The carefully wrapped blue foil crumples away, revealing the fortune cookie – its tip hardened by a thin sheath of white chocolate. Like always, the brittle cookie explodes apart rather than breaking in a predictable way, and the fortune’s edge sticks out awkwardly. I toss half of the cookie into my mouth, the crumbs falling from my hand into the jadeite candy dish on the weathered kitchen table.
Bold pink lettering amplifies the fortune, more so than its capitalized letters.
BEAUTIFUL THINGS AWAIT YOU.
I inhale deeply. For someone who floats in the atheistic end of the religiosity pool, I’ve always read more into these repetitiously contrived sayings than I should – as if the folks shoving these innocuous messages into their baked shells trend into the designation of sagacious seer rather than underpaid, likely mistreated Third World worker.
Though ordinary, the sayings always give me pause – force me to let my thoughts float around in the ether, search for meaning to the words printed across the slim papery slips. This time, the words resonate with the power of a thunderous gong clash.
I look around as the apartment darkens and the lights from our dried-out Christmas tree illuminate the slow rising and falling of Toby’s tummy. And I think about this year. The last few months especially.
It’s pretty clear to anyone who reads my digital chicken scratch that things have been a bit off lately. I’m all for blaming it on the weather or busy schedules, or both. But really, the blame rests squarely on me.
This year has been filled with so many great things – especially our marriage. But even the happiest glimmer can be dimmed by my naturally-endowed cynicism. Over the past few months, we’ve been racing about and putting ourselves through our paces, and getting ourselves all stressed out thinking about where we want to be and how far away that nebulous place seems.
I rationalize the stress. But there’s no rationale that really sticks. I’d like to say that it stems from me busily throwing myself into writing – actually nearing the end of the unknowingly long, strenuous path of writing and publishing a book – but, as shown by my lack of blogging, that’s just not the case. With that, I’ve unknowingly flipped a switch to autopilot, hoping that everything will just fall into place. Thankfully, though, I’ve gotten a few reminders that we have indeed made progress. Still, I need to get my shit together.
A little more than a week ago, we returned from a foray across the Southeast. We got to see a few friends, and missed seeing more – but reveled in the limited family time we had. We walked around cherished haunts in Sanford, saw how Raleigh had changed. We visited holes-in-the-wall along our track to Alabama, freeing pieces of beloved Fiesta, Harlequin, and Riviera from dusty shelves in warehouses plopped beside I-85.
We let my parents’ woods absorb our stress, the long-leaf pines’ needled tendrils acting as natural sieves for all of the anxieties and worries we’ve carried along with us – letting the residual mess trickle down their barky bases into the micaceous red clay.
And as we did in North Carolina, we discussed the possibilities of having a child – a concept I once found completely alien and strange – and envisioned that little being taking in a sunset similar to the fragmented one we watched through the swaying trees.
And during our visit, in typical fashion, my fragile personal ecosystem got disrupted by sinus mess – an acute, almost expected souvenir courtesy of the places from whence we fledged together. So as we flew from Atlanta to LA – our slightly-too-large, Fiesta-packed carry-on’s safely, somewhat surreptitiously stowed from the flight attendants’ view – I watched how veins of lighted life pierced the darkness below, and wondered what life decisions were being made in each and every one of those little bulbs of existence.
Once home, we collapsed in a tired heap and slogged through this past week. Though somewhat welcome, my return to routine sometime carries with it a gray lining – a mapped, limited normalcy. Which Pearl obliterated on Christmas Eve with two seizures and a subsequent race to the vet. As we waited and wondered what our aged little girl was going through, I couldn’t help but wonder how excruciating it must be for parents whose kids are sick. And I thought about how I’d handle it if we actually become parents. My eyes kept welling at the thought – not at the contemplation of parenthood per se, but at the amazing power that the wee (non)existent being already has over me.
After the doctor explained the potential problems, and we bid Pearl goodbye for the night, we watched the card swipe through the reader and returned home to sit in silence as A Muppet Christmas Carol played on. And reconsidered going to our pre-purchased double feature of Into the Woods and The Imitation Game.
And yesterday, while we got updates regarding Pearl’s examinations and continued with our plans – despite our pangs of guilt – I digested all of the messages I gleaned from Into the Woods as Andy talked animatedly about standing beside Brad Goreski and Gary Janetti at the Coffee Bean outside the theater. About how it felt as though we’d come full circle – that two years ago yesterday, we’d been in the exact same place with so many unknowns ahead, rubbing shoulders with the exact same people. But how markedly different everything was as well – that we now lived a short commute away from where we were standing, that we had two furballs in our fold, two new jobs, and more than a few new goals on the horizon.
And we wondered where we’d be in two more years. That if so many things have happened in such a short amount of time, the possibilities for the next few years are endless.
Now, with both pups home and relatively healthy, I have a new, permeating sense of optimism overriding everything else. Because I’ve reminded myself that fortunes aren’t made – they’re created. Experience by experience, goal by goal. One infinitesimally small step for humankind, one giant leap for personal salvation. They’re neither measured by the number of zeros on a check, nor a large home. Each is a treasured secret that is gradually brought to fruition through measured, calculated gains and fortuitous happenstance.
And the journey to make inroads to it starts with the most basic step of all.
Living: it’s all a beautifully delicious kind of disorder.