The Ride of Our Lives
It’s like hopping into a car without knowing where it’s heading.
Before you get in, you might think you’ve thought it over carefully. What you’re doing. Who you’re going with. What you’re leaving behind.
Maybe you’ve even convinced yourself that you know where you’re going. But trust me on this. You don’t. You haven’t got a clue.
All you’ve really got is this feeling, this sweet sensation that’s got your heart pounding, your palms sweating, your head light, your brain fuzzy. And so, after much fanfare, you do it. You get in, you close the door and you turn the key.
As you start to accelerate, you catch a fleeting glimpse of something in the rearview mirror. Something fading fast in the distance. Is that the sailboat you used to race? Are those your skis? Are those your buddies standing there next to the roadside, the ones you used to go out with every weekend?
For a moment, you’re tempted to slow down, maybe even turn around. But you tell yourself, no. It’s okay. You can always come back. Besides, your new destination promises to be exotic and sexy and exciting. So you keep going.
And then, just like that, you’re at an intersection. You take a sharp turn and suddenly, you seem to need more stuff. A lot more stuff. Car seats are coming and diaper bags are going. Playpens and strollers. Soccer cleats and backpacks. Stuff and stuff and more stuff.
You find it hard to keep a conversation going, or even to get a word in at all. The radio’s blaring, everybody’s talking, and most of the time you can’t think. But the worst part isn’t the noise. Not really. What troubles you more is that everyone thinks you know where you’re going. You’re in the driver’s seat, after all. But the truth is, you don’t know any more than they do.
All you’ve really got is this feeling, still sweet but far more complicated, still meaningful but, more often than not, distracted.
A little further down the road, the scenery starts to change. Everywhere you look, things seem…different. Where once there was Victoria’s Secret, there is only flannel. Where once there were wine and candles, there are pizza crusts and juice boxes. Where once there might have been a picnic, there is now only grass to be mowed and limed and fertilized.
At some point, you realize that the things that enamored you about this trip in the first place are fading like a glossy travel brochure that’s been left out in the sun too long. You now know that wine comes with headaches. Fancy restaurants come with a bill. Roses come with yard work. And also thorns.
The days speed up. The conversation slows down. “The plumber called today.” “The dog got into something in the basement and threw up all over the rug.” This is what you find yourself talking about.
And yet, strangely enough, it’s okay. Somehow you need to say these things, to hear these things, as if it couldn’t really be a day without sharing them.
The road gets bumpy. The weather changes. Still you keep going. And here’s the strange part. The question of where you’re going is no longer so pressing. You don’t think of it at all. By now you know.
All you’ve really got is this feeling, deep and rich and complex and as much a part of you as your breath. And the weirdest thing is, it’s enough. It doesn’t matter that you once set out for grand destination. All these years later, it’s enough just to see what’s coming around the bend.
Marriage is like getting in a car without knowing where it’s heading.
Photo by Trevor Wilson