I woke up. The face of my bedside clock was expressionless.
Still no power.
It felt like time was standing still, but I knew otherwise. A quick check of my phone, whose battery was holding on for dear life, confirmed that I’d been asleep for exactly one hour.
I was awake, but unfortunately, the nightmare persisted.
It was 1:30 am, but no more sleep would be had by me that night. Eerie lightning flashes periodically silhouetted the stripped and broken trees rising from the backyard like a witch’s bony fingers. It’s an image I’ll never forget.
I had to leave for the airport in five hours. My mind raced to try and solve all the problems that flooded it, both real and imagined. I speculated how long food would last in a refrigerator with no power. I looked up videos on Youtube for instructions for manually opening an automatic garage door. A scan of local headlines spoke of fallen trees and downed power lines everywhere, and I wondered if making it to the airport in time was even possible.
I had to figure out a way, even if it meant driving eleven hours on one hour of sleep. A conference filled with people was expecting an opening keynote speaker. And, based on the initial survey of the damage to our house and yard, I was not in a position to be returning checks.
Only one thing seemed certain: my first Daddy Daughter trip with Ginny would have to be canceled.
And the thought of telling her made my heart splinter like the white pines outside my window.
I like to think of myself as a resilient person, cool under pressure. When a crisis comes up, my mind revs into overdrive and I work to solve the problems at hand.
I’m not unique in this regard. When life is disrupted by a storm, an accident, or an unfavorable diagnosis, it’s easy to shift into busy mode, frantically working to get things back to normal.
This can be good, but also dangerous.
It’s a trait that shows up not just in a crisis, but anytime there’s a project to be finished or a to-do list to be tackled. Adultitis encourages us to keep pushing, assuring us that there will be plenty of time for everything else once this hurdle is cleared.
We barrel ahead until the work is done, telling ourselves that we can sit back and relax after we take care of one more thing.
The problem is, there’s always one more thing.
And life keeps going, with or without our willingness to be present.
That’s why, at nine the next morning, I was helping my daughter buckle into her window seat on a jet bound for Chattanooga.
In the light of day, after a neighbor helped us clear the driveway, Kim and I were able to have a clear-headed conversation about what to do. My first trip with Ginny was supposed to be to Orlando, but that was canceled thanks to COVID. If this one bit the dust, there wasn’t an obvious next one to replace it.
I felt bad leaving Kim behind to handle the details as it was, but to spend it having fun in Tennessee with Ginny was especially guilt-inducing. It made a lot of sense to put our heads down, deal with the crisis, see about flying home right after the gig, and put her first trip off for another time.
But what if there is no “another time?” At the very least, this is our last summer with an 8-year-old Ginny. We won’t be getting another.
Life’s pretty fast. It’s easy to miss it when you’re in the constant state of busyness that’s so common in our modern age.
But it’s also easy to miss when life gets hard.
This realization is also why, although our to-do list just tripled in the aftermath of the storm, while we’re already knee-deep planning for our first out-of-state Escape Adulthood Summit, our family spent last Friday afternoon at the beach. It was a gorgeous day. We ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with our toes in the sand. Kim napped in the sun. I cuddled with Ginny, played catch with Ben, and joked around with Lucy.
We filled our cups.
Because you can’t drive through hell on an empty gas tank.
Life keeps going; even in the hard times. We each have a certain number of days left. It’s worth being reminded that the sands in the hourglass of our life don’t get frozen in place until the backyard is restored, the cancer has been cured, the diploma has been achieved, and things get back to “normal.”
Life keeps going.
Don’t fall into the trap of waiting for life to be just right before you actually live it.