The Future House, Hopefully Un-Plain

This is my favorite time of year and the hardest time of year. I’m back in Colorado and waiting for Luke to come home. Zaley started sleeping through the night last week, which makes me feel a little less crazy than usual. But there’s still the waiting—for the renters to move out, for the bronze of September, for the end of fishing season, for Zaley to walk, for the newness of sleep to catch up on the deprivation of it—and waiting for anything makes me feel a little wobbly, like I’m leaning forwards some days and backwards other days, bracing myself for the unreadable wind that will blow me into the what-next. When you admit to having a tough time, people use the phrase “day by day” as consolation, but for me, that furthers the dread. I know I have a comparatively easy life to most of the world’s population, but when has day-to-day ever been easy for most of us? Or at least for most of us women?

I started rereading Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping tonight by the light of a paper lantern removed from my childhood bedroom and re-hung on my parents’ back porch where it still smells of grill from earlier bratwursts and the crickets are so constant I forget to listen to them until I remind myself, these are the sounds that I miss in Alaska, and that there are people who would promote gratitude in moments like this. But I rarely trust gratitude. So I was half-hearing the crickets and feeling both at-home in their sound and nostalgic (another untrustworthy sentiment, brought on most often by lotions from my past and Coldplay), and comparing myself to Robinson’s people, which might be the reason I write nonfiction (narcissism) and here, she describes the faith of the grandmother:

“She conceived of a life as a road down which one traveled, an easy enough road through a broad country, and that one’s destination was there from the very beginning, a measured distance away, standing in the ordinary light like some plain house where one went in and was greeted by respectable people and was shown to a room where everything one had ever lost or put aside was gathered together, waiting.”

And I was thinking, man, I have never conceived of life as an easy enough road with a concrete destination at its end. I conceive of life as right now, and the right now is either good or bad, and there is no measuring the distance of the future, it’s just there, vaporous and potential, as many thousands of miles away as Luke is now, and I couldn’t tell you if that’s 1,000 or 7,000 miles, such are my faculties of calculating the mileage of past or future, physical or metaphorical.

Point being, sometimes I think I find it difficult to live this life, always waiting for the next transition, because I do not have this vision of the future in my head of a plain house, with respectable people, and a gathering of all my lost things. Besides the fact that MR's version of heaven sounds gnawingly boring, it’s also disturbingly foreign to me to see my life as a path moving towards a place. If I’m on a path, is that place decided already? Or, maybe more terrifying: am I forging my own path, like the lines of lawn-mowing (tough decision, there: diagonals or right angles), and how do I know which design will best hold my values, hopes, happiness-procuring skill set?

Getting to the point...I think...which is: are Luke and I living in the right place, in the possession of the right jobs, all in the interest of our child(ren, eventually), and will we get to place where we redeem all of the lost things? It is a nice thought, that what we have lost is waiting for us. But to want to have faith is almost further from having it, it seems, than being ignorant of it. Sometimes it feels like the ignorant make more discoveries than the constantly hoping.

It would be nice to operate on the fuel of the future. Sure, I love to plan things—my next home, job, vacation—but I cannot feel the way they will feel. I am not good at escaping the dread of Sunday if it’s Sunday or the expectation of Thursday if it’s Thursday. Luke keeps saying, “I’ll be home soon and I’ll make this all worth it,” and I know this, and I know that single moms have it way harder than me, but that does not diminish the fact that it is Sunday and Zaley and I had a hard day and I wanted to swim laps and she wanted to take good naps and we did neither.

I cannot think of Thursday today. I can only think of right now, wine glass one inch away from empty, crickets whirring, baby thank God sleeping, wondering how long we trace this shifting pattern of working and waiting. And, also, questioning how we measure the costs and benefits of the life we have already chosen.