“Jet trails cross the sun.”
That phrase has been rattling around in my head since taking a day off a couple of weeks ago and walking the shoreline at Hampton Beach, NH. There’s a poem in that picture, I told myself then, and I have told myself several times since then.
That is a phrase the people close to me are used to hearing. The woman I love. My kids. Good friends. All of them have seen me suddenly stop, lift up a camera and take a picture of something seemingly innocuous or even a bit strange. They have heard it enough over the years, that they, particularly my son, will often say it for me. “There’s a poem in there somewhere.”
It rarely comes quickly, that poem. Often it will linger for days, weeks, months, even years – an image that struck something in me, that called out to some emotion that I could not identify then, and often, cannot identify for a long time.
It’s frustrating to me, and it’s part of my character that I have a hard time identifying, naming and understanding my own feelings. I am full of them, as are most people. But for whatever reason, trauma, depression and faulty bit of wiring somewhere in my head, I often have trouble, in the moment, identifying what I am feeling.
It has advantages sometimes. In times of crisis, I am often not consumed with my own emotions, so I perform pretty well when there is illness, accidents, even death. The pall of those times don’t overwhelm. I can take care of others well, my own emotions not kicking in and debilitating me in the moment, courteously waiting until I am away from it and can afford to come undone.
It works well too, when I have to speak publicly, or when, years and years ago, I used to perform as a singer or an actor. I don’t appear to be nervous. I can easily talk to small groups or thousands with no apparent nerves. But afterward? Just call me Jelly Legs.
But there are issues with it. At times I work out of emotion, sad or mad or something else, and I am not sure where it came from. That’s not fair to the people I inflict that emotion on, and it’s hard for me.
At times, I will see the woman I love, and be so full of love for her in that moment it is nigh on to overwhelming. Or I will see her and she looks particularly beautiful to me, but in that moment, the words get stuck until later. They are still true, those emotions, but they lose their power not being in the moment.
Living alone for a decade and more, it wasn’t such an issue. But as my kids moved up here from Virginia, and now that I am married, it feels like a bigger issue, something to work on. And work on it I will. I am.
There’s a problem with that sometimes. The working on it. Or the getting worked up about it. It’s like when you forget a name and drive yourself crazy trying to recall it.
My love and I went to see “Murder on the Orient Express” last week. It was wonderful and there was this one actress we both loved and neither of us could remember her name. We struggled with it at the beginning of the movie. We racked our brains. It was driving us crazy. She’s like, crazy, wildly famous and deservedly so. We could name all sorts of movies she was in. Just not the name.
Finally, though, we stopped fighting it, let ourselves get wrapped up in the movie, and halfway through it popped into our heads: Judy Dench! Who could forget Judy Dench?
That’s the way it seems to be with me. When I struggle to name emotions in the moment, I can struggle all I want. It won’t come. I have to let it come to me. And eventually, it will.
But I have to tell you. I am frustrated with the waiting. Other people are good at naming the emotion right in the midst of them. I am married to one of those. I admire that. I envy that. I want to learn how to do that.
I am not sure how.
For now, I have to follow my grandfather’s advice. “Wait for it.” That was his answer to everything – whether he was sighting down a deer from 200 yards, or letting a commotion settle in church or politics.
I seem to be patient. People tell me I am. I appear to be. But I’m really not. Not at all. My patience is really just another delayed reaction to the frustration I feel. I am like everyone. I want what I want now. Just like everyone.
And I have begun the work to do something about it. But like all things to do with our hearts, it will take time.
So until I make the progress I want, I wait. And things will come. Maybe even the poem that goes with that picture.
Be well. Travel wisely,