View from The Wayback

What is the force that drives us ahead–compels us to move forward, even without promise of a safe destination? Where do we find the gumption to keep going when we have absolutely no idea where we’re headed? Does it matter?

I think so. That force–my mom called it faith, but I can’t quite name it– is a fire I want to stoke, to tend carefully now and always.

At the risk of adding to the flood of recession porn, let me offer a half-hypothetical picture, woven from some truths I know: A woman has thrown herself headlong into her work with the hope of funding someday adopting a child. She literally dreams about it–waking up amid lucid visions of mother-child educational travels (Tanzania, anyone?) and holidays around a glowing hearth. It’s getting kind of silly.

In terms of scheduling, our heroine is on the slow train–or in the slow RV trailer, as the case may be. The Recession has left her living in a tin can palace while she recovers from a liberating yet financially devastating divorce. She’s scarcely able to pay for trips to the next county, never mind around the world. She knows she’s way blessed. Yet some days she wakes up trying to remember why on earth she should rise to meet the world.

Okay, so this woman is me. Insert your own strife into the formula, okay? (I know you’ve got it, because I’ve heard your kvetching.)

This woman–and all of us, in fact–needs to feel that faith fire roar till she is her my best self, a bright beam of good juju. How? I dunno, but I think it has something to do with embracing uncertainty.

When was eight years old, my parents brought home a heavily used, wood-paneled Country Squire station wagon. My brother and I were ecstatic, watching from behind the yellow brocade curtains in the front picture window as it creeped up the driveway and into our lives. When we ran out to greet the behemoth, we discovered  a curious and unexpected feature. The very back of the car, where the hatch lifted, could be turned into a third bench seat—facing backward, no less. This was the “wayback.”

Clearly the wayback was the very best part of our new car. The only other times we had ridden backward was on amusement park rides. Now, everywhere we’d go, we’d see things differently than anybody else. Plus (bonus!) we’d no longer have to sit together on long trips.

Never mind the fact that, several months later on my birthday on the way to my party, my brother sat in the wayback with Caroline Harris and ate all my cake. Never mind that, within two years, the Country Squire erupted into flames on the Interstate while my mom inwardly rejoiced. (Turns out the wayback could not compensate for the Country Squire’s countless mechanical quirks.) To me, the wayback represented a new perspective, a way to look back and move forward all at once.

Many birthdays later, I think about that balance, and where to direct my gaze.

A white-hot combustion of memory and desire hurtles me ahead. Hang on tight, y’all. I work toward my goal, but… am I bound for another place entirely? Just enjoy the ride, sweetheart. How can I safely navigate my path and still soak up the panorama from the wayback? Don’t lean too far out that window. You just might fall out.

I’ve gotta admit, there’s a certain thrill to the exhilarating blind motion of this life. Who cares that we sometimes don’t know where we are going? It seems like we’re not always supposed to know. We’re supposed to show up and stay grateful, come what may.

If that’s what my mom calls faith, then I reckon I’m doing alright.

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