Life is a continuous journey to get better. Just when I think I’ve got everything under control, I’m challenged.
After a productive business trip to Cancun, I went to the airport yesterday feeling all accomplished and benevolent and pleased with myself. My talents multiplied, job well done kind of thinking.
When I get to the airport, I’m happy to be going home to my sweetheart. I go to the counter and, wham!, I’m told weather is going to make me miss my connecting flight. In that very instant my Mother Teresa sense of benevolence and holier-than-thou-attitude went out the window. My uncharacteristic knee jerk response was evidence that I could still go from Wise to Wicked in two seconds flat. So much for holy.
With the young man behind the counter I was petulant and obviously very unhappy. I knew better than to take my frustration out on him and yet I still couldn’t reel myself in. Finally I said, “Just put me on the stupid plane! I’ll figure it out on my own! I hate your airline and I’ll never fly you guys again!” (What really embarrassed me is I’ve watched people behave poorly in identical situations and have thought to myself I would never be so self-centered and rude. Hmmm.)
Afterwards, I poked around the airport, grabbed some lunch, and knew I should go back and apologize to the kid at the counter but did I? No. Instead I vowed I wouldn’t take out my frustration over this unfortunate situation on anyone else. That promise holds up until I get to my Ft. Lauderdale Travelocity booked “motel” (vs “hotel”). And darn if I don’t go off again. This time on my husband who booked it for me AND the poor little clerk standing behind the counter at this mean and obvious two star dive establishment.
After stomping off to my room, I realize I’m hungry and if I want to eat I’ve no choice but to risk getting mugged on my way to the on site restaurant. Turns out I’m wrong. The staff is great, the food is wonderful and the patrons are friendly (a bunch of nice people getting ready to hop cruise ships and one very nice if not sweetly inebriated truck driver).
In the middle of my dining experience, one of the busboys walks up to me and smiles and says,
“Excuse me. Are you a runway model? I know I’ve seen you on the red carpet before. You are gorgeous!”
Ok, I’m 55; it’s late; I’ve been annoyed half-the day; I’m in Ft. Lauderdale land-of-God-knows-how-high-humidity and my hair looks like I’ve stuck my finger in an electrical socket … and this CUTE KID is telling me I’m gorgeous. After my exceedingly bad behavior, I’m especially grateful and touched by his kindness and I buy his compliment lock, stock and barrel.
My unexpected and inconvenient 24 layover in Florida has turned out to be a lesson in humility for me. To stop and be reminded that angels are everywhere. To impress upon me to be kind even when I feel entitled to be mean, angry and rude. To stop patting myself on the back and to remember I’m part of a magnificent journey filled with all types of delightful twists and turns and genuinely good people.
As I write this, I’m sitting in the hotel lobby of this magical Rodeway Inn listening to the shuttle driver laugh with the patrons. I’m reading signs over the desk that say, ‘Gift Shop’, ‘Choice Privileges’, ‘Guest Services’ … and realizing, yup, all these things are true. Gifts and Choice and Privilege and Service. Everywhere. All we must do is be open to the possibility.
I’ve hours to go until catching my flight. I’m enjoying the busyness of the lobby and the delicious smells wafting out of the restaurant. I realize this place just might be a little slice of heaven and I can’t help but reflect on one of my favorite biblical passages: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” ~ Hebrews 13:2. I look up to see a plethora of colorful wings.
After all this, Sting is in the background singing, “We’ll walk in fields of gold, we’ll walk in fields of gold”. Coincidence? I think not. I now know it’s heaven.
I’m wondering if my hubby would mind if I stayed over one more night …
As most of you know, I’m pretty traditional in that I love ‘traditions’ like Christmas and such; I’m pretty liberal on issues like gay marriage; I’ve been very conservative most of my life (Ronald Reagan is my favorite president); as I grow older, I’m more libertarian and I’m starting not to give a tinker’s damn about any of those fools on the Hill. But one thing I’ve never been is a child of the ’60’s. My husband said he fell in love with me because I was born 25 (in other words, “old”). That said, I’m going through one of the most exciting phases in my life. At last, I’m getting connected with my inner-peacenik-tree-hugging-freeze-dried-hippie-self. The journey, in great part, is being aided by my remarkable daughter, Chelsea.
My child, born in 1984, is really an amazing woman. She has been an interesting study to me in that we’re so not alike. She has always walked to a different drummer. Always a marvelous girl, with an even, stable, unruffled temperament, she’s challenged many of my traditional beliefs about how a daughter of mine should look, behave and think.
Chelsea has never had an ounce of interest in being a fashionista or a girly-girl. Never interested in make-up or what other people thought of her. She refused to believe that the way she looked had anything to do with the content of her character. With no particular style but her own, my daughter simply refuses to conform.
One of my favorite stories about Chelsea’s commitment to walk to her own drummer is of one of her encounters with a favorite teacher at her all girls college preparatory. With strict codes of conduct, it was frowned upon to leave class to do something as mundane as go to the restroom. Chelsea knew the rules, but on this particular urgent occasion, she asked, “Mr. C, I know we’re not allowed to go the restroom except between classes, but I really, really, really need to go. Please, may I be excused?”
Mr. C, breathing a sigh of exasperation said, “Yes, Chelsea, you may go, but ONLY if you’ll brush that tangled mess of hair on top of your head.”
Chelsea, who loved not wasting time standing in front of a mirror in order to have a good hair day, happily agreed to his request, only to come back into the classroom with her hair brushed straight UP and OUT (as if she’d put her finger in a light socket!).
When my sweet daughter returned to class, wilder hair and all, Mr. C’s eyes flew open and before a word could come out, Chelsea said, “I did exactly what you told me to do, Mr. C. I brushed my hair!”
to which Mr. C simply smiled. And … as evidenced by the twinkling of his eyes, and the ‘A’ she earned in his class … Mr. Seaquist showed his approval for my daughter’s obvious delight in CHALLENGING her favorite teacher to NOT tell her how she should look (as if how we look has anything at all to do with how we show up in the world, right?!).
When I was 19, my life was transformed by a book, The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran. It shaped my opinion on most of the important issues of my life. Love, marriage, children and much more. To the best of my ability, I worked to live the truth found therein. Here is Gibran’s masterpiece on children:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
I did my best to be a stable bow for my daughter. I am grateful she finds delight in holding my hand and wanting me to go forward with her on her journey.
My daughter has taught me to be kinder to myself and mother nature. She’s inspired me to be more frugal. To get good at yoga. To eat less. To be quiet more. To eat whole food. To read labels. To live a good life and to leave the tiniest footprint on the earth that I possibly can. To leave the world better than I found it. To love children. To be kind to the elderly. To be respectful. To be strong. She’s as old as the earth, and yet as cool as a child of the ’60’s. A bit of beatnik. A poet. A writer. A thinker. A tree-hugging-free-spirit. An artist. One of the most unique and interesting women I’ve ever known. When I grow up, I want to be just like her.
Thank you, God, for keeping her out of harms way this week. Had she been seriously injured or killed in that traffic accident, the grief would have most certainly killed her father. And, please, for my sake and especially for the sake of her father, watch over her all the days of our lives. She is our arrow that flies. She is our gladness.
Chelsea and Luke. Hiking the Canyon.