What a beautiful mess this is
It’s like taking a guess when the only answer is “Yes” – Jason Mraz, A Beautiful Mess
There is something about how journeys and trips seem to intertwine at airports.
There is something about the tangible proof one holds in a boarding pass. That piece of paper that confirms “I am on a journey”.
We don’t get that with most journeys we take in life. We don’t have this little paper that says when the experience will begin, how long it will be and when it will inevitably end.
We depart in fits and starts, our destination is uncertain, ever-changing, a moving target. The plane is rerouted through Minneapolis due to a weather pattern that no one can prove exists, the cabin pressure changes, we lose our baggage, we pick up someone elses’ – sometimes we pick up everyone elses.
We arrive to a destination not at all what we envisioned. It’s not better or worse than where we maybe intended to go originally it just isn’t what we planned for – so we begin again.
We depart again.
We choose the trips we take. Journeys? Well they often choose to take us.
Last weekend I took a trip to Florida – to the place where I grew up. It was a real trip. I had an itinerary and a boarding pass. I knew where I’d be and when. Two days is not a lot of time to catch up on six years away.
But even trips are part of journeys.
A few years ago I wrote about my fear of bridges.
I have an innate and irrational fear of bridges. Bridges over water. Tall bridges over deep water.
On the morning of May 9, 1980, a freighter struck the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. This happened on the eve of my second birthday.
The bridge collapsed.
In the fog drivers didn’t notice. They just kept driving off into the Gulf of Mexico.
Of course I don’t remember the actual event. I do remember the stories of it for years after. I remember visiting the destroyed bridge on a field trip and feeling paralyzed by the screams of the ghosts echoing from the sea. It was just an ordinary day for them, one that welcomed an extraordinary tragedy. They just kept driving off the bridge.
Of course they did. They kept driving because there was no reason to suspect that what lay ahead was any different than it ever had been. They kept driving because it was what they knew, and what they knew was safe. Except it wasn’t. Not this time.
Those people thought they were on a trip but they probably had no idea they were on a journey.
I knew when I took my trip that it was also part of my journey. I have been on this journey for some time. I have lost my baggage, picked up and carried the baggage of strangers and friends, had to wear the oxygen mask. I have been laid-over for weeks and months at a time. I have been rerouted through Minneapolis in the midst of winter whilst wearing flip flops. I have eaten more Cinnabon that one should ever eat and I have paid four dollars for single dose packets of Excedrin Migraine.
I have held so tight to the knowledge of this journey. I have prayed that I could just turn it into a trip. That this journey be taken from me, because it was far too much to own.
But that’s not how journeys work and I knew that. I knew that someday I would have to begin to face my fears, that I would have to drive over the bridge that symbolized absolutely everything to me and that then it would be my responsibility to write about it.
I added “Cross the Sunshine Skyway Bridge” to my trip itinerary.
On Sunday, September 29, 2013 I loaded up my rental car, kissed my Mama goodbye and headed to Tampa International Airport. Then I continued past the airport south and west to the Skyway Bridge.
I thought about my fear of this bridge and what exactly the significance of it was. I saw the cars driving off unsuspectingly into the unknown – an unknown that they didn’t know was an unknown – the shock and surprise and terror of losing control and falling.
How does this relate to me, I thought. I need to understand what it is about this event that resonates so deeply within my soul that my heart quickens and my stomach lurches and my mind goes blank just imagining…the…risk.
Oh my god. The bridge is risk. The bridge is the conduit to my journey. It represents growing into the person that I am. The bridge is the expectation that I can be every single bit of me – strong, vulnerable, beautiful, imperfect – and that the foundation (my foundation of friends, family, community) will not buckle under the pressure of all that is within me. I cannot cross the bridge without risking that my values and my truth and all of the wonderful and frightening things that exist within me will not crack the foundation.
I have to believe that I can cross the bridge and it will not fall but that if it does there are people in my life who will keep me from drowning in the dark blue waters of the unknown.
I do know this. I know who will catch me. I am also learning that I am capable of catching myself. My beliefs, character flaws, gifts and values are the sum of a lifetime of journeys and experiences. I have accepted them, liked them even, but I have never been convicted in them.
Conviction is my journey.
I crossed bridge and when reached the apex and looked down at the dark blue waters the wrong side of a sunrise dancing on them and I thought to myself “My god, it is so beautiful here”.
Experience is precious. Experience shared with others is priceless.
Yet in the very end – I want to say that my experiences were rooted in self-awareness and honesty. I want to grow and learn and live – and own that every experience on my journey was expressly unique to me –captured through my rose-colored and scratched up lens – and that I shared my truth with the world despite the risk that I might fall.
I have been missing conviction. I have asked others to believe in me when I couldn’t.
But I’ve crossed that bridge now. I’ve made it to the other side. I’m already grabbing a Cinnabon for my next journey. I hope you’ll join me but if you don’t – I know now that I’ll be okay.