We spend so much of our lives putting off what's important. We assume there will always be more time. That we can tell (or show) someone we love how much we care.
This belief that we'll have tomorrow is one we need to turn on its head. If ever there's a time to be mindful and to be present it's now. We can't control what will happen in the future as much as we want. And with everything that's going on in the world today, a tomorrow that looks like today is more and more unlikely.
No one thinks that a cold someone's been unable to shake will be eventually diagnosed as stage 4 lymphoma. No one thinks a routine procedure could end with an emergency visit to the ER and their loved one almost dying.
Until this past summer I'd never run to someone. I'd spent my entire life running from. I'd always had some excuse why I couldn't do something. I wasn't the person who'd stick around. I wouldn't let anyone in.
Years ago I dialed a friend to hear a stranger on the other end of the receiver tell me my friend collapsed before getting on plane and had been diagnosed with Stage 4 Lymphoma. I collapsed on the floor, my heart breaking. But I didn't run to them.
Two years ago I had a déjà vu moment. cubes was supposed to have been out of surgery and, instead of news he was in recovery, a doctor's voice on the other end of the phone line told me he was still in the OR. The damage to his internal organs was more extensive than originally thought.
I remember crumpling to the hallway floor. Unlike the call years before I'd gotten to tell cubes I loved him before they took him into surgery, but thinking I was about to lose someone I loved so much and couldn't imagine life without was heartbreaking. My heart still threatened to explode out of my chest. All this had started with the two of us playing hooky and food getting stuck in cubes' esophagus a few weeks earlier. No one had bothered to tell me there was a chance he'd die from a routine procedure. I couldn't believe I lived in a world where the first person I'd let my walls down with might not be there. The first person I'd told I'd loved him back and meant it might be gone. I couldn't imagine that world. I couldn't imagine how Gates and I'd go on.
Thankfully cubes recovered. A nurse who'd promised to call the moment he came out of surgery did just that and a friend drove me back to the hospital to be there as he awoke in the ICU. He doesn't remember, but I was able to tell him how much I loved him. He had a familiar face to look into. When I wasn't at the hospital, I cried a lot.
Heeding the Call and Running to My Love
Flash forward to this past summer. We'd just moved into our new place and I couldn't bear the thought of recreationally moving from SF to Black Rock City out in the Nevada desert. So we sold my ticket and Gates and I dropped cubes off at the Burner Express. That was Sunday.
Driving home with Gates and then later driving her to preschool, music kept playing and telling me to go home. To get there as fast as I could. Ed Sharon's Photograph. Jaime Lawson's Wasn't Expecting That. And a few other tunes.
All that was going through my head was cubes equaled home. I needed to get to cubes as fast as I could. His first trip back to the playa after his surgery. Our five year playa wedding anniversary.
If we weren't married, I joked that my mad rush across the state would be the stuff epic love stories would be written about. Girl racing across the miles to the Boy she loved.
Getting to him wasn't easy. First I needed someone to take Gates to preschool (her first week) and take care of her while I was out in the desert with cubes. I also needed to get another ticket.
I trusted that all would work out. I laid my heart bare on Facebook and a few mailing lists explaining why I needed a ticket. I asked for help (another thing I rarely do). Then over the next couple of hours, two tickets and a second parking pass materialized. A plan was hatched. I'd met a friend in Gerlach and we'd drive into Black Rock City together.
I coordinated with the preschool, sending them a photo of Gates with my parents so they'd know she was being picked up by responsible people (all the while wondering what they must be thinking of a mother who chooses her husband over her daughter). (If my parents couldn't take Gates, I had this crazy idea of just driving with her straight from preschool out to the desert.)
Before speeding off east towards the desert, three souls who'd always seen past my disguises--Barry, Hans, and Lord Huckleberry--came to me in a dream. I was walking with them across the playa towards cubes. Seeing all of them together I knew I had to get to cubes as fast as I could.
I hopped into our car with this dream fresh in my mind. I grabbed what few shelf-stable foods I could find (olives, chips, and dry salami--not enough for the week) when I stopped for water and alcohol, and trusted it would it all work out. Any time I doubted, either Ed Sheeran's Photograph or Jaime Lawson's Wasn't Expecting That came on the radio. It was all I could do not to push River, our trusty CRV past her limits. Through spotty cell coverage, I confirmed tickets were actually at will call (I took a leap of faith that it would all work out). The closer I got to cubes and the desert, the more alive I felt.
Don't Wait if You Feel It, Take Action--Follow Through
I've thought about writing this story before. Writing about cubes' emergency surgery and extended hospital stay. Writing about finding love and community and trusting in it. But couldn't find a reason why others would care. It felt like a selfish story to share. A "Life gets better" story that for anyone not yet on the other side seems unobtainable. A fairy tale. Or worst, a boast. A nannie nah type story.
