The nine-year old and I moved from Montreal to the American Southwest over a several month period last year, arriving, finally, in Flagstaff, Arizona a year and a month ago now. Our stuff arrived from Montreal over two months later. It was more than four months from when we moved out of our loverly flat in Montreal, and then unpacked in our gorgeous house in Flagstaff.
The delivery of our things to Flagstaff turned out to be delayed by several months. As a result, we lived in a gorgeous but utterly empty home for almost two months subsiding on the few clothes we'd taken to last for the summer, a queen size air mattress, a pot, two forks, a knife, two plates and a cup. We'd already lived before that in other people's homes for more than two months. By the time our things arrived from Montreal I didn't quite care to have them except that there were a number of books I missed desperately, and I really really needed a pair of closed toed shoes since we were approaching winter in the desert. Plus, I wanted the nine-year old to have the comfort of snuggling up with her best stuffed pets again.
I'd started teaching at the local university, and then on exactly the one day in the week I had off from the classroom an enormous moving van pulled up along side our house and unloaded enough boxes and furniture to fill several rooms in rough strewn piles. But that was the thing--I only really had one day a week when I wasn't working. When was I to unpack? As a result, we still have some boxes, piled neatly in a corner, that I never bothered with because after undoing the tape I could see they were filled with things I didn't immediately need. Today I reapproached those boxes.
It's a wonderful, hilarious thing to discover papers from over 15 years ago. I love how totally embarrassing some of the things I took the time to write down really were. Before blogs were a possibility I'd send similar type messages via faux-newsletter. Just after moving to Santa Cruz, California I wrote one such piece. There I am gushing uncontrollably about the man that I would eventually marry (though the marriage only lasted a couple of years) writing things like "magical love affair" and "endless [insert blahblah here]." Two of my closest friends at the time called it the "Living in Love Newsletter." At the time the feeling did feel endless, but I made a mistake in how I interpreted what that meant. It turns out it felt endless in the sense of "immediately HUGE", rather than "through all time."
Somehow surviving something like 15 more years, I realize that it turns out there are two types of endless--the experience of feeling that stretches beyond our previously known limits of feeling as we're feeling it, and the temporal notion of something that literally goes on past the duration of our lifetimes. Mistaking one for the other is the same thing we call "cheesy" when listening to almost any romantic pop song. There are so many examples of uncomfortably melodramtic lyrics that focus on that idea of "endless love" as though it means we're guaranteed to live with that same person for the rest of our lives. Except, then the lyrics rush into comments like "please don't leave me" or "I can't survive without you." The songs admit, then, that in living through that feeling of something greater than ourselves, we easily become terrified of losing it. There we are experiencing the possibilities of our feelings as revealing to us a new potentially larger self and all we can think along with "oh wow yeah baby I love you" is "fucking hell don't walk away." We do feel something bigger than ourselves, and it doesn't mean it'll last forever.Except, the way it changes us, in some vague sense, might--we have, after all, discovered we can feel more than we ever knew before. It's just that there we'll be stuck with our new bigger selves, possibly without the person that happened to trigger our exposure to our own possibilities. And, there's the rub--we're the ones that opened up. Even if we don't get to keep living beside them, we get to keep living with ourselves.
I have to laugh at myself for the ways that I still relish that first (and embarrassing) notion of endless love. It's a bitter pill when you've mistaken that feeling of "love bigger than I've felt before" for "will go on with me throughout my life." We shouldn't though take that to mean the love we lived for a time is no longer valuable, or wasn't valuable while we got to live it. And also, don't mistake me for not being bitter. I am. Bitter though at the same time that I'm utterly Camusian in my being committed to living a damn good life. Bitter doesn't mean shut down, or closed off, or not open to further good love experiences--it means sophisticated flavor and scent like a grapefruit, somehow incredibly sweet and a little touch sharp all at the same time. A sharpness we wouldn't give up for anything, lest we give up grapefruit all together.
Friendships are like this too--their impact on us can be crucial, even when short lived.
As much as I hate to laugh at myself, there's a whole box of juvenile bull crap I've got to go unpack. I opened a bottle of German sparkling wine to celebrate the re-discovery of my naive, and absurd previous views through things I wrote more than a decade ago. I opened the bottle of German sparkling wine so that I can celebrate too the reminder of the ways I'm naive and absurd still now. It seems an appropriate parallel--drinking German sparkling wine. One of the challenges any of us face in the midst of our own ever continuing lives is to reconcile our own histories (however embarrassing or painful) with the reality we're choosing to live now. Our history lived so that we can be who and what we are now, and also be reminded of the previous selves we're determined to be more than now and into the future. Even when we choose to radically change the way we're engaging in life, our previous selves are still back there, maybe taped up in some damn box, asking us to laugh ourselves into bigger possibilities.