I have this analogy that I use all to regularly in my life where time is a stream that I am drowning in. It flows over my head so fast that all I can do tuck small, squeeze my eyes shut, and let it buffet my body and mind. There’s no joy in this. It’s pure survival through each day that is flooded with tasks that compete for my time and attention. I’m just waiting my life out. As if a drought of time will occur and the stream will dry up so that I can finally breathe.
But then something usually happens that makes me realize what I am doing. Sometimes it’s a major life change and others it is just my reaching the breaking point of “I can’t live without joy anymore,” and still others it’s seeing my city on it’s first fall morning so pink and beautiful and missing that we used to have such a relationship.
After one of these revelations, I slowly uncurl my body out of the river, open my eyes, plunge my head above the surface and take needle sharp breaths of being present in a moment. The river rages at chest level, freezing my heart with the anxiety of all the things I am not getting done, all the good things I’m neglecting for this moment.
It’s uncomfortable to feel like in order to find joy you have to fail at life. People write best-selling books about that. I don’t want my life to break into a million pieces. But I do want to be able to gulp air above the torrent of time. I want to not only remember what I was like when I was joyful but also have that joy now.
There’s no set of steps I can recommend for this. I am slogging away each day just like everyone else. I want to date my city again. I’ve missed it.
So today, like I used to do, I took San Diego on a date. I went to my favorite neighborhood that is changing its face with all the construction faster than a baby does. There, I graded papers at a coffee shop I used to work at all the time before I was worried about spending too much money, then I moved to the rooftop of a totally cheesy hotel that no one knows how secretely awesome it is.
I’m here while I write this. Sitting in the October breeze, watching the bay silver in the late afternoon sun. Below me is so many things I love about San Diego: the bustle and growl of the airport, the tourists trying to figure out which of the myriad of restaurants to attend, cars humming along the one-way streets, helicopters buzzing at the navy base, train crossings clanging as the Amtrak honks along the track, the empty lot where the neighborhood association hides the seasonal decorations it uses, the scrawny security guard that keeps people from parking in the restaurant only parking lot, even the awful cranes over the new high rises have a sort of grace. I love how many buildings below me have hidden roof-top patios, accessible only by fire escape ladders.
How did I stop spending time with her, this lovely city?