So, 35, it's not going well so far. Yesterday was my birthday, a day of slate gray skies, unrelenting rain and an ominous feeling of perpetual evening. I was tired from a night of poor sleep. Yes, of course, I couldn't sleep. The night before Thanksgiving, the night before my birthday, any day that I would really like to have fun on, the sleep gremlin comes and smacks me down, teaches me a lesson about anticipation and the silliness of our mortal plans. I had the day off from work, and I had that feeling of being uncomfortable, not sure what to do with myself, wondering what better thing I might have been doing. Food didn't taste good. The sore throat lingered, edging closer and closer to the cold. My parents had arrived in town to find a broken heater in their condo, the very heater that they spent their entire last visit (and their savings account) having fixed. In the afternoon, I was driving up an exit ramp and had to slam on the brakes as someone was coming down it in the wrong direction. We just avoided a head-on collision. And then my parents got a call. Their brother in law had died suddenly. Heart attack. Fell right out of his deer stand in the woods, dead.
I went to bed unsure if or when they were leaving for the funeral, cutting short this long-anticipated visit with Mia and forcing us to cancel our child-free weekend in Charleston. We had already paid a one-night deposit on our hotel, and it seemed unlikely that we would get it back. Plus, I have six days off from work, and instead of spending them visiting with my parents and drinking martinis in Charleston, it appeared that I would spend it at home with a cold and a panicky feeling in my chest. And can you guess what happened when I tried to go to sleep last night? I spent much of the night fighting off panic. Something about that day came together to make me feel absolutely terrified. It felt like a message from the universe that, no, life is not fun. Life is unforeseen tragedies and dashed expectations. It is a hopeless game of trying to veer out of the way of disaster. A game that, in the end, we all lose. My usual meditation couldn't calm my sweating body. I had been so tired all day, and yet sleep would not come. And then the visions of another exhausted day reared up, adding to the misery.
Now here I am. The sun is shining again and the panic has receded. This morning, it was officially decided that my parents are leaving, and we canceled our Charleston reservations for a $50 fee. Yes, I'm still a bit sad about the week I had planned. But at least nothing is up in the air. That feels immensely better. And, actually, I am relieved not to have to go on a romantic getaway with a cold and a killer case of insomnia. I think I'll take this time to regroup, get my worldview back in order. Lately, it feels like there is so much fear in me. A fear that, until recently, I never even knew existed. And I am fighting it, fearing the fear, rather than simply looking at it with an open heart. No, nothing turns out how we plan, everything is out of our control, death can snatch us at any moment. But in between all that, there is joy. There is love and beauty and laughter. There are mountaintops and sparkling lakes and crisp fall afternoons at the park with an ebullient 4-year-old. All of it together, it is life, and I want to open myself to it all. Because trying to fight off the bad parts? That is one battle I am sure to lose.