When I was tiny, I believed a tinier band – music band – lived in the dashboard of our car. I was amazed the tiny band who lived in our radio at home knew the same songs as the ones which played as we motored over the autobahn. I also believed fairies lived in the trees and toadstools around our homes and a very sketchy clown lived in the basement…every basement. I believed everyone knew the punchline to the jokes, but me, and that skiing was like flying. I believed I was never going to know love and family and hope. As a doctor told me very young, I knew I was not likely to ever have children. I knew perfection was the only option and I knew my imperfections too well.
I thought about this while curled in my son’s discount store sleeping bag as old and new friends spoke around the last of a once-roaring bonfire into the cooling night on a sandbar. The memory of that “knowledge” of always being the odd bit or “Tacky the Penguin-ish” kid in a world of Angels, Nicely’s, and Ashleys surprised me with its intensity. And there I was, filled with a day of friends, farmers markets, yoga, kayaking, wee Evan with his folks, and community around a fire. Warmed by Kenan’s sleeping bag. I wept.
What are all of those “things” we knew for certain? Our paths and ambitions; fears and failures we were sure to carry through the narrative of our short lives?
Smarticles: I knew being smart and creative and wily and hard-working would be the ticket to life. It wasn’t. My best efforts failed me again and yet…
Friends: I have friends who love me for me even in my messiest and most forlorn moments. You know why? Because I love them in their messy forlorn moments.
Friendships are not the stuff of magic and privilege I once believed. They are forged in time and tears, head-thrown-back laughter, chocolate-milk-flying-from-the-nose moments, reading side-by-side, and saying “yes” to helping one another move. It’s not magic. I know now about friendships: we can do this.
Hope: I’ve learned that hope does not disappoint, but people do. I will disappoint you. We will disappoint one another. It’s what we humans do. And we also love and lift and adventure and rest and hold hands and offer to tether our kayaks to another to help them move forward. We are kind and surprising people. I believed hope was a lie until it wasn’t.
Now I am moving towards something I “knew” I’d lost forever: grad school. Twice in my life, I’d been offered opportunity to move towards grad school and each time – after much wrestling (wailing and gnashing of teeth) – I declined. I know me and balancing a growing family (Magpie and Kenan) with a full-time job (once as a single mum) and higher learning commitments would be as cumbersome as this sentence. Something would be doomed to fail and I could not risk my relationships with the kidlets.
Will there be a return on the investment of time and already ridiculously tight budget? This I don’t know. I’ve got to try. It’s time. I have talents to expend and people to connect, encourage, and equip in making communities stronger.
Saturday night, listening to the cadence of the guys talking around the fire, I learned again we are foolish to predict or control our future with what we know in the present.
An unexpected conversation can change a life as do loss, love, and Sunday mornings running about town. We get up and do our best and keep moving forward. Remember, once, I knew I’d never EVER be so fortunate a fool to have such family and friends or adventure as enjoyed this weekend.
Sunday morning, I picked up some glass bits off the sandbar in the cool foggy sand. The fire was restoked and our plan to paddle home took shape. I’ll keep those shiny bits and that glistening pearly shell to remind me of what I know now; we just don’t know.
So come on, Serendipity, step in.
Fear: watch me finish my application.
Loneliness: stick around if you must, but not for long.
Pals: let’s plan another night by the fire and soggy sandbar.
What I know now is miraculous: I’ve got family and friends to adventure with in what seems like a miracle of living and derring do.
Join me. There is always room at the table. We can talk about nothing or what we know now.