We’ve been watching a lot of Doctor Who, lately, Favorite and I. I’m sorry if that shatters some false idea of coolness you’d imagined in me – I can only hide the geek for so long in relationships, people. Hi. I’m Karyn. I was raised on folk music and cute shoes, but also on science fiction and a whole lot of quantum physics and superhero discussion. Take me, baby, or leave me.
AnyWho, (you see what I did there?) I’m finding myself thinking about time travel more than I usually do, which is already probably more than most people, so you can imagine. I feel like a time traveler lately. I feel like this new self, this “Oh my, you are somebody’s mommy” me, is so concretely, so completely different from my former incarnations and yet- there are these moments that squirrel up my whole theory about linear time and my evolving personhood. Do you know what I mean? Right. I’ll try to explain.
I walked into a cafe, today, alone, and no one who witnessed my arrival could have distinguished between single me of years ago and marriedmommy me of today. I mean, sure, if you look closely, there is avocado in my hair and I haven’t changed my socks in two days, but really, no one is looking. I can feel her, younger me, and I get to high-five her for a few hours, catch up, ask how she’s been. I get to tap into the luxury she had, the hours to pour herself out onto a keyboard and plaster her soul all over the internet, and, ya know, it’s nice. It’s like a vacation.
I love these moments, these precious moments, in which I can visit bits of the past, of past selves, of other lives. It’s something bigger than memory, this feeling – it’s truly the sensation of stepping back in time, of being wholly now and wholly then all at once. And I love that. I love that we are gifted the ability, through relationship and muscle memory and imagination, to become tourists in our own lives, to glimpse back at the echoes of long gone years and evaluate our former selves and bask for a minute in pieces of once-was.
I was standing on a somewhat unreliable porch, just outside the home of a few dear friends, and found my hand on the doorknob. Years ago, it would not have been unusual to find me at this house – curled up on the couch watching television, engaged in a conversation around their big wooden table, preparing party food in the kitchen. But time and circumstance have, as they often do, reordered my circles in such a way that it had been over a year since I’d stood on that porch. My body said “Just go in!” but my mind, with its constant devotion to timelines, cautioned: “That was then.” I pulled my hand back and tentatively knocked.
I have always been the sort of person who purges things – moldy food, old tshirts, knickknacks, relationships – when the time comes to let go, I do so, and fully. I waste little emotional energy on bags of memories offloaded at Goodwill. I crave change, I thrive on it, and often there are a few sweet friendships that are lost to me in the reinventing. But there are smells, or songs, or phrases – shadows of these former selves that appear in corners, that warm something in me and make me so grateful. How lucky. How lucky we are to live wild and beautiful lives and get to carry around secret bits of moments lived that make us feel. How lucky we are to have escaped our pasts and still have the wafting whiffs of them to catch at odd moments and sigh over.
Sometimes, in dark midnight hours, I am awake next to the man I love and am at once the girl who lied alone in a bed for so many years, who lied next to him, to her, to you. I am the girl in the New Kids on the Block sleeping bag, awake when the party has long been over, and the girl hugging the edge of too small beds shared with women strangers, continents away from home in the name of mission and adventure, and the girl who lied next to someone else’s children as she sang them songs and watched them fall asleep, and the girl who holds her daughter to her chest and whispers to her every promise she can think of.
Sometimes, this new skin is itchy and I want to rewind to something a bit lighter, some yesterday when my biggest responsibility was getting myself to work on time or finishing a paper or putting away my toys. Sometimes the backward reaching now me meets the dreaming restless then me in the compromising lovely middle – she who dreamt of this life I am walking, I who fondly remembers the wildly aimless when that she lived. Maybe contentment is born in that place – that halfway spot when you realize you have everything you always wanted that you always had all along. Maybe that’s just crazy talking. Maybe the now me needs more sleep.
Sometimes, I am curled up on a couch watching television with old friends and I know for certain that time is a thing that bends. That there is an essential piece of me in every moment, an atom of my story that each of you hold in your hand, and all of them added make always and possibly heaven and definitely now. I know these things and I snuggle close to the couch cushions of yesterday and the heart of a God who is so much bigger than time and I recognize something in Him that I didn’t know before, that I have always known, that I will never know. I pull Him in close and I whisper to Him every promise I can think of, and they all sound like “thank you.”
I will visit this girl, this newly someone’s mommy now girl, years later when my babies are grown and my bones are unreliable, and I will high-five her and ask how she’s been. I will breathe in deep the air of this precious moment in time, letting it seep into aging lungs, standing gray hairs on end and reminding me how we are lucky. How lucky, how lucky, how blessed we are.