Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Crossing the Line

I was thinking tonight about the poem I wrote for Almost-Not-My-Husband more than ten years ago in a rather desperate attempt to win him back after suffering temporary delusions (you can read about my uncomfortable epiphany--#9--here).

I remember the stereo turned up high with a mix of significant-song CDs on shuffle play as I handwrote my verses on papers and glue-sticked them to a large-ish piece of cardboard. I drove that cardboard plea over to his apartment and propped it against the front door.

I'm still not sure why I constructed a billboard of my ode instead of slipping a folded piece of paper beneath his door, although I suspect that it was clear at the time that this was a Dramatic Moment deserving of bold print and edification. I'm grateful I was gutsy enough to unleash some dramatic flair, because here we are surviving our seventh year of marriage.

I recalled the poem tonight as we sailed our boat in the Wednesday night Beer Can Races. The notion of a starting line in sailboat racing has always fascinated me. Certainly there is a line. You just can't see it in the water, of course, though it's defined like any other line by points. At our Yacht Club, Beer Can Races start between a flag in the water and a black-and-white-striped stanchion on the docks. Determining where a boat is in relation to the line requires looking back and forth between the flag and stanchion. So much depends on your position relative to that line. And your line of sight. Meanwhile, you're constantly in motion.

The start of a sailing race is about getting to the starting line at the start of the race, and not before, and not too late. Boats that are too far ahead turn around in front of yours and everyone angles for a spot between those two points. I guess it would be as if everyone in a running race had to be jogging toward the line--from different directions--intending to cross it right as the gun was fired. It's exciting and chaotic, with potential for near misses and collisions.

Tonight, and when I wrote the poem, I recognized how many starting lines are largely symbolic. A sailboat officially enters the race when it crosses that invisible line, but it's been racing toward the start long before the horn is blown.

The lines in our lives are often blurrier. It's hard to say when, exactly, I stopped being "young," at least in the minds of others. Where my private and my public lives diverge. As always when I return to work after a break, I struggle with the line between Working Mom and Mom. If each of my roles--Mom, Wife, Daughter, Sister, Friend, Neighbor, Vice Principal--are lines of my life, they intersect, run parallel to one another, and sometimes feel perpendicular. I'm pretty sure I'm straddling a line between "getting started" and "all done," particularly when I'm considering how much is enough. And I find it's the seamlessness, when one line merges imperceptibly into the next, that breeds contentment.

Drawing lines in the sand, it turns out, accomplishes only philosophical stands: the temporary definition of a status quo, subject to shifting winds and whims.

And on winds and whims, in my poem I acknowledge that I let myself be blown off course for a time before I recognized where I truly belonged. When the line between beginning and ending came sharply into focus.

Eleven Minutes

The starting line is a blur
of lapping waves and churning water
much like us I’m not sure when exactly
that moment was when we started
but we were ahead
before we knew it.

Winds blew;
You adjusted sails when
shifts caught us unaware.

No expert sailor
nor navigator,
I steered us to the end*.

*My husband would like me to mention that the ending of this poem left him unsettled. Given the fact that I, in fact, altered course before the finish line, we're now revising the last line of this poem to read, "I steered us around the mark."


Kris said...

Wow, what a difficult time of figuring out things and trying to make sense of the elements of your life.

me said...