The Way Forward Isn’t Necessarily Straight – #reverb13 – Day 20

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Sunflower 2013My old boyfriend Lee used to say, as we were driving in his car:

“NEVER GO STRAIGHT! ALWAYS GO GAILY FORWARD!”

Such effervescent and insistent proclamations in the case of my helping him look for an address should have clued me in early on that Lee was planning to revert back to his former lifestyle, eventually.

But Lee’s permeability in love was just one of those times in life when I learned that nothing in our lives is truly “fixed.” Change is not only inevitable, it is truly, wonderfully possible.

This story has meaning to me, because I think sometimes the “crank” of time seems ruthless. Yet I know we have all kinds of everyday magic to manipulate this.

In fact, I sort of TOTALLY disagree that going forward is some kind of life requirement. OK, so perhaps yes I can agree that time tends to move “on.” Our bodies do age. Forwardness can’t be argued, in a certain sense, physically.

But beyond such a petty limitation, what is stopping me from going back? Or inside more deeply? Or wrapping myself around something so completely that I reshape myself? What is stopping me from creating a kind of love that moves not at all in any direction, but holds perfectly still for ages and ages?

The Swirling Self

Today I was sitting my van in the school parking lot and I looked up and spotted another mom, Hilary. She was walking across the snow-covered field back to her car. She was lost in thought and not aware of being observed. She looked at ease and gone in some distant place — only giving away clues about herself from her well-loved Steelers hoodie and broken-in running sneakers.

If I say the word “Mom” about Hilary that would be accurate. She has two kids, grade 6 and 3. I could say “nurse” or “wife” or “neighbor” or “runner.” All of these words define some part of her identity. All of them pull her forward in her daily calendar and help her shape the constant accumulation of time in her years.

But it wasn’t any of those parts of her I spotted this morning. It was something less tangible, more real. It was the continually swirling part of her -- memory and spirit and thought. All parts of her which do not normally exist in space in a linear way. They are wholly human, and so they are continuing shifting and moving out and back like water, in multiple directions and through time.

I appreciate the linear and see it, coasting along the top of everything we do. Yet, I cannot subscribe to the idea that going forward is “the way.”  Although I agree it is inevitable, I feel a much more organic, emotional and multi-dimensional experience is how we move.

Life is too beautiful and too sensible to be a rushing interstate.

Elizabeth Howard

Elizabeth writes literary non-fiction, haiku, cultural rants, and Demand Poetry in order to forward the cause of beautiful writing. She teaches and speaks about the rhetorical impact of beautiful writing. A recent transplant to Connecticut, she calls London, Kansas City, and Iowa home. 

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  5 comments for “The Way Forward Isn’t Necessarily Straight – #reverb13 – Day 20

  1. December 20, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    For me, it’s all forward: left, right, up down, north, south, swirling and standing still. We survive, we go on, we learn, we grow, we reach for the sun. Forward. Those crooked, meandering paths lead to the very best places.

  2. December 20, 2013 at 9:35 pm

    Perhaps it’s not “forward”; perhaps it’s just “progress”. Sometimes taking a step back helps you make progress.

  3. December 21, 2013 at 3:43 am

    I really like the way you’ve unpacked this, Elizabeth. It seems to me that whichever direction we move it — and even if we chose to stay still — time will carry us on regardless. xx

  4. January 10, 2014 at 7:05 am

    Oh how I love this and it paints a picture so delicately, and I imagine- accurately. Thank you. I’m inspired.

    • January 10, 2014 at 8:28 am

      Thank you Susie! I don’t often get called “delicate”… (-;

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