I woke to the sound of the 4:54 this morning, feeling inspired for the first time in awhile to write a few thoughts down. I don’t know if that train is really the 4:54, and I have no idea where it goes or what it has on it (people or products), but that is the time I am generally waking up and hearing it. It was more pronounced than normal this morning because as we welcome Fall here in Michigan, the nights have become cool and crisp. After a very hot summer, windows are being left open and quilts will start layering our beds in preparation for the cold months ahead.
As usual I digress. As I always say, stay on the train….the train of my mind that moves in a million directions and oftentimes comes out in a jumble of twenty thoughts at once. This time just happens to include an actual train!
Nestled among my first thin layer of quilting for Fall, the 4:54 was louder than normal, with my bedroom window open drawing in the cool air. Today is a big day! For so many reasons! Today I will venture north to my daughter’s home, and from there we will travel “up north” as we always say in Michigan to anyplace north of Detroit. We’re heading to a cozy Airbnb I rented in Oscoda where we will spend our weekend, and I will kayak for the first time ever on a river, the AuSable to be exact. I haven’t been on a vacation with my daughter since she was in high school, I think, when I took her and Emily to Cedar Point, an amusement park in Ohio. So I’m pretty excited to spend some great quality time with Gracie and her boyfriend who I adore, who mutually adores me back by calling me “Madre”.
One of the big deals about this trip is that it is a bucket list item, and those of you who are faithful readers know about that metaphorical bucket list. Kayaking was on the list, and Gracie and I did actually go once (my first time!) earlier in the summer on a lake out at Kensington. The reason this is a big deal is because I DON’T SWIM. After nearly drowning as a kid in a pool, fear of water has been something I have spent a lifetime trying to overcome. My ex-husband spent numerous vacations in hotel swimming pools trying to teach me how to swim and it didn’t take long to figure out the problem was that struggled to let my face get immersed completely in the water. However, I did learn that I could float on my back easily, and gentle strokes of my arms could propel me across a pool. I live in the Great Lakes state, and am surrounded by water. I no longer fear it, but I’m still not a swimmer and I do actually have anxiety in water because I could DROWN. My daughter has assured me she would never let me drown.
So…Gracie thought it best I learn the basics in a calm lake and that is what we did. And now we adventure on to the big river and tackle this bucket list item together.
When I heard that 4:54, I woke up smiling and thinking about what needed to be packed up to go. But I also couldn’t help but feel excited because this trip accomplishes even MORE! I get to finally see my Joe after about forty years. I don’t think I’ve talked much about my friend Joe (aka my Joe). We grew up together in a little town of suburbia here in Michigan. We went through grade school and all the way through high school together. We were always aware of each other, but I would not say that we were ever really friends any more than we were enemies. We were simply classmates. As adults we connected through social media and my life has never been the same! We’ve talked on the phone from time to time, but mostly we are daily cheerleaders for each other via text message. When he went through a painful divorce, I held his virtual hand. While I had strings of failed relationships, he held mine. We both assured each other that we are awesome people that just have not found our awesome person yet. Before you say “well why don’t you and Joe just date each other?” we are not idiots, we have thought of that. In fact, I have probably proposed marriage to my Joe seventeen times, and been lovingly rejected every time! I like to remind him of that frequently and we laugh and laugh. We decided long ago that we were way too in love with our friendship to ever risk losing it. I have had more than one boyfriend over the years that has been jealous of my Joe, which is just silly. We are friends and he is like a brother to me. We haven’t laid eyes on each other in forty years. But TODAY I am going to stop at his latest project (he is renovating a public, undisclosed space into a home) and bestow birthday gifts upon him and give him the biggest hug ever! I couldn’t be more excited!
One of the great things about my Joe is that not only is he super talented, he’s super smart and VERY funny. His wit is often sharp sarcasm that mirrors my own so much that I often wonder if we are the same person, his being the male version of myself. But I also learn stuff from Joe and I think sometimes he learns stuff from me and that’s what makes our friendship so great. When I was really down recently, he knew just what to say and how much space to give me. I mean, I get it. If someone who is not normally depressed starts acting really depressed suddenly and going down a rabbit hole, the knee jerk reaction is to reach out and help. I don’t call that depression, I call that a “funk”. It doesn’t happen to me often, but I can count on one hand how many times it has. My Joe reached out (as did a few other people), but he knew enough to back off and let me be while I worked through it. He checked in from time to time until all was right again in my world. I have a few people in my life who managed it like champions. I lost one friend during that time who couldn’t give me the space I needed, and when I did finally come up for air instead of extending her hand, she chose to make that the time to discuss every problem we ever had in our friendship (most of which I was oblivious to). It was a shame, but you better believe my Joe was right there to hold my hand once again and help me weather the storm.
Speaking of awesome men, I recently met a new one that could actually be important. I say that with some trepidation, because my history is not the greatest and I’m sure my friends are all suppressing a laugh and saying “again?”. One guy actually told me that I am a “serial dater”. The reality is, when my daughter was young and in school, my focus was on her. I was mostly concerned with raising a well adjusted person that could function in society and live a happy life. I think that I have accomplished that. During those years, I dated a little here and there but was much more focused on Gracie. Now that my nest is empty, and my dogs have passed, I have found more time to travel and more time to search for my person. I joke that I have exhausted the tri-county area, but the reality is that I haven’t found anyone near me that I wanted to spend a good amount of time with. In the last year or so, I have broadened geographically in dating and it’s been quite an adventure! Dating anyone more than an hour away presents challenges, but what I have found is that it’s actually kind of perfect for me. Someone who doesn’t live close to me will have to be able to communicate with me to keep me interested. I’ve never considered myself needy in relationships, but if needing regular interaction and communication is needy, I guess I am.
What I’ve learned is that I can really get to know someone even better when they are not geographically desirable, because there is not time for regular, normal dating in restaurants and such and there’s a whole lot of talking, typing, and zooming going on. Sure, some of these guys turn out to be fakes, or married, or whatnot. But more often than not, I can learn more about someone who is far away in a shorter amount of time. The last guy I dated for 3 months all the way on the other side of the country (actually outside the country in Alberta, Canada), I knew more about than a guy near me I dated for and year and a half. Dating outside my geographic area also ensure that they don’t live in their mother’s basement and have the time and actual resources to figure out how to eventually meet up in person to pursue the relationship. It also forces the relationship not to be rushed, which historically been a downfall for me. So we’ll just call this man “John” and see what happens. But I promise you, if it all goes to hell in a handbasket, my Joe will be there to pick up the pieces and offer to beat him up! Because that’s what big, protective brothers do.
So I welcomed the 4:54 with a smile today, knowing there is river kayaking in my near future, another bucket list item checked off, time spent with my loved ones, a hug from my Joe, and a man out there over the Michigan/Indiana border that is capturing my attention. Today is going to be a damn, fine day.
Until next time, stay on the train and enjoy the ride my friends.