Sigh

At first I thought I was doing really well. I walked him to security, hugged him, told him everything would turn out fine this summer. It’s funny how we do that, right? No one ever says, I’m skeptical about this endeavor … you may have made a bad call. I love how we’re all eternally optimistic. Outwardly, anyway.

I backed off as he moved through the line, then walked to the bathroom, where, mid-pee, the schmaltzy canned public music system started playing Teach Your Children, Crosby, Stills, Nash (and Young? Not sure).

Awesome. You who are on the road must have a code that you can live by and so become yourself blah blah blah. Thanks Great Universe, sometimes you’re not quite so generous with your coddling. I know, I know we are supposed to let them go, but sometimes I just want them to stop going, to stay a little longer, to not get in the car or on the plane!

Once he was so little.

Once he was so little.

I walked down the stairs, across the street, up the stairs and to my car. I was parked on the top level of the parking garage, so I decided to wait to watch his plane take off, scheduled for departure at 1:17.

The number 117 has been showing up all over the place lately. It came to me in a dream recently in which Coco and I were in a swim race together. At the start of the race I couldn’t move my arms, but I could kick, so I just kept moving forward until all my body parts started working, then we were in synch; we swam beside each other and finished at the same time, both of our hands touching the side of the pool at 1 minute, 17 seconds.

Also, there are random things, like my post box number and my Fordham email. Angel Number 117 suggests that you are on the ‘right path’ on your life’s journey. The angels support and encourage you with your life purpose, and you have good reason to be optimistic about your chosen direction or path.

Totally awesome. Thank you, guides and spirits. The Magic Eight Ball probably says It is certain, too.

Just look at them and sigh …

Just look at them and sigh …

I read for a little while, until I heard a plane heading out, 1:17. I got out of the car and looked up. It was his, Jet Blue, headed south then west. I watched it roar off from the airport and I thought, My heart is on that plane, in the air, moving away from me standing here. Nate … headed to Minneapolis, unfamiliar territory, for the summer, not sure what the coming weeks will hold, at that funny place in life, in-between study and practice; chomping at the bit and scared of the unknown. My heart is on that plane. That was, of course, when I started crying.

Funny thing to watch a part of yourself flying away.

I always think that I’m one of the parents who does it well: releasing my kids into the wild to let them fend for themselves. I’ve watched the mamma birds, I know how they nudge their little ones toward greater freedom. And those guys are little! They’re so little when they get the heave-ho.

Nate is wrestling with all of the big questions, so I gave him David Brooks’ new book, The Second Mountain. You should read it, too. It supports a bunch of the things I believe to be true about life, placing ideas about what to do with our days in the context of two mountains. The first we climb as we take on all the responsibilities and character traits we think the world expects of us (ie, we focus a lot on self). If we’re lucky enough to get to the second, via a tragic life event or an awakening, then we begin the real work of life, which can be painful, draining, usually not very lucrative but a deeply satisfying existence focused outside of self, on the needs of the world. The work of the soul, if you will. Brooks talks about the commitments we make, to people and ideals, to place.

I watched the plane go until it was just a speck in the sky. I thought of Sam, embarking on his summer internship in Reno. He keeps saying that it’s going to be a lot of work and that he doesn’t know what he’s doing. Good, I tell him, That’s just what you want right now in your life.

Some days it feels like we’re all inside a snow globe and the world is being shaken, over and over. For a long time it felt scary, worrisome. Terrible decisions being made by the powers that be; the extreme weather, world-wide; illness and death in every direction. It all felt very unsettling. These days it just feels weird. The world is a very weird place these days. There may be cycles of this kind of stuff in our world’s history but I’m too lazy to become a research scientist; I’m just willing to bet this isn’t the first time a whole lot of strange stuff went down on Planet E.

But we all happen to be right her right now, it’s our moment, right? The questions isn’t why all of this weird is stuff happening; the questions is what do we do about it. How do we respond?

Brooks is not afraid to admit, in his book, that he was once a jerk: aloof, invulnerable, uncommunicative. “I sidestepped the responsibilities of relationship.” The sins of his life were, according to him, sins of omission: failures to truly show up for people, sins of withdrawal: workaholism, conflict, failure to empathize, failure to express myself openly …

Not surprisingly, it all eventually came crashing down and, after a period in the wilderness, a time of reflection and rearrangement he emerged enlightened: If there is one thing I have learned over the past five years, it is that the world is more enchanted, stranger, more mystical, and more interconnected than anything we could have envisioned when we were on the first mountain.

In the eloquent parlance of my childhood … No duh.

Apparently it was Brooks’ religious curiosity that set him on a path toward illumination, one that included a couple of mystical experiences—one of them in Penn Station at rush hour—a second shot at marriage and a deeper, more meaningful engagement with the world.

Curiosity will do that, by golly. I hear there’s something going around called sober curious. People maybe wondering what it’s like to give up drinking but aren’t quite ready to fully commit, afraid, perhaps, they’ll miss out on some really important slice of life. Sure, if feeling like crap the next day, getting suckered into spending your money by those who see no harm in the liberal use of the word craft, gaining weight and taxing your liver are a slice of the good life to you, then yes, you are most definitely going to be missing something. Otherwise a ginger ale in your hand will have the same effect when you’re sitting in a bar or standing around at a party. If you think for a minute that a drink turns you into a more interesting person and that’s what’s keeping you from moving from curious sober to committed, think again.

But that’s a different story for a different day. I’ll save it for June 23 when I tell you how great it’s been to live for eight years without booze. For today: hug your kids then make them leave, venture out, take risks, write home. Trust that your curiosity is leading you where you need to go. Read a good book, one with paper pages. And if you’re still on the first mountain, you might want to consider the view from over there. Godspeed.