The calm streets, gentle breeze, and rustling leaves welcome me home every evening. I turn on the lights across the room. Let my dog out and take her around the block. Save for her excitement and running around, searching for toys, the house is still. The emptiness is calling me: the lazy river of the evening.
Maybe you’ve felt the pull of the stream. Social media updates, auto-play videos, people’s pictures and political opinions, the hours ticking towards nothing, no plot of your actions, the empty consumption of life, a lazy river whose mouth empties into the meaningless ocean where our selves get lost.
The surface is calm but the undercurrent is fierce. Swimming upstream requires effort. I keep my head above water, pulling one arm over the surface, plunging my hand down and pushing, scooping water back against my body, forcing myself out of this malaise. The current rushes against me, splashes against my chest and into my eyes, tempting me to look away from the shore, to plunge my head back into the water where I can swim more easily. I push on, forcing myself against the onrush of apathy, of the “play next in 20 seconds,” against the likes and featured posts, against the outraged headlines and sports scores, against the fear of missing an update of someone else’s life, which will provide me with no nourishment or knowledge, just anxiety and rage.
There. The bank of living, the bank of energy, the bank of ambition. I use the last of my power to get there. Climb the bank now. Dry myself off. Quickly. Haste to my life, to what must be done. Get going to the room—even if only in my head, if only an app on my phone, and not the actual place—and pick up my courage, myself, the dream of myself—of who I am and what I might still become. Shed the water from the lazy river for fear it might pull me back in. Block out those distractions and make the evening my own again.
Making my life my own again.