Levees In London: Be Careful What You Wish For
Get ready for a story. When I was 23, I distinctly remember pleading with God for something.... I was at a crossroads in every sense of the word. On the heels of graduating college and deciding the trajectory of my professional career, I felt torn as I was also invested in a serious relationship with great guy for nearly 4 years. He had not proposed, and so I was struggling with how to navigate that situation. Do I stick around town for a bit and see what happens in the love department, or do I make a big move for a job far away. A serious conversation with my mom ensued. She said very plainly, "Honey, I did not raise you to be the girl that waits around for a man. If you do that, you will surely regret it. For if you don't go for it, you'll resent him, and if he never proposes you will resent him AND you'll have missed out on your opportunity. If it is meant to be, it will be, this I promise you." So there it was. I was going to have to make hard decisions and face consequences with the hope that it would all end up as it should. As I drove the hour long trip back to my college town, I rolled my windows down, and played "Free Fallin' by Tom Petty" until my loud cry of freedom shriveled into a broken and barely audible squeak. Before I went full mute, I managed to pull together one final cry. It was a wish, a prayer, and a plea all rolled up into one...
"God, I am just so ready for my life to start."
Those were my EXACT words. These are the stupid things you say when you are twenty-three. You just shout exactly what you are thinking with no real thought to the power of your words. Here is what I would come to discover about God and his divine sense of humor and timing. God LOVES a good laugh. Unbeknownst to me, Zac had been driving around town with my engagement ring hidden in his spare tire. Why you ask? Why would you put a really expensive ring in a spare tire? Fair question. What if I told you, that spare tire was encased in a 1994 Camry, that had one door that did not match the rest after a fraternity brother snapped it clean off during an unfortunate chauffeuring incident. One could tell that specific door was a new addition by its darker tinted window and grayer shade of white paint, which was still better than the bungee cord that held the broken door closed for a time. Let us not overlook, the Camry also had one of those fancy leather bras on the front. What the original purpose of those bras were, is beyond me now, but in this case it was to hold the bumper onto the car. Clearly, no one thought there was a diamond ring in the spare tire. (He's a genius I tell you.) After an incredibly orchestrated proposal on a Sunday afternoon, I felt like my plea had been answered, and my life was starting. Just what I wanted. After several days of walking on clouds, I received a call like a hairpin turn, my step-father had tragically and suddenly died at 59. There was a flip side to adulting.
I can remember packing my suitcase in my college room, my floors covered in bridal magazines and job applications. That entire day I had spent searching for a black dress that was fit to wear for a funeral, and make me feel like I was old enough to say good bye to a parent. Newsflash, it didn't. At the same time, the shopping trip made me realize I would have to expand my clothing repertoire past the Forever 21 brand. Ladies shouldn't bury their dad wearing lycra or polyester, and so I bit the bullet and spent more than 20 bucks on a sensible dress from Dillards. I looked like my mom in it, which scared the shit out of me. That entire trip, including his funeral, was a complete haze of tears and revelations and more tears at the revelations. I was ill prepared. As I sat at his graveside service, on the front row of the procession, I could barely keep my chin from quivering. This was not my moment of strength I had played out in my head, in fact, I had mentally checked out by this point. I believe my brain's protection mechanism had fired up right after seeing my once vivacious dad, in a silk lined casket. As they said a few words to sum up his life, I sat very still. Like the countless statues in this cemetery, I hoped I might blend in and be overlooked by the crowd. Out of the sky I felt someone cast a shadow across my lap. I looked up and there he stood, a gentleman stooping down with the stiffness of a nutcracker, gritting his teeth in a perfectly formed grimace. "Please accept this flag as appreciation for your father's service" I froze. No thank you, I would prefer to NOT accept this, ANY of this. I would like to go back to two weeks ago please. Tom Petty forgets to mention that when you are "Free Fallin," you eventually land. Hard. I must have eventually taken the flag from him because my next memory is hanging my head to hide my surprise and my tears. When my eyes began to part in a blinking fury, through my blurry lens I could make out the image of my hands resting in my lap. They looked so different today, so instantly changed. Holding a flag for my father, my newly sparkling engagement ring on my finger, resting atop of what was my best attempt at a woman's grown up black dress. God, if you're listening, I'm listening. What now? I'm so sorry I was so stupid, can I just go back to normal? I want to go back to being a kid again.
Well, I got the first wish, in abundance. In the short years that followed I buried two more parents, had three beautiful babies and moved four more times. I wasn't Free Fallin', I was a projectile missile being shot across the whole of the United States. I landed, with a loud thud, about a year ago when the first whispers of the pandemic arose. Do we all remember where we were when we first heard of this mystery virus outbreak? It reminds me of sitting in my high school biology class, when students where elaborating on how some pilot misjudged his route and subsequently plowed into one of the twin towers in New York City. As a bunch of 9th graders, we all thought, "What an idiot" and moved on. Only to be flipped upside down just thirty minutes later at the knowledge that it was an attack and our safe little bubble burst. The pandemic felt oddly similar. I had just celebrated my actual birthday and was preparing to go out with a group of friends to celebrate once more when we began hearing that schools, bars and stores were on the brink of shutting down. We all shirked the idea and said we would try again when the whole thing blew over. I hung up my red wig, white patent leather boots and Union Jack dress on a hook in my closet believing that I would take it for a spin before we moved. A few months later, I packed it in a card board box headed for England. Sometimes your time table is not God's time table, in fact, I don't think my time tables have ever aligned with the divine.
