Flirting is something I generally do only when I’m feeling good about myself. I think I’m an awkward flirter; when I first came out, and still today, flirting with women was something that made me feel very shy.
Now I’m sitting with my wife in the newest Starbucks near our place, just to get out of the house for a while. She has work to do–overhauling our consulting website so that we can walk the talk of doing what we love for a living, and helping others do the same.
For allergy-related reasons, she doesn’t order anything, but as I stand in line waiting to get my latte, I look back over my shoulder a few times, watching as she takes off her wool coat and gets settled in a bar stool with her laptop. She is wearing her new black frames and a black beanie and a button-down shirt over a white boyfriend tank (ironic, maybe?), and it is fun to see her through a stranger’s flirting eyes.
So I gather my (pretend) courage, sidle up to her, and ask where she got her glasses.
“My wife got them for me, actually,” she replies, as we exchange playful grins. I hear my name up at the counter and walk back to get my drink, then sit down across from her at the table.
“Mind if I work here?” I ask. “Not at all,” she says
For much of the day, I was in a very, very quiet state. Part meditative, part I-hope-I’m-not-coming-down-with-a-cold, part existential mini-crisis, part just a quiet Sunday at home to bake muffins, sweep the wood floors, lay in bed looking up out the skylight and listening to the gusty wind, not overthinking any of it, or at least trying not to. With familiar topics vying to overtake my thoughts (money, work, Sunday, Monday, winter boots for the kids, the past, the future…), I recalled a dear friend’s observation all those years ago: In this moment, you have everything you need.
It has taken me years to accept that sometimes it’s best to surrender to what feels like slothdom, knowing I’m still enough and am in fact doing plenty with my one wild and precious life.
The Call of Silence is itself a form of restoration. When the days and weeks and full and my thoughts can grow even fuller and finally, I tell myself: it’s really ok to do nothing. To read aloud from the novel I can’t wait for us to finish and also wish would never end, the one that has inspired me to try writing fiction. To eat Vermont Nut Free chocolate-covered pretzels in bed. To spend the whole morning, after my first time running in weeks among leaves swirling by the hundreds in the cold air around me, moving internally through the hours.
Today, the clocks fell back an hour, and at 3:55pm, the light is already brightening before it wanes. We’re entering into the darkest days and weeks before the Solstice. As early as January, we’ll start seeing a return of the light despite being in the depths of winter. It’s such a familiar turning, this, laced with an encroaching quiet, a heightened need to make soup and bake bread, to eat and eat and sleep and sleep.
We drive through Hadley, cornstalks brown under a grey sky, and wonder what it’s like to be a cow, a pregnant horse.
The fields stretch out the way I stretched out on the front porch this morning. I close my eyes and picture stars glinting in the night sky.
She reads what I’ve written so far. I read the copy she has revamped on the “Work With Us” page of our website. We offer each other feedback. The cafe gets crowded, then empties out again. An adorable child sits next to me for a moment, grinning widely as she sips a pouch of drinkable applesauce. Innocence.
I nudge her foot with my foot under the table. Steal glimpses of her looking at her famous-to-me to-do lists. Catch her eye for a moment and have a wordless conversation.
You’re really mine? Yes, really.
That was yesterday. I had more or less abandoned this post.
The day ended with acknowledging, under cover of darkness, that I am prone to seeing shiny things and thinking the next best thing is somewhere else. Admitting things like this to another human being, much less the one who I’ve chosen to spend my life with, is not easy. It’s a pattern, a default way of being, but one I sometimes fear is inherent to who I am.
So when my daughter called to chat and say goodnight and out of the blue mentioned that our place two apartments ago was better, cozier, I saw my reflection. How excited she was–I was–just two months ago moving into this new home. Novelty fades. Something shinier around the bend–this is not inherent, no. And it is no way to water gratitude and contentment, much less what I want to model for my kids.
I looked into her eyes as finally we were talking about this. About nurturing the good things. And shattering the illusion that there is something better, elsewhere.
The only thing missing in that picture is presence itself.
This morning, we wake to light. I pour coffee and water the plants. I never, ever, EVER wish I had different kids. May I nurture this same deep love and adoration for all the parts of my life, my home, my work, my wife, myself.
And may I give myself to the quieter times, when the shorter days may be less showy but hold a different sort of gift–the one of patience, of deeper currents, where so much seems to disappear but really, life is always happening, and–what a freaking miracle this part is–just changing venues to the underground places of gestation. Six months from now, I’ll no doubt be leaping around because there will be crocuses and snowdrops peeking out where I might be abandoned all hope of the new.
As for today, this ordinary, first Monday of the least flashy month on the record, I think I’ll just flirt a bit–not with fantasy, but with that which is already mine. The only thing that could make that better is to do so shamelessly.