I will let it go.
I am letting it go.
I have to let it go.
I am trying to let it go.
But I thought I was letting go
of something like a balloon,
and I would watch it disappear,
racing away from me on the breeze
to meet the clouds.
When I really let go, I saw;
I am the thing that floats away.
This is a poem, obviously, but it started as a dream.
I was reclined on the passenger side of Collin's car, halfway down the Florida coast en route to our new and temporary home in West Palm Beach. It was Valentine's Day, a common report date for baseball players due to what his agent affectionately terms "mental conditioning." In short, it means that players will miss any and all upcoming events, no matter how sentimental or monumental they may be, for the next nine months. Why not report on Valentine's Day? Just as any good athlete knows he should warm up his hamstrings and heart rate before settling into harder work; a baseball player should warm up with some scorned bickering from wife or girlfriend about the complete dismissal of love and romance for the sake of The Game. Sounds like a perfect precursor to fighting about missing people's weddings, graduation ceremonies, Fourth of July fireworks, Labor Day lake trips and maybe even the birth of one's own child if biology and the baseball schedule happen to clash that way. Valentine's Day is small fish to fry, really, when you think about it.
Anyway. I was dozing against the window; the kind of sleep that flutters lightly around your head like the flickering light through sped-by trees, a kaleidoscope of warm red inside your eyelids. I wasn't awake enough to keep my head up and not asleep enough to snore. As I drifted through this middle space— I linger there often, I have trouble fully sleeping— a vision materialized. A lucid dream, maybe, if you believe in that sort of thing. I do, since I have them all the time. I was looking at a balloon. It had a string tied to it, the cheap shiny-ridged plastic that curls up if you run it between your finger and a knife. The string was anchored by something and I assumed it was me. I watched the balloon whip violently against the wind, tugging ferociously at the string, begging to be loose. The sky was overcast, thick outlines of clouds moved at racing speed against each other like rain was coming. These clouds would be halfway across the state in minutes. They would be so far away, so fast. If I let go of the balloon, it would go with them. Somewhere else.
I felt grief. I asked myself the same list of questions I'd been asking myself for months.
Why can't you let go?
Why does everything want to leave?
What is so bad about me?
Will I feel better if I let everything rushing to go, go?
Will being alone, without it, make me feel free?
Will I be lonely? Does it matter? Am I lonely now anyway?
Is loneliness bottomless? Will I ever reach the bottom?
Then, in the dream, the string slipped from the grip of whatever held it. In that instant, I expected my fears to actualize. I waited to watch it fly away. Instead, my perspective shifted. I felt light. Blades of grass turned into blurry masses of green as I drifted away from them. I felt the strong, warm wind pushing me forcefully. Authoritatively. Without asking my permission. Pushing me away from that place and up. Up. Up. Up. Up.
I was flying away. I was the balloon. I looked down at the ground to see what was anchoring me. There was nothing. Nothing there.
I woke up immediately and stared straight ahead onto the freeway. I blinked my eyes once and fumbled for my phone, to write this before it erased itself from my mind like all good dreams and ideas do. I wrote the poem.
I named it grace because the feeling, the dream, was grace. Often I find myself awaiting my own execution. I sit patiently in the waiting room of my life, anticipating a terminal diagnosis I know I deserve. Grace is the doctor who opens the door, sits down in the chair next to me and apologizes that I was called into this place at all. It tells me to go. It tells me nobody knows what terrible thing I was anticipating, but it isn't going to happen. I am fine. I am free to leave.
I answered my own questions.
You can let go.
You want to leave.
The weight creeps around and over your feet. But you, you are not heavy.
You will feel better if you let yourself fly away.
Once you go, you won't be alone. Other things know how to fly, too.
Yes, sometimes you will be lonely. You are now, here, where you don't belong.
If loneliness is bottomless, fine. Love doesn't have a ceiling.
There is no verdict to wait for. Let yourself leave.
I finished writing in my Notes and put my phone down. I plugged myself back into my surroundings. Headed due south to the ocean, eighty miles per hour. Sitting next to the man who loves me, driving the car. The baby sleeping in the back seat. Jesus. I was already off to a good start.