Driving to work this morning, with the sky just starting to remember blue, I looked up and saw a single star.* It got me thinking about the problems we humans make for ourselves – houses, money, cars, society, politics; getting jobs, raising families, finding time to do the dishes – and how huge they seem, how they overwhelm everyday life with their demand, their immediacy. Case in point, now that Matt and I are back from our honeymoon and settling into married life, we’re starting to look at buying a house and, down the road a year or two, starting a family. So there’s question of neighborhoods, of school systems, of where we’ll lay hands on a down payment and how we’ll need to restructure our budget to pay a mortgage higher than our rent and the thought of packing up all our shit and moving again and, somewhere in the distance, saving for college while saving for retirement and paying off student loans – it makes my head spin.
Part of it is my aversion to change – though maybe not in the way you’d expect. Change, when it comes, is something to which I actually adapt very well. When I’m handed a real-life situation that forces me to realign something in my life, I handle it. I outline a plan but roll with the punches, and what was once a huge change works itself pretty seamlessly into the new every-day. It’s the anticipation of change that I find hard to deal with. The classic worrying about what-ifs in a nebulous future with lots of dark corners. If Matt said to me, “I found us a house, here’s the down payment, we need to restructure our budget because I need X amount from you now,” my response would be, “awesome, let’s DO this.” It’s the “what should we do, what do you want to do” where my only thought, like a broken record, is “oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god, I don’t know, I can’t do this, make it go away.” Overwhelming.
And yet, what’s all that to a star? How tiny we are, how absolutely insignificant our everyday problems become from the vantage of space, of distance and time.
The thought gave me perspective, and a crystal-clear moment of self-understanding, but no easing of my soul to go with it. This time of year is strange for me. Despite a lifelong love of Halloween, I’m not one (at least not anymore) to really dress up for Halloween, and I’ve never been big on parties. Especially as the year turns toward winter, I feel more reflective than anything else. I want contemplation, reflection, and solitude – quiet. I’ve always been this way, but I find it more pronounced this year after having just come back from Japan.
Japan, for those who haven’t experienced it – and I’m not sure this came out in my blog posts while we were there – was a DREAM for this introverted foreigner. No one will talk to you unless you talk to them first; even in restaurants, once you’re greeted and seated, they leave you alone until you flag them down with your order, and that’s normal. No one really tried to talk to me because I clearly wasn’t local, and even when conversations were happening around me, they were easy to tune out because people were generally ignoring me, and I couldn’t understand them to listen in anyway. It was the first time I’ve ever experienced a sense of quiet in a big city; I don’t know if it would be the same for someone born and raised in Tokyo, but it was a beautifully detached experience for me.
And now we’re back home and real life is happening again, changes are coming, and because it’s the time of year when all I want to do is surround myself with the mysteries of the universe and be a mystic hermit until spring, everything turns into a clamoring din that threatens to entirely overwhelm me.
But sometimes, when the conditions are right, I can step back and see all these tremendous, behemothic things for how small they really are, against the backdrop of everything else that is, or could be, out there. Perspective. The star gave me that, if just for a moment, and I was grateful.
*Maybe it wasn’t a star – these days, could be anything. But it looked like a star. I thought it was. So, for the purposes of this post, it was a star.
**Until I reached out, at which point people were always friendly.
***Unless you watch YouTube. Which I generally don’t.