The sky is bold and clear and bright, now, the air almost warm, but there remains something of this morning’s storm there, too - a cool, fresh moisture embraces and at once calms and rejuvenates me. I place each step firmly, deliberately, aiming for a tight but comfortable pace, and nudge this morning’s work out of mind. Ruminating the details is hardly necessary – they will remain where I left them. In this I am successful, but in their place enter more troubling considerations. Not details, these, but Big Questions, most of them familiarly nagging since a recent visit with family after a considerable absence.
Has my mother yet found the happiness, or the peace at least, that she has rightfully earned? I suspect she has not. Will she ever? She has known so many struggles…
Despite multiple rehab stints, is my brother still high? If so, what is he using, and is he a safety risk to others? To his children?
What is behind my closest sibling’s continuous silence, his resistant detachment, his seeming melancholy… Circumstance? Biochemistry? Can he navigate these to someplace brighter? Or is he fine, and merely choosing detachment from me?
Will I ever have a relationship with their children again? They’re old enough now: Can I arrange for visits with me, or will our relationships always be a hole in my life?
Can my father’s life truly be ending? How can I maintain a calm surface as I tread through the motions of each day, while a forceful undertow pulls a terribly final phone call near? But what else can I do? Will there be any spare days at the end? Will I arrive in time? Should I have - could I have? - managed these last years differently? I’ve placed myself so far away…
And then, at the core of all other such concerns is my gravest, the most pertinent: Is this life – bound by everyday comforts and dotted with such sweet joys – that my husband and I have established together sustainable? Certainly with us I feel warmth, comfort, regard, appreciation, but also, undeniably, their dark, willful companions: Whispering discontent, restlessness, subtle pangs of loneliness. But as to loneliness, I sense that, ultimately, we are each destined to walk our path alone. Or perhaps I in particular am. Regardless, I doubt any romance can ever quell this sense of solitude, and this I can accept.
Eventually, I lift my eyes from their search for answers in the pavement-bound stones and still-wet soil and messy patches of grass, my attention again drawn to this afternoon’s startlingly blue sky. Also a wonder to me, as it always is when I stop to consider it, is that somehow trees – despite such height and girth – rise out of the dirt and manage to hold so firmly upright. So majestic, graceful, strong and elegant, they serve such purpose, but seemingly without any need of planning or strategy on their part. Why can’t I exist so? How I would like to merely emerge into consciousness each morning and simply, carelessly fall along the grooves pressed into my life, gravitating to my work, toward my daughter, alongside my husband… without such striving, urging, insisting, feeling - analysis of it all - as I do now. I would like to simply Be. Perhaps I might stop thinking so, and instead enjoy each consecutive gulp of air, each life sustaining swallow of water, each occasional meal - just go about the simple business of Being - and leave tomorrow and the Big Questions to themselves.
There is a notable goal in this brief fantasy, but I know I have come to love my strivings, and don’t truly wish them away. I strive toward increased understanding of others, more knowledge about the Universe, engaging and meaningful public service, deeper relationships… All of these efforts give me comfort and purpose and joy. I strive toward greater self-reliance and personal peace, too… Peace requires much work, I think. Yes, I will keep at it. As for my family, I remind myself, as I frequently do and must, that they have all of the same resources at their disposal as do I: information, reason, self-reflection, support from others, spirituality… I can only do my own work, not others’. Although, along the way, I will see and enjoy what is around me. I take a final long gaze at the sky and a smooth, deep breath as I slow my steps toward home. Today really is an incredibly beautiful day.