A few weeks ago my feet started itching from staying in the same place for too long; my gypsy soul started stirring so fast that I could not longer quiet her down. And so I made plans to take a short trip down to Charleston, SC to do an interview for my project. After conducting a three hour interview, I met a friend out at a dog-friendly bar. And in this case, dog-friendly meant that it was a giant dog park with a little bar attached. There was a bluegrass band, a food truck slinging delicious pizzas and a fire pit.
Sounds awesome, right? Well, I gotta tell you something. My dog Buddy? The one that looks so sweet and cuddly all the time? Yeah, he’s kind of an asshole. And definitely not dog park material. So we walk into this bar/dog park and about twenty dogs are running amok off leash. Both times I went to the bar to get a beer, a giant St Bernard kept trying to hump Buddy. It was a bit distracting. At one point, I left Buddy in the care of my friend and went to the bathroom with my phone in my back pocket. Can you guess what happened next? Yup, phone in toilet. I fished it out right away but it was already spazzing out on its way to death.
So there I was, in a strange city with no means of communication or GPS. Hey old farts like me…..remember the days when we carried atlases in the car? Or printed out MapQuest directions before we left on a trip? Fortunately, my friend volunteered to let me follow her in her car back to my hotel. I stopped at the grocery store next to my hotel to pick up a bag of rice to try to salvage my phone. When I got to the checkout line, I opened my wallet to find that I had left my debit card at the bar/dog park; which I also blame on St. Bernard humpies.
With the help of the front desk at the hotel, I called the bar/dog park to make sure that they had my debit card and located the nearest AT&T store. The next morning, I went there first thing and picked out a fancy new phone. A woman named Harley helped me out and she and I talked and talked about my project and dating and life in general. She was super cool; so I didn’t even mind when she broke the news that since I hadn’t backed up my phone since August 1, 2016, nothing stored after that date would carry over to my new phone. Gone were so many pictures, and phone numbers…….and the previous day’s three hour interview. Then Harley asked how I wanted to pay. And I just started laughing at her. And dug out my never used business debit card.
One might think that all of this would put a little rain cloud over my trip….having to deal with all of that. But one doesn’t know what happened to me the morning of the phone-in-toilet-debit-card-at-bar incident.
So let me tell you.
The last time I had been in Charleston, SC was three and a half years ago. I was in the center of a white hot heartbreak so I did what I always did when I find myself there. I run to the ocean, hoping that her waves will take it all from me. Three and a half years ago, I rented a little cabin on Folly Beach with just me and Buddy. I spent my mornings stalking the shoreline and went to a yoga class every day. I turned off my social media over those four days and tried to work this thing out of my system. I went out to dinner by myself, and felt pity in the strange faces that surrounded me. Not because I was alone, but probably because my pain was radiating off of me in sad pulsations.
And so the other day, I found myself once more walking on those same shores. While I was walking, I started to think about that time three and a half years ago, that time when I thought my battered heart would never mend. I thought about where I was in the present moment. And I began to laugh and laugh. And then I started to cry. They were tears of gratitude. I was so, so grateful to the gentle hands of time for doing their job. I was so grateful that this, too, had passed.
In that time when everything was happening I was caught in a vortex of self pity. I tried everything. I wrote letters I would never send and then burned them in fire ceremonies. I talked it to death with friends (my apologies to those who know who you are). I ran and ran and punched heavy bags with boxing gloves. None of those were a magical cure. Because I’ve discovered that for some kinds of pain, the only antidote is time, and sometimes lots of it.
In 1914, Thomas Edison lost half of his plant to a giant fire. The plant housed his ideas and inventions and his life’s work. As the story goes, as flames consumed the buildings at a rate too rapid to be contained, Edison turned to his son and said, almost gleefully “Go get your mother and all her friends. They’ll never see a fire like this again.” And then the next day, he got right back to rebuilding.
The point of this blog is not to compare the loss of Edison’s plant to the loss of my phone….though it’s quite tempting. Rather, it’s to talk about how three and a half years ago, I had never seen a fire like that before. And how it’s only in retrospect that I can look back and see how beautiful it truly was; the way it lit up every single corner of my heart so that I knew I could indeed love again, the way it burned away debris so that I could see what was truly important. It burned hot and furious for a while; and then got smaller and smaller until as time passed and passed. And then suddenly, it was just a spark within me……which I keep as this beautiful token of my resilience.
This time around in Charleston, I meet people….on the beach, while shopping, out at breweries. I am no longer this beacon of pain to be avoided in case it’s contagious. I am all smiles and purpose and lust for life. I am completely lit up from all these sparks within me.