Life in the trees

Last night at dinner, with Jay shirtless in his high chair and Wally bouncing on my knee, Caroline and I talked about a wedding invitation we’d received in the mail earlier that day.  It was from friends who are getting married at the end of August on the grounds of a kids’ summer camp in upstate New York.  Their wedding invitation bore an illustration in Hebrew of a line from the Song of Songs that says, “Draw me to you, let us run.”

From the Song of Songs: "Draw me to you, let us run."

I had two reactions to reading the line: First, that it’s a beautiful aspiration for a marriage; and second, that the scope of the sentiment felt removed from my life today.  This latter reaction surprised me, so I decided to think a little more about why it was I felt that way.  What I came up with is that there are times in life like weddings where you think in grand strategic terms about who, what, and how to love, and there are others, like the present one for me, where you take a more tactical perspective; having decided what to hold dear, the challenge is to find a way to make it manifest in everyday life.

For what felt like a long time (it was really only a few years, roughly from age 25-28) I woke up each morning to a thousand looming questions about how to live my life.  I remember walking through Rittenhouse Square one morning a few years ago and looking around at all the other people—the mélange of women and men walking to work and parents pushing strollers and homeless folks on benches—and feeling life is really hard and it’s a miracle most people hold it together as well as they do.  The task of figuring out what to value just seemed like more than I could manage.

But over time the questions resolved.  Caroline and I decided to spend our lives together.  We realized we value control over our time more than we want money or professional acclaim.  We agreed that the trade-off between starting a family and whatever we’d lose by having kids was worth it.

Once those things were settled we set off.  These days I don’t find myself thinking in epic terms very often anymore.  My mind is taken up more by thoughts about how to get through the day—finding time to make Jay’s lunch, go for a run, talk with Caroline, hold Wally.  We don’t sweep the compass around anymore but we do course-correct as needed.  We decided this winter, for example, that a full day in daycare was more than Jay could comfortably take so we rearranged our schedules to bring him home right after lunch.  And recently, as happens from time to time, Caroline and I realized we were feeling distant from each other, so we looked for ways to close the space.

It’s an odd feeling, for me, to put my head down everyday without worrying too much about which way I’m going.  Caroline and I can’t spend a lot of time each day thinking about our relationship, so we just have to trust that it’s strong enough to bear the load we give it, and Jay and Wally roar ahead whether or not we know what to do with them. Sometimes it feels like we’re falling—eyes closed, through the trees—but more often it feels like we’re flying.

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