“Just think about how easy your life has been, ever since you met him. If I were you, I wouldn’t screw this one up, Meg!” My friend Cecilia had spent the week at the St. James Club in Antigua, and had been lying together on the dock adjacent to the crystal blue water for hours. John and I had been dating for almost six months, and I knew it was that ‘make or break time’ where I would commit for the long haul or move on. While Cecilia and I were sunning ourselves under the hot Caribbean sun, John had gone for the week to ski in Alta, Utah. Even though I would miss him, I actually had no problem separating from him for the week, since I really needed the space to think about my future and whether I could picture him in it.
The issue was not my relationship, actually. It simply was that I had been dating someone else for years before I had met John, and I was absolutely convinced that my ex and I belonged together. Moving forward with John meant letting go of what I had planned on for my future. Cecilia and I had gone to law school together, and remained close friends ever since we graduated. She was the type of friend that could listen to me drone on for hours about my past, and always knew exactly when to interject to make sure I was pulled into the present and focused on my brightest future.
As we lay on the dock for much of the rest of that day, I noticed Cecilia’s gorgeous olive skin, a blessing from her Ecuadoran heritage, develop a glowing bronze hue. I had long ago given in to my secret jealousy of her complexion. Worse, that particular day, I had forgotten to reapply sunscreen. At one point I checked myself in the mirror of my compact and asked, “Cec, do you think my nose looks like it is protruding?” Without looking up, Cecilia chuckled. “Oh Meg, don’t be silly.” But that evening, as we prepared to leave for an outdoor club scene at Shirley Heights, Cecilia looked up at me and did a double take. “Hmmmm. Meg, your face does look like
it’s kind of puffy. You ought to wear a hat until sunset.” Not looking in the mirror, I took her word for it. At Shirley Heights, Cecilia noted my increasingly swollen face and became alarmed. “Oh my gosh, Meg. I think you may have gotten sun poisoning today. Your face looks like it’s completely distorted!” I rushed to the bathroom and as I looked up in the mirror, I almost fainted. Facing me was a version of myself that resembled Cher’s son “Rocky” in the movie Mask. In short, I sort of looked like the Elephant Man, well…..with one finger on each hand.
Back at the hotel that night, I knew we were flying home the next day, yet I still struggled with the decision that I knew would change my life forever. John was funny, bright and attractive, and we were certainly compatible. However, I had always been sure I was destined to marry my former boyfriend. How would I know for sure I was making the right choice?
Last week I was flying home from a business trip in London. I was landing the afternoon of my 15th wedding anniversary. I knew that once I dropped my bags at home, John and I would be going out to a celebratory dinner so, just before departing Heathrow, I rushed through the airport looking to buy an anniversary card. Nothing fit the bill, however, and I hoped to have just enough time between the airport and home to find something.
I had bad memories of Heathrow. It was during a similar return trip in 1997 that I tried to balance my luggage cart on the rising escalator steps ahead of me, mimicking other passengers, but my one-fingered hands were not built for the task and I tumbled backward. The bag, the cart, my other possessions all landed on top of me. I had severely bruised my coccyx bone (which would require months of physical therapy). In pain, I just wanted to get home to my boyfriend, Michael.
We had been going through stressful times, but I was certain he would be there to take care of me when I finally made it to my apartment on the East side of Manhattan. As I had hoped, Michael was waiting for me. But, as I hobbled painfully to greet him, he broke up with me.
This time around at the airport in London times had certainly changed. I was focused on grabbing a few gifts for our three kids before I headed to the gate back to Newark. The flight was early and I looked forward to seven + hours of quiet -time and the chance to enjoy movies I never typically have time to watch. I ended up watching an Indian film called, The Lunchbox. The plot followed a young woman who, due to an error, ended up sending lunch to a lonely older man. This unplanned event changed both of them forever.
It occurs to me that in my case, being born with an imperfect body (something out of my control) has translated into a strong tendency during my life to take control to try and make things perfect. Not surprisingly, perhaps, I wound up learning the opposite can be true. The more I have let go, the better things have turned out. My relationship all these years later with John is the perfect example. As he read my card that night at dinner (I had found one last minute locally), he began to laugh out loud. It read, “Another year of sheer bliss….. You’re welcome.” He said, “Well, I guess we are perfect for each other,” and handed me his card. The design and graphic were different from mine, but inside it also read: “Another year of sheer bliss….. You’re welcome.”
We were both stunned at the coincidence, and given our history my favorite quote from The Lunchbox immediately came to my mind: “Sometimes the wrong train gets you to the right station.”
When Cecilia and I returned from Antigua, and John saw my face still looking like the Elephant man, the first thing he did was give me a kiss and put his arm around my shoulder. Then, with a warm smile he said, “Well, look at this way ….. at least now we can get people to stop staring at your hands.” In that moment, I knew he was the one, and we were engaged less than five months later.