Sometimes, history moves in fluid circles. It affords us an opportunity to use our past to tackle our today and to give us a glimpse of our future. The circles rippling out, touching each other, intersecting delicately, changing their perfect circumferences until they become something all together different. The trick is being present to see it unfold, knowing it for what it is and curiously wondering what it can become.
I’ve seen it. Starting with stepping on the DC metro last Thursday. As the train moved down the tracks, images of me 20 years younger floated through my brain. Back in a simpler time when money was tight. My son, his father and I lived in my in-law’s basement to help us make ends meet. I’d hustle for work in the theater scene back then. Shifting from costume sewing with the Folger Shakespeare Theater, to running the sound for Round House Theater, to designing properties with Round House, Olney Theater and a handful of small venues around 14th street. On those rare days off, I’d gather up Zach and pack a lunch, then we’d walk to the metro for a day trip into the city. There were so many places to go and things to see and all it cost us was the $3.50 round trip metro fare. A bargain adventure. Zach’s first visit there was before he was born. His father and I were on the mall and I was quite pregnant, waddling along and starving. I was always starving in those 9 months. So Jimmy and I stopped at a pretzel stand. The vendor took one look at me and pronounced that I would have a boy because I was carrying high. She was right.
So here I was walking around DC all these years later – heading to the Nike Women’s Marathon expo so I could take advantage of all the free stuff I could get my hands on. My parents are living with me for a while to help me make ends meet. I’m back to hustling, this time in the pursuit of a new job and photography customers. My son and I still go on budget adventures. The metro now cost $7.00 round trip but still worth the money. I got a free makeover and a free hairdo and picked up a free coffee and was quite pleased with myself. I got to see the C&O canal as it ran through Georgetown and watched as a construction crew hoisted a large beam into place 8 stories into the air. I picked up enough free luna bars to stave off having to buy lunch. Once again, working it like I used to when I was younger, this time with a little more savvy and smarts.
Just before leaving the expo, I was faced with a large blank wall and a sharpie – the attendant and the wall both stated that I was to write “Why I run . . . . ” The crazy thing about a whirlwind mind like mine is that handing me a tool to write with is like handing me the laser pointer on my thoughts. It takes the mental tornado and pinpoints it into what is really going on in the madding howling winds. And this is what I wrote . . .
. . . the epitaph I wrote in my blog the night Keith died. I took a step back and just stood there in shock. My eyes started to feel that old familiar burn and I fought the urge to put my sunglasses on. Just a few hours ago, I was thinking about being pregnant with my son, sharing a pretzel with his father. Now I was standing there, in silent witness to a memorial in honor of my late husband. The two strongest circles of my personal history colliding. The joy of bringing life into the world and the pain of watching someone leave it.
I was back on the metro Saturday night. A young couple sat across from me. His arm cradling her across an obviously pregnant profile with such tenderness as she laid her head on his shoulder. Jimmy had done the same thing as we crammed into a full car coming back from an evening on the mall. We couldn’t find a seat so he wrapped his arms around my 7 months of pregnancy while I held onto the bar. I got off the train, leaving behind the couple and my memories and headed to the hotel. Stepping into the lobby, I called my boyfriend to let him know I made it. We had a conversation about keeping an eye out for suspicious behavior and things I should do to make sure I was safe at all times. It was the kind of conversation reminiscent of the ones Keith and I would have whenever I traveled. I found myself in my tornado thoughts again – thinking about how I’ve managed to always be so protected by the men in my life, including my father. At the same time, all of them have always given me total freedom to be me and do what I enjoy doing – even if they didn’t agree with my choices. I can’t imagine any other way to feel love from another human being.
Today at lunch, I was talking about my run on Sunday with a friend. She reminds me so much of where I was a year ago. I had been walking a little over a year when my coworker put the thought in my head that I could do a 1/2 marathon. “Right” I said with a great deal of sarcasm. But the more I thought about it, the more I believed that it just might be possible. I had thousands of questions for her. I was a bundle of nerves when I committed to doing my first one. I doubted myself at every training session. I couldn’t see how I could build up to it in time or get enough training in. But I did it – walking of course. Then I did it again. This Sunday, I did it again. I ran most of it. I shaved a half hour off my best time. I can do it again. When the topic of my friend doing a 1/2 marathon first came up, I could almost hear her say “right”. Today at lunch, I answered the questions. We compared her current walk time with the pace necessary to complete a race. I know there are doubts and I also know that all she has to do is trust in that voice inside that says she can – and she will. I’ve lived it. The circles of our histories are moving across each other.
And where does all of this go? I don’t know. It will be behind me soon enough. Archived into my memory to pull back up when deja vu strikes. I’ve had a great run on my life so far so I don’t mind having parts repeat themselves. It is that fluid movement of my history, the circles intersecting and merging, and me seeing them as they happen that is the very tool necessary to embrace my today, my tomorrow, and into my unforeseeable future.