Nothing is different
But everything has changed.
That’s a line from a Paul Simon song. And it’s the way I felt when I stepped foot off the plane in L.A. after a summer spent in Taiwan, when I looked at my husband the morning after our wedding, or when I watched the sky outside the window of my hospital room after my son was born. My homeland, my husband’s face, the sky – they were the same as every other day, but they appeared completely new. There were things I’d missed before. New meanings to the familiar American landscape, the corners of Marc’s mouth when he smiled, the sunlight warming the clouds with pinks and reds. Experiences can make that magic. Cause us to view old things with new eyes. Something deep in the soul changes – it sends a message to the brain: “Whoa! Everything is new! This is amazing!” And the whole body responds. It feels more alive, more awake, superhumanly able to appreciate. To see with more clarity than before.
I thought it would be fun to gather a list of experiences like this from you, the readers of my blog. I love a good list, and I bet you all have some neat eye-openers to share. The great thing is, as in all stories, everyone can relate. By reading about another person’s experience we are reminded of one of our own, reminded that we’re all in this together. So leave a comment below, long or short or however you like, and let us know about a time when nothing was different but everything had changed. Let’s see what we get…
Here. I’ll start.
It was just before my junior year in college, I was at a summer training program in Colorado Springs with students from all over the country, along with my friend and only fellow-Jayhawk Marc. I had just sent a letter to my best friend swearing off boys for the forseeable future, as they proved to consume and confuse my thoughts and I was ready for a break. Then I left for a hike with the close group of five other friends I’d made over the two months. Three guys and three girls, hiking up a canyon, talking, laughing, crossing back and forth over the stream that ran down the mountain. At times one of the guys would reach out a hand to help me across the merely ankle-deep water, which should have impressed me as an act of chivalry, but instead annoyed me as a sexist view of my capabilities. I didn’t need no stinkin’ man’s hand to cross a stream. Until I did. I was about to slip off a rock, so the guy in front of me reached to help. I took it, looked up, and everything changed. True story. It sounds corny, and it is. But that is how the letter to my best friend became null and void, and how I started my deep fall into love with Marc, the man I (much later) married. He suddenly nearly glowed, I adored him so. He had no such reaction to my hand in his, but for me it was magic.
There, now you go…
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For me, it’s the moment that I notice the seasons change. The Midwest just presents them so well. Since moving to Florida, I’ve found those moments to be far harder to recognize. For spring, the crisp morning when I hear a bird chirp perfectly timed with my first step out the door. For summer, the first sight of a firefly as the sun takes its sweet time to set. For fall, when the waft of a bonfire hits my nose, or a ticket stub from last year’s football game falls out of my jeans as I grab them for this year’s debut. And winter, when I grab for my sleeve the first time, wishing it was longer, or when my hand suddenly realizes that a warm mug would be the perfect fit. I love these moments- subtle, but signaling a new chapter.
We were at a fall picnic last yr. my kids were playing in the grass near the lake and I held my baby on my lap. We were finishing our meal and my 6 mo old was pulling dry grass up in handfuls and letting it trickle out of his fist. I heard a mom to my left say .. The baby’s gagging. I patiently looked and waited to see if he’d puke it up like usual. He didn’t. He started to become blue with struggle and then gray … I screamed stood up and yelled.. MY BABYS CHOKING HELP!!! I did the baby choke hold but it wasn’t working… And suddenly from my left as my son curled into fetal position as if the life was gone… A woman took him and slammed him in the back holding him as I had done… A weak cry emerged. Color slowly came into his limbs and face. A stronger cry finally made me realize I wouldn’t face my deepest fear. My son was saved. I crumpled with relief holding him tight. I couldn’t cry.. My other 4 were surrounding me.. Needing my strength as they had witnessed it too. I quietly nursed my baby and assured the other kids all was well.
When we came back home I cried for hours as I told my husband the story over and over.
That day ….after my son came back….. Was the brightest most beautiful day I remember. The wind was warmer… the lazy sunshine enveloping me tighter… I felt Gods presence holding me assurance like never before.
It was 3 hours..same day same weather… But different.
I had a similar experience with my son at a Subway when he was three years old. He had a mouthful of grapes and one slid down his throat. He was grunting and pointing to his throat. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I stepped outside. A crowd formed around me. People were yelling. Some were screaming “he’s choking”. Others were saying, ‘he’s not choking because he’s making noises.’ I am terrified. I’m hitting his back and nothing is happening. He stops making noise. A woman calls 911. My mind goes blank and all I hear in my head is the phrase ‘BACK BLOWS’. I flip him over my leg and pound his back as hard as I can. Violently. Suddenly the roar in my ears is silenced by “POP”. The grape pops out of his mouth and on to the concrete sidewalk. The crowd thins. The woman cancels the 911 call. And everyone goes back to their lives, including my son.
The moment. It does come down to that sometimes. One moment. A clear line in the sand. The before and after. Many of my moments have occurred at the beach. It’s the place I seek when life is tumbling all around me. The place I run to when I can’t figure out what’s next. It’s May, 2004 and all I want is a baby. I’d been waiting and longing for 18 months and my husband and I had just learned the reason for our infertility. We had many decisions to make at that moment. Pursue medical treatment or adoption? If adoption, what would that look like? We decided to follow both paths. We attended doctor’s appointments and adoption seminars. All without receiving clarity. Until the moment we found ourselves sitting on the sand in Santa Monica. In an intimate, heart-rush moment, we decided to adopt a baby from Russia and to let all other paths go. I walked onto the beach childless, hopeless and lost, and walked off the beach with a child in my heart, hope on my lips and a direction for my feet. Forever changed.
