With tuppence for paper and strings, you can have your own set of wings. – Mary Poppins
We can always be chasing the sun. – Sara Bareilles
I postpone death by living. – Anais Nin
I love all things Disney.
Thus, I’ve initiated a self-imposed semi-fast of all things Social Media for the rest of Spring Break.
I love you, British Columbia.
I share your obsession with the Magic Kingdom and all things Southern California,
and I’ll be very very happy to hear all about it
when you get back,
but the next picture I see of Splash Mountain might just have me booking a flight out to the Happiest Place on Earth.
With or without my family.
That’s how far it goes.
I used to think this obsession unhealthy. Dangerous, even. Frivolous, at best. I’d married a man who thought the best use of vacation time was hiking the uncharted paths of Sumas Mountain,
and who saw the unnecessary spending of money
something akin to slavery or godlessness.
And I believed him,
because he kind of had a point.
But somewhere around the fifth or sixth year of our marriage,
Somewhere around the time my brother decided he’d been called to live in another province (I know, really!?), and I realized that without my dad around to protect me from all the harshness in the world, it was just this guy from Portland who’d begrudgingly agreed to give Canada a try,
I lifted my chin to that same guy who wanted to backpack the backwoods of Butte or Billings or Boring, Oregon, and said:
I think its time we tried my kind of vacation.
So we did.
Five days later, gaping at two-year-old Noelle happily finishing her first complete meal in months,
(because, let’s face it, it was in a Mickey Mouse-shaped box)
The Backpacking American turned to me and said,
This was a good idea.
I met his eyes and smiled.
We were both thinking of the things we’d left behind.
The truth was, that year was one of the darkest we’d ever seen.
We were worn. out.
And those brief moments tucked inside the Mexican restaurant whose name I can never remember that juts out right next to the last drop of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad,
at the end of a bleak February,
watching Noelle gobble down her Mickey-shaped Mac and Cheese,
we found a piece of our family order restored.
And though the things we’d left behind would be right back there waiting for us the moment we got home,
maybe this minor reprieve would allow us to be ready to deal with them.
So we returned home
to the birth of our new baby,
the beginning of a new chapter,
And as I reflected how the year came to unfold the way it did,
I saw that everything that had happened then was a direct result of a choice I’d made two years before that,
in which I’d turned down an offer I’d only dreamed of
for most of my adult life.
Everything about it looked right,
but something didn’t smell quite right.
So I’d said no.
I’d chosen what I thought was the better thing.
The healthy thing.
The blessing-with-a-promise kind of thing.
Yet this oh-so-healthy thing brought me right to brink of heartache;
and when I searched for a way out,
I only got a phone call,
telling me I had leukemia.
Not quite the Disney ending we’d hoped for.
I love my Disney endings.
Storytellers restore order through imagination. We instill hope again, and again, and again. – Walt Disney
You know those stories with no loose ends? The ones with all the details tied up in nice, neat, free-radical-free packages?
They satisfy my angst-ridden mind.
They make sense of a less-than-tied-up life.
Or, as Disney himself said, they restore order through imagination.
Isn’t that what the best writing does –
Make sense of all the things that just don’t make sense?
I tried to explain this to Noelle yesterday afternoon as she and I stood around our kitchen island,
staring at a candle and
trying to make sense of
why a flame behaves the way it does.
And – as she so often does – Noelle cocked her head to the side and considered my words.
I see now why fire represents anger, Mom.
Say that again, girl?
It was one of those moments that would never have happened before leukemia.
Before leukemia, my daughter may have had these brilliant little insights, but I was so busy with myself and my stuff and my dreams and my great big things I was going to do
that I never took the moments to listen.
I didn’t put myself in places where I would hear these little treasures.
Because, as all of you parents can attest,
You never know when the gold moments are coming.
Noelle considered my question carefully before continuing:
– Fire is like anger because you never know what its going to look like next. It bends to the person who’s speaking to it and yells back. It grows and dies and makes everything around it hot.
I stared at my beautiful little girl and wondered just how exactly she came to be mine
and what the $*#( I was doing with all the moments I spent on the
great big important things
I think I’ll call you the Fire Whisperer, I said.
She laughed her uproarious, full-body laugh; the laugh of a child carefree and confident; the laugh of a girl full of giggles and gob-smacking, heart-warming smiles;
The laugh of a happy girl.
For the past eighteen months I’ve flirted with the idea of quitting my job.
I know. This was the job I’d worked so pain-stakingly for; the one I’d carved out, pushed on towards, made happen.
