Tuesday, February 26, 2013

As Time Goes By

The fog dramatically creeps into a black and white movie set while paralleling the fuzziness of my dream.  The Lockheed Electra 12A is not about to take off with Victor Laszlo, but instead, my husband V, is piloting the plane.  Midgets run around the Soundstage #1 at Warner Brothers Studio in Burbank.  In Ingrid Bergman’s place, I am standing on the tarmac, full of hope, while my husband’s voice crackles from the walkie-talkie in my hand (Did they even have walkie-talkies back then? Well – whatever, it’s my dream, I can imagine what I want):  “Are you done, yet?” he asks, anxiously. “You’ve got 11 more months to get it figured out,” his words shout above the roar of the propellers and static of the radio.  “But Honey, just shut those engines off and climb down the stairs – it’s beautiful out here!” I proclaim.  He vigorously shakes his head in the comfort of the cockpit, “No, no.  I’m fine.  I piloted the flight here and I will pilot us home, I just need to keep the engines warm, and besides. . .” he searches for more excuses. . . “and besides. . . I need to keep contact with air traffic control,” he dutifully responds with a nod of his head.  I stand against the roar of the plane, and the wind of my heart.  My determined eyes focus on the horizon as the edges of my trench coat flap against my body, a single, glistening tear falls down my professionally makeup-ed cheek “But the sunset is so gorgeous!” I plead, “. . . and don’t you worry about those ants or other continental beasts, as long as you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you. . . come on out and experience this moment – it’s amazing!”  Still hesitant to leave the safety of the cockpit and venture out into the world of the unknown, I deliver my most meaningful and passionate line of the entire film:  “We are part of each other’s work, we keep each other going. . . If you don’t get off that plane. . . you’re going to regret it, maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life. . .” He stops fidgeting with the dials and knobs.  For a moment – despite everything else, the world is still.  He pauses, staring out of the windshield into the humid evening.  He lets the idea sink into his apprehensive mind and heart – knowing with a previously unacknowledged certainty what it is he must do.  He carefully unbuckles his seat belt, squeezes between the seats and heads towards the door of the plane. . .
  I have a favorite book – Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach.  It is the most meaningful $3.48 I have EVER spent in my life – at a Half Price books in Dallas, Texas.  I’m pretty sure that the target audience is 50-year-old-divorcee-women, but nevertheless; it is never too early or late to find your Authentic Self.  I love this book.  It has been a permanent fixture on my nightstand in multiple houses across multiple continents.  I gave a copy of this book to all the members of my wedding party.  I’ve had it for years and every year I devotedly commit to reading the daily passage.  In reality, it rests by my bedside and I pick it up when I’m feeling determined, stressed or uninspired.  (So as a result, I’ve read January’s, December’s entries multiple times and then sporadically throughout the year, respectively.)  This year, with my kids actually, um, sleeping regularly, I’ve been able to keep up my New Year’s ‘aspirations’ for a bit longer. . . I’ve started and been successfully making daily entries into my Gratitude Journal, which Sarah suggested to me years ago. . . and I have been reading the daily passages.  To my surprise and happiness, Feburary’s entries have proven quite helpful.  (which is totally typical of this book. . . any time you’re having an uninspired day, you can pick up the book and whoa laa!  You’ll find the answer to your creative or emotional struggle. . . unless you read June. . then she’s just telling you to clean your house.  Total Blah.)   
  Highlights from February: 
    “In Africa, to go on safari – the Swahili word for journey – is to leave the comfort and safety of civilization to venture into the wilderness.  Each time you listen to the woman within – your authentic self – you do the same.  . . A safari of the self and Spirit is at times lonely.  But we know we are never alone.  It is a comfort to realize that this sense of isolation is necessary if we are to encounter Mystery, and mystery is very much a part of a safari.  Each day in the wilderness brings with it the struggle to survive and a heightened awareness of how wonderful it is just to see the sun set and rise again in the morning.  Each day on safari is lived to the fullest because it is all that is guaranteed.  If only we could learn this lesson as well in our everyday lives.”  - Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy, Sarah Ban Breathnach
   I read the passage outloud to V the other night.  He nodded with wisdom, awareness, and appreciation.  This is why I love this guy. . . he can appreciate the advice given to 50-year-old divorcee’s, too.  He’s actually the one who came up with the pilot/me standing-on-the-tarmac-begging-him-to-join-my-safari-vision.  We laughed and smiled.  We’ve talked about how I’m on the upward tick of things (I think I’ve been on since our trip home to Dallas in November. . . or rather since Little Man’s 1st bday in October. . . If I can just survive the 1st year, I know I’ll be OK – I always said to myself.). . . but that we both agree that V may be just slowly starting his ascent.  I think because things were so tough for me the minute I stepped into this country – no accounting job, not knowing the language, no family nearby, no personal income, no friends nearby, no prior knowledge of how to take care of a child all day long, much less two, ages 21-months and uh, 3-months. .  my struggles to make our house a home (no furniture, no knowledge or how to get food home, or how to light the stove in order cook food once we carried it home) etc. etc. etc.  I came to the realization quicker that we had to adapt or die.  (Okay, maybe that’s too dramatic. . . adapt or Go Home. . .which of course, I was determined not to do. . . we’re supposed to be here, I reasoned. . . at the very least, uh, Paris is 2 ½ hours away – let’s not forget how fabulous that little fact is!)  Whereas, V was still floating along in a somewhat skewed version of a familiar routine. . . work. . . home. . . errands on the weekend. . . take care of kids at night, etc.  
  We’re catching on.  We’re getting it together.  I think this is the beauty of the entire process.  It’s tough – we’re on our own, with no one to depend on but each other and the few friends we’ve made (which are invaluable).  But it is a great feeling when we figure something out, like – knowing exactly where to go to buy a rug, or being able to successfully make family trips to Belgium for the day.
   I was at Charity High Tea last weekend (I know – doesn’t that just sound fabulous and fancy?!  It was quite fun and lovely though – beautiful spread, great friends, a really nice event on a snowy Sunday afternoon) but one of the things the other guests and I talked about is how many of us are on a crossroads of life.  We are all here in The Netherlands for an undetermined or for many, determined amount of time and a lot of us are wondering, what’s next? (Of course, this same question comes up over margaritas in a Texas living room, too. . .but I’m not there right now. . . )  We all sat there nodding at each other. . . the question lingering in the air like chalk dust. . . What’s next?  Or perhaps even more directly, What’s the Point of being here now?  As we sipped Prosecco and nibbled on homemade bonbons and scones, one of my friends made the observation that sometimes it’s during the times when you’re most discouraged is when you perhaps find the true direction you want or are supposed to take.  It struck a chord with me.  February 11th’s entry in Simple Abundance: “As the English historian Dame Cicely Veronica Wedgwood points out, ‘Discontent and disorder [are] signs of energy and hope, not of despair.’ What is going on is part of the process.  I call it Divine Discontent.  It is the grit in the oyster before the pearl.  This creative second chance is when we come into our own.”
   V stares at me from the top of the staircase.  His pilot’s cap is tucked under his arm as he breathes in the night air.  He slowly descends the stairs and as he approaches the bottom, my tiny gloved hand reaches for his.  As V and I continue to navigate our Expat lives in The Netherlands – an excavation of country, career, and self, I find comfort in the fact that we are not alone.  “I’ll never leave you,” he says to me.  And in return, I respond, “V – this is the beginning of a beautiful adventure. . .” and we walk hand and hand. . . and fade into the Moroccan darkness/1942 California movie studio evening.       

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