On the plane to San Francisco I was full of emotion. I was all at once giddy like a schoolgirl, excited like the winning contestant on Price is Right, a little teary eyed: drops of forgotten stresses smeared on my cheeks. I could not believe that my husband sent me to San Francisco.
I threw myself in a heap on Kay’s doorstep. For three too-short days I was her son’s long-lost auntie. I soaked up his unfettered love; a dried out rag, clean again and ready to pluck from the line. Kay’s son is so bright, so cheerful. He is an absolutely impossible-to-ignore 2-yr old. I snuck up on him, peaking around the corner. I would have stood on my head and juggled with my feet just to see him flash that dimple and giggle one more time: so delicious.
Kay escorted me into the City. We shopped. We tried on a few things I didn’t expect to buy. We bought a few of them anyway. I followed her footsteps through the town she has walked a thousand times. We explored the farmers’ market, the boutiques, her favorite Chinese. I peeked over her shoulder and saw a little piece of her life. She has a beautiful life: a caring husband, a charming son, a home brimming with her creativity and their love. I would never dare to say someone’s life is perfect, lest I insult the journey that brought them that day and disregard the challenges ahead. Allow me to say, however, that I saw a family in pursuit of happiness. It was good to see.
I can think of no better place in the months leading up to the 2008 election to take both a physical and mental journey than San Francisco. I fully expected to see a sign that read “Welcome to Obamaland” right along side the signs imploring us to use fewer paper products and recycle our table scraps. I arrived at Kay and her husband’s door not only a friend in need of a break from routine, but also one of unfortunate and misguided political views. I should stress that my hosts were most loving and patient with me, working in gentle ways to broaden my horizons. This is in distinct contrast to the waiter at the upscale, white-tablecloth restaurant who probably dreamt that night of poisoning my coffee. He seemed truly upset and flustered to discover I lean right. I suspect my other dear friends, on whose hospitality we enjoyed that evening, (Thank you again!!) tipped him well as an apology for feeding such a miscreant as me. Let us not, here, discuss those points at which we disagree, or even those in which we are united, let us just find peace in the knowledge that my coffee was not poisoned. Phew.
Besides having friends whom I love in San Francisco, I love SF because it is a place where anything can happen. If America were a bottle of wine, San Fran would be a reduction sauce born of fusion cuisine. I was introduced to pluots and boo boos (both fruit). I sampled Thai pot pie. A woman I had never met confided in me that she worried her unborn child may well be hermaphroditic. I saw four Prius’ all driving in a row. Honestly, it had been a few years since I had met a lesbian couple.
Sort your trash. Say nice things about Senator Obama. Everything else is offered up for examination. Change is the status quo.
Sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes, it is a really good idea to remove oneself from the daily routine entirely. Yes, daily reflection and meditation is helpful, but doing so in three-minute intervals leaves a tangled knot of loose ends. The spirit craves to be replenished, surrounded by unfettered love, accepted because your differences are merely another aspect of the person loved. I wonder now by what miracle I had the presence of mind to ask for what I needed. What special love enabled my husband to deliver it?
I am typing this from the journal I wrote on the plane ride home. I wrote more. I wrote all the way home, sometimes teary eyed, sometimes taking pictures out the plane window to show my kids; a well-traveled woman, seeing it all again for the first time. I’m skipping pages. I see now my conclusions, my to do list encouraging me to engage my spirit in even more psychologically sustainable activities: less of this, more of that. These are my promises to myself.
Before I had children, I did not make promises to myself. I set goals. We make promises to ourselves because making our families happy DOES make us happy. In fact, it often makes us so happy, we forget how to soak in that unfettered love.