|Photo courtesy of Tim Walker for I-D Magazine|
I don’t even know if unexpectation is a real word. My pc suggest it isn’t. It’s been giving me the infamous red squiggle line and recommends I change the word to expectation. Which makes me chuckle because this post is about the exact opposite. It’s about what I’ve come to see as a gift really, and that is unexpectation- when what we expected doesn’t happen.
I thought 2014 wasn’t close to what I expected, but when I woke up January 1st 2015 and couldn’t speak- the bar had been raised. I’d never lost my voice before and was miffed that I could go to bed the night before (okay technically hours before), throat sore, raspy, with the occasional cracks that sounded like a prepubescent boy, and wake up a few hours later with nothing. I panicked slightly. Tried to clear my throat and that was met with the resistance of my latest cold symptom, an ugly dry cough that sent my abdomen into a series of spasms and my mind sending up quick prayers to Jesus to make it stop. Happy New Year!
I sent a text first to my sister. She’s like the central nervous system to our family. If you can contract her, then you can contact everyone. I sent texts and sad faces to my lunch and dinner dates. I got dressed, not in the super cute outfit carefully selected for lunch in the city with a seamless transition to dinner in the city, and headed to the store to purchase my third over the counter medication since Sunday. I needed something that would now accommodate my newest symptom, the cough. And since my favorite little café was on the way to the store, I decided it would be totally appropriate to stop there and order a cup of coconut cream tea, sip it slowly, journal a bit, and then head home.
|Photo courtesy of Karen Walker|
As I sipped and scribed I couldn’t help but laugh. Granted it was a silent laugh. I guess ultimately it was smiling and a slight vibration of my torso because there was no sound. The day couldn’t be more fitting. It was the exact opposite of what I planned for, hoped for, or expected. It was meant to be a day of gathering and conversing. Of doubling over in laughter, in oohing and ahhing over the gifts we’d gotten each other, of updates on the men in our lives from nephews to dads to recent random handsome sirs, colleagues for whom we are so grateful, students who are exactly why we do the work we do, travel hopes for the spring and summer, and expressing thanksgiving for the victories of the year prior no matter how big or small.
Yet as I made my way back to the house where I was staying for the week and slipped under the blankets I was thankful. The week had been well stocked with things I didn’t expect and yet it presented so many opportunities full of grace, love, laughter, joy, authenticity, and hope. I couldn’t help but to be thankful.
Granted I’d been east only a week and my journey had been quite the stint in and of itself. I left my flat in Spokane at 5:30am for my flight. Due to mechanical issues it was delayed so much so that I missed my connection in Minneapolis. It was the last flight on Christmas Eve to Philadelphia. They rerouted me to Newark, New Jersey and although I sat in Minneapolis for two hours and 15 minutes, the airline didn’t manage to get my suitcase on the plane. Yeah the one that had the gorgeous red dress I found for Christmas dinner. A few remaining Christmas gifts. The place settings I created for Christmas dinner. That bag. Mhmm, not the Christmas Eve I expected.
|Photo courtesy of People Style Watch.com|
I made my way to the baggage service office as did the young man whose day was exactly like mine. We both left Spokane to head to Philadelphia, were rerouted, luggage missing, and were still an hour or so from our destination at 7:53pm on Christmas Eve. I had a bit of a wait, being that the only way to get to Philadelphia from Newark Airport was a train, and that train was the last train leaving at 11:37pm.
I was hot, bothered, thoroughly annoyed with the airline that I traveled with, and not even prepared to meet the handsome young man who was sitting behind the counter. Correction. Fine. Fiiiiinnneee. And what was worse,for me the tired agitated traveler, he was so calm and patient and helpful, and fine. Did I mention he was fine?
I left the office with information about how to track my bag in its delivery process and cried. I managed to hold it in in front of the handsome young sir. But the minute I was out of the office I just cried. I cried up two sets of escalators, a set of stairs, past other delayed travelers, the Christmas tree, and in a plastic seat and to my dad on the phone.
It wasn’t just the day that wasn’t what I expected it was the whole year I cried and today was just the icing on an already baked cake.My dad went into dad mode, pulling out the positives of the moment and reiterated how very happy he was that I was on the east coast and was the closest to him and my family than I’d been in months, that I’d made it home for Christmas and that’s what I really wanted, and that they’d have my bag by the next day. We talked little longer until I was laughing and then he reminded me that since I’d be at my sister’s for a few days it would be best to have my bag delivered there or to my cousins’ home who lived closer to the airport.
|Photo courtesy of Refinery29.com|
I went back to the baggage service office, smiled at Mr. Fiiiiiinnneee and provided the updated information. As I started to leave he asked that I stay a minute and offered to at least get me something to eat given my long and anything but what I expected day. I laughed, and smiled, and ended up with a delicious strawberry banana smoothie, friendly banter, more laughter, a name other than Fiiiiiiinnnee, and well the rest is for me to know and maybe in future posts let you find out. I boarded my train several hours later smiling and laughing, completely unexpected given the day. I arrived in Philadelphia a few minutes before 1am Christmas day.
A few days after Christmas I got sick and by New Year’s I was voiceless. I didn’t get to New York City as I hoped, but I got all of this time for rest, reading, and was able to squeeze in a few outings with family and friends before my voice went MIA. And so as I laid in bed under the fluff of the down comforter, I was thankful.
The few conversations I had were necessary reminders from people who I know love and care about me. They were perspective shifting, and bs calling me outing, and encouraging, and exactly what I needed. And the rest that the voicelesness provided was just as needed. It was different and I struggle to rest one day a week let alone what ended up being three days. The quiet and room for meditation, reflection, and well, it wasn’t what I expected but it was what I do consider a gift.
|Photo courtesy of Karen Walker|
I had a choice. I could have lamented the free for all of disappointment and lack of met expectation or with each changed plan, I could see what could positively and possibly come from the moment. I could loosen my choke hold on the outcome, firmly plant my feet in the present, seek out what was good, even when it was simply that the Starbucks line was shorter than I anticipated, and focus on that. I could bemoan being sick or see that my body needed rest and that in those restful moments I could reflect on the bounty of blessings that filled every crack and crevice created by hard life shattering moments in the past year.
Maybe you were expecting my first post of the year to be similar to a lot of other posts floating around the blogosphere. A list of how to live your best life yet, how to lose weight and keep it off, get the new job, be a better version of you in these 10 easy steps, or to even share my goals for the year. How’s this post meeting that expectation? Wink. Wink.
My only hope for you this day, week, month, and year is that same for myself- to find the gift of unexpectation. As things happen that we didn’t expect, whether it’s a lay off or a promotion, that you ground yourself in the present and see it for all that it is, see it in its fullness, in its opportunity for anything and everything from slowing down, to meeting someone new, to a whisper from the Creator to go after the things you’ve been wanting to for years. You know what I’m talking about- the business, the back to school, the move, writing that book, starting that blog, etc. My hope is that instead of choosing to keep a tally of disappointments you keep record of unexpected gifts of laughter, courage, faith, compassion, joy, and hope. That’s what unexpectation brings. It brings opportunities to experience each of those, we just have to position ourselves to receive its gift. Happy New Year!