A few months ago I wrote the following down in my notebook:
“We pasted over the cracks of ambivalence
With a story
Of poor timing.”
Rubbish Instagram poetry? Not my finest moment, to be sure, but then that was what a first draft is for. I was dealing with a lot of feelings, and as I have done before, I turned my attention to the structure to avoid the content. “If I find a way to put this into a verse, it will hurt less!”
Ah, hope. You stubborn thing. Despite all evidence to the contrary, you refuse my attempts to bludgeon you to death with the truth. (Perhaps I chose the wrong form.)
Of course, it’s not always hope that keeps us stuck in rubbish relationships, both one-sided and reciprocated. Poverty, illness, disability, rubbish economy, and institutionalized inequality can affect anybody, and sometimes we have no choice on these matters. But when there is a choice, more often than not, hope is the one to blame, and hope sings a painfully monotonous tune:
“It’s just the timing.”
What an earworm, right? And here’s the kicker: I don’t even believe in poor timing.
You only get one life. Are you seriously going to wait for the stars to align to go for the things that you want? Do you think you’ll live forever?
I grew up being told that my feelings on time did not matter, not when stuff had to get done. Not when I had to go to the hospital, or learn three years’ worth of English to avoid repeating the year, or take exams that would determine my future. There was no room for my fear of dentists when I had to have 14 fillings replaced in four days, or pondering the right moment to deal with bullies at school before they drove me to hurting myself. In my world, you got thrown into the deep end regardless of whether you’d learned to swim yet or not.
You’d think my family was strict, but growing up, I actually thought my parents were lenient compared to others. (For one thing, I was allowed to go outside unaccompanied from pretty early on, and I had unrestricted access to the library, regardless of the content.) They trusted my judgement, even if they pushed me beyond my comfort zone.
Beyond that, though, my family also served as a live example of how adults worked to make things happen. We moved as jobs changed – and sometimes reverted. My mother spent some time travelling between cities, staying in hotels Monday to Friday, before driving up to see us on the weekends. My father went to practice medicine in war zones because it meant earning a little more money for us. Our extended family is scattered across the globe, but finds ways to pull together in crisis. Poor timing is awful – but they saw it as an obstacle to overcome, not as an impediment to doing what had to be done.
So no. I don’t believe poor timing can kill love, or long distance, for that matter. I don’t believe that the stars must align for the right job to appear, or that I have to wait for the right mood to hit others to work towards what I think is right. I don’t believe that just because something – a job, a relationship – is hard, it is impossible to do.
Or, at the very least, I give it a chance. I owe it to myself to give it a chance.
Timing is not a test to love or character. It is a test of ambivalence.