Today I’m having lunch with my friend B. I see B almost every time I go to the Cambridge Zen Center, which means I don’t see her often enough. Often, B is leaving the Zen Center just as I’m arriving, so we have five minute chats that always end with some version of “We should do lunch sometime soon.” We’re both perpetually busy: B has her work at the Zen Center, and her teaching, and the demands of living in a full house. I have my teaching, and a fiancee, and the demands of living in two states. It’s not that B and I want to procrastinate our friendship: it’s just that “Sometime Soon” is a slippery thing.
Last night, I reached the chapter in Karen Maezen Miller’s Hand Wash Cold where her daughter, Georgia, asks “What day is tomorrow?” It’s a brilliant question, even if it initially inspires a “who’s on first” kind of misunderstanding. Young Georgia isn’t looking for the name of the day that comes after Thursday; she wants to know when at long last the Promised Land of “Tomorrow” will bring all the things the grown up world has been putting off. If “Tomorrow” (or “Sometime Soon,” or “Maybe, Eventually”) is when we’ll have ice cream, or feed the ducks at the lake, or get a puppy, or go to Disneyland, when indeed will this promised “Tomorrow” ever arrive?
“We should do lunch sometime soon” is a sad-sounding promise, like something from the song “Cat’s in the Cradle,” which always chokes me up whenever I hear it. The father in the song isn’t a bad dad: he doesn’t neglect his son because he’s out drinking, womanizing, or causing trouble. It’s tough to support a family: there’s never enough time. It’s easy enough to talk about keeping one’s priorities straight, but life perpetually gets in the way: jobs are always a hassle, kids always have the flu, and Time is always elusive. It’s easy to be so busy making a living, you forget to live a little.
Today my friend B and I are having lunch: at long last, “Sometime soon” has become today. When I asked B where she’d like to go, she mentioned a restaurant she’s been meaning to try, which offers grilled food served hot on their patio, weather permitting. “Maybe it’s too fancy,” B immediately second-guessed, “or maybe too hot.” How easy it is to talk oneself out of doing that thing you’ve been meaning to try!
“Fancy is perfect,” I responded, and so is Too Hot: if Someday Soon arrives at long last during the summertime, you just have to weather the heat. I’ll wear a sundress just in case the patio is both fancy and hot, and both B and I will enjoy the chance to sit down over a meal, finally at long last.