Keeping an eye and spirit open for universal signs of life has become like taking deep breaths for me. I started recognizing that nothing is by chance, and all things are designed to create the path we follow. But, even after recognizing this, it still took me a while to notice that even a chance encounter, a message left on a wall or even a commercial can all mean something to a person willing to receive it at the right time.
As I lay on the couch trying to take a nap, as I often do whenever I receive a random couple of hours free of the little one, I felt a brisk breeze of fresh air pushing against my skin. The back door was open, which meant that my husband had made it home, and he was out back feeding the dogs. Something whispered to me as I tried to ignore the urge to get up. "Go see."
I got up and went to the back door, but my husband wasn't there. Neither was our golden-retriever-lab mix, Sheeba. She often takes off for a run around the block if she gets a chance, and my husband always runs after her even when I insist that he doesn't have to. She'll return once she's gotten her fill of exercise.
I felt an unwelcome emotion: I was sad. What if my husband doesn't come back? I looked over at Shaka, Sheeba's baby boy, and it seemed as if he was wondering the same thing about his mother and playmate. I ventured to the puppy and gave him a little reassurance, and then I ran in the house to call my husband. I was worried. By the time I got back to the couch, he was returning. He was upset with Sheeba, needless to say.
I brushed off the anxiety, attributing it to my constant battle with insecurity.
A few days later, I became ill--a really weird sickness. I was exhausted, nauseous and light-headed. I had no fever, but I could not move my body without being winded and feeling stress in my joints. I couldn't work, and I didn't think it was ever going to end. My husband was there. He took care of me. He held my hand and looked into my eyes, fearful of how stressed out I was. He worried that I was worried.
In that moment, I felt the same anxiety that I felt days before when he ran off after Sheeba. What if he wasn't here?
My third point of clarity wasn't as delightful as holding my hand or rushing back into the house. This time it was an argument. I'd said something crazy that only emotionally driven, women-with-baggage can even fathom to present in a normal conversation. My husband let me know that he was upset with what I said--thankfully, I can no longer remember what that was. Then, he asked me the exact question I'd been downplaying in my own spirit: "What if I wasn't here?"
That part I do remember.
I retreated to a place where I would no longer be interrupted by these little signs. I didn't want to know what was next. I would just rather not. I knew it was there. I knew if I wanted to tune into it, I could. I chose not to. I did that for a while.
One day, I couldn't ignore it any more. I received three different messages from three different people all in one day, and the message was the same every time: "You are afraid to let go because you are afraid of being left."
That was it. I had to go in deep. I had to evaluate myself and understand what was happening. I knew this one wouldn't be easy because it had already caused me physical pain trying to avoid it. Here's what I learned:
A daughter's most meaningful relationship during her formative years is with her father. My father left me at an age when I should have been learning how to expect men to treat me. He left me not knowing how to recognize love from a man. Not only did I end up in an abusive relationship, but I also conditioned myself to never trust a man. I believed that to protect myself, I must always have a wall around my heart so that when (not if) that man ever left, I'd be OK. I could make it without him.
This isn't a good mindset to have when you're married.
No matter how we try to mask the small tokens life gives us to ease our path, they are there. We recognize the huge things--job promotions, new relationships--but we don't open our spirits enough to feel the small things. It takes more energy trying to avoid the inevitable signs than it does to accept them.
I'm going to do my part as a living being to contribute to this universal experience we call life. I could have missed this opportunity to develop and to recognize myself.
One thing I know is that if you miss it, it will only come back again until you get it.
The signs may not always be welcome or easy, but they will always be there. All we have to do is see them.
Funmi "Queen" Franklin is a word lover, poet and advocate for sisterhood. She has a weakness for reality shows.