The Fifth Line


The other day, my daughter pointed to one of the jagged lines criss-crossing her palm. What are those cracks?, she wanted to know. So I pulled up a sort of Palmistry 101 website, and we sat there, labeling each one. Alright, so that one’s your life line, I told her. That spot where it divides in two – that’s when something big changes, like maybe you get a really cool new job. 

After we’d covered the major lines – Life, Head, Heart, Fate – we twisted our hands from side to side, looking for the smaller cracks, then scrolling through the website to find out what they meant. Those little lines in between the index finger and the middle finger represent your kids, and I showed her how I have two. That’s you and your brother, I said.

Then I turned my hand over, and – silently – counted the horizontal lines below my pinkie. The love lines. They’re supposed to say how many “significant relationships” you’ll have, so I think it’s safe to say I counted them with some interest.

Over the course of my life I’ve had four relationships that I’d call significant, whether for their length or their intensity, or for both.

On my hand, just below my little finger, there are five lines.

So here’s a thing I’ve been thinking about lately: When you blow up your life, as I did just a few months ago, you find yourself sitting on a pile of ashes. Everything you thought you wanted; everything you thought you had; everything you saw in your future: gone. Erased with a single sentence.

Your mouth opens, and you dismantle your world with your words.

But when you take something apart, even if it goes all the way down to the bare bones, you’re still left with those fundamental elements – the building blocks – that started it all. And you get to begin building again.

It’s an exciting realization, that what you’re holding in your hands amounts to virtually endless possibilities. It’s also paralyzing.

I remember this feeling from a long, long time ago. I wrote about it way back in 2012, when we were trying to decide whether to buy our first house, and I found myself laying awake at night wondering how in the world anyone picks a lane, when there are so many other roads that could be traveled.

One day, you say to yourself, I’ll move to Italy and have a yard full of lemon trees. Or maybe I’ll buy a place in California, right on the ocean. Or maybe I’ll find a gorgeous townhouse in the far reaches of Brooklyn. All you know is that where you are right then isn’t where you’ll likely stay, and there’s something very freeing in that knowledge. You don’t know where you’ll be, but you know it won’t be where you are.

It’s a wonderful thing – a privilege – to feel that you can do anything…but it also makes it really hard to finally choose what you want to do.

I did end up choosing, of course: we bought a house, and in taking that leap we set off down a path that I came to understand. I was a homeowner. I was an entertainer. I had a plan for the future, and it was a good one, a solid one. The right one.

I was wrong.

…So where does that leave me now?

It’s not about relationships or men – although that’s a part of it, of course. It’s about the fact that I’m off the track, with no real idea what life will look like ten years down the road, and the idea of picking a lane again is a terrifying prospect. Because I’ve blown it all up once, and I can’t do it again. I can’t do it to myself, and I can’t do it to my children. I want to get it right this time.

I only have one more line.

Every once in awhile, my children will ask me an impossible question; a question that I’ve never been able to answer even in my own head. And over and over, I’ve discovered that in answering these questions for them, I learn what I believe. I suppose that’s because in some ways it’s easier to tell them the truth than it is to tell it to myself.

When my daughter asked about the lines on her hand, I explained to her that we weren’t doing magic. Palm reading – or tarot, or any form of divination, for that matter – isn’t a party trick, and there is no “right” answer. It doesn’t matter what anyone sees except for you. Whatever you think the lines mean…that’s what they mean. I kept it simple, of course. She is so small.

But maybe, years from now, my daughter will ask me again about the lines under her little finger, wanting to know what they say, what they really say. And here is what I will tell her if she does.

They say that you are hopeful.

They say that you are afraid.

They say that you know that love is waiting for you, even if you don’t know what it’s going to look like when you get there.

And if she points to the last line, and asks, What if I get the last one wrong?, you know what I’ll tell her then?

I’ll tell her she can’t get it wrong. It’s simply not possible. Because sitting here at my kitchen counter right this very moment – walking through this maybe-future conversation in my mind – it happened again. I told my child the truth, and I found out what I believe.

That last line isn’t another person at all. It’s you. And my fifth line? It’s me. Loving myself. All the rest is a beautiful bonus.

But that’s just how I read it.

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