The first green sign for the Delaware Memorial Bridge always elicited a quickening of my spirit, already anticipatory but a bit dulled by the long stretch of Route 41 endured in the pre-dawn dark for what felt like hours. We're almost halfway there!
The first sign of our nearness to the Ninth Street Bridge was the blue strips of water slicing through the tall green grass that seemed to wave its welcome to the place I drew pictures of on the manilla papers tucked in my purple Trapper Keeper, starting back in May.
The sight of the Ninth Street Bridge caused a loosening of the seat belt, arms around the back of my mom's headrest, and a huge smile. Sometimes, and it was a real bummer, the light at the drawbridge would turn yellow just as our wood-paneled van started up its length. We'd wait, and wait, and wait as a meandering yacht would sail through the center of the structure, like the Israelites through the Red Sea, but with less urgency. After its passage, the grated door would ease back into the center of the bridge, and off we'd go, the smell of the saltwater and boardwalk, Johnson's popcorn and Morrow's Nut House roasted peanuts filling our nostrils and welcoming us to the best week of summer at Grandpa and Grandma's condo by the beach.
Active anticipation, generated by a joy in the journey. These memories are a gift.
Sometimes I pine for them. Not just sometimes, often...and more so these days.
It is not as if I never liked where I lived most of the year, the town that I left to go to the place I loved. I did. I was invested in constantly rearranging my Strawberry Shortcake-themed room, pouring my energy into creating games with my playground friends, and finding satisfaction in babysitting my Amish babysitters when they were supposed to be watching me (they were always easy to watch because they were watching our big box television downstairs). Along with that came my struggles to get beyond my learning disability, my fear of suddenly not being able to breathe (long story), and other worries that clouded my little world. My everyday home was full of all of the stuff of life--the hard and the heavy, along with the good and great. I fully lived where I was, but I always knew summer was coming and the culmination of each year was arriving at a place where I knew no sorrow or disappointment (ok, except the year I got chickenpox -and that other time when I ran into a light pole on the boardwalk while on my grandpa's fold-up bike). The small shore town in New Jersey and the people in it gave me the purest moments of joy and contentedness in my childhood.
Today from where I stand, in my home, in my hometown, in my country, I feel a distinct sense of heaviness, as if the devil has his thumb pressed down on the people of Earth. He knows his time is short and he is working overtime at deepening division between everything that could be divided, causing confusion and major detours and doubts in our spirits. Home here on planet earth has felt especially hard and difficult to navigate these last two years.
I feel it. I see it. I want to hunker down and live in a hole some days...
...until I remember; the best time of my life is yet to come.
The reality is, I am not here to stay. No one is. We're all headed somewhere else, each of us seeing the end of this life and the start of next a bit differently. For me, every morning is one morning closer to the place my spirit anticipates my arrival to. The reality of a joy-unending, whole-hearted, unhurried, unworried destination to look forward to is a gift! A delight! A thrill! It should imprint a permanent sparkle in my eye and a quickening of my spirit. I could sketch about it in the folds of my journal (if I journaled).
My real Home, my True North, contains a lifestyle reflecting the attributes above, one that is available, in small part, in every hard and happy(ish) moment right now. Sometimes uncertainty pulls my mind so close to the ground, it is easy to forget my all-inclusive membership privileges
and of self-control are not being withheld until the by-and-by. They are not dependent on a political party or contingent on favorable conditions. They are ready for pick-up and beg to be used in the here-and-now, not to make our lives more comfortable, but to give a cushion to hearts in hard places--ours and that of our neighbor.
My destination does not end with what I gain in the future. It is meant to completely shake up my perspective and affect how I approach each day of my journey there.
When I live like my citizenship is more there than here, nervous energy fuels me, always looking over my shoulder and dreading tomorrow. When I channel my best energy to instead devoting my days to storing up the treasures I will unpack later, offering the too-good-to-be true perks of citizenship to a cause where justice and mercy, love and wholeness are given away for free, the difference to those around me should be not only a refreshing one but also an open invitation to learn more about this way of life available to anyone, at any point in history, in any place on Earth, no matter what to join in on the best days of our lives, no matter where or how long we live- in this part of them.
I guess what I'm saying is: I am tired of being tempted to be fueled by fear, overcome with the evil around or found cowering in a hole I have dug for me and my family. While it is true hard days have come and harder days may be ahead, there is ALSO too much good ahead, too much hope available on-tap even- and especially- now. I so deeply want to be a whimsical, sleeves-rolled-up spirit of a person who actively anticipates the place she is headed to while offering bits and pieces of the destination to the here and now. Wouldn't it make those around me curious as to what is keeping me going, causing me to spread joy and kindness and love even when where I live no longer looks or feels as familiar to me as it once did?
As I pine for the places I used to visit as a child, it has dawned on my spirit that these treasured moments are pinpoints, guideposts, reminders of what I am really longing for: my true Home. While slowly moving through each day on our tired planet, I hope to bring others around me along on my travel through each day on it, even if it is bumpy and begs for more comfortable seating. All the best moments from all our happiest "happy places" added up could not compare to half a second of what is ahead.
Chin up, eyes clear, heart-focused, joy unleashed. We're on our way.
“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind."―