Thursday, February 9, 2012

A traveler of time (pt 1) Where am I? Which time am I in?

I can't recommend it. At times, the language can cause you to blush and some of the graphics embarrass the stew out of you. It's not something I would normally read; but for some reason, I was compelled to continue and I read to the finish. I'm so glad I did. I don't regret it for a minute. I read it several years ago.. and still, I remember so much that I learned from it. So much so, that I thought it unfair not to share. So, here you now have it.... lessons gleaned from a book once read.... (that I'm a bit embarrassed to say I actually did.)

The name of the book? The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. The gleaning from what I read was written to a friend as I read the pages. We were reading it together... and as we did so, we'd share what we'd read with each other.  I obviously was impressed. I typed 33 pages before I was done with it.

I wrote:

My thoughts on the book? I hate that Henry died! But life does have a way of ending that way, doesn't it? I'm embarrassed to say that I fell asleep toward the end of the book one night (before Henry died, but after knowing he was going to) and then I kept waking up from all sorts of dreams where I kept trying to figure out different ways to keep him from actually having to. WEIRD!!! I wanted to keep him alive! I didn’t want him to die! I still don’t. I don't know that I've EVER dreamed about a character in a book before. I liked him, but I didn't know that I liked him that much. Enough to dream about him…. …..  I think he reminded me of someone else…. and I don’t want him to go!.... but I know inside that he eventually will regardless of my don’t-ing want.

But then, life is like that too, huh? For the one that’s left behind. Whether by an actual death or by a mental one... when one leaves, divorces, dumps you, disappears, dies, etc. Or maybe it's not "someone" for you, but "something"? Perhaps a dream dies. A hope is shattered. A business is closed. A job is lost. A friendship severed. A heart somehow broken. We often spend our days and our nights (months, maybe years) trying to figure out a way that it really doesn't have to. We try to keep them/it from "dying". And often once they're/it’s gone, we try to figure out a way to bring them/it back to life again. It's not just a mourning of their/its death. It's our way of keeping them/it still living inside us. A refusal of reality. A denial. A hope that by denying it, by refusing to believe it, that perhaps our rejection of reality can become an actuality and they/it can ‘live’ again. A resurrection of sorts.

We’ve all tried it.

It doesn’t work.

I enjoyed the book. It was different. Sweet. Sad. It made me smile. It made me feel. It made me laugh. It made me cry.  And it made me realize that every one of us are "time-travelers" from time to time of some kind. Think of all the "time-traveling" we do (though thankfully, we travel with our clothes on, unlike how poor Henry did!) inside the memories of our minds to our pasts or what we dream (hope) for in our futures. We're good at fast-forwarding or rewinding, jumping from one time to the next in a matter of seconds; rather than remain stayed in the current time that our clocks and calendars are ticking in. Any one thing can trigger it. A sight. A smell. A sound. A song. Just about anything can instigate, activate, or conjure up a memory. Or a hope. Or an I-can’t-wait-to moment… or I-wish-I-did… I-wish-I-didn’t… I-wish-I-could… I-wish-I-wouldn’t. Or maybe an I-wish-they-would… I-wish-she-would… he-would… she-did… he-did… he-didn’t…..

We’re often looking forward… or looking back; but, like I said, not stayed on seeing our right now. Example: we look forward to birthdays, turning sixteen, college, getting married, having kids... and then when we get there, we look backward… we long for the days of our yesterdays, our high-school years, or the freedom we had before we had kids when we were still single.

What weird creatures we are. Living in so many different times all at once, though rarely really ever really, really, really “living” in and taking full focused advantage of our current immediate moment. I started to say our very present moment… yet, it’s that ‘very present’ moment that we seldom are really ‘very present’ in at all, isn’t it? Our physical bodies are in one place and time; while our minds are in another. In one that’s not real. One that's imagined. One that's made up. One that once-was. One that never will be. Or one that it’s not time for yet.

I found it interesting what Henry said about the wreck that killed his mom being the pivotal moment that everything else in his life gravitates around (He said “You know about gravity, right?”, “The larger something is, the more mass it has, the more gravitational pull it exerts. It pulls smaller things into it, and they orbit around and around.... My mother dying... it's the pivotal thing... everything else goes around and around it... I dream about it, and I also time travel to it. Over and over and over again."  He says that he goes to it, and that he hovers over it, and he sees its every detail. "... if you had enough time to really look at everything, you would see me,”  He says. “I am in cars, behind bushes, on the bridge, in a tree. I have seen it from every angle; I am even a participant in the aftermath…… I think.. and I think... I think I should have died too.).

How often true for us. That's true for a lot of people. A one-moment-in-time event that all of our thoughts go back to, that now affects all of our tomorrows, clouds our yesterdays, and takes our focus away from every today that we’re in. Its gravitational force has power over us still and impacts everything else that we're doing. We are, in essence, locked in a moment-of-time without any awareness at all of our imprisonment. And no amount of days or months or seasons or years or miles has been successful in taking us further away from it.

