I’ve lost track of time since I arrived in this middle place; where days seem to disappear in a breath and yet minutes in those days stretch on for eternity. I neither know what I want or who I am any better than I did when I was 12, or 16, or 25. As the days pass I simply know more about who I am not, but this knowledge produces no new answers.
The thing I like least about becoming an adult is witnessing and experiencing the pain in life and understanding that it is now my job to keep that from settling onto my children like caustic volcanic ash—affecting their views, their dreams, the delicate fibers of their safety net constructed by ignorance, illusion, and hope. I sit and lay and dance and sleep with my arms outstretched trying to filter the ugliness from this world, so that for a time, my children can focus on the sunlight streaming in through morning windows or giggle at the ant struggling to carry a crumb twice the size of his miniscule body.
As an adult I know that too much sun will blister their skin. And that ant may be a bird’s next snack.
This middle place in inevitable. When you are young you envision how you’d like your life to be—where you’ll live, the things that will motivate you—you dream and plan and prepare and then you meet Mr. Right. or Miss Perfect.
Together you both dream about a shared union of compromise and compassion, talk of kids and jobs and kitchen colors, promising to always, always keep communication open. You laugh about each other’s iniquities and peccadilloes; the toothpaste tube squeezed from the middle, the urine on the toilet seat, the nail clipping she leaves on the bedside table. In naive earnest you promise each other you won’t let the kids change you, you will always talk through everything, and most importantly—you’ll grow and change together. Forever. Promise. Whatever it takes.
You awake the next morning and ten years have gone by and you find yourself wondering over morning coffee and a sink load of dirty dishes how you ever got to this place and what happened to the goals and dreams you had and the promises you made to yourself, and wait a minute…
Just who are you anyway? A glance in the mirror reveals the child you were just yesterday, in fact you’re pretty sure you graduated from high school last week, but suddenly there are more wrinkles and lines, and you don’t recognize the face staring back at you. Where did you go?
This middle place produces casualties; marriages of your friends ending around you because maybe they too woke up one morning and wondered who was lying next to them in bed and it occurs to them they don’t know this person any better than they know themselves. They’ve slept angry for years. The nail clippings and toothpaste tubes and peed on toilet seats become F-5 tornadoes that threaten to destroy the house, ripping out walls and scattering crayon pictures and homemade popsicle stick frames. The storm is always brewing just beneath the how-was-your-days and the peck-on-the-cheeks. All us middle people smile and dance because there are always little eyes watching and tiny ears listening and their dreams at night are scary enough.