683: I Have a Rendezvous With Life

683: I Have a Rendezvous With Life

683: I Have a Rendezvous With Life


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

I’ve been tired lately. There’s been a lot of good things happening, and good people in my life, and I have very little to complain about. It’s just as Wordsworth once wrote, “[t]he world is too much with us; late and soon.” The world feels too much with me. At times like this, I admit I have an urge to run away. To pack up my life and move even farther away from everyone. I have felt this way before. It was about fourteen years ago, right before I left New York City.

I remember once in New York, the band I was in for a few years played a cover of “Out on the Weekend” by Neil Young. I’d almost burst into tears every time I started playing the song, “Think I’ll pack it in and buy a pick-up / Take it down to LA / Find a place to call my own and try to fix up / Start a brand new day” — I wanted to do just that, pack it all in and move, not to LA, but to Sonoma, my home town. I wrote one song that was all about running away, and all my poems turned into poems about nature and willing it to be in my life again.

What can we do with that feeling but heed it sometimes. Run away just a little bit. Move into the woods, or under the covers, for a day, an hour, a minute, a month. The trick seems to be to run away when you need to, so that when the world wants you to say yes, when you feel like saying yes to the world, you will. I’m a firm believer in running away so that you have some feeling of control, the idea that you are in charge of your own life.

That seems harder and harder these days, for me, and for many people in my life. To feel like we have some agency over even an hour. But that’s certainly what I want: agency. And whether that looks like freedom or commitment or creative projects or silence, I want to be the one making the choice. For me, that’s what allows me to want to make things, to want to keep rejoining the world, to not want to give up. If the world is too much with me, I reserve the right to shove it out a little.

Today’s poem is one of those poems that’s about recommitting to the world, about saying yes and saying yes with pleasure and excitement. This poem reminds us that inside the yes — there’s always a possibility of a no — and it’s that knowledge that makes the yes more powerful.

I Have a Rendezvous With Life
by Countee Cullen

I have a rendezvous with Life,
In days I hope will come,
Ere youth has sped, and strength of mind,
Ere voices sweet grow dumb.
I have a rendezvous with Life,
When Spring's first heralds hum.
Sure some would cry it's better far
To crown their days with sleep
Than face the road, the wind and rain,
To heed the calling deep.
Though wet nor blow nor space I fear,
Yet fear I deeply, too,
Lest Death should meet and claim me ere
I keep Life's rendezvous.