It was January, 1975. I was 24 years old. My first baby, Jenea, was born. It was magical, a miracle. She was so beautiful. She opened her deep, dark eyes for the first time when I was holding her. I was the first thing she saw. Wow. She hooked me. I don’t normally smile a lot but a # of people said I was ALL smiles that night. One of the 2 best times of my life (yes, the other was when her brother was born). I reluctantly left Claudia with Jenea in her arms late that evening and drove away to spend the night with friends in a farmhouse miles out in the country. It was cold, bleak and dark as I drove down gravel roads in our little red volkswagen. It started to snow. As flakes were hitting the windshield, I was now terrified. I was a FATHER! The responsibility for this baby really hit me as I drove through the night. I was in my second year of law school and very unsure of my future. I had dropped out of school to work on the railroad for the fall semester, was laid off 6 days before Christmas but was now returning to school for the spring semester which we could barely afford. I would work 5 part-time jobs that spring semester–40 hours a week–not an easy task while in law school, but I had no choice. But, the next day was bright and sunny as I greeted with a new smile my beautiful wife and brand new baby. Every day or night that semester I could hurry home from school or whatever job I was working and hold
Jenea. That day in January my life had changed forever.
Thanks, Jenea, for getting me to think about a moment when “nothing was different but everything had changed.” There are, indeed, many of these–beginnings, mostly, but endings too. The first one that came to my mind was a delayed beginning, if you will.
My first child was three months old. As her mother, I was supposed to be desperately in love with her and thrilled at this new addition to my life and family. Instead, I was in the throes of postpartum depression, living half a world away from family and friends, and, honestly, resenting this little intrusion who had, as I had been warned would happen, taken over everything.
I wanted my old life back. I wanted to walk leisurely home from my teaching job along the crest of the ravine, taking in the fantastic pinks and oranges of a Turkish sunset, rather than frantically racing out of class to catch the bus so that my invariably screaming and hungry baby could nurse. I wanted to go to the gym WITH my husband rather than taking shifts in that, and every other, area of our lives. I wanted to sleep, if nothing else, just to sleep. Instead, I had a demanding little life to protect and provide for, a goldfish, my Turkish friends lovingly deemed her, who needed constant food and attention but gave virtually nothing back, at least nothing I could perceive at such an early stage of motherhood.
So there I was, stuck, wishing for an escape route and knowing there was none. Until that moment…
I had to take my daughter in for her three month checkup and I didn’t have anyone to make the trek with me. We didn’t have a car and relied strictly on public transportation, which took about forty-five minutes each way to get to the pediatrician. As a new mom, I was so nervous about all the details of taking my baby, by myself, on the long journey. What if she started screaming uncontrollably on the bus and we still had another 20 minutes to go? What if she needed to nurse and I couldn’t find anywhere to do so? What if she had an explosive diaper and I didn’t have enough wipes to get her clean? And on, and on… Not that having another person along would have helped with any of these scenarios, but it seemed less scary. I had never done it all alone before.
But, the friend I had enlisted to go with me had to cancel at the last minute, my husband had another obligation, and so there I was, making the trek alone, well not alone actually, with her. But I didn’t think of it that way initially.
And how did it go? My wonderful little girl definitely rose to the occasion– there was no screaming and no pooping on the journey. She nursed beautifully and right on time at the pediatrician’s office just after he was finished with us. And, just as a little bonus, she fell asleep in her little Moby Wrap and purred like a kitten the whole journey home. As I sat on that bus crammed with students and faculty from the four corners of the world, I looked down at my slumbering child and knew, for the first time, that I was the luckiest woman in the world. Not because she had behaved so beautifully (though I have found in motherhood that perfect behavior certainly helps to usher in such surges of thankfulness), but because she was mine and I was hers. This journey of ours was the first of so many literal and metaphorical journeys we would make together– and I get to be the one there with her. Wow! I was amazed that I hadn’t seen it before– how was I so incredibly blessed without realizing it?
The moment didn’t change all the postpartum issues; it didn’t make it any less fun to go to the gym alone; and it certainly didn’t mean I ran joyfully for the bus to come home after a long day of work to a screaming baby and a frazzled husband. In some ways, nothing had changed. But everything was, indeed, different. I knew now that my old life of freedom and sleep and lazy Saturdays couldn’t hold a candle to this– I get to be my baby’s mom.
John and I left for the hospital on a cold and windy day deep in winter. A regular winter day threatening snow. But earlier that morning my whole world had changed, was changing still, as we travelled with our unborn child. In the silence (fear and joy at once), I felt every part of my being become vibrantly, intensely alive. It was if the whole world was opening to me, to us, offering an unspeakably precious gift. Soon our dark-eyed, dark-haired, beautiful and perfect daughter was born. I spent that night after her birth giddy with a love I never knew existed, with an excitement that wouldn’t let me sleep, while a snowstorm blew outside my window. Just a regular winter storm like so many others I’d experienced, but Now I was cocooned inside it with the man and the child I loved so much it hurt. The crazy thing is that it happened again three years later when our son came to us on a similar blustery day. The birth of my children was an absolute life-changer for me and I’m so grateful for the ways I was forever changed by love.