I nestled my chin into my jacket as the cold air whipped against my skin on my bike ride to work, when I saw him out of the corner of my eye. He was making his way to the office in the opposite direction. Despite all our failings and my better judgement I could not help but wonder why our paths continued to cross. I looked away because I couldn’t stare rejection in the eyes, because I was scared. So I squinted with intent focus and felt my legs go weak with heaviness, as I softly whispered to myself just keep going. Once the figure had passed in my periphery I let out a sigh of relief, and everything became easier: movement, breath and being.
Rejection was behind me and I could move forward.
As I approached the pedestrian bridge I shifted my path around a pickup truck. I watched as men with large steel toed boots and offensively orange jackets closed the blades of their industrial cutters around the fragile necks of the secured locks that adorned the bridges rails. Orange jackets and armoured men nonchalantly breaking commitments pledged by strangers. They worked with a detachment and finality that could cut through more than metal. As I rode by, I slowed, sensing their purpose was larger than the assignment of lightening the bridge. They were making space for new love.
I looked down and I saw the ducks. They bobbed as the water drifted them downstream, currents keeping them together or bringing them further away from the others around them. They surrendered themselves to the waters and spun along with the flow, wanting nothing more or less than to be, and to move on.
I suppose it’s time to focus my eyes on the road ahead, find some protective gear, and let the river take me where it chooses.
The moment when you realize we don’t live in a culture of reflection. When you realize you’ve lived each passed moment in an instant, but as nothing more. It is a fleeting sentiment or apparition and then it is consumed, replaced, left to dissipate. We live in a culture of movement and forward progress, a world where the smart ones are looking forward, and the ones with their gaze reversed are pitied. Looking back is a sign of weakness, doubt, or an indication of pining over what is already gone. How are we expected to move forward without looking back. How can we understand our experience and feel its significance without seeing it more than once, without revelling in the feeling, and asking ourselves why. We may be moving quickly, but I worry about the direction in which we are headed. Getting there fast isn’t any good if there isn’t where you wanted to end up. We are afraid to see the imperfections and look back at our mistakes, so we mindlessly march into the biggest mistake of all.
As my family gathers around the table my mother frets over the meal in the kitchen, making excuses for it why it doesn’t look like it came straight off of Jamie Oliver’s page. Chit chat leads the way into talks about the upcoming election, ongoing health concerns, and family history. Toes are stepped on and stories interrupted, whenever anything contentious, weighty or emotional is brought up my father is always quick to intervene, cutting into our honest exclamation to make a loud and confident claim about the stock market or the recent snowfall. And so we keep it light, light, bland and uninteresting. We keep it safe.
On the drive back my Aunt rattles off the season’s must-haves as her bad to the bone ringtone incessantly plays over the car radio–an apt demonstration of her efforts to bury evidence of her controlling and abusive partner. I sit in silence as she mumbles his name and ignores the perpetual ringing before eventually putting the phone on silent. I sit in silence, because that is what we do. We mumble over the real noise, the anxiety-causing noise, the emotional noise. We make facile, trite, and everyday sounds to hush the real explosions and squeals of life.
That is how we float through our lives, passively allowing events to happen without observing, noticing or feeling them. Without that reflection we are never forced to look around and realize the emptiness. Instead we watch life happen around us while moving our lips to the tune of the weather, or the sale on potatoes, or the taste of the chicken.
I don’t want to live like that. I want to live with intention. I want to live with openness. I want to feel everything. I want the uncomfortableness to moisten my palms and linger so that I can explore it, and move on from it.