10 February 2019
Dear T. —
Sometimes I think I’ve forgotten all my old ways of being.
The habits, the routines, the format of tasks and days – they’ve disappeared, or slowly dissolved into a formless mist. Like getting in a car after not driving for months, and having to do the double-check: How does this work again? Mirrors, seatbelt, gas and brake. I am the force behind the movement. I have to remember the rules and listen closely to what has become so unfamiliar. This weekend I had to drive North, and panicked. It had been exactly long enough since I’d driven that I was afraid to get behind the wheel. I kept myself up all night with images of a fiery wreck, of never making it home. And it wasn’t just the driving; anxiety was another old friend resurfacing. I didn’t expect it, and I’d forgotten how much I’d forgotten.
I feel this way about language, too. I’m still reading, always reading. Will likely never stop reading until you pry the book away. But I’m not so close with my hands and paper anymore. Most of my letters say the same things: it didn’t used to be this way. I was more interesting. I spoke about more things than bemoaning this wanting. Remember when words just worked?
I asked my running partner: How do you escape the shame of not continuing something?
He said: “You just do it again. Just once. And then you remember the feeling of enjoying it, so you can do it another time again. And you forget the times you weren’t back here.”
It sounds so simple. It’s not. We know it’s not.
I hate that it’s assumed we’ll still recognise ourselves through the years. That we can look back in memory and reminisce remember when. That our habits betray us, even when our worlds age. That we can have the same smile, the same eyes, a turn of phrase from decades ago.
Remember when I woke up, forgetting.
Remember when I worked with words.
Remember when I was the good second half of deeper conversations.
Remember when I didn’t hold a running list of self grudges. Or, I did. And then played the game of counting them and setting them free.
Remember when I thought I saw this coming. Remember when I could thread observations together and follow them deftly to a conclusion.
Remember when I was so brave. When I saw the fears and dove in anyway.
She’s not so different: me, today.
But she’s distinct enough to look like parallel landscapes. Strange enough to have to meet again, and get to know, and somehow find a thread of narrative that sews us up and fixes us together. That makes this all make sense, in its disjointed ness.
Would I come to this time this way
Again, now that I know, confess
So much, knowing I cannot say
More now than then what will be? Yes
– Wendell Berry