Rendered Fat Content


Mary Cassatt: Children Playing on the Beach (1884)
" … I eventually stick my head up and into the clouds."

The GrandOtter rented a POS truck to shuttle herself and her stuff into the next iteration of her life. Balding tires, weary interior, frightening play in the steering wheel, that truck represented everything it should have represented to properly convey her into her next chapter. My right thumb powered my first escape across a hundred miles of scabland and up and over the great Cascades, my possessions contained in a small knapsack and a flimsy guitar case. The conveyance should rightly seem inadequate, for it's not about any present, but whatever comes next. In that moment of separation, the present has already receded seemingly to break trail for its protagonist to follow. These transitions drip with potential and require nothing but the barest shell of conventional support. Another great adventure, a Nexting, commences.

When I arrived on the other side, I discovered that I had been wholly unprepared to properly inhabit the place.
I felt out of my depth and drowning. I spent a part of every day longingly gazing across rooftops wondering where my familiar horizon had disappeared to. I slowly learned that obsessing over what I'd lost in the transition wouldn't gain me anything. I needed to peer beyond both the present and former horizon to see what clearly was not there, or, not there yet. I'd unwittingly stepped into my future which utterly failed to satisfy my former expectations for it. Merely inhabiting my future didn't quite cut anything, for it seemed thin an insubstantial. I'd need to learn to gaze far beyond the visible, even past the probable, for this fresh place to make any sense at all. I would have to become skilled at Nexting.

My thumb joints were installed backward at the factory, producing what physiologists call a Swan Neck Deformity. Since I cannot inwardly bend either thumb much beyond straight out, I am reliably prevented from texting as commonly practiced. I text like I type, using one finger instead of my usual typing two and a half. I cannot blaze through creating a text message like every fourteen year old can. My Nexting seems similarly encumbered. I was never able to crisply respond to the What do you want? question, because I never knew. Want seemed a tad too futuristic for my native taste. Truth told, I most passionately wanted to want what I had, figuring that the chances of disappointing myself would be reduced to zero if I could only come to appreciate what I'd already achieved. I might call this response Nowing, the tenacious acceptance of the present as the sum total of potential. Texting never came naturally to me. It needed some force fitting. Same story with Nexting.

For many, falling in love provides the first really powerful motive force for personal change. That emotion fueled my apparently fearless foray into my future, powered only by my apparently misshapen thumb. Others get sent away to college and find that they can no longer sustain whatever lifestyle they'd previously grown accustomed to. Some land jobs in some different region then find themselves transported into some future or some past, like my to-be first wife had when taking a job in mid-seventies NE Pennsylvania, which seemed permanently suspended in the early 1950s, after her four years living in Seattle's futuristic University District. It probably doesn't matter where Nexting lands you, touchdown will probably deliver somewhat of an ordeal. Coping with that ordeal becomes the true purpose of existence for a time until the rhythms and unlikely rhymes of the fresh space start revealing themselves to you. A sharper focus on potential has preserved more than one pilgrim's peace of mind.

I revere children for the possibilities they embody. Their endless play and squabbling serves as their Nexting. I suspect that we reflect our preference for Nexting when we leave our elders behind, for their potential seems narrow and thin. Before beginning again, some imagination seems necessary. In anticipation, we might willing change, or at least attempt to change. That these expectations are rarely realized, seems, upon future reflection, simply a feature, but in the moment, anyone might easily convince themselves that they've made THE Fatal Mistake when their sincere Nexting produces such great initial disappointment. For me, when (not if) this happens, I eventually stick my head up and into the clouds. I start imagining WhatNext again. I figure that there are an infinite number of Whatnexts out there (maybe many more) for me to use to lever myself out of whatever present discouragement I might experience. I won't come to this conclusion immediately upon arrival, but cornered, I've so far found my solace and my salvation by Nexting myself out into the great WhatNext.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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