Ripping Up an Imaginary Map

I have been through a serious illness as an adult. There was definitely a before and after in terms of my relationship with my body. During those first months home from the hospital I went to sleep every night fearing I wouldn’t wake. It was a slow healing process mentally, even though I ran a half marathon just six months later. A year later, another trip in an ambulance and doctors shrugging and saying we’ll keep an eye on it. Who knows.

I hear that I pushed too hard. Sometimes I believe it myself. But I am pretty sure that this is just the way of things. We don’t restore ourselves to shiny and new. We do maintenance.

Now after more than two years of whatever this was: this feels like a new before and after. A wilder storm. Almost as though previous experiences were just trial runs for this change. Sometimes it makes me fear what is coming. The future sneaks up on us from behind. Jump scares.

I think it’s interesting that our culture has used language to flip the truth. To flip our mindset from what should be obvious into a comforting illusion of control: the future is in front of us. I am wondering if this isn’t one of the most profound ways in which we deceive ourselves. As though we can prepare for the future in any meaningful way.

We can gather our nuts. But we are only guessing. Predicting. Projecting. Based on stories. And there are so many stories.

Maybe it is healthy to admit that what we see in front of us is the past, and the stories we manufacture from it. It’s an imaginary map. With monsters at the ends of the earth.

At 56 my body has undergone a sea change. Even the surface of my skin is a kind of “new”. I catch myself thinking I need to “get back” into shape. And I catch myself berating myself and maybe mourning the never-reached destinations on the imaginary map I’d been carrying around.

Sometimes now I think if I close my eyes I can relax and let the future come up behind me and wrap its arms around me and lift me along the path. While I will trip now and then, but also pluck what I like along the way. Like a bouquet of experiences. Of loves.

And maybe even allow myself a moment or two of schmaltz.

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  1. I had no idea you were very ill, in the fairly recent past. I’ll probably have to go back on your previous journals to get the story, sometime when I have less going on. But soon!

    Your writing is beautiful …. I’m sure I’m not alone to say we feel we know you and it’s a privilege. I’ve noticed in life, (in person) sometimes we are so guarded and engage in dreaded small tiny talk. Some small talk is necessary, but sheesh…. You remind me that there are ones out there that have depth, and is kind enough to share it.

    I have a few extra things I wanted to share with you about your writing. I’m going to DM your Twitter. Thanks for sharing with us again Ren.

  2. Oh, the language in this post is delicious, and this idea that the future is behind no in front is such a striking point to make. The passing of time does this to us, that we think we can somehow still get to another place, further ahead in our past (to use the way you have turned it around so beautifully), so that we forget to accept that which we do still have. I don’t agree with some friends of mine when they say people of my age should deliberately slow down (even if they’re still capable of much), but I don’t think we should push ourselves as hard as when we were 25 when all we’ll do is damage not good to ourselves. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with schmaltz!

  3. Just when you think you’re “big”, something comes along, says, oh look, you’re small. Me in middle of blood issue currently. Mid-stride only so far. Reality can get pretty raw when inclined. May we all make friends with these boats we inhabit. I don’t know your big picture Ren, but all your words in this wind I have so so much appreciated. Maybe I’ve learned some by listening. I think so.

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