Even orders to England, came from deep out of left field. I shouldn't be too surprised, because like the total fool that I am, while driving in my car, I recklessly pleaded the desires of heart. Again. Do you see the theme here? I recall, I was listening to "Ramble On" by Led Zeppelin and I began to shout, "Ramble on, And now's the time, the time is now. To sing my song, I'm going 'round the world, I got to find my girl" as loud as my throat could hold the note. It felt so good and sounded so bad. I totally didn't care. I closed my eyes when I pulled up in my driveway, and before I rolled up my windows I let the salty Oceanside air lick my face as I sat there. Our neighborhood was surprisingly silent for a landmine of kids and cars. I whispered in the silence, "I want a big adventure. God, I want to get uncomfortable because I'm ready to make leaps. I have nothing left to fear. There is not much left out there that can hurt me, I think I have felt it all now. Let's go." Yes, that is how stupid I am. I basically tarred and feathered myself to be shot out of the sky. When I listen to music, I get crazy ideas. The music makes me feel invincible, and so I say things that I will need to salt and pepper and subsequently eat later To be exact, five days later Zac called from the office. This never happens as most times he is either in meetings or in some vault that makes him unreachable. When he calls I always brace myself because it is rarely, "Hey hon, how's your day?" it is usually, "Hey Babe, do you have a minute to talk, I have news." My hope is that one day, when we are done with military life, he will call and ask me what I ate for lunch instead of giving me news that makes me want to lose my lunch. On this day, I was walking down my hallway and I decided to actually sit down when he said, "Are you sitting down?" I was bracing for impact, this could be the big one. We were waiting on orders and our list of options was like either taking a punch to the face or a punch to the groin. Zac's career track comes in waves of highs and lows and so I keep my expectations really low. He says shortly, "Babe, a job opened up in London, and I fit all requirements and I have the experience they are looking for... it is a brand new position, I would be using my knowledge of...." I wont sugar coat my thoughts friends. WTF. What?! Wait? Like for real? I made no discernible noise, I just screamed and laid flat on my back in the middle of my hallway. England? England! Zac and I had just gotten back from Vegas where I had jokingly looked at the The Paris, and said, "Hey, let's eat there as it's the closest we may ever get to Paris." In a matter of sixty seconds those became more words I should salt and pepper, and I wasn't mad about it. Now, I would be a train ride from the real deal, not it's Vegas knock-off. In another act of ironic humor, my book shelves lined with Tudor History, English Fairytales and stories of the real lives of the English Nobility, would not be a faraway fairytale. I could see it all, IN PERSON. Just at that moment, the fan in our hallway clicked on, which startled me and my free fallin' thoughts. I fell right back to reality and the sound of Zac's anxious voice, "Babe, Babe, are you there? Is that a yes? Should we go for it?" My response, just like my prayer was, "let's go."
I laid in that hallway almost exactly a year ago. Now I am in three layers of snow, with three inches of brown roots waiting for the world to go back to normal. If I was my old self, I would start blaring loud music in my kitchen which would then fuel me to start pleading for things. Wishing for things that would satisfy the desires of my heart after Covid. Things like: trips to Paris, Scotland and Wales. A summer vacation to the rocky beaches of England, amid spontaneous city trips to taste and see what one of the greatest cities in the world has to offer. But in a few weeks I will be 36, and so I believe I am a little, just a little, wiser. Covid has changed us. Forever. I have been wrestling with this notion, but it's true. We can't get the toothpaste back in the tube, and the genie will have to get his vaccine before he gets back in his lamp. Really think about it. We don't bat an eye passing through metal detectors at airports, amusement parks or large scale events. After 9-11 we have normalized the process, we prepare for that process and it doesn't seem strange to us. To think that after a global pandemic, the vaccine will roll out and we will all run back to our old routines is almost laughable. I'm not saying this to be dramatic, I am saying this because it is being handed to us. We have to accept it. (Much like the folded flag in that cemetery.) Acceptance is always the first step in moving forward. Sometimes we move forward because we want to, we make a decision to go. But other times, we are pulled out by the current, pinging and scraping along the rocks that are the new things we weren't prepared for. That's life, and those cuts and bruises will serve as reminders that sometimes the choice is no choice at all.
In an effort to show some growth, these are my wishes for the future. This time, they are intentional, thoughtful, and at the ready every time I whisper or sing like Stevie Nicks before God.
My big picture wishes...
I hope our world is changed for the better.
I hope after Covid, we all recognize the importance of people, relationships and connection, and that we are motivated to take more time for the REAL relationships in our lives.
I hope we rethink our treatment of those we depended on during this pandemic: teachers, first responders, doctors. (None of them make enough)
I hope we are kinder.
And now, for my personal pleadings...
I hope I remember to stop wishing these long days of togetherness away. When I'm a tired and weary parent, may I be reminded that these are our best days, and they are precious.
I hope this taught me to SEEK better, not more.
I hope my kids look back on this time when we were stuck together and they can laugh.
I hope to take them on trips not to check off a wish list, but to connect with them and inspire their minds.
I hope we take the things we learned about each other and it makes us appreciate one another more.
My final plea. If you are reading this, I hope that you remain hopeful and open to whatever new world awaits us when the dust begins to settle. I hope that you wish for things, and that those things are big and s
mall but always intentional. I hope you find a new joy in the simple day-to-day, but I also hope that you feel a stirring to do more, see more and enjoy more outside your comfort zone. We can never go back, we have so much to look forward to. Remember your words have power.
Love from London,
As always, LIKE, SHARE, SUBSCRIBE if you want to see me salt and pepper all these words. It happens.