One of the inadvertent effects of the break-up of my family 3 years ago was my sudden inability to imagine (or plan) for my future. I had once devoted a significant part of my inner life to thinking about the future she and I would have together. That thinking and planning of these daydreams was often just the stuff of fantasies (wouldn't it be nice to see Mt. McKinley in Alaska together?). But those fantasies were enjoyable ideas to entertain; the sorts that could comfortably carry me off to sleep at night. And every once in a while, the daydreams would spark some very powerful dreams of mine to fruition. First among those was the conception and birth of my son.
In fact, one of the things that I loved the most about my now-ex partner was the way that she helped me to believe in myself. I felt like I led a charmed life. With her by my side, I felt like I could do anything. In my son, was the real life realization of just how amazing anything could be.
But with her departure, the charm was broken. My life was suddenly one of uncertainty. And not just some tiny day-to-day uncertainties (e.g., what will I make for supper tonight? How will we handle back-to-school night?) but also great, gaping, chasms of uncertainty (how will I survive until next week? how do I prepare to grow old alone? what of that dream of a bed and breakfast in the woods?). Of those uncertainties, there was an endless list; far too many to bear. And it was more painful than I could have ever imagined.
So I shut down the rich inner life that was my dreams of the future and concentrated my thoughts on the reality of the present. The dream canvas didn't go completely blank of course; my mind would sometimes wander back to that familiar territory. But when it happened it was extraordinarily painful. So I became very talented at avoidance.
I began to concentrate on the day-to-day and then, when absolutely necessary, the week-to-week. By the time I returned to school in September of 2006, I could plan a lesson for the classes I taught; I could arrange for a Halloween costume to be pulled together; I even organized my first Christmas as a single mama.
But where I once would have enjoyed such planning, in many respects, it was now painful. So as much as possible, I relied on my already naturally organized life to just continue to execute itself with little additional advance planning. In this way, things got done and we functioned. I didn't have to think about the new way that we were functioning (and I didn't want to). And I certainly didn't anticipate the future. At some level, of course, I knew it was on the horizon. But with a present that was painful, I didn't want to think about the future.
Three years later, I'm still here. And I've realized how much I miss the world of a future-imagined. Perhaps nothing brought home this point as poignantly as Maggie Mason's life list, a set of wildly diverse goals that she's posted on her Mighty Girl blog. I don't recall when she first articulated it; I just know that I've admired it for a while. Often, I've read it and idly thought (yeah, I'd like to do that.....her goal to try 1,000 fruits) or hey! I do do that (lemonade on the front porch) and sometimes, oh-my-god, I don't think so (visit the church made of bones).....Whether the goals are big or small, Maggie's life list is fun to think about.
But I only know Maggie from her blog and in the meantime, I have this life of my own that I must live. Sometimes I even think of it as the life I am living. Will live. And so, with the understanding that the future is on its way, and likely much sooner than I would otherwise like, I've decided to take Maggie up on her challenge. I'm organizing a life list and I'm posting it for the world to see. Because I can. And because I owe it to myself to dream again.
Look for the list in a posting later this week. Right now, it's mostly a list of things, not really a plan of action. Soon enough, I might even go one step better and make some plans to execute this life list.
Hey, a girl can dream.