In a region marked by its harshness, there is no gentle relief.
When the desert heals, it heals its way. Power poles fall, the dangling lines a reminder of where the real control lies.
It reverses course with ferocity. Take it or leave it.
But in the end, the air clears. The dust settles.
The cactus grow fat. The patient trees that wait months for one satisfying drink will suck from the ground and the air all they have to give.
And then they will go on. Waiting again. Waiting because it’s a way a survival. Waiting, because there is always relief somewhere, no matter how long it takes.
It’s why I call this place home.
* * *
Oddly enough, despite a summer that seems to have been spent waiting for that relief, praying for the clouds to break open, I’m not outside tonight, alone on my patio.
I’m not wandering the neighborhood, collecting my 10,000 steps on my FitBit (I didn’t even make 10,000 today), buying flowers, glancing in the windows of the many slices of life that make a city hum.
No tonight, I’m inside, at my desk, basking in climate-controlled bliss.
I keep staring at a picture that hangs behind my computer – it’s a drawing my daughter made, of the two of us, holding hands underneath a rainbow.
“Go Dad. Pow. Super Dad,” it reads over the rainbow.
On the opposite page: “I love you. I’m really glad that you’re my dad. Hi dad. You are so nice and sweet. Happy Father’s Day. Super Dad.”
I know I got that on Father’s Day. I know either I or my wife made a conscious decision to hang it up.
I know it’s been sitting there for a month-plus in the same place I pay my bills. In the same place I log the numbers of my life – finance, diet, blah blah blah – like some integer-obsessed freak. But until about 30 minutes ago, I don’t know that I really saw it, that I recorded it to memory, that I knew it existed.
Rushing here and there, wrapped up in day-to-day of life, I simply missed it.
* * *
I know my daughter.
Despite her often boisterous personality, she is really the silent observer.
I watch her at the dinner table as my wife and I talk; when we have to steer my son with gentle – and sometimes not-so-gentle – discipline. I see her eyes dart from person to person as the conversation moves, watch her expressions change, see the questioning on her face when she wonders why the talk with her does not yet reach such depths.
Her minds churns. She feels deeply.
And when she chooses to express herself, it comes with a sincerity that most of us have lost touch with across the years.
I know this, and that gives that simple piece of 8X11 piece of paper a lot of weight.
I look at it and I know that, despite the doubt, I’m loved.
You know that feeling?
It swells the chest – that’s really how it feels – a lightness that wants to expand and expand and expand.
Needless to say, it’s a powerful drug.
* * *
I feel my writing has been heavy lately.
And I don’t want it to be like that. At least not all the time.
Tonight, I explained to a coworker over lunch the light that exists at the end of many of life’s trials.
That when you stare into some horrible darkness – if you can recover from the scars it leaves (and that is no easy task) – that the gift of perspective on the other side pays compounding dividends.
In the middle of the slog, you need to hold onto that knowledge that passing the test results in a richer life.
We shy from these challenges all the time – at least the ones free will allows us to: a broken family member or friend, a broken self, a situation that brings us extreme unhappiness.
I’d had a lingering thought in the back of my mind about this phenomenon for some time, but I’d been unable to find the words to convey the way I feel.
And then my friend Eric – he’s a sage, really – responded to last night’s post about struggling to carry on peacefully in a world of such trauma with this incredible quote by John Augustus Shedd, one I’d never heard before.
“A ship is safe in harbor, but that is not what ships are for.”
It’s so simple – yes, there is safety when you hide.
But your real purpose emerges when you thrust yourself into the wild sea and battle whatever the elements throw your way.
* * *
I know this. And I know that I have always been meant to write. To tell stories. To communicate across wide audiences beyond my ability to know.
It is a calling.
And at the keyboard, sharing what lies buried deep within, I always find a satisfaction that can be replicated nowhere.
Finding my words again – not words brought on by some horrible stress or some need for deep confession – has been a wonderful and unexpected gift.
But my job, which I truly love – especially in the building phase – has revealed there’s a second field where I feel free and at peace.
Numbers and letters and patterns, ideas in a mind brought to life on a digital screen, codified in syntax.
I want to get better at it. Much better.
So today, I officially started the process.
Masters of Science in Computer Information Systems, here I come.
See you at the starting line in January.