"I never look back, darling," Edna tells Mr. Incredible. "It distracts from the now." As laudable as her attitude might seem to self-help gurus, I'm not convinced that The Now is all it's cracked up to be. Sure, there are a few downsides to worrying about the future and regretting the past, but for me the idea of living in the present seems kind of ... one-dimensional. (Technically, I suppose, the term I'm looking for here is three-dimensional. But still. My point is that four dimensions are more dimensional than three.)
I spent hours last summer selecting paint colours, furniture, and floor coverings for my new home, but it was only when I moved in that I realized how ... 1970s all my choices turned out to be. I have shag carpets everywhere, dark brown curtains hanging from every window, and the yellow paint on my kitchen walls is only a shade more Tuscan than the buttercup-yellow curtains my mother hung on her kitchen windows when she moved into her brand-new house in 1977. My carefully selected couches are upholstered in a woven fabric that is uncannily similar to that of the couch I sat on to watch Sesame Street and Electric Company.
It's not just the house. It's the Meet-the-Teacher BBQ and P.D. days and packing lunches. When my children were infants I was blazing a new trail, but now that they're in school it's more clear: I've turned into my mother. And there's something so reassuring to me about the act of placing my feet carefully in her footsteps.
In The Mill on the Floss, Maggie Tulliver reacts to her father's bankruptcy with the dismayed sense that there will be nothing at the end of her life that is the same as it was at the beginning. These days, we no longer expect to find ourselves surrounded, on our deathbeds, with familiar, well-worn objects. Our houses are disposable and our beds and tables even moreso. But that urge to preserve the past has always driven me to diarize, to preserve the past, to stretch the now like a thin piece of crepe so that the past shines through it and illuminates it.
Today I was blindsided by a sudden sense of panic. I reeled from a sense of impending betrayal, an almost physical sensation of pain. And then I remembered. It's the first of October - the tenth anniversary of this conversation. Thinking about that day doesn't hurt me anymore, but the pain is still there, a kind of companion to these fall days, a dark friend that lends a new dimension to the now.