This could have still been there.
I’m in a cab riding down Chicago Avenue, and I think of the time just after I moved to the city, when I first lived at “this end,” where the brown line intersects and just before the river (which I know now isn’t an “ending” at all) and then lived at “the other,” where Chicago crashes through Michigan Avenue and then tumbles into the lake, and where I made almost daily trips to Whole Foods.
Either of these, I know, could have still been my “now.” I could have just as easily lived here until now, in this moment coming upon it as home – something all around me; something I’m inside rather than looking out at.
And then I would not look at it squarely. Perhaps I wouldn’t see it at all.
We don’t see the sort of things in which we exist. We have to leave them and look back, can only see them for what they are when we wear them over the crest of our shoulder.
And when you come back to these places, they’re different somehow. Something static and at arm’s reach; something in which we are no longer submerged.
And I know that almost everything right now will someday soon be much the same way.
I move a lot. At least once a year, if not more.
When you move a lot, you get to do this – look at things squarely – all the time. Not only do you see more places and see them more frequently, see something new in a shorter time, but you see these things as they really are – meaning what they’ll ultimately become, once you look back. And you take control of the thing, limit the immersion and hasten the speed at which the real seeing occurs.
You don’t have to wait decades or half a life to look back on something and, moreover, you don’t have to wait for change to be pressed upon you.
Things are discarded, of course, in the process. They have to be, in order to make room for the new. It is amazing to me how quickly I discard things when I move on. All things, too – not just those that invoke emotions (good or bad), but whole, huge heaps of things, including objective and everyday details.
Looking back, for example, I can’t remember how I used to eat dinner two years ago – or if I even did. These sort of things sort of matter not simply for nostalgic purposes or reassuring ourselves of our own mental capacities and continuity, but, perhaps more importantly, in measuring the continuum of habit (and here, of wellness) and here I am and I can’t even remember what I ate each day, at what time, or if I ate even at all. (Do I eat more now? Is this what happens? Who’s to say?)
I also can’t remember morning rituals. I read my own handwritten records from that time and see that they cite 5:30 am wake-ups; claim writing each and every day thereafter, and I guess, in the absence of my own remembering, that has to be enough to believe.
Part of the problem, of course, was that my everyday life was also wrapped up in other things; the sort of things I deliberately left behind or cast away. The loss of the details is, of course, the risk we take when we move; the sacrifice we must offer in moving on. The thing that we earn is perspective.
We can – or can try, anyway – to exist our whole lives in one place – both physical and psychological. To dig our toes into the earth, take root, and refuse to move. We can try to protect ourselves from ever having to look back on a thing.
But clutching a thing simply means never looking at a thing squarely head on. Which really means never seeing at all.