It was a cold, rainy, dank morning in Boston today. Since I am stubborn and would rather put on another layer of clothing than admit it is time to put on the heat, it was an especially cold, dank morning in my upstairs office. (Update: I have since relented and turned the heat on; when I repeatedly stopped typing to rub my hands together, I decided enough was enough.)
Anyway, I had my music set to shuffle when a song from David Gray’s White Ladder started playing. Between the dreary weather and the music, I was immediately transported back to my year in Dublin, when that album was immensely popular and I would listen to it on repeat in the tiny living room of my apartment. David Gray was the soundtrack for train rides to Galway and Belfast, for spelunking trips and jazz festivals, for marathon paper-writing sessions and impromptu dinner parties.
In those days, I wanted time to stand still. I loved Ireland, I loved the friends I made and the classes I took, and I even loved the way my lungs responded to more consistent weather. One academic year was not long enough, and from the first September week I unpacked my bags and walked down Dame Street to Trinity College Dublin, I dreaded the June day that would take me back home.
Everything was an adventure, and the unpredictability of that was enthralling. It was so unlike my normally intense, over-committed schedule and my innate tendency to plan. I didn’t have answers, and I didn’t need them.
And here I am nine years later, listening to David Gray and the sound of the rain while I type away. This time, I smell herbal tea, not the smell of hops from the Guinness Brewery nearby, and the morning din is punctuated by dogs barking, not the bells of Christchurch Cathedral across the street.
Most notably, right now I would do anything to make time move faster. If I put my head down and just make it work, then before I know it spring will arrive and I can exhale again. I will get through the long winter months whose infections and setbacks already have their tentacles wrapped around me, months that have me holding my breath, steeling myself for what they might bring.
I will make the deadlines and finish the projects and the early mornings and late nights and weekends will blur into one composite as they recede into the background. In my research work I am asking so many questions I do not know the answers to yet and that is a good thing but it leaves me unsettled. A few more months of parsing the information out and who knows, maybe I will have answers. Or maybe I will just have more questions.
There might be more answers to major decisions that take too long to sort out, decisions with no easy solutions but lots of potential.
If I start to think about all of this, I get overwhelmed. Instead, I try to focus on the present, on today’s To Do list and today’s set of concerns and challenges. I cannot fast-forward through until spring anymore than I could freeze time and stay in Dublin nine years ago. I didn’t want to plan things back then, and I have very little control over planning a lot of things right now, and the irony does not escape me.
I came across a quote recently (and yes, it is up on the big combination board of chaos) that reads:
“They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for…” (Tom Bodell).
I do not lack for these in any category, so maybe that’s the answer I need to stay present.