How to take yourself home

The year has gotten off to a slow start for me. For the last month or so before the new year began, I had been rising early every morning, in the dark, and going for a run of four or four and a half miles, often on the treadmill at the YMCA nearby. I had settled into something of a routine, and was feeling, bit by bit, stronger and even slightly faster.

But when I decided to add writing to my daily mix, I got a bit off track, and I haven’t been able to get back on yet. I still rise early in the morning, in the dark, but instead of running, I retreat to our office in the basement and try to write. I say “try” because I haven’t had loads of success yet. Oh, I haven’t become discouraged–yet; I know building any new habit is a work in progress, especially this early on. I have had, though, some tough morning when the alarm goes off, I silence it, and I wonder whether it would be best for me to simply roll over and grab another hour of sleep. Trying to put your hopes into practice, I have rediscovered, can sometimes have the funny effect of making them seem further away; I should have remembered that running a marathon never seems so unlikely as it does when you first begin training for it.

And now that the holiday has ended, and work has picked up again for Dutch and me–along with the attendant deadlines, meetings, planning sessions, and occasional evening sandwiched around child care–that is, as ordinary life has asserted itself, well, let me retract my earlier statement: I have become a bit discouraged. And today I did what I sometimes do when I’m discouraged: look in Wikipedia for actors or directors or musical artists I’m interested or remember from my youth in the 1970s or earlier.  It led me to this. And actually, before that, it led me to this.

Now, “Solsbury Hill” may be a song that’s been meaningful to you for some time. Or you may be like me, and it may be something that you’ve heard many times before, a catchy tune that you’ve enjoyed but never really listened to. But the experience I had with it today I can best describe using Emily Dickinson’s words: “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.” The song went right through me, and I found myself listening to it again and again, in different performances by Peter Gabriel and covered by others.

I could chalk this effect up to a number of things: mid-life, fatigue, busy-ness. But I think it’s summed up in the line ” `Son,’ he said, `grab your things, I’ve come to take you home.’ ” Which for me conjures the idea of coming home not to a place but to one’s self. We are each of us faced with the choice of whether we will accept the “information” that tells us who we are, or pursue the “imagination” of who we feel ourselves to be inside and want so desperately to become. The difficulty, of course, is that there is no “he” to come and take us home, at least not here, not in this life. It’s taking me a lifetime to learn that the only hero who can save me, who can take me home, is myself. And so, I will keep setting the alarm, dragging myself up in the morning. Because what more important work is there, for any of us?

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