“I wonder what will be happening in ten years?” my daughter-in-law, Marlene, mused. My head snapped around so fast I almost gave myself whiplash. But I said nothing. Chris, Marlene, Brooke, and Jaden were visiting us in the desert. Over the next few days, Marlene wistfully repeated this. Every time I heard her, I got a sinking feeling. Finally I said, “I can just handle what is happening now. I don’t even want to think about the future.”
Putting John’s and my age aside, prolonged thinking about the tunnel of time either past or future is strictly to be avoided. My long, skinny feet with the tangerine toenails are firmly planted in the present. And by the way: isn’t this where mental health sages tell us we should be?
So I started thinking about this while I was walking with Teddy. As we went along, I noticed the blossoming fruit trees, bulbs ready to bud, and green shoots poking through the ground everywhere. California poppies are up, and any day now delicate orange petals will appear. At home we had to cancel pruning the apricot tree, since it is beginning to bloom. With temperatures in the 80s, spring is being incubated in the hothouse of a heat wave.
I think, This is too soon. It feels like life is speeding up and we are being rushed into tomorrow. And that is when it hit me: fear is dogging my thoughts of the future just as surely as Teddy is on my heels and on high alert when he scents a coyote.
It’s not surprising that fear of an uncertain future lurks deep in the landscape of consciousness. The past two years have been thoroughly unsettling. Lies abound in public discourse and are affirmed by loud voices as if their volume will give credence to the falsehood. Our very language has been twisted and contorted. To survive the onslaught of questionable ever-changing information, I have limited my media time and turned to trusted sources, hoping they actually can be trusted.
I don’t need to delve into the roller coaster that is COVID. But I will say this: being a public health professional, I have empathy for those who have been on the frontlines, battling a shapeshifting enemy that is both wily and deadly. I truly believe most public health leaders are doing the best they can with the information they have and the political structure they find themselves in at any given moment.
I could go on to inflation, the aging process, and yada, yada, yada. But then you and I would be traveling the path into the canyon of hopelessness. I guess I feel like I am on firm ground when I reside in the present. And you know what? I think that is okay. Now that I have named fear as the enemy, I can look it in the eye and say, “You will not defeat me, nor darken my days.”
Yes, the future is uncertain. There will be a kaleidoscope of events and emotions. But I will get by surrounded by those I love, clinging to faith, reveling in nature, and taking one step at a time—exactly the way I am now.
I was going to end here, but it is on my heart to thank the amazing sisterhood that surrounds me. These are the women who listen without judgement and who laugh at my quirky take on life. (If they roll their eyes, they do it discreetly.) They are the friends I confide in, cry, laugh, and sit in comfortable silence and philosophize with. They support me no matter what, and they aren’t afraid to say the hard things. We talk about frivolous and deep things, and with them I can even probe the future. Some of these beautiful souls are more recent friends, some are relatives, and some I have known for decades.
We walk forward, holding hands, swinging them high, and knowing we can get through anything together.
God bless the sisterhood!