Dateland: Putting On the Brakes
Nonsense. It dominates my life. It lumbers across my personal galaxy like a bulky, brutish planet, eclipsing meaning and shoving insight into a black hole. It distracts me. Makes me miss important moments. It causes me to focus on the promise of dessert instead of enjoying the meal in front of me.
There are those rare days, though, when the heavy veil of nonsense is parted by wonder and connection. On these days, life seems bigger and my existence seems smaller.
Today was one of those days. But it didn’t start out that way.
It started out with me crabby.
I woke up at 5 a.m. irritated because I had a lot to do that day. I had to get from point A to point B and to a lot of points further down the alphabet. And there were obstacles in the way.
I was irritated even though I had just returned from a 10-day trip to Cape Cod, my favorite place in the world(!), with my favorite person in the world(!), the love of my life who I reconnected with miraculously after 25 years apart(!). Two days before we left on our trip, we completed the purchase of a home(!) where we’ll live with her kids(!) and my dogs(!).
That day I had to leave early from our suburban home to travel to my beautiful cottage(!) on a Great Lake(!). I had to take a ride on my boat(!). I had to see a good friend who I haven’t seen in 20 years(!) and finally meet her children(!). They had been staying at my cottage while I was in Cape Cod and we would have only a few hours before they had to head back home to Denver.
In spite of this good fortune that was showering down from my heavens, all I could focus on was nonsense. The drive would take two hours each way! I had to pick up boxes for our move! I had to complete a small work assignment! I had to pay my water bill online!
By the time I arrived at my cottage to meet my friend and her kids, I was already planning my exit. I rushed in and with only a glancing embrace announced that I had boxes to buy! Water bills to pay! Yes, I had just arrived, but I would have to leave very soon.
My friend looked up from what she was doing, which was inserting a feeding tube into her five-year-old’s stomach. She is a single mom who has adopted three disabled children. “We’re just happy to spend any time you can spare,” she said with incredible calm and generosity, when what she should have been doing was punching me in the face.
Suddenly, her two teenagers appeared from a bedroom. “We don’t have to go on the boat,” the 17-year-old said. “Maybe we can just take a walk and get to know you.”
And it was that hammer blow, that moment of grace and maturity from a fully realized human being, that obliterated the nonsense clouding my world view. Suddenly, I felt alive. I was present. I was completely focused on point A and not worried about getting to point B.
We did take a walk! We did go on the boat! We did get to know each other!
And then, at lunch, when I asked for the check, the waitress said that it had already been paid by neighboring patrons who had witnessed my friend’s masterful mothering and wanted to show their appreciation.
These small moments of grace happened 24 hours after the massacre in Orlando. It was a powerful reminder to me that while focusing on day-to-day nonsense can help numb the pain of life, it also blocks joy, hope, and love. I’m sure that tomorrow I’ll be focused once again on paying that stupid water bill, but today, I lived.