My husband and I joke that time moves faster here in Japan. Before we know it, we are looking at the weekend. Back home it always seemed to be a Monday or a Wednesday.
I had to go home to Idaho in June. It was a purpose driven trip. The certification that I had so diligently pursued through Skype, was missing one class. It was heartbreaking news. Not only are plane tickets expensive, the time flying across the Pacific Ocean in economy class is also expensive. I can feel irreparable wear and tear on my veins with each flight. The tight fit is a physical test of endurance and congeniality. The thought of making that flight by myself for such a short time grew a pit in my stomach.
There was a silver lining to this cloud. Not only did I get to celebrate my birthday on my back deck, but I now could attend the wedding of my dear friend. The Universe had spoken. I was to be in Idaho for two weeks in June.
Now I know there is a collective “What?!” being yelled throughout Boise. It was one of the hardest things to do not to fill every moment with meetings and greetings. But here is the thing I am learning by living in Japan. To live the moment. To let go of control, to not have an agenda. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done.
Anyone who knows me knows I am a planner. Agendas were handed out to family and friends the week before my wedding. I had somehow thought that planning produced more positive time. Becoming a teacher and doing it for a living only entrenched this unconscious assumption that due diligence is required to have a good time. And to keep the peace.
Well, the agenda was already laid by the Mathematical Thinking Institute’s syllabus: five eight hour days of driving to Nampa, thinking, talking, learning about developing number sense in students in the fourth through eighth grade. That left two weekends and three days free to be. What’s a girl to do? For the first time in my life, I didn’t do anything. I kept my mouth shut. Yes I am a planner and a sharer. A new urge had gained voice and said, just wait this out, take what comes. Miss People Pleaser was not pleased. She could imagine how many people would be upset to know I was in town and wasn’t informed. I had to lock her in a closet to shut her up. For although her voice is shrill and piercing, this other voice could be heard, it was calm and strong, and it told me to wait and see. And so I did not tell a soul I was coming.
As the time got closer, things started to pop up. A friend out of the blue messaged me about a matter. She works in Nampa so she offered to take me to class. It was a gift not to have to worry about driving. Another friend emailed me about planning a retirement party for a dear teaching colleague, when I saw the date I couldn’t believe it! I would be able to attend. My dance card was filling up. At times I would catch myself wanting to plan this or that but somehow it would fizzle away.
I want to make it clear that I wanted to see each and everyone of my dear friends. I wanted to go to my school and check in with families. I wanted to go to the Saturday Market, walk the Greenbelt, drink a local beer. None of those things happened. What did happen is I stepped right back into the life I had left. I cooked meals, did laundry, tidied the house, went grocery shopping and worked in my yard. Through happenstance I went to boot camp one night. I got up early with one son and stayed up late with the other. We sat on our back deck and talked until we could feel but not see insects landing on our skin. We broke bread with those that crossed my path.
Time travel. By choosing to live in the now, by being present in the moment without thought to what should happen or what has happened, I experienced time in a new way. I didn’t wake up with my time over. When it was time to pack and go home, that is how it felt. There wasn’t any feeling of regret or angst. Contentment filled me in a way I have never experienced before. I am learning the secret of time travel.
Crossing the International Date Line twice in two weeks warps your sense of times and days. Luckily the Women’s World cup is going on so I have something to watch at 4:30 am. Watching the women play their hearts out gives me joy. Maybe its because it’s a concrete example of twenty two people living in the now. Somehow I feel connection to these players although I have never played soccer.
Etsuko gives me devastating news. They are moving to Yokohama City. She will be gone in three weeks. Wednesday morning, I begrudgingly trudge along the river my mind whirling. Episodes of my Idaho visit, feelings of panic losing my friend, math research swirl around in my brain making a high pitch noise. The beauty of the cool, misty morning, the herons flying, the fish jumping coax me to come back to the now.
It takes a man’s t-shirt to flip the switch. It says “ride gratitude, not untrue expectations”. I will never have this moment again. Bike riders dressed in company and school uniforms whizz by. Runners, joggers, and walkers pass the middle-aged foreigner starring into the river. Somehow Miss People Pleaser had gotten herself out of the closet and found friends. Unknowingly they had rallied and were the cause of the white noise robbing me of peace.
I cross a bridge that was the gateway to safety for the survivors of the Hiroshima atomic bomb. I have never noticed it before but there is a beautiful light in the archway. I now have a new route to my walk. I cross this bridge. I look up at the light. On misty days it is on, regardless, it is beautiful and a signal to me. It is the switch to make sure I am living in this moment. Now.