Yet, six years in, I’d wanted to quit.
The why would take at least three coffee dates to explain, but in the end it came down to work being just darn hard.
I saw other people doing things that just didn’t look that hard,
and I was tired of doing hard things.
And just this year, just when I thought I was finally past the resignation stage, one of those shifts happened.
Some sets of twelve hours honestly don’t feel like twelve hours. Some days are so beautiful you feel as if you can go forever.
Others seem to be sucking your very soul.
Last weekend I had one of the latter.
I came home entirely spent. I’d exhausted every moment of my twelve – nay, thirteen – hours struggling to cope with wave after wave of pain that someone else was going through, yet it felt like it was happening to me,
because I was trying to get her out of pain and couldn’t.
And as I threw off my shoes and coat by our front door, I thought about what I’d said to her:
This is the only time in your life that pain is a sign of a good thing.
You can freak out, but its only going to make it all take longer and feel worse.
So many have done this before you.
We’re gonna figure out how to do. this. thing.
I started to listen to myself.
I wasn’t listening to myself.
Do you ever notice that the most important moments of our lives happen when we think we’re most alone?
In less than ideal circumstances,
At the moment we don’t think we can go on,
Left without the help we so desperately needed?
Six weeks ago, I woke to rain.
But this wasn’t a traditional Vancouverite wintry day.
It was a glorious summer day on a tropical island.
You know, the kind of place we go to get away from rain?
At first, it didn’t bother us too much. Rain on a tropical island is always better than snow at home.
And after a couple of days, I started to see the beauty of the rain-kissed mountains and the unparalleled refreshment of a freshly-showered sun-peeked sunset.
But the fourth day.
The fourth day got to me.
I woke up angry.
Because this particular rain cloud didn’t cover the whole island.
It covered just. our. resort.
Here’s the thing:
Its easy to think that all the bad things in the world are happening just to us.
(here’s a hint: they’re not).
(in our case, it was laughable. We were in Paradise, for the love of all.)
But we can easily follow that thought that of course, only bad things happen to us
with all kinds of angry diatribes
that not only alienate us
from those that might help,
but also keep us right under that Eeyore-sized raincloud.
Unfit for human consumption.
We get so consumed with how we can’t believe this is happening to us
that we fail to notice
there’s sun just a little ways in another direction.
So on that fourth rainy vacation morning, instead of stewing on our lanais, chewing on the fat of our own consumerism,
we packed up our kids
and moved in search of sun.
We found it a mere ten minute drive to the south.
How many times are we only ten minutes away from relief,
and we spend
at least eight of those minutes
whining about our impending doom?
For that very ten minute drive also led us to an unusual collection of rocks that stretched out in front of the Lahaina harbor
Forty minutes later, two hundred feet out into the ocean, hearing the water surge against the rocks beneath us, we watched a group of children learn to surf as the sun glistened off the waves they were learning to ride.
Good surfers are keen observers.
They know how to read water.
They see what’s coming and make a plan to ride it out.
There’s a history through it, sent to us as a gift from the future, to show us the proof; more than that, its to dare us to move. – Sara Bareilles
Had that rain cloud not planted itself directly over our resort,
Had we not felt the frustration of our own plans being thwarted,
We’d never have found that jetty.
We’d never have learned that
the same cloud which hides the sun also leads us to search for it.
And while some sufferings we have to wait out;
Others force us to move.
Too often we expect our defining moments to be our easiest.
We forget that even when two million refugees walked through walls of water,
Thousands of years before the rest of us knew this would be their big moment,
they were not only unsure of their ending but overwhelmingly sure of their enemy.
And, barely able to see amid the torrential rain and breathtaking wind,
most likely they were unaware of their imminent deliverance.
Most likely they were nothing but
Your Red Sea moment may be right ahead of you.
You might be walking through it right now.
And you may be so consumed by the fear of what’s coming
you might not recognize the path for what it is.
But if there’s one thing the last five years have taught me,
its that deliverance often comes through disaster,
because if I’ve had a Red Sea moment,
It was the day I got leukemia.
Only leukemia forced me to stop caring what my life should look like
and pushed me to start chasing the sun
– no matter what life did look like.
Be not afraid of suffering.
It might be your very best friend.
Your ticket to freedom.
Your host to honest-to-goodness happiness.
And be not surprised when the climb gets steeper just as you’re starting to fade.
Your reserves are deeper than you think.
There is sun to be found.
Even on the wettest of Wet Coast so-called Spring days.
Like today, perhaps.
Go chase it.