Yesterday I thanked the gods of vomit for sparing me and my baby another day of horror and celebrated our collective recovery with a journey outdoors. I took him to a nearby lake, where scores of families were out barbequing, fishing, kayaking, paddleboating, biking and feeding the ducks. It was nice to be among the living and the keeping-down-their-food.
Since I had the baby in the stroller, I decided to go ahead and get some exercise while I was at it. So we ventured onto the walking path and he got a good look around while I navigated the little hills and curves that made it interesting for both of us. About a mile in, we passed by a little girl who was having a tough time getting up a particularly long and brutal incline, her mom watching on from a little ways up the hill. “It got hard, didn’t it?” I said. “Yeah,” she said, getting off her bike to walk it. I smiled, and we passed by.
I should mention here that this girl and her bike were teeny tiny. I don’t know if I’d guess her any older than 3 ½ years old, and small for her age at that. So I was pretty surprised—as well as delighted—when, on the way down the hill on the other side, I heard a whirring sound behind us and turned to see the same little girl about to zoom right past us at a good clip, her helmet streaking pink on the way by. ‘Dang,’ I thought, ‘she’s a brave one!’
I watched as she gained speed all the way down, and then was a little shocked when she suddenly let out a wild squeal, braked hard and flung her bike to the ground next to a bench, then disappeared into the brush off to the right. I looked behind me to see that her parents, along with the group accompanying them, were still nowhere in sight up the hill. So I picked up the pace and approached the bench. As I got nearer, I saw that the bushes were masking what was actually a steep decline that bottomed out at the lake’s shoreline.
I was horrified! Where did she go? And why?!
Finally the girl’s helmet came into view, along with another, bigger one, on the head of a young boy whose bike was similarly abandoned halfway down the decline. The little girl was down there jumping on and around the boy, who looked to be about 6 years old or so. Seeing that her parents were now in sight, I decided to venture on, but I lingered just long enough to hear these words escape in her gleeful, ecstatic, sing-song voice: “I just want to be with you!!”
And so it begins, I thought.
The incident took me straight back to a moment in my 10-years-ago life, a terribly low relationship moment rife with sad, metaphorical significance, which I don’t know that I’ve shared with anybody before.
I was driving down San Carlos Street in San Jose with my then-boyfriend. Driving his car, to be exact. I’m not even sure why I was driving; it was rare for me to have been doing so when he was in the car. But anyway. We were driving along toward somewhere else entirely when, out of nowhere, he pointed to a driveway off to the right and shouted, “turn here!”
And, just like that, I did.
No, I mean it when I say that. I mean that not only did I not check my rearview and side mirrors, signal, change lanes, and pull off of what was a pretty busy street. I mean I made what was very nearly a 90 degree turn toward the driveway from the left lane with barely a tap on the brakes.
It was then that I felt a sudden jolt and heard the sound you never, ever want to hear, whether you’re in a car or just near one. It was that horrible crunching screech of metal that can only mean thousands of dollars in repairs and possible bodily harm.
So *apparently* other people thought they could just riiiiide along in the right lane of a street and trust that deranged lunatic young women wouldn’t make freakishly ill-advised turns directly into the fronts of their vehicles. Ugh.
As if it weren’t bad enough that I’d just semi-mangled two cars with my complete lack of judgment, the people getting out of the car (safely and of their own accord, thank goodness!) looked too sad and tired to even conjure the ire I knew I had coming, which made me know something was even wronger than it seemed. Then one of them said something like, “Believe it or not this isn’t anything compared to the day we’ve had,” and proceeded to explain that one of their fathers (I don’t remember which) had died that very day!
The literal car wreck in the midst of the figurative train wreck that was our relationship could not have been more eye-opening. I had given every last decision in my life over to this man, eventually without giving a passing thought to my own happiness and best interests. And I had done it so completely that the day came when all he had to do was say “turn” and I was moving the wheels of my life in the desired direction, without so much as a glance. What’s more, I had also ceased considering the lives of the others involved.
I just want to tell any readers out there, in case some incredibly resistant part of your brain has not already made this leap: You never…you really and truly never want to reach this point in your relationship and in your life.
I have the strong belief that it is our responsibility to learn whatever we possibly can to bring simple joy to our lives. I believe that if each of us can learn what it is to be happy and at peace, we will have done the best thing we know is possible to do in order to make this world a place worth inhabiting, for ourselves and any others who may be involved. And I believe that this is the one of the main lessons I am supposed to learn in my lifetime. I think I’ve done a pretty decent job of learning to be an honest person and doing the responsible human thing of trying not to hurt others. This thing, however, this lesson has been a long time in the learning, and I’m not doing very well at it: How to remain true to one’s authentic, true, who-I-am-supposed-to-be self and be in a relationship…be in love…at the same time? If I can uncover this mystery and live my life accordingly, I believe I will have sliced off my own chunk of that peace and happiness pie. And it’ll be a big, big, bottomless piece that everyone can share in.
Perhaps the connection I made between the throw-caution-to-the-wind-to-meet-your-man youngster at the lake and the let-me-die-for-all-I-care-if-it’ll-make-this-man-happy me of a decade ago was a bit hasty. Perhaps every young girl who veers off at a high speed down an embankment is not, in fact, headed down a slippery slope. It was just those words that stopped me…that “I want to be with you” that was so hopeful and simultaneously desperate. So full of offering and vulnerability all at once.
Offering and vulnerability both, of course, come along with love. But there is no love, no person in this world whose love is worthy of acts of desperation…No person whose version of love would even include any desire for this. In fact, any person worth loving would be viscerally turned off by the thought.
*That’s* the kind of love I want to experience. The love of one who’s viscerally turned off (by the thought of me abandoning any part of myself, that is J)
For the time being, I’m thinking long walks around the lake with myself and my little man (who really and truly digs me, as is, by the way) are the way to go. There is nothing in the world like nature to clear one’s mind. And if—in the course of things—a little girl should happen to (safely) plunge headlong off the side of an incline just to give me a dose of perspective? Well, let's just hope it was all worth it.