In a Strange Land: Five

We can never know about the days to come
But we think about them anyway
And I wonder if I’m really with you now
Or just chasing after some finer day.

Anticipation, Anticipation
Is making me late
Is keeping me waiting

[Carly Simon, “Anticipation”]

I did not know what it was that I was waiting for. It was a recurring feeling, though, that something was going to happen and that I should prepare for it. This feeling came upon me in those moments of repose, when I was not distracted by some immediate business. In between the activities of my daily life, I would feel a pause as I thought about what to do next. Something was going to happen, or I was going to have to do something, for which I did not feel ready. I felt that I should be preparing myself for it.

It was the apparent need to be ready that made me anxious and unsettled. The feeling reminded me of the time before my exile when I lived from deadline to deadline. People expected things of me. I had work product to produce, schedules to follow and appointments to keep. Maybe the anticipation that I now felt was only a phantom feeling left over from the time before. Like the phantom sensation of an amputated limb, the expectations of being ready and responsible for the outcome remained real to me and yet had no substance.

It was not like before when the outcome of my work was well-defined, and achievement could be measured against someone’s notions of goals and objectives, even my own.

The outcome of exile was how a life was lived. That outcome could not be defined in advance and could not be predicted. I could choose whether to set goals and objectives for the duration of my exile, but I chose not to. I made no judgment disparaging those who might continue even in exile to measure themselves by defined achievements, but it seemed to me that a goal achieved would necessitate establishing a new goal ad infinitum, ‘til death do us part. For my way of thinking, setting goals to achieve in this stage of my life somehow missed the point.

The outcome of my exile was for me unknowable. It was not a thing to be anticipated. My recurring feeling of anticipation—the idea that I should be preparing for something that would happen—could be explained as a reflection on the strangeness of the landscape in which I found myself. There was no more preparing to be done. There was only being ready for the present.

And tomorrow we might not be together
I’m no prophet, I don’t know nature’s way
So I’ll try to see into your eyes right now
And stay right here, ’cause these are the good old days.

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