She looked up at the sunset, keeping one hand on the wheel, and said, “Isn’t it beautiful?” I looked at how the red mixed with yellow through the city skyline and nodded. But, she didn’t see – and she didn’t care. Her gaze was focused on the picture, breaking it only to make sure we were still gliding through the dotted white lines, and I was content to be finished with this day and ready to start another.
The sun has a way of reminding us of finality. I guess it has to because our days and nights are governed by when it rises and falls, but it goes beyond a sense of time or how quickly the Earth rotates. Life is the seamless piecing together of phases. Some go on for years, and others for days or weeks at a time, and it’s become the sun’s job to remind us that all phases – good and bad – will have an ending. And, I think that’s why we’re drawn to watch an orange sun melt into a horizon: we’re in love with the idea of beginning again – a blank slate. It doesn’t matter if the chapter before was happy, sad, unremarkable, exciting, or any definition one could use; simply because tomorrow will be new, we believe it will be better.
And, there are two ways to look at it – one where we’re optimists, or the other that claims we’ll never be satisfied. Maybe it depends on whether you’re an optimist, or maybe it depends on the chapter you’re coming from, but either way, we live for the future, and that’s the scary part. We talk of tomorrow like it’s this sacred and removed time where everything will be better, telling ourselves we’ll work out tomorrow, finish the project tomorrow, or simply be better tomorrow – and that’s when hope becomes a crutch, when the sunset loses its power to actually mean something.
I’d like to believe the key is holding yourself accountable when you start to fall into the habit, and I write, “I’d like to believe...” because I definitely haven’t mastered it. These journals help because I can be honest with myself when it’s just a computer screen and me, but we’re all just victims of the idea of a better self when, in reality, we’re pretty damn awesome how we are – right now, right here. One day, we’ll look back on our present moment, and we’ll see its value, its necessity, its beauty and wonder how we missed it.
We took the next exit home and left the sunset behind us, sitting in silence for the next minute or so as I planned out tomorrow. It promised something different than that day, and that’s all I’d hoped for. But, then I looked at her, still looking over her shoulder every few seconds to catch another glimpse of the scene, and I got the feeling that she had something I didn’t.