Sunday, September 30, 2012

Choose the Spoon: Reflections on Imperfection after Two Years Dreaming

Two years ago today, I had my first and only panic attack. Jennifer and I and our almost-two-year-old, Tyler, had flown red-eye from Boston to London, then taken an hour-and-a-half taxi ride from Heathrow Airport to the Kings Crossing train Station that cost us about half our savings. Then, the train ride into York cost us the other half of our savings.

We had chased down a dream of ours, and we arrived (finally) into York amidst cascading waterfalls from the skies (some people call this "rain"), a massively overtired toddler, basically no money, and a whole heck of a lot of hope. We were changing roles, changing countries, changing cultures, and we were (to be honest) pretty naive about the whole thing. My mantra was, It'll work out.

When the panic attack arrived that night at three in the morning two years ago, a question had arisen in my mind responding to the mantra--simply, this: What if it doesn't work out?

And, as it turns out, a question like this at three in the morning doesn't exactly bring peace. Or hope. or trust. Or really anything good. Finally, Jen helped soothe the attack, and I fell asleep. But the following weeks were filled with that nagging question, What if it doesn't work out?

Fast-forward two years. Jen and I are standing in the kitchen our our little rented home, and fireworks are going off. I'm not talking figurative fireworks; I'm talking a real-live firework show occurring a stone's throw from our kitchen window. Reds, yellows, blues--all sparkling and blasting and booming. And Jen and I can't think of any occasion.

So we decide something: it's our two-year anniversary of chasing down a dream--even though it may have seemed half-baked at the time. Because it had to be half-baked. If we had fully baked that dream two years ago, we would have pulled it out of the Oven of Reality Checks, stuck a fork in it, and remarked, Whew! That baby is toasted! No good!

Two years later, life still hasn't afforded us much more certainty--except, maybe, a line that Atticus Finch constantly told his children: It's not time to worry yet. The more practice we have trusting, waiting, hoping, and believing that things will be alright, the more we learn to, well, trust, wait, hope, and believe that things will turn out alright.

Tyler: Looking UP!
In her stunning novel, Middlemarch, George Eliot shares this quip: "Even Milton, looking for his portrait in a spoon, must submit to have the facial angle of a bumpkin." Maybe the greatest English poet of all time can't withstand the force of certain reflections, and would have to deal squarely with his own imperfection. I guess this is true of all of us: in one way or another, we're all bumpkins. And we either accept that fact about our experiences, our dreams, our views, saying, It's not time to worry yet, or we don't.

After two years of this adventure abroad, I choose the spoon. Because when all is said and done, I think the spoon prevents a panic attack much better than a crystal clear mirror. Sometimes, we don;t need to see and understand everything perfectly; rather, we need just enough to get by, just enough to keep taking one step of faith after another. And maybe, we bumpkins can laugh a little while we walk.