My getaways to Portland always seem to come at the right time... when I’ve had enough of the daily grind for a minute and I’m ready to spend three hours on the road solo, with nothing to distract me from dealing with my thoughts.
“May was brutal,” I said to G as I was climbing into my car on the evening of June 7. “I can’t wait to see you. Don’t worry, I bought lots of wine.”
I plugged my phone into my stereo with an auxiliary cord and pulled up a random Spotify playlist. And I began to drive, and think.
It was a good time to unplug. I’d been watching Facebook intently for updates on my friend from high school’s little son, who was battling leukemia. It wasn’t going well. I’d also begun to get a nagging feeling in my gut- related to my job, and my career future- that I wanted to drown out with wine rather than deal with. Between all of that and having my heart ripped from my chest the night before listening to E (one of the ladies in my latest bff trio) describe her fears over losing her boyfriend J to cancer, I needed the therapy that only a solo road trip could provide.
I was an hour into the drive when I heard a song I’d heard many times before, but had never really “heard.” I’m sure that happens to us all. I was lost in thoughts of “What if” when the lyrics jolted me out of my worry coma:
Sometimes I feel the fear of uncertainty stinging clear
And I can’t help but ask myself how much I'll let the fear take the wheel and steer
It's driven me before, it seems to have a vague
Haunting mass appeal
Lately I'm beginning to find that I should be the one behind the wheel
“Oh, God, “ I said out loud as the tears began to fall. I listened to it once, then twice. Before long, the tears had dried and I was feeling better... about everything. I was also still listening to the song on repeat, belting it out loud and proud as I cruised down the freeway...
Whatever tomorrow brings, I’ll be there
with open arms and open eyes, yeah.....
Yeah, I thought. I don’t know what will happen with that sweet little boy. I don’t know what will happen with J, or my job, or anything. But whatever it is, I’ll be there to face it. Bring it on, world! I’ve got this.
My weekend with G was amazing. I’ve spoken before about the illness that almost took her from me a couple of years ago. The weekend I picked to visit was the weekend she finally went off the last of her medication. For me, it meant really, truly having my friend back. For her, it meant facing a world she hadn’t seen clearly in years, along with every emotion that went with it.
“I can’t believe it,” she said, looking around as we sat on the patio of a martini bar eating pasta and flirting with our server. “Everything is so clear!”
For you, maybe, and that’s good, I thought.
I headed home on Sunday night, recharged and refreshed, with better hair and a better attitude. Whatever tomorrow brings, I’ll be there, with open eyes and open arms....
That statement is easier said than done, it turns out.
His name was Colin. He was four years old. And not long after I returned from Portland, that precious boy got very sick and he died. To watch a little boy slip away from his family over social media, not being able to do anything to stop it, was one of the most brutal, heartbreaking things I’ve ever experienced.
My heart shattered when I read the news. I cried and cried, thinking of his strong parents and his sweet little sister. I wondered if she’d remember him. I wondered if my heart would ever not break when I looked at a healthy little boy his age or saw an ad for Monsters University, which was released the day after he died and is the sequel to his favorite movie.
But through it all, I was totally inspired by the way Colin’s family came together and supported each other. They gave him so much love as he got sicker and did so much for his parents, I couldn’t help but be touched. And even though his family was dealing with unfathomable grief, they understood that they were blessed to have had their little boy even for a short time. Their hope gave me hope.
Meanwhile J got some devastating news when he saw the results of his scans. Though we haven’t faced it entirely, our trio has gone from talking about having hope to talking about how we’re going to get through this. Though our attitude has shifted, we’re trying to keep it as positive as possible. After all, though today may be all E and J have, isn’t it all any of us have? Aren’t we all supposed to live as if we could leave this world at any time?
Everyone handles their pain in life differently. Some are comforted by Jesus, Bible verses or thoughts of reincarnation. Some choose to drown out their sorrows with substances or staying too busy to deal. Some get the lesson they’ve learned tattooed on their body so they’ll never forget it, like E. No way of dealing is wrong... some are just more painful than others.
Myself, I’ve chosen to take these brutal reminders of life’s uncertainty as a reminder that I need to face my nagging, underlying gut feelings, not ignore them. I need to face my emotional ocean, no matter how scary, decide what I want out of this life, and either pursue it or not. And that’s what I spent the rest of June doing... thinking, listening to what my intuition was telling me, facing my ocean... and deciding whether or not it was worth diving in.
I think it is.
So if I decide to waiver my chance to be one of the hive
Will I choose water over wine and hold my own and drive, oh oh
It's driven me before, it seems to be the way
That everyone else gets around
Lately, I'm beginning to find that when I drive myself, my light is found