ambitions -- but isn't there also, then the work about knowing what to hold on to? What to keep and to carry?