I stand with a friend, looking out the window at the beautiful beach scene. A dolphin fin flashes, and I smile. Life is good, and anytime I see a dolphin, I view it as a blessing of hope, freedom, promise. As I watch the dolphin play, a gigantic hand emerges from the ocean. I shake my head, but the hand remains. It reaches out and grabs the dolphin as a gigantic, monstrous head also emerges from the sea.
“This can’t be real. This cannot be real.” My friend continues her chant, disbelief running throughout her mind and body. How can a Greek myth be here right now in 2013? It doesn’t make sense, but as the huge mouth opens and the dolphin is thrust inside, we snap out of it.
“We have to hide,” I cry. I call for my girls and search for a place to hide.
My friend helps, but she says, “If it’s the end of the world, it’s better to be one of the first to die rather than fighting to survive and witnessing all of the death and destruction and loss.”
We both teach students to write about literature, and I think of “The Lottery” and of Ray Bradbury and Kurt Vonnegut’s stories. Is survival at any cost living? Is giving up living? Is it better to be a witness or a percentage or a fighter? Is the personal cost worth the freedom? Are we really living right now in 2013? Tornadoes, unemployment, hurricanes, war, school shootings, bizarre and strange stories…What is happening in our world today?
I set up a place for me and my girls to hide under a stairwell with blankets, water, and snacks. We settle in, and my friend goes to hide with others in a storm bunker. I want to shout and ask if we are hiding in the right place or if we should join them in the bunker, but I am terrified.
I wake up with the terror and fear lingering.
It’s not the first time that I have dreamt of mythological creatures rising out of the ocean nor of an Armageddon, and I usually dream of tornadoes when I am in emotional turmoil. Personally, I know what the dream means: it’s the question about whether to stay in Florida where I have made good friends and love living by the ocean or to move back to Missouri where I have family that I miss. It’s about the search for place and belonging, for safety and home.
Yet for all of us, the questions remain. What is going on in the world today, and where do we fit into what is happening?
Lexi graduated from high school this month, and she asked why I didn’t cry at graduation. I said, “Well, you’re still here.” She’s scheduled to go off to a performing arts school in NYC in October, and I’ve been trying not to think about that. However, on Tuesday, I sat down with Laina to write in the dates for her school activities this summer and next fall, and right there in October during the same week Lexi starts school in NY, Laina has an event scheduled.
That’s when it hit me. Lexi won’t be here to go with us to that event or the ones following. I still haven’t cried about it, but I’ve felt down, depressed.
Following my divorce, we created a close-knit family of three, and that is changing. Change is good, but it’s also difficult. Lexi will always be part of our family and have a place with us, yet now is the time for her to go off and have adventures and new experiences of her own. I hope that I’ve helped her develop confidence and a sense of herself and her place in this world, and I wish her a fun, crazy, fulfilling ride on her new journey.
Yet, yet, yet…as Laina has wailed, “What will we do without Lexi here?!”
She will leave behind a void in our home, a void in our hearts, a void in our happiness.
I know we will all be okay, but again questions remain. Who will make us laugh after Lexi leaves? How will we fit into our new lifestyle? What will our daily life look like then? And, where do we belong?
I don’t have any of the answers right now, but that’s okay. As Rumi says, live the questions. Besides, endings are really new beginnings, and so our new journeys begin…