When discussing that thought with this friend of mine he said to me, "It is interesting that some one "event" marks most people. It's like in the OT when people would set up an altar as a memorial to God for whatever. People tend to do something similar with life altering events. It is (as you said) "the "pivotal" moment, around which everything else revolves. It defines them."  Wow, that's good! Hmmm. A perfect picture. But one that we seldom seem to truly notice. Woe, that "a moment" in time (one single moment!) can "define" all of our time for the rest of the lives we are living!

I have to wonder, what might have happened to "alter" our life that we have made a "graven image of" (an altar! / a "memorial stone")? We’ve set it up, and we now worship it, bow down to it, sacrifice to it, and serve it for the rest of our days. We "slaughter" sheep of some sort, we feed it, and "sacrifice" (our lives, our homes, our minds, our thoughts, our joy, our laughter, our sense, our children!)...  a thing that we're often oblivious to what we are doing while in the midst of our doing it.

It’s something worth pondering: Have I ever had such a “life-ALTAR-ing” event happen to me? In what ways has it altered my life? And am I still bowing to its bidding? Sacrificing still? Still feeding it? Still serving? Have I made an idol of this memory, this hurt, this pain? How much has it cost me? How much more am I willing to let it?

By the time Henry’s daughter, Alba, is a little girl, she "time-travels" too. Children often inherit the traits that they’ve learned from their parents. At this time in the book, science has named this time-traveling-thing that they do: "Chrono-Displaced Person" (CDP). I loved the visual. We all suffer a bit of "Chronic-Displaced Person Disorder" at different times, don’t you think? Many times it’s seasonal. Though I know of some people that have chosen to live there. It’s the life that they’ve chosen to settle in. They live in 1989… or some such year that’s long past. Like as was suggested earlier, it’s easy to get stuck in a hurt… or a hope... and forget to live in the time that we're in.

I'm not sure how I would rate the book, but I can give it this, I found it superbly thought-provoking.

I could relate to some things. I saw people I know there in others. And yeah, I saw me there too (inside of Clare's feelings... and maybe sometimes, even in Henry's).

Now at the risk of sounding really ridiculous, I'll tell you this. Several years ago an old boyfriend called me that I hadn't heard from in a zillion years. He was the guy in high school for me. My old flame! The one that rocked my world and that my whole world began to "pivot" around…. and revolved around for years. He’s the one that took my breath away. The one that stole my heart. The one that took it with him when he left. The one that I cried torrential tears over for years. The one I never forgot.

When he called, I kept trying to figure out why he did, even while realizing that he probably had no idea why he called himself. Finally I said something to him to the effect that I guess it's kind of like a need inside all of us to be able to go back to the past to "touch base" every now and then, in order to go on doing life where we're presently living. It's just a place to feel safe for a few minutes. A safe-haven of sorts to renew our energy. (Man, I have a weird way of thinking.) I think Henry said it much better than I did at the bottom of page 370. "I place my hands over her ears and tip her head back, and kiss her, and try to put my heart into hers, for safekeeping, in case I lose it again." I think that's what he did a long time ago… whether he meant to or not… and whether I did. Not that he had "lost" his heart and needed to go looking for it again. But maybe every now and then we have a need to know that our hearts are still somewhere safe in a place where we once put them.

So. After twenty-something years (almost 30!) he called me. He did a little time-traveling of his own (and caused me to do some too... He, in essence, booked my flight before I had time to pack and knew that we would be flying!) to check back into an old place in his past to see and to know that it (he and I, us.. something at one time) was real.

I don't mean that in a bad way. But a sweet one. We all have need to know that in someone we are still loved. And I'm okay with a piece of his heart still in mine. Even while in our different worlds. And even if I never see him again until Heaven. I didn't mean to. Or plan to. Or chose to even. I wasn't looking for it. Or trying to. It happened. I loved (and still love) whether I meant to or not. And who can turn "love" off once love’s been turned on and given? 


Notes along the way as I read..
Things I noted... Things I highlighted
[Excerpts from the book... and then some of my crazing ponders upon it...]

The prologue starts with Clare "waiting" on Henry. He's time-traveling again. She says, "He vanishes unwillingly, without warning. I wait for him. Each moment that I wait feels like a year, an eternity. Each moment is as slow and transparent as glass.... Why has he gone where I cannot follow?"

I wondered as I read that at how much "waiting" we do... for this person or that, for this one thing to happen or another something else? So, we sit. And we wait. We pause life. Prolong days. We stop living… waiting for that one thing to happen or that one person to come so that we can begin our living again. Each moment feels like a year, an eternity. All the while, we lose the day (the time) that we're in. We sacrifice our current moment and all that it has in store for us, for one that we're anxiously anticipating that hasn't happened yet… and who knows, maybe never will? How much life do we lose in our "waits"? What all is passing us by? What all are we missing, because we fail to live when and where we are; because we’re spending our time waiting for that something to start us walking in life again? We do as Clare says she did, "I keep myself busy. Time goes faster that way... I work until I'm tired. I watch the wind play with the trash that's been under the snow all winter...."  UGH, what a waste we can be in our waits!!!!

