Wishful thinking

View of earth at night. From above.
See more fabulous … wondrous views of earth here, earthobservatory.nasa.gov/features/NightLights.

Have you read Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking? It’s a love story shrouded in grief — the author’s travelogue through loss and the sorting out of what is left. I read it a few years into our family’s remaking … re-imagining our lives. Actually, I wasn’t re-imagining my life. I was still mired in the grief and shame of what had been called my failure(s) and the spinning of trying to mitigate … undo them. At the time I didn’t notice it, but something in this book lodged deep into my muck and held fast. A realization took root that has taken years to flower.

All the wishful thinking, earnestness, quid pro quo negotiations with the universe and honest pursuit of right living did not change the advent, outcome or public assumptions of that great loss — the loss of what I’d hoped to offer my kids, our family: An intact and loving unremarkable adventuresome legacy.

No one had died, but everything had.

As I came up from toothy grinning tiny towhead, I held fast to stories of hope and quirky family, community. I wanted to be an astronaut and see the world from overhead. President and change it for the better from within. A physicist to explore and understand the mystery of light, heat, motion, energy … life. A much-loved wife. I thought I could and should do all of these things, though I have yet to do or experience any of them.

Even as an adult, I secretly wished a mugglewump would appear to take me to see the lion, Aslan, much like a still-young generation has hoped Hagrid would appear at the closet under the stairs and take them to Hogwarts and safety.

You guessed it. No Reepicheep or Prince Caspian, no Dumbledore or lion showed up.

So what was left? In all the great loss of family, identity, imagination, hoped-for legacy for the kids and I, shared love and truth told — what was left to believe in and hope for?

“There was a level on which I believed that what had happened remained reversible” ― Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

Until more recently than I’d like to admit, I held hope that my being “good enough” and hard-working enough and agreeable enough and tenacious enough and creative and loving … enough enough enough, might somehow reverse the history that shackled me to still-present shame. I didn’t even realize that I’d hoped somehow to reverse those events, words, terror and sense of self borne of being commoditized and abandoned to the dark.

I invested hope for the impossible until last year and the root of the idea that Didion had offered finally stretched into the light of a groggy day; I finally accepted that the past is uneditable.

This realization has offered both relief and sorrow. It also uncomplicated and untangled my heart in the hard-won understanding that despite A Wrinkle in Time, my time is linear. I/we move forward. There is no playback button. Dang it.

Instead, there has been a stripping down of what is hoped for and where to put energies. There is – in my experience – a grief that accompanies this “what is” though we have more energy to actually live in the present when we stop trying to remake the past.

Admittedly, I’m still wrestling with this one a bit.

Here is the flip side, the sun emerging from the cloud cover:

“Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant.” ― Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

Life changes in the … ordinary instant.

Life changes … ordinary instant.

This could be good. 

It is an emancipating realization that the kids and I do have a quirky, intact and loving unremarkable adventuresome legacy. That we love each other deeply and imperfectly. And that celebration-worthy reality came from thousands … millions maybe ordinary instants.

And friends – we each have friends and loved ones that came through the ether in ordinary instants and have become so much more than fleeting because of life amid those same ordinary instants.

And love. The kids remind me not to be afraid of love and to trust it. Something I have been hobbled by. But their lives are expansive illustrations of the beauty available in ordinary instants.

We/I have no more need and no more room for wishful thinking. Yes, I wish that this magnificent person is healed of cancer and these people free from the cages within and without.

In the absence of wishful thinking is the opportunity that life can change in an ordinary instant. For the good. And that we can be agents of that change.

Great plans. Great energies and nobilities are not required for beauty to emerge. Love. Trust. Hope. Grounding. Emancipation. Community. Justice. Action.

And this becomes part of the uncomplicating life: to free the moments of expectation, magic mirrors and mugglewumps. To be present in the ordinary moment.

What I have is opportunity to accept what is and invest in the ordinary instants with an open heart. Accept the past. Be present in the now. And invest wisely of myself for an unpromised future.

And then go play.

*  *  *

Do you have a story of coming to your own present? A thought or idea?

I’d love hear it. Drop it in the comments below if you’d like. I will listen.


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