It started July 26th at 11:30 p.m. on I-40, 3.1 miles from our exit in Brownsville, Tennessee. We were planning what we’d do when we arrived at the motel. I’d check in at the front desk; David would coax Gus into his cage and gather what we needed for the night. We’d driven 15 hours, so all we were thinking about was streamlining our path to bed.
That’s when traffic stopped.
I’ve written about this already. We sat on the road for three more hours that night. July 26th became July 27th.
Gus hunkered on the dashboard watching cars pass in the opposite direction. We played music. We sang songs. We tasted hope, then despair, and then hope again. After the first 90 minutes we started moving; got up to 70 miles per hour for a gleeful moment. Then brake lights lit up before us like a Christmas display. We sat .7 miles from the exit for another 90 minutes.
The waiting game continued the week we moved into our new apartment. We had three days before David began new teacher orientation, and we were eager to get Plenty done in that time. But simple things took hours to complete. It took five lengthy phone calls and multiple trips to Wal-mart to get our Internet service up and running. I sat at the DMV three days in a row.
After the first of the DMV trips I walked into a Starbucks to journal and sip iced tea in a predictable, peaceful environment. Low and behold, the Starbucks was under construction. I snapped a few pictures (my thanks to Erin & Rebecca, the friendly strangers below) and chuckled. Sometimes we find instability everywhere we turn. We can either cry or we can laugh.
I’ve done plenty of both in the two months since that visit to Starbucks. This season of my life is exactly what I’ve been hoping for: the opportunity to craft my own work schedule while devoting more time to writing. But guess what? Exactly what I’ve been hoping for kind of freaks me out. I spend at least as much time fretting over my newfound freedom (and its accompanying financial uncertainty) as I spend exulting in it.
Everything is taking longer than I expected it to. Lining up part-time jobs. Submitting essays. Sorting out the mundane minutia of our new life.
Which brings me back to the DMV. On the third day I spent in those beige plastic seats, I had a minor epiphany that keeps coming back and elbowing me in the ribs.
I arrived very early that morning so I’d be at the front of the line for a vehicle inspection. Unfortunately, I needed cash for the inspection, and the DMV’s stone-age ATM machine refused my card. An employee pointed me down the street toward a gas station.
As I walked out of the QuikTrip with cash in my pocket, an elderly man who’d been lounging on the sidewalk approached with a grin and an outstretched hand. “You have the most beautiful hair,” he began to say, but I was hurrying along, offering a polite-but-dismissive smile. I felt a twinge of regret as I walked back down the street. What if the man wasn’t looking for a handout? What if he just wanted to connect with someone?
The vehicle inspection process was mercifully expedient, which left me sitting in a new line, waiting to register the car.
A small girl walked in with two women. “Look,” pointed one of the women. “Three seats all together.” The child gasped as though they’d won the lottery. “Three seats? It’s like they were waiting for us!”
As they settled into the row in front of me, her words hovered in the air like a melody. It’s like they were waiting for us.
I didn’t have anything pressing scheduled that day, but waiting at the DMV? The sooner it ended, the better.
But what if I’m not the one waiting? What if my life is waiting for me to show up and inhabit it?
I introduced myself to the women and the girl. “Can I take a picture of the back of your heads for my blog?” They laughed and said sure.
When my turn came, the DMV computer wouldn’t read my bankcard. I was just shy of the cash I needed for registration and plates. Fortunately I’d already gotten the cosmic punch line.
Had I been blind the first time I walked to the QuikTrip? Suddenly the air seemed impossibly sweet, and deserted lots held innumerable mysteries.
Waiting at the DMV for the third time on the third day, I noticed for the first time that the supervisor kept a collection of rubber duckies atop his computer. My husband David and I have a thing for rubber duckies. (I’ll write about that someday.) I asked if I could take a picture for my blog and learned that the supervisor’s name was Benjamin. David and I each have a brother named Benjamin. Suddenly the Sedgwick County Tag office seemed the most auspicious, welcoming place in the world.
Almost any moment can be auspicious and welcoming, but it turns out I have to show up.
The other day I was waiting for a phone call (a potential job opportunity), and my pal Jennie called instead. She’d seen a free bureau down the street and she needed help getting it into her apartment.
I thought I needed financial answers, but it turned out I needed to ride my bike past the river to Jennie’s.
I could tell you a thousand stories more. The cat climbs onto my laptop as I’m trying to send the Important E-mail. We play games with Ben, Joy, Ally & Jack the day before Ben leaves for his six-month deployment. The big questions of work and life and love hang in the balance, but for the moment there’s only one thing to do.
Cuddle the cat. Savor family. Sing songs in traffic, sip tea amidst tumult, open to epiphany at the DMV, move a bureau with a friend.
Nothing you’re waiting for could be more beautiful than this.