In the spring of 2009, my running friends and I went down to St Louis to run a marathon. I was having some physical issues so I just signed up for the half, while my friends were committed to the full.
At the time it was just another half marathon. Having run the St Louis Marathon in 2006, 2007 and 2008, I had signed up thinking that I would do the half as a practice run for the 2009 Kenosha marathon a few weeks later. I didn’t know at the time that my left knee had a lacerated meniscus. I also didn’t know at the time that my fiance didn’t love me and would experience cold feet.
The signs were there all along had I looked at them with open eyes. We had gone skiing in Salt Lake City in February and it was more stressful than fun. When Easter came, we split time between our two families and it was a burden. She really wanted to stay at her folks and I think she realized that if we remained together, holidays would be split between the two families.
The weekend after Easter was the trip to St Louis. She didn’t want to drive down in my old car which had bad brakes. But she also didn’t want to take her brand new car because “her parents had helped her purchase it” and “they did not want to put extra mileage on it.” We got into an argument about it and she wouldn’t return my calls. I ended up going to St Louis without her.
I asked my friends who were going down there if we could hitch a ride in exchange for gas money. I hitched a ride with B to St Louis and got a ride home from another of our running coven. when we got back to Chicago, my friend dropped me off and I knew, before opening the door, that she had moved on. On the drive home, I read a book my best friend Brian loaned me called Old Man’s War. It was not only a well-needed distraction but also a lifesaver.
My friends dropped me off early Sunday evening. I walked into my condo and there was a box with all my stuff. She had taken the mixer that we had bought together. That confirmed what I had refused to accept the days before: our story was over.
Spring ended and summer arrived. My 40th birthday came and went. A few friends helped me celebrate while more chose to be busy and unavailable. Most years, my birthday clashes with Mother’s Day and that’s usually an understandable obstacle. However, this particular year, Mother’s Day was the following weekend. I also had to go on a trip to Hong Kong for work which came at the absolute worse time in my life. However, I recall seeing the in-flight movie: Yes Man. Between John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War and Jim Carrey’s Yes Man, my life would change that summer.
So I was feeling like a loser. I was 40 years old, my fiance had run out on me and many of my so-called friends wouldn’t even come to my birthday gathering. To add insult to injury, some random jerk threw a rock at my car on Cinco de Mayo and cracked the windshield.
It was a very dark time in my life. But the fighter/survivor in me took over. The book I had read on the drive was about an old man who gets a new body and a new lease on life. And the movie Yes Man is about a guy who cannot say no to new opportunities.
So the weekend of July 4th, and I was out in the suburbs staying with a friend who had just purchased her home. We were supposed to hang out that weekend and take in Naperville Ribfest. However, my anxiety about the suburbs started kicking in, so I had to return home.
I went to this gathering of a different group of friends. As it would happen, a friend of a friend invited a few of us to a Red Neck, White Trash Fourth of July Party. Actually, Kathy invited Jema, who then invited me and others. Ordinarily, I might never have gone to this event since I was not explicitly invited and twice removed from the host. But I decided to go because of the premise of Yes Man: don’t say no to any opportunity. Luckily so did Nightingale, my future wife.
Because you see, Jema also invited Nightingale, the sister of her college roommate and as luck would have it, Nightingale had a friend who was celebrating a birthday and was planning to go to Carol’s Pub that evening. Carol’s happened to be a hop, skip and a jump from the Red Neck, White Trash Fourth of July Party.
My favorite movie is Field of Dreams and there is a line from it that goes like this:
There comes a time when all the cosmic tumblers have clicked into place and the universe opens it’s self up for a few seconds to show you what’s possible.
If I had not come back from the suburbs early, or if another friend who wanted to meet for a drink hadn’t canceled 11th hour or if I had gone to a different BBQ, I would not have met Nightingale. If she hadn’t decided to take Jema up on her invite, or it her friend decided to celebrate her birthday in the south loop instead of Uptown…
A lot of things clicked into place that July 4th, 2009. It really truly was as if all the cosmic tumblers of the universe clicked into place and created a possibility.
When Sig Other 1.0 left me, I knew nothing but defeat. After meeting Nightingale, I’ve known nothing but victory.
Once a month, for Blogapalooz-Hour, we are given a topic at 9pm and have one hour to write about it. You post at 10pm, no matter what. This month’s topic is, “Write about a great challenge faced. By you. By someone else. By an entity. At any point in the past or in the future.” Here’s my take.