Maybe I’m just not good with subtle hints, but it seems more often than not, I get loud and clear messages. You know, like a sign. I mean an actual sign. I’ll be ruminating in the car, only to look up at a billboard that answers me with a huge “YES!” If I try to distract myself by procrastinating with a magazine, inevitably I’ll flip right to a caption like, “What are you waiting for?” Once it was a large, neon sign that blinked, “Why worry?” No joke. One of my most memorable and cherished of these universal forehead slaps is the blatant message I got regarding my husband while we were still dating. (His first name is a set of initials, but he’d like to keep his anonymity so we’ll just call him H.G., as in Hot Guy.) The year before I met H.G. was a barrage of painful, heartbreaking, life-altering losses. In January, I had to make the gut wrenching decision to take my father off life support. It was up to me to decide, because my parents had been divorced for 25 years and I was his only child. It was a sudden, unexpected situation that I was in no way prepared to handle at 26, because we had never talked about it. He was only 56. For nearly a week, I stayed at his bedside hoping he would wake up, but he didn’t. The final moment of his last quiet breath was followed by months of traumatized fog. I planned his funeral and burial, and then sold his home for pennies to the next door neighbor—my grandparents’ modest Florida home that I had hoped to inherit someday—in order to pay for his funeral, burial, medical bills, attorney fees, and other debts.
Feeling abandoned for the final time by my father, I stopped settling for less in my life. I broke off a two-year relationship that I’d known from the start was never headed toward my dreams of marriage or motherhood. I left a toxic job for a more rewarding job, and moved into my first ever roommate-free apartment. I gained new, kinder friendships and deeper spiritual self-awareness. Then, in December, I spent an uninsured week in the hospital following an urgent gallbladder surgery. The grief caught up to me and I was a sobbing, sedated mess of staples, stitches, and self-pity wrapped in a hospital gown. I had no idea that change was just around the corner.
A mere six months later, I’d just met and started dating a really nice, really hot guy. I was driving across town to H.G.’s house, and doubt crept into the passenger seat. Maybe H.G. was too nice. Maybe H.G. was too good to be true. I didn’t want to get my hopes up after the previous rollercoaster year. What if? What if the rug would be pulled out from under me yet again? A car signaled to merge into my lane, and I hung back to let the driver in. Then I saw the sign. The customized license plate read, “MRS HG” (but with his real first initials). I giggled behind that car for nearly 20 minutes, until I had to turn down a side street. That December, almost exactly a year after the hospital gown of despair, I wore the wedding gown of my dreams!
Somewhere among my tweets about lucky Halloween socks, crazy Michigan weather, and quirky writer problems, there is a photo I snapped on my phone of a fortune cookie message. I was being a cranky, somewhat unsympathetic wife, just prior to my husband treating us to Chinese food. Everyone selected their cookies, and I broke open the last one. The reminder was clear. It said something like, “A man’s greatest treasure is a sympathetic wife.” Sheesh.
A couple of months ago, I was driving along and my mind wandered to my latest obsessive, self-doubting question: will I ever get published or is this a delusional dream? As I slowed up to a traffic light, the license plate in front of me screamed “POET” at me. I had been secretly writing a poem a day for about six weeks at that point. I laughed out loud. Then I realized the driver in the car next to me was gawking because I was alone in my car laughing, and then I almost peed myself laughing to tears. Longest, silliest traffic light ever. I finished my poetry collection a couple weeks ago and it is entirely possible that it could be published before my novel, which is just fine with me. While walking the dog this afternoon, I found a small piece of paper on the ground. It caught my eye because it was bright orange against the vibrant, damp grass. There was one word written on it, an uncommon name—the same name that one of my closest friends chose for her only child. Something in my heart recognized that I needed to pick up the paper and place it with a lit candle on my mantle. It would be a quiet, sacred moment in my day. I would wish her child peace and love and support, knowing that my dear friend has had several recent family crises, and that her child is at a vulnerable tween age. Then something prompted me to send her a quick message and photo, so she would know that the universe is conspiring for their happiness, even if it doesn’t feel like it lately. She responded with gratitude and appreciation. Now I feel prompted to ask you, dear reader, to insert your name on the little orange slip. (How do you know it wasn’t yours?) Whatever is going on in your life right now, just take a moment to acknowledge that your name is written there, to be carried as a wish on the wind.
You are loved, even if you can’t see it right now. Even if that piece of paper has been stepped on, pressed into the mud, even torn a bit. Life is about to pick you up, dust you off, and lift you to a safe, sacred place.
YOU MATTER. You’re going to be ok.
Maybe I’m superstitious. Maybe I’m reading into things. Maybe my friends think I’m the “Phoebe” in our group. Maybe you think I’m weird too. I’m ok with that.