Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Free Time

This is my second week as a homemaker. There are many things to do, but few firm deadlines. I need to buy vegetables and soy milk and a strainer for the kitchen sink--sometime soon. (Today? Tomorrow? It could wait till the day after.) I need to find a laundromat, and haul our dirty laundry and a couple dozen quarters there--before we run out of underwear. I need to research grad programs in linguistics--sometime in the next year.

Astonishing how hard it is to have my schedule completely amorphous. Time is a liquid. It returns, like water, to the lowest place. It settles into low spots in the vinyl floor. It pools under the dusty baseboard heaters. In the summer heat (top-floor bonus), it evaporates and steams up the windows and condenses on the ceiling.

As the days pass one minute at a time, two years stretches before me into eternity. I can't seem to imagine that far in the future. My foresight extends to this weekend, and not much beyond. I have never been so deprived of vessels to pour time into: schedules and meetings and activities. My calendar is a field gone fallow. I wander through it, blowing dandelion seeds and picking wild flowers.

What is this time like? Not like school, though I am learning things. Not like childhood before school's tyranny: I do have responsibilities, and I cross the street without holding anyone's hand. Not like summer vacation: I cannot go to the beach and I am not with my parents or sister (which is no longer to say that I am not with my family); also, if I don't cook dinner, then there will be no dinner. Not like work, where someone else set my goals and told me when to go rest.

If it is like anything I have experienced, it is like writing my thesis last year. My own project: defined by me and executed by me, refined by me and scheduled by me; dealing with whatever interests me, but needing a focus; a source of pleasure and confidence, but also of anxiety and vulnerability; and built around a relationship.

When I read my poems to my mentor, I exposed myself. Criticism stung, while praise surprised me again and again. His approval made me stand taller. It gave me courage to call myself a poet. I prepared poems around the scaffolding of our meetings. I waited for those conversations.

Here, I am not arranging words that will speak into eternity. I am making dinner that disappears within a few hours, I am cleaning a floor that will be dirty again tomorrow, I am emptying a laundry hamper that fills up a little more each night. But here I still have my uncertainties, my fears. Approval still makes me glow, disappointment still makes me shrink. I wait for the reunions. I wait for the connections, the conversations.

I could be a little more stable, more driven, more independent in my heart. But I think this time is about waiting, about resting; about leaning on O. and on God, trusting and depending in a new way; about opening myself wide; about taking down the fences, about letting the wind blow through and plant what seeds it wills.

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