“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents…”
No, I am not entering the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. Nor am I making a feeble attempt at melodramaticism or trying to be funny.
One year ago this evening, there was a major thunderstorm in the Seattle-Tacoma area. And my emotions were equally as tumultuous as the storm brewing around me.
It had been only nine days since I had landed in the emergency room at the Army hospital. After 10 hours of poking and prodding, repeating my symptoms to every level of the medical staff over two shift changes, and a CT scan later, a woman wearing the gold oak leaf rank of major and calling herself, “Doctor,” came into my room asking me for the umpteenth time about what brought me to the ER, and then coldly and abruptly announced: “You have a mesenteric tumor and lesions on your liver. Any questions?” before she left my room to attend to other patients.
The week that followed seemed to rob me of much of the joy of the anticipation of finally meeting a dear friend from Europe after nearly 12 years of being acquainted. He was coming from Holland to Seattle for business.
And now, on his final day in the area, I found myself driving northbound on I-5 into a downpour not usually seen here in the Pacific Northwest, windshield wipers unable to provide a clear vision of the road ahead.
The tears streaming from my eyes at that moment clouded my heart and any hope for enjoyment of life or the people who were in it.
The conundrum I was facing was whether or not I would share what was going on in my life at that moment. I had always felt that I was responsible for others’ feelings of sadness and discomfort, guilt and shame, and every other difficult emotion. (Funny that I rarely gave myself credit for joy.)
I nearly called to cancel dinner plans because I knew that I could not hold anything in any longer. The thundercloud inside of me was so saturated that I could not see any other way but to share the news and dampen the mood of the evening, making everyone around me miserable.
I think I was sobbing when I called my friend, Sami, and shared my fears with her about being vulnerable with people that are important to me. She was one of the few I had shared exactly what I was facing in so many aspects of life.
The week before, Sami and I crossed the Tacoma Narrows Bridge together finding the beauty in those special moments that two friends share. It was four days after my ER visit and I was numb from the news. (Click to read the blog entry and see the pictures.)
As I cried on the phone to Sami, not certain if I should go or turn around and stay home, she spoke the very words I needed to hear. They were not new to me, nor were they foreign to my lips, having spoken them to others many times before.
“Listen to your heart.”
When we hung up, I saw the blackest, most ominous cloud, directly in front of me.
“Listen to your heart, Coral.”
I repeated this mantra for what seemed to be countless times.
As I continued to drive into the darkness that awaited me, something very peculiar (to me) started unfolding. Though no longer the “religious” person of my youth, I could not dispute that something amazing was happening.
A sign. A promise.
What appeared in front of me was the most vibrant, virile, full rainbow I had ever seen in my 56 years. I could see where each end touched the ground. And it was completely saturated with color, as if I could reach out and touch it. The strength and the energy it portrayed was magnificent. I continued driving toward it until I was nearly under its canopy.
As I looked up, another rainbow appeared. It was also a full, complete rainbow, though much lighter. Each side disappeared into the stronger rainbow, as if it were being held up by the stronger of the two.
As I drove through this double rainbow, the rain disappeared into a softer, springtime shower. By the time I reached Seattle the sky had lightened and it had stopped raining.
That evening, I was able to enjoy the special moments that two friends share, just as I did a week earlier with Samantha.
“Nick” and I had such a grand time at El Gaucho in Seattle. Delicious food and wine. Conversation that spanned silliness and seriousness. Music and dancing. Connection between friends that was shared from a place of honesty and vulnerability, that spanned the years and the distance between continents.
We shared honest laughter and tears. Vulnerability. Genuineness. In-the-moment living.
In spite of all the dark clouds of life, when we can remain present in those moments with those whom we truly share a connection, it is not necessary for us to put on a charade and hide from the difficulties we face, or the sadness, fear and pain that accompanies us. We learn to accept what others can offer as strength to carry us through the roughest of times, just as we would do for them.
Yes, we can experience so much more joy, peace, love, hope, friendship and connection, if only, we will…