When I was in college I worked nights waiting tables at this college hangout a few blocks from UTEP in El Paso called "The Surf Club"; someone's idea of irony as all water in this region almost exclusively comes from irrigation. This was before places like "Hooters" were popular, but along the same lines: young co-eds in short-shorts and tank tops waiting tables to the backdrop of nightly live bands, and partying with the customers was encouraged. Working there was a typically 'college' experience with a strong focus on partying rather than academics.
I had a blast.
Strangely, I first heard about it from a commercial on the radio about a week after I moved to El Paso to enroll in college. Just the commercial sounded like a party. And, sight unseen, I knew that's where I needed to work. I don't mean that in a passing fancy sort of way. I knew it. Knew that was where I had to be as soon as possible. Maybe knowing that 'I had to work there' isn't an accurate portrayal...it was like I'd been waiting to hear the ad on the radio so I knew where to go next. And when I heard it, I knew. It was the strangest thing...I hadn't really had that happen to me to this point. But I knew it as surely as I knew my next step was going to college. THIS was where I was going to work. Fortunately it was near the college, so I found an apartment nearby to both and, strangely to my surprise, I was hired.
I worked with this guy named Todd. From the very first day I met him, he reminded so much of someone, so strongly. It drove me nuts that I couldn't ever think of who...like the name was right on the tip of my tongue, but it just wouldn't make the leap to verbalization. It bugged me every day...and probably him too as he'd catch me looking at him in that "Hmmmm..." sort of way, and he'd just sort of shake his head and roll his eyes. It was such a strong feeling! Like when you're having a conversation with someone about a celebrity and you can picture their face, but their name just eludes you, but you know it! You KNOW it. You just can't get it off your tongue.
A man walks into the bar. (No, the implications aren't lost on me...). He was tall, had blonde hair, and at first glance, I honestly thought he was Val Kilmer. (Remember him?! And I'm talking about the Val Kilmer from his 'Thunderheart' days; not Val Kilmer from his 'McGruber' days. Well, now). I think every waitress in the place stopped talking and lost all memory of their conversation the moment they saw him. He walked into the bar along with about 8 other men, and almost all were tall, good looking, total muscle heads, and in uniform. This was 1990 near the end of Desert Storm, and there were GI's in from all over waiting to deploy to the Persian Gulf from Fort Bliss, the Army's largest installation, located there in El Paso.
The instant I saw him, I knew we were connected somehow. I wasn't sure how, but I knew it like I'd known other things in my life. Not many things. But things that in every other instance I'd had this feeling, had never once been wrong. We dated off and on for the next few months, and it was right after he was sent back home after the war was over that I found out I was pregnant. I never saw him again. (Yes, he knew).
Fast forward eight years. I'm living in New Mexico, married now with two children. My marriage is almost over, the only thing left the money I needed to be able to get out of the marriage for good and on my own with the kids, chalking it up to a bad mistake, one I probably knew at the time I shouldn't have made. But, like some other mistakes sometimes turn out, I had two little boys who were the very heart and center of my world; and there was never, ever any negativity attached to that. My very soon-to-be ex-husband had invited a friend down to visit, someone he'd known for years but whom I'd never met. He walked in the door to my house and I'll never forget it. I was standing at the sink fixing the boys' dinner, and when the door opened, I turned around. In walked the person who Surf Club Todd had reminded me of nine years before. The first thing I remember thinking was "Oh...there you are!"
Nothing happened with this man. We didn't have any kind of an actual relationship until years later. But we were instantly friends. I can't speak for him, but for me it was like I'd known him my whole life. And for a large quantity of time even before. Like I'd been waiting for him to show up so we could finish the conversation we left hanging 100 years ago. Like a part of me that I was certain I'd misplaced dropped suddenly and completely into place when he walked in that door. And I knew that he was the person I would grow old with. Someday.
acute, canny, cautious, clairvoyant, commonsensical, cool-headed, discerning judicious, levelheaded, perceptive, politic, prescient, provident, prudent, sagacious, sage, shrewd, well-balanced, wise
Prescience...deja vu... I don't know what that knowing is honestly. I know what it isn't, and it certainly can't be considered 'commonsensical', 'levelheaded' or 'wise'! But, for me, it's never been wrong. It's presaged giant turns of events in my life...milestone moments, and moments that turn into lifetimes. It's given me my oldest son Zach who paved the way for a meeting with that ex-husband and eventual father of my younger son, Will. And when that feeling -- that knowing -- presents itself, I've never once considered the choice of not 'going with it'.
Some might call that a shortcoming of character: choosing to allow life-altering decisions to be made based on what those same 'Some' might consider nothing more than a stroke of whimsy. But when it happens, I see it for what it is: a "Hey! Something important is happening! Pay attention!"
When I was a child, I remember having a conversation with my mom. I was about 6 years old.
Me: "I wish you weren't married to dad."
Mom: "But if I weren't married to your dad, I wouldn't have you!"
Me: "Yes you would...I'd just look different."
Mom: "........that's not possible. You're here because you're daddy and I created you. If I didn't have your dad, I wouldn't have you!"
Me: "No, I'm here because I was supposed to be with you. I don't have to be with him; but I'm supposed to be with you. So I'd still be me, I'd just look different."
It would help to understand that until I was in my mid-teens, I really didn't socialize outside the church that my parents' raised us in. I wasn't exposed to differences of belief, and their region certainly didn't believe in anything even remotely similar. And where I 'got that nonsense' was as big a mystery to me when mom asked me as it was to her! But I believed it. I knew it. It wasn't until I was in my twenties that I realized a large number of people, some religious some decidedly not, believe the same thing.
Last night I rented the movie 'Cloud Atlas', a movie based on the award-winning novel of the same name by Daniel Mitchell. I expected thoughtful entertainment. I was surprised to find it profound.
"Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future". The idea that we come into our lives to live them surrounded over and over again by the same people...the coming together, whether briefly or for decades, speaks to me. Do I have proof that this is a fact? No. Do I need proof? Again, no. But I've felt it. Felt it in that knowing. Seen it play itself out over and over again from the conversation I overheard my children have at the ages of 5 and 3 about their time "before we came to be with mommy", to the very first conversation with my best friend and every subsequent conversation thereafter in which we can go years without speaking and pick up right at the exact spot we left off without missing a beat. In that recognition of My Person, who I waited so long for and who growing old with now is a privilege and one of my greatest honors. To the children who have added so much to my life...it's played out over and over and over again.
And it's never been wrong.
I need to remember this. To consciously accept that the mirror image of that knowing is accepting that, even without knowing, things happen when they happen and at exactly the right time. Even when it doesn't feel like it. Even when it's not a wonderful gift like the birth of a son who changes your life or your soul mate walking in your front door. It might even be the single most vexing event of my life to-date. But it's playing out how I agreed to play it out before I ever came here. And I'm playing it with people I've known. Forever.
I don't know what's going to happen with this new and 'vexing' issue that I didn't see coming and didn't ask for and, to this point, have fought tooth and nail and lost literal sleep over. But it's going to be okay. Most things eventually are. Maybe my recognition of these people who seem so foreign to me is only an illusion because I'm so blinded by the event I can't see the players. But I am bound to them as surely as I breathe. Their outcome will be a part of the fabric of my own life and will affect its outcome in a profound way, too. I don't know how I'll handle it, and maybe that's okay.
Wish me luck...I'll let you know how it goes.