So why now? Why share this story?
The other night I heard and saw Kelly Clarkson's performance of Piece By Piece(*affiliate link). And I thought of my loved one who'd died of lymphoma years ago. I never got to say goodbye. I never got to say thank you. He was the first to tell me he loved me--a love with no strings attached. He taught me how to live. How to fly. He'd picked up all the pieces and put them back together again.
Kelly Clarkson's song -- and the emotion she felt sharing those lyrics -- reminded me of the preciousness of time and of not waiting to share (or show) how you feel about someone.
My first love and I reconciled between the time he was diagnosed with lymphoma and originally went into remission and while I was recovering from the loss of my first child. Our last time together, he just held me as a friend and rocked me while I cried. And he told me he loved me for the second time.
I never got the opportunity to tell him how I felt. I'd planned to tell him the next time I saw him--Christmas break, a seemingly short eight weeks away. Instead, I'd leave increasingly worried messages on his answering machine until finally I tried him at work and a friend got to break the news to me: I was too late his lymphoma had come back and he'd died two weeks before. Years later I'd run into a mutual friend and finally understand why he didn't want anyone to call me. Hers and my path would cross while I was in San Diego for my MBA internship. Her coworker had asked her to help him save his marriage. At the time, she didn't know I was the girl. When she found out, instead of trying to convince me to salvage the relationship, she handed me a journal to read.
This past summer when I started feeling like the place I needed to be--or at least die trying to get to--was in the desert with cubes, all I could think of is how I would feel if I didn't get to tell him how I felt. And that drove my determination to be there with him. My last communication with him after I had kissed him goodbye after dropping him off to catch the Burner Express was about him being stuck in traffic. As others inched towards the playa I could only assume cubes was safely on the playa and all those feelings from when I almost lost him flooded back. I didn't want our last exchange to be about the traffic into Black Rock City.
I ended up surprising cubes at the False Profit Tuesday Night party, where we'd had our playa wedding reception five years before. Five years before we we're married on the playa on what would have been the 52nd birthday of my first love.
As a friend and I came up to where we thought cubes would be my heart leapt to my throat as I saw him. I snuck up behind him and leapt. And he caught me--fully with heart and soul. And I felt home. I knew what I'd been searching and hoping for all my life. There in cubes' arms I no longer had any desire to get in a fast car and drive. I finally knew where I belonged.
Everyone Deserves an Epic Love Story
It's never too late to have a love story that rivals those in movies. All you have to do is be willing to get hurt, risk, and take a leap of faith. And that starts with believing you deserve someone who treats you at least as well as your friends do and recognizes how special you are.
So why did Kelly Clarkson's song spur this post? Initially I thought cubes and I can celebrate next year on the playa. Since then my dad's health has deteriorated (he has Parkinson's) and the likelihood my parents could take Gates while I drove off into the sunset (yes I know, wrong direction; just give me poetic license on this) is slim.
And as I listened to her song I thought of the person who had picked up all my pieces so that I could share my feelings with cubes. Picked up the pieces so that I could find home. Picked up the pieces until I believed I deserved a good life. Happiness.
I also thought of another friend who years ago had just started dating his now wife and mother of two children. While staring at the Bay Bridge and The City from the shore of Treasure Island that friend had told me not to settle. Find someone who realized how special I was and treated me that way. A few hours later, I broke up with myself for a different boy, one who couldn't get the words out. Two days later I signed a lease to move to The City. I was running yes. But I was running to set down roots. To no longer be on the periphery looking in.
Remember: "Be careful what you wish for. History starts now. (World, Five for Fighting)"
"Whatever you want, you can have it. ... Let's go home." (We Got It All, Right the Stars)
We all become stories. The passion with which we lived determines whether our stories will become the stuff of legends or will just quietly fade away. Don't just let life happen.
Playlist for Your Epic Love Story
If you're going to sped towards someone you love, here's your soundtrack (if you're a hopeful romantic like I am, be sure you have some tissues):
- World (*affiliate link), Five for Fighting
- You Make It Real (*affiliate link), James Morrison
- Wasn't Expecting That (*affiliate link), Jaime Lawson
- Home (*affiliate link), Daughtry
- And Then You (*affiliate link) , Greg Laswell
- Photograph (*affiliate link), Ed Sheeran
- Home (*affiliate link), Phillip Phillips
- We Got It All (*affiliate link), Right the Stars
Purchase and download the songs for yourself or hear the Run to You: Soundtrack for an Epic Love Story playlist on Spotify.
Like this moment? Then you won't want to miss Chapter 10: The Kiss, the story of cubes and my first kiss.
Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.
DISCLOSURE: This post contains an affiliate link, followed by (*affiliate link). I feature products that I own or that I am considering purchasing. I own all of the songs mentioned in this post. All opinions presented are my own.
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