Tell Me Not What Lies Ahead

digital illustration from a photoEven if I could I would rather not see the future. If it’s not to my liking, then I’ll despair and give up all attempts to improve upon it; if appealing, it will tempt me to live in constant yearning and not invest my heart and hands in my own present.

That doesn’t stop me from persistently trying to scry any hints of what’s to come in whatever handy crystal ball I can conjure. We’re curious creatures, we humans, and impatient at that. I wish and want and hope and dream, along with all of my fellow mortals, thinking that if I just knew what lay around the next bend of the road, surely I would be content, or at least if not content then prepared. But few who have access to dates and deadlines, foresight and certainties actually prepare in full, and once the approaching events are known they so often become the sole focus of the journey, not a point along the way, in fact distracting us from all of the possibly meaningful points that do exist en route.

I would rather not give myself any excuses for being even less attentive than I already am, and to be honest, I think it would take a fair measure of the charm out of discovering my life with a degree of surprise as it happens. Do I hope that what comes will be pleasurable and kind and fulfilling? Naturally. But whatever it is, I will let it keep its secrets for now; there is a lot to be seen and felt and done long before I get there, wherever there is and whatever it holds.

Car Crash Bad

I almost crashed the car. While I make no claims of being an outstandingly skillful driver, I do credit myself with being a pretty sensible, legal and even careful one. But I’m not infallible, either. I’m just very glad I happen to be lucky, too.

So my close call was just that, a close call. It would have been my own fault as well, because although I did wait and look all directions and not see any cars coming my way since the one that was was behind something bigger the whole time I scanned that direction, it jolly well was there and it was moving rather quickly. Possibly even faster than was strictly appropriate in that stretch, but I was still the driver that started to turn left at the light directly in front of that oncoming car. Our respective guardian angels were evidently working overtime, because both the other driver and I were able to brake and steer out of the situation fairly swiftly.

A split second’s difference, and our cars could have been demolished, our selves injured or even killed. That accident being technically my fault would have been utterly irrelevant outside of legal terms and in practical terms: both of our lives stood a hair’s-breadth from being forever altered, not to mention the effects on all of the life-dominoes that would inevitably be downed or redirected by that incident. All because of a single mote’s difference.digital collageAnd we two, and all of those around us at the intersection, in the following second or two regrouped and continued just as though nothing had happened at all, if perhaps with a dash of adrenaline pumping.

Isn’t that the way that we live every day, every moment, though? Whether through wickedness or stupidity we go astray, or merely by happenstance or sheer momentary bad luck, we are at risk every instant we’re alive. As a person who copes with exaggerated anxiety (thankfully, mine is treatable), I could easily find excuse in that for any amount of paranoia and become anything from a perpetual pessimist to an emotionally crippled hermit. But besides being impractical, that’s a hideously unappealing plan for existence.

My solution is to keep working on my vigilance as far as paying attention to the details in day-to-day life, hoping that others are doing the same and we’re all generally watching out for each other, too, and assuming that my good luck, guardian angels and/or serendipitous circumstances will always tip in my favor. Beyond that, knowing that I can’t control any such things, I know it’s best to just turn off the switch, to let go. I even like to think I can be on the lookout for more excuses to be delighted with life and let the accidents be ones of tripping over unexpected joys. There’s far too much fine and happy stuff in the mix that should not be missed or wasted.

Life, that’s Good.photo

Beginning Again

photoGetting Ahead of Myself

Around that corner just ahead is some Unknown that in my head
Is not the terror-building fright that lends to terrors in the night
For pessimistic glass-half-gone, despairing people, dusk to dawn,
In nightmare hiding, room to room, expecting any moment Doom–
In my imaginings and dreams, instead, the Unknown beckons, gleams
And twinkles like a shooting star, calling to me to roam afar
Into ephemeral and great new joys from early hours to late,
Adventures, newness, glamor, thrills, all dancing at my windowsills
And hovering at door and gate just out of view–
Oh, I can’t wait!photo

 

