“The three greatest gifts of moving on are forgiveness, hope and the great beyond,” Mary Chapin Carpenter sang today in “Leaving Song,” serendipitously playing on itunes shuffle at this moment. That line halted me just as I was opening this site to write a blog on my dream last night that Ken wanted Constant Comment, and we had to find a store right now that sold it.
I looked outside for a while, watching the heavy winter sky bank the horizon of trees, the branch shake up and down, and the squirrel speed across the deck railing to the intense interest of the cat inside. What am I moving on from or toward? I’m not sure, particularly at this moment when I’m mostly staying put, happy in my family, work, friendships, community, writing and art-making. Yet aren’t most moments in life, when looked at clearly, another way of moving on?
I’ve always been struck by the analogy in childbirth that each contraction is one step closer to the baby (and not having to have that contraction again) as well as the reality that each breath is one breath closer to death. The chickadees bounce on the bouncing branches outside, the thin powdering of snow blows, the moment stands up and shows its hand before turning into something else, predicable and not so predictable at once.
Meanwhile, for most of us, there’s always someone or something to forgive. I had lunch with a 65-year-old friend yesterday, who told me how she works with words such as “abuse” and “trauma” from her past, trying to understand how to live in relation to them beyond using them as shorthand for old interpretations. As I ready myself to release The Divorce Girl into the world, I understand precisely what she means about not only how the past wounds are still, in some moments, fresh, but how forgiveness is an ongoing conversation.
As for hope, while I’m not sure it’s “the things with feathers” (obviously, it was, at least once, for Emily Dickinson), it’s surely something that travels with many of us. What I hope for, over decades, has changes from “I hope someone will fall in love with me” or “I hope for a great job” to mostly hope for health and clear-seeing. Hope itself moves on for most of us from what we believe we need so that we’re finally good enough to what we need to engaged with whatever life brings.
While “the great beyond” certainly refers to what’s beyond life, I see it also as the necessary and constant mystery of what composes life. It’s greater than us, or however we add or multiply our thoughts and thinking, and it’s beyond our control. Moving on could be moving on to stand, sit, walk, act, dream and think in good relation to that great and constant beyond. I often play a game with myself: I take the exact moment I’m living and wonder how it will seem when I’m at the end of my life. What will shine or endure? What won’t matter? While this game doesn’t stop my mind from spinning in its neurotic skids and ruts, it does allow me a glimpse of what I cannot name.
So here’s to moving in without going anywhere, and to the wisdom and music of Mary Chapin Carpenter.