The last week has been a whirlwind of crazy, to say the least. A week ago, I was simultaneously battling the end of the flu, chewing my nails over the election, and packing for a week-long business trip to Santiago, Chile. The perfect storm of argh.
You can’t imagine the stress of being told to please shut off your electronic devices at 8:01PM, just as Brian Williams is reporting that the polls have closed in 4 battleground states. And not one update all night from the pilot over the loudspeaker the way we get for really important events, like say a basketball semi-finals game. I had myself convinced that the election wouldn’t be called that night.
I fidgeted restlessly with visions of Nate Silver’s blog posts talking me down, and I tried to distract myself with episodes of Homeland, my new addiction. Yet of course my Wi-Fi at home had taken the liberty of only looking like it had downloaded the entire first season. Which…oh you, have no idea. Instead, I popped on my eye mask and slept best I could.
I woke up soon before landing, and you have never seen a passenger try to switch from airplane mode to OH MY GOD I NEED AN INTERNET CONNECTION so quickly after we were told (or uh, not) that we could turn on our devices.
Then, a ding. A click. A text from Nate–cynical, “turn off the stupid news already” Nate–that read OBAMA WINS! OOOOBBBAAAAAMMMAAAAA WINS!
I looked around on the plane for kindred spirits to celebrate with and…eh. I couldn’t even catch another person’s sleepy eyes long enough to read if they knew or if they cared.
Some questions were answered while waiting for luggage in the Santiago airport. A TV newscaster announced the election results and the entire room burst out in applause. But the greatest moment was a few hours later, hearing my girls’ voices on the other end of the phone, shouting “four more years, Mommy!” They knew the more good guy had won. Their own elation was very real.
Still, I felt incomplete. Compared with four years ago when the celebration was so intimate, so profound, last week my celebration was happy but lonely.
I hadn’t realize how important it was for me to hug my family when it was all over. To be able to sit down with my girls and talk to them about what this means, and why it’s not over, and why we need to keep pushing for the things we believe.
The whole week has been a series of strange absences like this. Indeed business trips are generally exciting in that exhausting work-y kind of way, especially with the promise of empañadas and maybe a Pisco Sour at the end of a 14-hour day; plus the majesty of the snow-capped Andes to one side at all times, following you like a spectacular shadow. But even with a few moments of fun between the stress, even with a big hotel room bed to myself, even knowing that Kiss is playing I Was Made for Lovin’ You just a few blocks away at the Monster Tour, it’s not home. Where my family is. Where I could be helping in the Hurricane Sandy fallout. I’m very, very far away from where I felt like I needed to be this week.
I suppose that if I have to be anywhere, this ain’t so bad and I should just shut up and enjoy that big bed and some experiences that I know some people only dream of. And I have to a large degree, best I can. But hey…grass is greener my friends.
flowers in the desert
Santiago sculpture downtown
It’s hard to explain, but I have always lived life emotionally. Little moments can be the big things that add up to form the memories that make up my life. I have always detested feeling like I’m missing something, small or big. I was the kid who stressed wildly about choosing one Bat Mitzvah invitation over another on the same day, or skipping the first day of fourth grade because I was on a plane home from a summer family vacation. As my parents always told me, life is a series of choices. Indeed I can not be two places at once, and we all trade one experience for another every second of every day. But still, my Achilles heel is my occasional inability to be fully present, even somewhere amazing, when my head is longing for something else.
(“Something else” often being some ridiculous, perfect world that exists only in my head. I admit it.)
Did I mention this is our big family vacation week in Point Reyes to celebrate my mother’s 70th birthday? Work stole most of the week, and since Friday, I’ve had to be satisfied with a few quick calls with two distracted little girls, and Facebook photo updates from Nate of beach walks and small footprints in the sand that hurt my heart.
It’s so ironic to be staring up at these huge spectacular mountains here in Santiago, and long for something as tiny as the feel of a five year-old’s fingers entangled in mine. Ten years ago you couldn’t have convinced me that I’d ever have said something like that.
Oh, motherhood. How you screw with us.
One more day to get through, then a red-eye tonight to San Francisco through Dallas, and I can wrap my arms around the people I love, pick up where I left off, and feel home, at least in my heart. The celebration will be different. But it will be good.
Also, I’m ready for a TV show that isn’t The Fashion Police, and isn’t in Spanish.