Invitations to Dance

watercolorDancers I: Bend Sinister

Leaning back into a dire S-curve

And turning, twisting out of grace,

Finding cruel existence takes

Her to a meaner, coarser place,

She rebels against the tide

That pulls her downward, scrapes her soul,

And makes a revolutionary

Spring to leave the great Black Hole

Of wounded spirit, tortured love,

To swim back into something sweet—

This is the mandate of the dance:

To win by keeping on her feet

watercolorDancers II: Conjuror

Under a spell of loveliness

She leans, she curls, expands;

She falls against the strong caress

Of gladness, in the hands

Of magic greater than herself,

And when the spell is done,

There is no darkness, loneliness

Or sorrow; she is one

With every boundary, with joy,

With having been set free

From all constraint; the dance has won

Her to infinity

Beware the One-th of the Month

skull drawing and Hitchcock portrait

Even when you expect the worst, something worser may lie ahead . . .

Alfred Hitchcock was known to tell a certain little story that subsequently stuck (ouch!) in my mind. This is my recollected version of it:

Wilfred’s wife Muriel had been missing for some time and the incessant rain had abated when the search party finally found what might be a sign of her in a ditch beside the winding and desolate country road. At first, it did look like Muriel’s shoe, and Wilfred was distraught. He clutched at the shoe–which, it turned out, had a foot still in it.

“Oh, I hope nothing terrible has happened!” he cried, “Muriel never takes her favorite shoes off when she’s out of the house!”

A little farther along the lane there was a torn macintosh sleeve that, when he rushed to pick it up, had an arm in it showing Wilfred a hand with familiar jewelry. He was beside himself with worry.

“Gracious! Muriel hates to be late for anything, but she would at least pause to take off her mac when the rain stopped–it’s much too warm to wear in this fusty weather. Surely she would take a moment to get more comfortable.”

The search party progressed slowly, finding bits and pieces of what had surely once comprised most of Wilfred’s missing wife. Wilfred grew more and more frightened at what might have happened to his dear Muriel, but he dared not let himself think the worst. Finally they came to a weir where, caught in its grate, there was a familiar looking head. Wilfred leaned forward to address it:

“MU-riel! Are you all right?”

*********************************

Funny, isn’t it, how we tend to assume the worst and still somehow be so surprised that things turn out to be as bleak as they are. The first of the month (any month) looms large as the archetype of a Bad Day for many people. It’s the day when most of the bills are due, accounting must be made at work for one’s actions–or inaction–during the previous thirty days, filters must be replaced in the machinery, timers reset, and all manner of drudgery and doom are assumed to lie in wait. “I can’t believe it’s already September! Where did August go?” The month begins with a day of dread.

But I’ve found too that there’s a palpable truth to the old idea that while pessimism feeds on its own energy and dark expectations tend to be fulfilled with dark results, optimism and positive expectations can be equally self-fulfilling. Of course it makes sense to be prepared for and know how to survive and rise above disaster. But doesn’t it make great sense to get beyond that and, if necessary, work and will good things into existence instead? If I’m going to spend energy on thinking about the future, I hope it will be with the belief and intent that the future should be filled with good stuff of every kind.

Alfred Hitchcock, it seems, may have been a slightly shady character himself; perhaps it fed his genius for black humor and suspenseful psychodrama, but the tension between his deep-dyed wit and the truly grim storyline with which he would present us was necessary both to leaven the tale and to remind audiences of a better possible outcome. Without the contrast of an occasional flash of light, darkness becomes meaningless and incomprehensible.

Never mind the Fear of the First. Begone, nagging soothsayers of the End Times. I’m not afraid of the cursed Ides of March. Superstition and despondency, get thee behind me.

I prefer to keep my moments of fright to those contained in good scary fiction, and dwell, myself, in a much sunnier place where I expect pleasure and prettiness and plush pillows and poached pears and perfection. At least when I curl up with the likes of Edgar Allan Poe or Stephen King in that place I can be assured that they’re only tall tales I’m reading and the bogeys will all go away again when I turn on the lights and tell them to go. Then the terror is finite and fictional and even fun, but finally, it’s also conquered.

  • Edgar Allan Poe portraitRepeat after me: It’s only a story, it’s only a story . . .