Thursday, November 20, 2014

denizens of the six train

When some people talk about money 
They speak as if it were a mysterious lover 
Who went out to buy milk and never 
Came back, and it makes me nostalgic 
For the years I lived on coffee and bread,
Hungry all the time, walking to work on payday 
Like a woman journeying for water 
From a village without a well, then living 
One or two nights like everyone else 
On roast chicken and red wine. 
--Tracy Smith, The Good Life 

Very rarely do I ever stop and think: Am I living my life well? Am I living as I ought to? Am I living in a way that when I look back on these years, I will think to myself: I lived a good life, as I ought to have, for those strange years when I was a young and clueless child.

The other day, however, I saw this poem--the above poem--on the Six train, and it made me nostalgic for today. I realized that what the poem is describing is the now time in my life.
Now is the time in my life I don't have quite enough money to buy new pieces of my wardrobe whenever I feel like it. Now is the time in my life when I can't buy lunch, I have to pack it. Now is the time of my life I'm living on coffee and bread (well, actually tea and greek yogurt. And vegetables. I promise there are vegetables). Now is the time when I walk instead of using the last $2.50 on the metrocard. Now is the time that I take the Six train, full of jostling, crazy, annoying, bizarre, wonderful human life instead of taking the cab.

The other day on the Six train (which is how too many of my stories start) a man walked on, trying hard to look anonymous, in his leopard-tie-dyed colored everything. As soon as the train got underway, he began to sing and dance. Dance as in throwing himself around the train in a variety of death-defying acrobatics. Dance as in walking on the ceiling. Dance as in crazy antics. It was wonderful. The other day on the Six train, a pregnant woman walked on, and she was so beautiful, that's all I could notice, before I realized she needed a seat. The other day on the Six train, a group of raucous youths sang songs so loudly, we all giggled at their drunken antics, instead of yelling at them. The other day on the Six train I saw two children befriend one another, as they watched the dark tunnel speed by, I saw a mother feeding her children fruit snacks, I heard two boys talking about their seventh grade conquests (ew), and I was squished against a man's dark wool coat that smelled like cigarettes and beef jerky. The Six train is so full of humans, life, annoyances, and stories. There are so many stories on the Six train.
Now is the time in my life when the world doesn't quite make sense: it's just a dizzying, somewhat annoying conglomeration of stories, weaving themselves in and out of the background. And, at the end of the day, it's a glorious crush of people.

Now is the time in my life when my life is still very much in my hands. I am learning how to give it away, bit-by-bit, day-by-day. During the daytime, it is spent in grading papers, smiling at students, and telling them they do actually need to serve their JUG, because the teacher didn't "give" it to them, they "earned" it. It means giving up hours I would rather spend reading in coaching them in improv, or Microsoft Word, or kindness. I no longer exist entirely for myself anymore--but a little bit for them. I can't go out for drinks after the show, because if I don't get sleep, I'll snap at the annoying youngster in the first row instead of smiling. Something has changed, and my life is given a new weight; lightened by the burdened of a new responsibility to others in this new community.

But in the evening, when I come before the Eucharist, in the sweet company of a hundred million angels and saints, I enter into that moment in solitude. Sweet, glorious, perpetual, virgin solitude.
This is now: this time in my life, where one determines what this period of uncertainty will be, what themes will flavor it, what telos will determine it. So that for the rest of my life, I can look back on what is now and say: this was the good life.

1 comment:

  1. This, all of it.

    (Also sorrynotsorry for all the comment!spam of late. You've been on a roll of phenomenal posts.)