What Goes Up Must Come Down

2009 October 30

Last fall, I got into the habit of getting off the bus a few stops early and walking a couple of miles home at the end of the day. I would sling my messenger bag over my shoulder, turn up the volume on Matt Nathanson’s Some Mad Hope on my mp3 player (well over a year of heavy rotation later and I  still love Heartbreak World , Wedding Dress et al. like the first listen) and stride briskly through the autumn chill. Eventually, it got too cold and I went back to my regular routine. But yesterday, I had to return a few books to the library and didn’t have time to take care of the errand on my lunch hour, so I once again hopped off the bus a few stops early and took the long way (better for kicking through piles of leaves on the sidewalk) to the branch closest to my apartment. I even dug out my mp3 player for that authentic old times’ sake feeling.

On the way back home, I passed a park. The park had a playground. The playground had a swing set. You can see where this is going. I have a six year-old’s love of swing sets (and merry-go-rounds) and while I can usually restrain myself (for propriety if nothing else), the park was completely deserted and the dark was moving in quickly. Now or never.

1068551634_6b73052a3aPhoto by Steven Erdmanczyk

I threw my bag on a rock and promised myself I’d just sit for a couple of minutes, maybe glide back and forth a little. That didn’t last. Soon enough, I was swinging in earnest, kicking my feet to try to snag the branches in front of me, tipping my head back to stare up at the  sky and then closing my eyes to just feel the wind rush past and think of nothing at all and everything all at once.

I thought about what happens to manic pixie dream girls after the credits roll.

I thought about whether I should start conditioning my hair.

I thought about how life is incremental. We like to attribute growth and progress and change to the big ticket events, the discrete bursts of endings and beginnings that stick out most in our mind, but we’re off base. You don’t suddenly gain 10 lbs or start losing your hair or wake up to realize that you’re no longer in love with your significant other. No, the movements  happen so slowly that you hardly even notice the shift, until one day, the accumulated changes become too much to ignore and you’re hit in the face with what seem like out-of-the-blue realizations – your pants don’t fit and you’re waking up beside a virtual stranger. And oh yeah, you’re going bald, too. We’re so busy watching, waiting and holding our breath for our own personal sweeps month that we forget about the meaningful minutiae and ignore the avalanche that pelts us one rock at a time.

And finally,  I thought with a mixture of genuine wistfulness and pragmatism about how I could really use someone to watch my bag and give me a push (meta poignancy?), but that I’ll likely always be too chicken for underducks.

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