November 9, 2010 § 6 Comments
On Friday, I locked myself out of the house. It was both a stupid and innocent thing to do. Gus and I were going to pick Oliver up from preschool and I made it out the door with our usual pile of stuff: diapers, wipes, water, snacks, books, a Thomas train or two. We were both buckled into the car, when I realized I left my keys in the house. And, yep, the door locked behind me on my way out. At first, I wasn’t worried. We had a spare hidden in a fake rock by the garage. But then I remembered that the week before, Gus was playing with it, lost the key, and I hadn’t yet replaced it.
Shit, I thought. Shit, shit, shit. How was I going to get Oliver from school? How was I going to get Gus down for a nap? How was I going to get into the house? I started to panic a little. Okay a lot. And then I saw my husband’s red key ring in the back seat. I had borrowed his spare car keys last week and they were still in my car. They were there for the same reason I forgot to put the spare house key back in the rock: laziness, a stupid mistake. But there they were, shining and waiting for me. In an instant, everything changed. I could get Oliver from school! We could meet my husband at work and get his house key! We were mobile!
Thank you, I thought. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Suddenly, this stupid mistake filled me with gratitude. Gus was strapped into his car seat and not locked inside the house. I had keys, a wallet, a mobile phone. Since we were going to have a picnic in the park after school I had snacks, bottles of water, warm sweaters. I could have been walking out barefoot to take out the trash, but instead. I had shoes on my feet! In seconds I had gone from cursing to praying.
Everything didn’t work out as smoothly as I thought, of course. It turned out my husband didn’t have his house key at work, either, so I had to call a locksmith. The boys and I had to wait outside for almost an hour and Oliver had to go to the bathroom. The price to reenter our house was $236.44. And yet, through it all was a feeling of tremendous gratitude. The whole day had the vibration of a prayer to it. My boys were with me. We were safe. We had shoes. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Once we were inside our house again, the boys ran to the playroom as if it were brand new. I made a pot of coffee and took my time, appreciating my kitchen, the music playing, the sound of happy children, the smell of the coffee. Later, we went out and played in the leaves. The boys handed them to me as if they were offering me jewels and I accepted them, those gorgeous colors of flame and fire. Even in summer’s death, there is such beauty, such wonder.
The next day in yoga, Carolyn, the yoga teacher talked about the end of daylight savings time, how some people get depressed in the early darkness. She said we needed to stay positive, to see the light during this dark time of year. She mentioned that we could get up early and be greeted by the dawn now, that winter was a time to go within, to try something we had never dared to before. She said we shouldn’t be afraid.
I have always been one to get depressed with the lack of sun in the winter. In fact, that is one of the reasons I moved to California fifteen years ago. During my senior year at Cornell, I was so cold, I promised myself that winter would be my last. And now, I am facing my first winter in almost two decades. I am afraid of the cold dark days, the slush and sleet I will be trudging through. I am dreading the horrible flu I always manage to get around the winter solstice, the illnesses the boys will get, the way that tattered Christmas decorations hanging in January always break my heart a little bit. I am afraid of so much – of everything really, and all the time.
It’s no secret that I don’t want to live in Virginia, that I don’t like Washington, DC very much. I am tired of the endless aggression, of people blaring their car horns when I stop for someone in a crosswalk, of the way two parents pushing a single stroller can each be on a separate cell phone call, their baby staring straight ahead. Sometimes I think this whole city has absorbed the energy of a partisan government and there is so much tension, so much anger, so much unrest in everything. I don’t like the weather here or the landscape. I don’t like my son’s school and I feel like an outcast still. I am so homesick for California that there is always a place in my chest that is a little bit sore with the missing. And yet, by seeing only the darkness, I am missing out on all that there is here to be amazed by and grateful for: the kindness of our neighbors, the size of our house, the trees that soar into the sky, the autumn in its riot of color. And more importantly, it seems that there are lessons here for me that only this city can offer: how to slow down while all around me is moving so quickly, how to be alone, how to listen to the steady beat of my own human heart.
Locking myself out reminded me that there is always something to be thankful for, always enough, always abundance. I am trying to remember this, to learn the lessons as they come to me. The day before I asked for steadiness, and I was given a day to practice being steady. Now was a chance to practice gratitude, to realize that I had everything I needed, that enough is as good as a feast, that I am so very lucky. Thank you, thank you, thank you.