sites.duke.edu Intro to Visual Practice

I am alone on Labor Day. That’s not as bad as it sounds. I wasn’t alone until just now, and I won’t be alone later, but right now I am alone. And until a year or two ago that would have been unheard of–to be alone for any period of time, really, on a holiday.

My girls are away at school; I just dropped Jake off to go longboarding with a friend, although earlier today we went out to lunch and then to the mall for some back-to-school clothes shopping. It was so nice to have some one-on-one time with my boy. We had fun. Wes is busy tending to all that it takes to run your own business, which doesn’t always stop for holidays, and in the case of a seasonal business, particularly summer holidays, when every day counts for something–the nice ones for getting the jobs done; the not-so-nice ones (like today) for catching up on all the stuff you can’t get to on the nice days.

There are no family gatherings planned for today. In fact, it was an unusually quiet, uneventful long weekend. We had nice dinners, and the three of us went to a movie. I did a lot of reading, and that was about it. Nice in its own way, but odd, too. And it made me stop and think about just how much the rhythm of my life has changed over the last couple of years.

It’s easy to list the changes that occur from day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month, year to year, and to categorize them, and to speak about what’s changed and why. You can say things like, well, my kids are older now; they can drive; they live at school; they’re more independent; other people we know are at different stages and doing different things; there’s not as much going on, etc. But it’s something different altogether to feel the change. One day you suddenly realize that the life you had gotten used to no longer feels the same. The rhythm is new. Something has skipped a beat or two. Whether the change in rhythm is welcome, bemoaned, or inconsequential, it can be disorienting.

I sometimes feel as if I went from always knowing exactly what had to be done next to wondering, more and more, what should I do next? There’s more space and time and voids to fill with arbitrary and deliberate choices rather than having a set purpose that is defined by all that must be accomplished. Even though I still have a full-time job, volunteer part time, and up until 9 months ago, was even a student full time; even though I have a house and all that entails; even though I have extended family and friends; even though I have 3 children and a spouse who still need me much of the time for many things; even though I still have other responsibilities and obligations…our life is less scheduled, and the rhythm is decidedly slower, less frantic.

Of course there will always be those periods of time when life becomes crazy again. And I’m sure the rhythm will continue to change just as its changed in the past. Soon this new rhythm will feel normal until one day I realize that it has changed once again and become something else. I guess the key is to feel the rhythm and adapt accordingly rather than trying to dance fast to a slow song.

A change in the rhythm of life hopefully means that its fluid and moving forward just the way it’s supposed to. And while the rhythm may change, I think the melody stays the same because if the people who define your life are like the notes in a song, then when those notes come together, you will always hear the same music. Whether that music is playing fast or slow, the tune is always recognizable, familiar, and clear.