When I Knew

There was a time when I walked through my life with a kind of crooked view, skewed to make sense of what I was doing. Or maybe just to rationalize the irrational. I chased my mortality with a reckless haste. But that is what comes of wanton youth – you think that either you’ve experienced it all or that you never will so why bother. That and it was the only contest that I could win…the only competition that attracted me.

But when death seeks you – why, then – it turns things around, doesn’t it? Perhaps one isn’t quite done with dull, dreary life just yet. And you fight back. You cling to the smallest things that speak of beauty and permanence. Thus, the talismans collected…the small tokens of fragile china, bits of lace, pictures, and silver chains. Everything to anchor a mind to the Now…and the music…the sounds of surrender.

I don’t look back as often as I once did. A generous plenty to attend to these days…but I have never been one to let go of the past. It isn’t to me a dragging leash but a lifeline across time. Still, there are times when that creature wriggles a bit against the constraints of today. I remind myself that I was not happy then. I was proud, yes. And brave, maybe. But awfully lonely and sad.

I am more angry today – angry at all the wasted time…the things I should have done – and could have done. I will never cross an ocean, now. There are views I will never see. I accept it as I do much else. My pride these days refuses to bow to the pressures demanded to make the journey. I will not surrender my security to appease a force that demands it while never assuring me they will make up for the lack.

Surrender…it is an ashen word for what I feel – it is an acceptance, really. This is how things are and no other. You cannot make reality into what it is not. So I reach back – movies from the `40’s, carols that I sang when I was very young. A time when things were as dangerous as today but people were smarter and more capable. Not a nation of baristas and art majors.

I try to see who made it through and how they did it. I read historical reports, look at trends, look for signs like a witch scrying a future. There was a time I would look around me for hiding places – if I lost everything, could I lay there unseen, unnoticed? Water nearby? Scraps? It was a mentality of the desperate and it may serve me again one day. Unlike so many younger people I have known privation. I have been hungry and cold. And cruel…

As I get older I do worry more for the leaving – what I will leave behind and to whom…and what I may encounter after. I do not pretend to any worship but I have felt evil at my heels. I know that. I know that man can do evil without any unseen intervention. And I have felt grace…that, I hope, is what awaits me. A sweet draft of grace for all I’ve done and not done…a forgiveness for being human and inhumane.

And that is what keeps my feet moving forward, my turning effort into cash into goods and safety.
Someone once asked me what it was I feared and there were so many things to choose from…but after a time I realized what it was – I had never once, not one day in my life, felt safe. And it was then I understood that driving force…

I am safer now than I ever was. Perhaps more now than I ever will be again. I try to live within that beautiful moment, the touchstones holding less taint of the uncertain times, the lives I touch more meaningful to me…the desire to protect them from what I was, what I knew, and what I know – it aches within, sometimes, because I know there is nothing to turn the storm. But I can try to give them a shelter against it…I can try to hold it back from the door and let it pass to another. That cruelty again when one makes that terrible judgment – the better you than me sentiment. The price for that peace is high, though. Never think you won’t pay for it. I just hope the bill comes due later, after everyone is safe, again…

Drawing your attention to all the thing that you ignore
And if I can’t be near you I would rather be adrift in space
And if the god deserts us now I’ll turn this chapel into flames
And if someone tries to hurt you I would put myself in your place

4 thoughts on “When I Knew”

  1. Yes, peace comes at a price. I have no one to leave anything to really. Yes I would have loved to see some things on this planet but will not volunteer for such now.

    Enjoy the here and now. You said so yourself here. Yes, I worry about everything. I do find moments of release though. A warm fire, a libation, pictures of people and things of the past. May you find some peace. However temporary as I do.

    Take care.

  2. I was very moved by your heartfelt passage. I, too, still seek safety, having, but for a few short moments in time, seldom had the luxury of feeling safe. Life is a lonely place, driven by fear…a dark place of the unknown, but for a few stars that twinkle in the sky, before the clouds drift in. I struggle with worries of my own and those of others, and wonder what will happen to me, down the road, where I cannot see the bend in the road and what lies beyond. I am alone, but, I learned long ago to reach for my inner strength that lies in my DNA. Were I granted one wish, it would be for peace, not just for myself, but for those that are trapped in the gilded cage of fear. Peace comes at a price, but, nothing worth having is free.

  3. “Someone once asked me what it was I feared and there were so many things to choose from…but after a time I realized what it was – I had never once, not one day in my life, felt safe.”

    I dont use the word 'fear' but I always tell people the thing I am concerned about most, and the reason I take the precautions I do, is uncertainty. I cant be certain that the future is going to have employment, money, food, housing, etc, etc, so I plan against the possibility of not having it. Every so often I get one of those morons who says “Well, *I* wont live my life in fear.”..as if that somehow insulates them from reality. And as they said in Rand said, you can choose to ignore reality but reality will not ignore you.

  4. But I can try to give them a shelter against it…I can try to hold it back from the door and let it pass to another.

    Laura, I understand, and appreciate, exactly, the desire you articulate in those words, and yet, as a Dad of 4 kids, and a Grampa to 1, I fully realize I can only attempt to be successful in such an endeavor. We can give those we love or care for the tools, but only they can pick them up and use them.

    Though it is easy for me to say this, “Don't live in fear,” I also fully realize that only you can make the choice of whether you do, or do not.

    God Bless.

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