I’m late, again.
He stands, says hello, gives me a hug.
“How long have you been waiting?” I ask, dreading the answer.
He shrugs. “About ten minutes.”
I study the pavement intently. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay,” he says, and I believe him, but still. “I just thought you were here already.”
“I was here, except I was THERE here,” I explain, pointing in the direction of the Target across the street from the movie theater. “I thought I could get my errands done in time.”
“I’m not mad.”
“I know. But it’s a bad habit. I’m overly optimistic about how much I can do in a given time frame.”
We walk into the theater. The good news is, the previews haven’t started yet.
We are sitting on a lifeguard tower, drinking tequila out of shaker bottles (so that if anyone asks, we can just flex and tell them it’s protein).
I listen, to the story she’s telling me and the waves crashing against the shore, and I breathe in the salt air and I track a plane as it blinks its way across the night sky. Goosebumps rise along my arms and I am suddenly aware of my edges, the fabric of my clothes on my skin, my hair against the nape of my neck, and I am here. All of me is present in this moment. I know exactly how I belong in it. This is the only place I want to be.
If I checked my phone, the time on the clock would remind me that I have to wake up early tomorrow, which is a narrative I am currently uninterested in. So I keep it facedown a safe distance away, and I let her words sink into my brain and imprint on my memory, and I respond, thoughtfully, the way I only can when I’ve truly heard, when I’ve given myself over to another person’s experience and committed to understanding without judgment.
Right now, here, the to-do list doesn’t matter. Everything can wait for as long as it needs to. And the minutes, they stretch and lengthen to hold the words we trade and the laughs we share and the wide-open space that lets us ask questions and dwell in uncertainty and claim grace for the ways we are still growing into ourselves.
“I set my lunch on top of my car while I put my purse in the back seat, and then I dropped my keys”—here I pause my story to fish them out of my purse—“and the fob shattered! I didn’t know it could do that. The casing split, and I picked four buttons, the battery, and the piece that holds everything together inside off the ground.
“That was unexpected and kind of distracting. It wasn’t until I heard a thump and saw a box sitting on the freeway in my rearview mirror that I realized I forgot to grab my lunch.”
I’m laughing as I recount my misadventures, and he laughs along with me. I’ve had three hours to make peace with this unfortunate occurrence, but even in the moment I thought it was a little bit funny.
“I’m proud of you,” he says, and I quirk an eyebrow at him. Is that a normal response from a parent after you’ve just confessed a silly oversight? “A year or two ago you would have reacted very differently to that kind of event,” he explains. “You didn’t get angry or let it keep affecting your mood. You just accepted that it happened and let it go.”
He’s right. I’ve learned a thing or two about finding the humor in situations that seem shitty on the surface. I’m not really sure how—it was a gradual thing, I’d imagine, and I can’t pinpoint specific events or influences that brought about the change.
And this, this is real life, even when it feels like I’m not where I want to be yet, even when I have to stare down the character flaws I still haven’t worked out, even when the days seem to bleed one into the next without any distinguishing features. Progress happens even when I can’t measure it. The frustrating moments can be funny too. There is beauty even in the mess, in the grey areas, in the mundane.
This is life in realtime.