On Monday we drove from Castlegar back to Vancouver where we would fly from the next day. We drove through the Rockies and on one particular turn I was struck with a memory. The first time I drove that route was in my Karmann Ghia. My brother and mother were in the other car headed west. We were moving to Campbell River to be near where my father was working. I had lagged behind letting the mountain curves hide me from view. I was just starting to smoke and wanted to light one up without being seen.
Now, of course, I know that smokers can't really hide smoking. But, I was young and still getting a 'buzz' from the cigarette. Driving mountain roads while slightly light headed didn't strike me, then, as simply stupid. The memory of slowing down and lighting the cigarette was a powerful one. Here I was years later driving that same route, in vastly changed circumstances.
Then, I faced an uncertain future. I'd been told, and told, and told again, that I wouldn't amount to much. That I was fat and ugly and virtually unlovable. That I was stupid, clumbsy and could only aspire to oafishness. Then, as I drove into the next part of my life, I felt little in the way of hope. I endured. I didn't look forward to much, tomorrow's certain humiliation wasn't something to anticipate with relish. Then, I didn't know what to expect but I thought that I did.
That 'then' was mere weeks before I met Joe. That 'then' was lived without knowing that there was someone in the world who would see me as something worth time and worth energy and worth love. That 'then' is buried under a history of wonderful 'nows'. The 'now' 42 years ago when we pledged our lives together was a wonderful one. The 'now' when we lived in a tent for a summer while working at the mill, ah, that was a wonderful 'now' too. The 'now' where we first, openly and with great fear, marched for our rights as a couple, yep that was a great 'now' too.
You see, I believe that the past is simply a collection of 'nows' ... not a dusty bin of 'thens'.
So the 'now' I experienced in driving home from Castlegar, after driving nearly 6000 kilometers over the province of British Columbia, staying in more than a dozen hotels, lecturing to scads of people, selling books, signing books, chatting at breaks, answering questions, asking questions, celebrating and crying, that was a pretty terrific 'now'. It was terrific because it feels good to finish what you start. It feels good to know that you've done your best and have real hope that it mattered. But it was also a wonderful 'now' because when I went from the memory of a distant and dusty 'then' ... I realized that my 'nows' started with Joe. My 'thens' have ended. 'Then' I lived with despair. 'Now' I live with Joe.
'Then' I wish I knew: It gets better.