That's the truth really. It's not one I'm particularly good at living my life by, but at the end of the day, any wise person will tell you as much. What has happened has happened. It won't happen again. Not like it did. And what you project into the future isn't real. It is fiction. It has no form. It doesn't exist. It can come to pass that it is what you envisioned it to be, but that's not guaranteed. The future never is. The present, that's all we've got, you and me and everyone. The present. Learn to love it. You're going to spend your entire life in it.
Something shifted in me a few days ago. Had a rough night. It was hard to be here, hard to be in the tiny guest bedroom of my friend's dad's house. It felt too small, the air too still, the sounds too tame. I could feel the absence of the dogs howling, and the vodou drums, and the kompa music. I felt incredibly lonely. I felt unsure of my ability to live up to what I hope to be able to accomplish. It was uncomfortable. I wanted so badly to reach out to someone who I could let in when I'm like that, but nobody exists right now that is that person. I've got my friends, yes, but they don't quite fit the bill for me when I'm in that place, and I've got my brother, who I can always lean on, but again, it isn't quite the right fit. For me, that fit comes in the form of a woman I've taken as my partner, and right now, no such woman exists. So I went in reverse. I jumped back through my hoops, back to North Carolina, back to New York and Oxford and London, back to Port-au-Prince and Leogane and my tent on its bed of cinderblocks on the roof under the bright stars hanging above a dark and beautiful country. I stayed there. It was a sweet place to linger. I liked that tent. I like the memories I have of it. I went through those memories. They made me smile, and, truth be told, they also made me cry. So be it. It isn't something to be embarrassed by. Haiti was huge. I'm feeling it now that I've finally stopped moving and just have the time and space to simply be. My dog, sensitive one that he is, crawled up on the bed and nuzzled me. It was nice. We huddled up together in the dark and eventually fell asleep.
I awoke the next morning worse for it. I felt completely disconnected from where I was, and where in many ways I need to be right now. It was unpleasant, like suffering from an itch you simply can't reach to scratch. I walked around with no purpose or direction, eating things and checking the same empty Gmail inbox and Facebook page, repeating the boredom of the cycle. Finally I talked to my friend Helen on Skype for a bit, and, being one of my closest, she quickly picked up on my mood. She told me something I didn't want to hear. I signed off in the middle of our conversation. I was annoyed, because I knew she was right, and I didn't want to accept it. But, slowly, over the course of the day, I came to realize the truth in her rather blunt statement. It made me come to see that, like it or not, a large part of me was living in a past that doesn't exist any more, and no amount of wanting it to remain will keep it. It made me accept that the beauty of Haiti and what I experienced there is over. What I have now is this - Los Angeles, California. Do with it what I will. At first it felt so depressing - Los Angeles isn't a place I envisioned myself calling "home" right now - but I came to see the beauty in accepting it as such. It's my home now. Now isn't permanent, and now can be wonderful if I know it isn't permanent, and choose to find pleasures in the temporariness of it (is that even a word?). I have wonderful friends here, and most of my immediate family is here. My dog is here. My brother is here. That's a lot of good to be taking advantage of.
Los Angeles is also a springboard for me, a pitstop en route to a much more desired place: myself in a beautiful community somewhere down in Latin America, running a project with great friends beside me, bringing clean water to people that need it. That's my destination. It's there for the taking. Los Angeles is simply where I'm catching a few breaths and making a bit of money before I shove off. That's the truth. But there's another truth in that truth: I have to be here, present, living now, here, now, if I'm going to get there. I can't linger in the past. I can't circle the ghosts of a place and of people that, while still existing, are not in my life any more. Haiti will be there. The people I grew close to are still out there. But none of them are here. Leogane is not here. My tent is not here. It's probably lying as ashes on the bottom of one of the incinerators in the back of the JLB, like so many tents before it. It doesn't exist any more. Not like it did. None of it does. I'm allowed to appreciate it all, and to move forward changed by it, and be a better person for the experience of it, but I cannot give it my energy. I inherently already know this. I've walked this path before, when I took part in my mom's battle with, and death from, cancer. Holding her hand, hearing her final words to me and then again to my brother ("I love you." "I love you.") and watching her take her last breath was incredibly painful. There's no way it couldn't have been. It still hurts in moments. Even just typing that, and re-reading it, pulls at my chest and tightens my throat. Yet, I was not crippled by her death, I am not crippled by her death, because I didn't linger on it. I don't linger on it. The strength in her final moments has a lot to do with that, and is something I am and always will be eternally grateful for. But once she was still, it was up to me to choose the path I wanted to take - one of acceptance and progression, or one of disbelief and resistance. I chose the first. I need to do the same now. To make what I want to happen actually happen is going to require energy. It is going to require focus. I need to wake up in the morning no longer thinking about those ghosts from my time in Haiti, but about the now, and what I can do in it to get ever closer to my desired future. I need to be thinking about that same thing when I go to sleep at night.
It's that simple really. My life has promise. I love the cusp I'm standing on. The door is there. I know it exists. I can begin to move toward it. In my mind's eye I can see through it at times, catching uncertain glimpses of what may await me on the other side. The door is there. But I can't open it, I can't walk through it, until I face it. I won't find my way to it unless it is in front of me. I have to stop looking behind. My life doesn't exist there any more. Ghosts aren't real, no matter how powerfully they can manifest themselves in moments.
So that's what I'm going to do. Today was the first real day of that for me, and already, in reaching out to someone in the present to share my ideas for the future, I've uncovered what could be a very valuable resource in reaching that future. That's as good a sign as any that I'm facing the right direction.
So then, time to start walking.