À la recherche du temps perdu
I spent most of last Sunday wishing I could turn the plane around.
The wife and I were returning from the wedding of one of my dearest college friends. The three-day weekend was full of food, drink, and revelry that bloomed from the purest roots of happiness. There were people I'd forgotten I even knew. There were new friends I'd never met who immediately cut past the chitchat to foster deep life-giving conversations and shared jokes. There were vows exchanged that made this the first time I have ever cried at a wedding.
Iterations of my past selves were peeking through the cracks of these conversations--an old belief here, a random shared experience there. Layers upon layers of the past 20 years converged and slid off of each other. Tectonic plates of selves making valleys and mountains of me.
On Monday morning, I remembered that I'd delivered a food pantry donation using my own reusable bags and left them with our volunteers. After dropping off my bag in my office, I headed downstairs to retrieve them.
They weren't where I'd asked the volunteers to leave them. None of them. Frustration and a surprisingly mild panic started rising in my chest and throat. I looked around the rest of the pantry and found one, two, maybe three or four.
A couple of them were from my old job in Brooklyn and Manhattan with some of the best co-workers I've ever had.
A couple were from volunteering at Busch Stadium a few summers ago, sweating in the heat to encourage recycling and get to see a ball game for free.
A couple were from the first food drive I'd ever participated in at a church.
They were the knickknacks I didn't even realize I was collecting. They were housing memories I'd let slip way back into my subconscious. They had souls.
For only the second time ever, I brought a change of clothes and went for a run on my lunch break. Those two times I've done it, it's been the best decision I've made in days.
Running is my prayer. I remember that I have a body. I tend to focus on the rhythm of movement, on my breath, on my surroundings. I never listen to music when I run (mostly because I have funny-shaped ears that won't accommodate any earphones on the market, but still).
A run to the Arch and back is a perfect half hour. The geese were plentiful. The leaves were still hanging on. The grass was soft. I've been a devoted runner since 1981. It is part of who I am. It is the only type of exercise I enjoy without reservation. It allows me time to think through things in a way that lesser activities do not.
The week after my grandfather died, I swore I felt his presence overtake me while on a hard run. I had a hell of a time gasping for breath for about a minute. It forced me to stop running, to look at the sky, to feel the sweat on my brow, to finally cry.
Because of a new and exciting grant I received earlier this year, I met lots of United Methodists from all over the country. Within the span of a couple of months, I was Facebook friends with dozens of the most innovative, intelligent young-ish people I'd ever met.
One of these people was doing amazing work combining intentional community and disaster relief in the Northeast. Like many phenomenally talented people her age, her job was disappointing her. She is currently on somewhat of a sabbatical.
When I noticed she was staying with an old friend of mine at his nonprofit in the Bahamas, I thought, "Small world!" She IM'd me on Facebook with a blog post, asking for thoughts about potential next moves. So many ideas not suited for just an instant message, I thought. We should video chat.
As we video chatted the other day, she reminded me that it was I who had suggested she get in touch with our now mutual friend in the first place. It was I who'd recommended that she investigate the incredible volunteer disaster work he was managing. I had literally completely forgotten that I had influenced someone's life, albeit in a somewhat minor way.
We are the things we say, even offhandedly. They add up to us. We are made up of even the selves we have forgotten existed just months ago. We are living, breathing domino effects, pebbles in ponds sending ripples whose crests move out of focus even as we squint our eyes.
We are all of those selves at the same time, and yet none of them.
We are too occupied with being in search of lost time. We have already been found and are continuing to find more selves. Claim yourself. All of them.