Take that same statement and reading it again ("He vanishes unwillingly, without warning. I wait for him. Each moment that I wait feels like a year, an eternity..... Why has he gone where I cannot follow?") and you can see it from another angle. Another perspective. When we ourselves "vanish unwillingly, without warning”...... going where our minds or our memories take us that our loved ones cannot follow. When we’re the ones guilty of “disappearing again.” Not physically. But mentally (we've time-traveled and left the ones that love us again! / or they've time-traveled inside their own minds and they’ve left us!). Or, maybe we’ve gone off without warning and vanished (seemingly unwillingly) spiritually. We can't get out of our funk. We're found stuck in some mode or some mood.... our hope… or an old hurt. We're drowning while we sulk in our stew. Pining away in our pity. And no one is able to pull us out of it. We go places where no one else can “follow.” And later, we're often hurt that no one helped us while we were there in that stuckness. We’re hurt that they didn’t “follow” in an effort to help. We’re hurt, so we blame them for it. When actually it was us that pushed them away, slammed our doors and closed them out and wouldn't allow them to get close enough to help… no matter how hard they tried or how much they wanted to.

Clare asks on that very same page, "Why is love intensified by absence?" 

I tend to agree with her! I wonder too! Why is that?!?  And then too, the sad thing of it is, why can't we love those that we do with all that we've got when we’ve got them in our moment.... instead of missing them while they’re with us (because we’re "time-traveling" or are too busy or consumed with our own stuff)... and thus, missing them doubly so after they've gone? We're often guilty of "missing" them both while they're here, but only honing into the feeling after they're not anymore. And lots of times, we’ll focus only on missing the one that has gone, and so miss loving those all around us that are near. We “miss” a lot, but a lot we don’t have to. Why is the “absence” of something or someone oft times more prominent and have greater precedence over our “present” and the things and the people that we do have? I think that perhaps we’ve got a greater missing need that seeks to hurt; than a rejoicing need that likes to bask in some joy? I think we’ve got some of our wires crossed and that we live a lot of life backward!

Pg 64 - "Clare looks up mischievously, "Who do you like?"  “You! I think, but don't say…….."  ~~

Woe, that one strikes! Because I am frequently "thinking, but not saying" my feelings or my thoughts. I know that we can't (and never will be able to) say all that we think. Some things we really shouldn't! But how many times do we not say, when we should? We feel too vulnerable, we fear rejection, we fear the reaction that we will (or won't) get from the one that we're talking to or thinking about, so we never say what we should, we never tell them how precious they are or how much they mean.... and then later (maybe for the rest of our lives), we "waste" time wishing we had. What is that? Fear. Pride. Insecurity. Vulnerability. Woe, what thieves they are! Why do we let them rob us like they do?!?

Pg 78 - ""You are making me different" Clare says."I know," Henry tells her.” ~~

Been there, done that, so KNOW that feeling too! Know anybody who “makes you different”? It can be a good different, or a bad one. But people (though really only because we allow them to) really can “make” us different. I wonder too (though I’ve never really wondered before) who do I “make” different? And what kind of different do I make them? Is it a better different than from what they once were? Or a worse one? Hey, it’s a thought worth pondering. What about you? Who are you making “different”? And what kind of “different” are they because of you?

Pg 78 - "After an hour or so had passed, I too am gone. And there is only a blanket and a book, coffee cups, and clothing, to show that we were there at all." ~~

That, to me, seemed one of the saddest statements in the whole book!

What will be left of me when I’m gone to show I was once here at all? to show I was once there? to show I was actually in this moment of time? And that once, I was in that one? To show that I once existed in another person's life? What evidence will be left that evidences that me and somebody else existed for a season as one? Like I said, I find that statement very sad! Because of its truth!

Some of the places I've been, or the people that I've been with... there is no longer any evidence left at all of any kind that shows that we were ever there or ever truly existed. No blanket. No book. No clothing. No coffee cups. Nada. Nothing at all. ONLY in a memory. And maybe in a heart, because the heart was unable to forget its existence. Sadly there is no physical evidence that can be picked up and touched and acts as a witness of something that once was, but now is not anymore. Can the evidence vanish so quickly? Is there nothing to hold that testifies to show-and-tell? Is there so little evidence of what you so loved, and in the quiet recesses of your mind still do? And if that's so, then can the "hurt" of a heart as it cherishes that past be more of a blessing than we think to first give it credit for? Perhaps that feeling that won't go away and can't be stifled out is the only "physical" evidence that we'll always have of some things, simply from the physical feeling it gives us. It's held in the feeling! Whoa! There’s your proof of existence! Something more tangible than blankets and books and clothing and coffee cups! Something that won’t and can’t be burned up. Wow, who would have thought that some pains (some pangs) are really something to be treasured as such!

(To be continued...... Part 2 of 4 parts found here)

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