Some days life teaches you a little and some days life teaches you a lot. But each day is an opportunity to learn, if we choose to listen. On this particular day, I was taught a mouthful.
I woke up in the middle of the night: restless, stressed out and unable to go back to sleep. We had just returned from Portugal a few days prior. It was a magical experience in a magical country with a magical woman. The woman I love and will soon be marrying, in fact. It was our honeymoon, if that’s what you still call it, considering the chronology of events. Why did we elect to vacation before our wedding, rather than after, you ask? The same reason we decided to try a dating app in our middle ages during a pandemic, confess our love for one another after 8 days of dating, move in together after less than one month together and then get engaged after less than one year of dating, immediately after being quarantined and separated due to COVID: because we do these a little bit differently than the norm. Oh, and I almost forget to mention we got engaged while I was still married. Separated for five years and going through a messy divorce, but still legally married. Perhaps the timing could’ve been better on that one, but I have zero regrets for where my fiancé and I are right now: soon to be married, with my divorce finalized 7 months ago.
I guess I digressed a bit, didn’t I? You’ll probably find that to be the case with my blog, which is why my “ramblings” website title is a perfect fit. I have a monkey mind that is just all over the map, causing anxiety, insomnia, depression, insecurities and confusion. It’s also why I woke up in the middle of the night, stressed out, jet lagged, and playing out events in my mind that hadn’t yet happened, but that I envisioned taking place, with the worst possible outcome.
In short, it was basically two things. First, I rehearsed a scenario of an argument with a sweet little 7 year old girl about cleaning up the mess she made the night before and what the associated consequences were going to be. Second, I worried about my newly purchased used Jeep, the one with 140,000 miles and the one that had already caused my a few mechanical concerns and headaches.
In the first case, I imagined the confrontation with my daughter turning sour, quite quickly. Lying in bed in the middle of the night, I argued with my daughter in my head. I could feel the tension rising. It was so realistic: the yelling, the crying, the resistance, the stubbornness, the drama. With each visualization, my jaw progressively clenched, the pressure in my chest increased and my head felt as if it were in a vise. I started to dread getting out of bed, hours before the alarm.
Fully exploring the drama with my daughter, I moved onto my Jeep. I saw myself plopping down in the car and turning the ignition without any response. Slamming the door, I cursed at the purchase of a lemon. Why did I buy this vehicle? It’s a piece of crap! What the heck am I going to do now?! I’ve got this new car payment, a hunk of junk that won’t start, I’ll be strapped financially, I’ll have to get it towed, and on and on and on. My head hurt at the prospect of how crappy this day would be.
Finally, the alarm went off. I stared at the ceiling, not wanting to rise. Looking over at my fiancé, I rolled over and snuggled a bit longer. If this day was going to suck, at least I’d have these extra moment of physical touch, my preferred love language. Nikki, my best friend, sensed something was off. She has that superpower, the ability to read my moods like a book. Sometimes, I find it curious, exceedingly rarely, I find it just a teensy bit annoying; mostly, I find it endearing. Just another of her many traits that warm my heart. Anyway, she consoled me a bit, but then confessed that she felt a twinge of guilt for finding the lemon Jeep and suggesting I buy it in the first place. So I consoled her as well, easing her mind that I was a big boy and that ultimately it was my decision to buy that piece of junk, not hers. Guilt released and time for me to go to work, a little late after the extra cuddles, I exited the room prepared for the daughter argument that would soon follow.
Fast forward, ‘cause I feel like I’m getting a bit wordy here. Yes, I did have a heated conversation with my daughter. But the tension lasted for little more than five minutes. When it was over, she didn’t want me to go to work, telling me how much she loved me and would miss me, giving the most tender hug as I opened the door. Maybe my Jeep wouldn’t start, but at least I had a daughter that I adore. The thought of that still makes me smile, typing this blog right now, this very moment.
Well, my Jeep did start. Right up, without any issues whatsoever. Wow. How about that, I thought, pulling out to drive. My top was down and the radio was on a station I never listen to. A college station that plays “interesting and eclectic” stuff, as I said to my fiancé a few weeks past. Her reply? “Just like you. Interesting and eclectic.” I’d never been called that before. Interesting or eclectic. I liked being characterized like that. Driving to work, recalling that moment, made me smile. Hearing the college radio station songs made me smile. Driving with the top down with the sun shining made me smile. It wasn’t a piece of junk Jeep. It brought me joy; it lifted my mood and made me happy.
The day couldn’t have been any different than what my mind presented, hours ago, lying in bed. Instead of a massive argument with my daughter, we had a minor spat, ending in a tender moment that filled me with gratitude and put a lump in my throat. Then, the very fact that I was stressed to begin with resulted in extra stolen moments of cuddling and the exploration of my best friend’s feelings that she was processing feelings of guilt. We communicated openly, ending up closer as a result.
The rest of the day was filled with cool surprises. I went for a walk in the woods and saw a groundhog. I never see groundhogs. But when I do, they always make me smile. Why? Two reasons. One, they’re kinda goofy. Just look at them and argue with me otherwise. And two, I once had a groundhog invade my upstairs office at work. He decided to rest next to my computer monitor at my feet. Hearing a noise, I looked under the desk, greeting the goofy critter two feet from my face. At that distance, hissing, groundhogs can be quite scary. Still, the recollection makes me laugh.
Later that same day, my love and I had an impromptu dinner date. But first, since the the sun was shining, we took our dog Charlie to the doggy park. In the formerly hated Jeep. She loves going to the park and she loves going in my Jeep, sticking her head out the side, tongue hanging out.
An hour after Charlie’s energy was spent, we rolled into the restaurant, our dog secured to the seat in the back. (For you dog lovers out there, don’t get all judgy. The weather was perfect, the top was completely down. Charlie was safe and fine.) We had a quick meal and the food was delicious. Plus, we had cake and ice cream. Lots and lots of ice cream. I’m quite the ice cream connoisseur. It won’t take you long to appreciate that if you read my blogs, which I hope you do.
My belly full of both savory and sweet, we went home, watched our favorite show on Netflix, turned out the lights, and made love. And it was good. But then, it usually is. I’m not kidding. And I’m not bragging. I’ve just never experience anything like it before. The connection is sorta spiritual; I actually almost cried. I and never cry.
The thing is, the day itself wasn’t perfect. No day ever is. For starters, I didn’t wake up on some beach in Portugal, with the sun rising in all its glory. Now that would be the way to start the day, not by stressing about how awful things are going to be before even getting out of bed. But I didn’t need Portugal. I didn’t need fireworks and unicorns. I needed to live in the moment and enjoy the big things, the little things and all the things between. It may sound corny or cheesy or whatever you wanna call it. But that doesn’t make it untrue.
Expectations are funny things. Someone I value greatly once called expectations “premeditated resentments.” They rarely turn out like you plan, in your mind. In this case, my expectations foreshadowed events that were far worse than what actually happened. So often, the opposite is true. We expect that movie to be the greatest ever and it turns out to be meh, or that dinner to be sublime and its underseasoned. Expectations are indeed funny things. For me, living in the moment is where its at. I learned it, yet again, on that one day, with a daughter, a best friend, and a 140,000 mile-old Jeep.