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Leaning Into It

Anticipatory Living

No, I do not jog. I didn’t encourage my kids to join youth soccer, Pop Warner football, or the YMCA. They do not jog, either.

I remember debating with myself: to jog or not to jog. I’d had a roommate who jogged. He’d also played Pop Warner and high school football and even won a football scholarship, but blew out his knee, so he became a journalism major—covering sports. I tagged along with him once while he followed the UW golf team around a course. Aside from the mushrooms I found along the way, it was a most remarkably boring afternoon for me, though my roommate seemed endlessly interested in whatever might happen next.

It seemed that he was mostly living in the future, finding his energy in looking ahead. He seemed to do this when jogging, too.

My final answer to the Deal Or No Deal jogging question: No Deal! It was just too mind-numbingly boring. I took up stationary bike riding, which would have been equally mind-numbing had it not been for the book stand over the handlebars. I could read, which I never find boring, while engaging in unavoidably boring repetitive motion.

I called my bike-riding ‘leaning into it,’ because that was the sensation I felt when poised on that machine. I was certainly not making forward progress, but I was definitely leaning into it. I found the exercise refreshing and the leaning into it strangely rewarding. I began to understand why people jog. It’s an extreme leaning into it; they are chasing their future.

We live much of our lives in anticipation. Whether this expecting bears fruit doesn’t much matter. The warmth of our anticipation seems to matter a lot. Expected dread pollutes our present. Leaning into the future seems to create a more sparkly future, which bleeds back into our present.

Okay, so I get that, but I don’t understand the apparently compulsive drive that insists upon always doing something; the so-called active lifestyle. The over-filled agenda, the overwhelming schedule, the over-long list of lessons, clubs, practices, and commitments many adults inflict upon their kids. “In my youth,” this geezer proclaims, “most of summer was boring. There was nothing to do, so we had to make up some mischief ... or not.” Today, kids seem to get chased around to the point where they never find a moment for bored reflection. We reward them for chasing endless bright-shinys. Not to lean into their future, but frantically chase it.

I’m pretty certain that no amount of dedicated pursuit will forestall the onset of puberty. No schedule of lessons can side-step growing up. A bit of leaning into the future seems healthy, but on it’s far extreme, it’s possible to lean right through the future and chase the past. And while the future is sure to come, the past is certain to forever elude.

It’s big business here in DC to send kids to camp. Cripes, they have a camp for everything. And each one fills up early, long before I lean that far into my future, so Sara hasn’t been enrolled in any camp here. Consequently, she spends quite a few days bored to the gills, following me around on one or another domestic errand, leaning back into what certainly qualifies as an often unpleasant present. We’ve provided no kick-starting mechanism: no commitment to conduct dawn patrols, rush off to breakfast book clubs, or trundle into Tuesday afternoon teas.

She walks begrudgingly, prefers to be driven, and begs to drive herself, just as if she could. Together, though, we stumble upon these marvelous moments, spurred by dedicated inactivity or thwarted purpose. Some days intimidate us, so we just stay inside. Many plans fall unfulfilled. G-ma will ask when she returns from work, “What did you do today?” Our most common answer: “Not much.”

What kind of leaning into the future is that? Not much? We apparently accomplished nothing. But perhaps we’re laying foundation, quiet stonework that will not so much lean into anything, but perhaps solidly support everything to come.

People need elbow room. Leaning into’s important, and so is shrinking back. The most surprising things emerge from the most boring. It’s no sin to leave a day without having accomplished anything, and a high crime to expect to endlessly pursue. Sometimes, sitting still, your future finally catches up with you.

And look at this, I have an opening in my schedule just perfect for this happy accident to fit into.

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