All day long different generations of the same soul wander my neighborhood. I can hardly tell which one I am anymore. Elouise is eighty-four, wears black leggings as she jogs down the dirt road with her dog Maggie. Amelie must be in high school. I don’t know, because she is quiet, which I understand. We pause to stare at melting water as it drips off gutters, watch the pond and streams freeze and thaw. Every moment spent like this feels like a deep breath.
Their names trill across my mind as I pass them. These days, I see few people. Just the sight of their shapes on the dirt road lifts me up. The brief reminder that we are outside in the same world, for similar reasons. We like the taste of the air, the changing of the seasons, the cover of the trees, whether they are naked or lush. We exchange few words, but they feel meaningful.
In my mind, I know these people. I believe they are like me, maybe more than I believe other people are like me. And because they are like me, I like them. Isn’t that part of the problem?
This is not to say I believe I should not like them.
It’s simply to say, I want to like others that I might not immediately understand. I want to feel the shadows, the unexpected corners, of their existence. It is in my nature to be curious. Is it in my nature to accept? I don’t easily accept the dimpling on the backs of my thighs, the way my skin folds when I sit. I don’t easily accept my husband when he leaves piles of tools on the kitchen counter or dirty dishes in the sink. I used to struggle to accept even the passing of the seasons, particularly the warmer ones. The list of my intolerances goes on and on.
At home I use a shovel to break chunks of slushy ice into pieces and slide them off my deck into the thick white blanket of snow. It might all melt on its own. But who’s to say what has a point and doesn’t? In this life, what makes something worth doing?
Some days on my run, I hear a bird and stop to find its shape in the trees. The birds are me, too, so certainly and simply.
I don’t think acceptance is easy. It’s not the clear head a walk brings, the peace of watching snowflakes flutter to the ground. It’s not the freedom solitude provides, the freedom from other humans’ imperfections. Their flaws, their differing opinions, their judgements, and our own. Freedom from the ways our interactions with others remind us of all the things we cannot accept about ourselves.
Nature and silence, silence from my own mind, my own thoughts, and the thoughts for others feels like it might always be my greatest teacher. But as much as I like the quiet, the hours outside, the feeling of understanding that passes between those I easily relate to, I can’t help but feel like this is not wholly how I want to live. As difficult as it is, I want to make room for the burning, the messy, the red frustration that must be navigated like a dank and twisting tunnel. Not fearlessly, but bravely. With my eyes wide open.
What does that mean, in terms of the places I need to go, the people I need to see, the opinions I need to be willing to absorb, forgive, and tolerate? I’m still thinking about it.
All I know is that in this lifetime, I want to pass by my soul in the places I expect, and the ones I don’t.