Friday, February 11, 2011

The time I nearly died...

In the Bible, God spoke to Moses by way of a burning bush. In 1987, God spoke to me through a fortune cookie.

During a somewhat perplexing time in my teenaged years, I cracked open a message that said something along the lines of, "THERE IS YET TIME TO CHANGE YOUR PATH." And, whether it was God or not, it meant a great deal to me at the time.

But, I do believe that God can use silly things like that to inspire people. I do believe He moves in mysterious ways. I hadn't thought about that in awhile, but yesterday morning I opened a new pack of Altoids and read this on a thin, white sheet of paper...

"Wave this in case of surrender."

Now, I know this is just a fun and quirky marketing thing. And I refuse to believe that Al or anybody else in the Toid family had anything profound or spiritual in mind when they approved this phrase. Still, I couldn't help but stare at it for a really long time, thinking... "What am I going to surrender to?"

It brought to my mind a summer afternoon in South Jersey (a few years after the fortune cookie), when I was a camp counselor. I was nervously paddling the front end of a two man canoe with our head counselor, Dan. We turned a corner a bit too quickly, Dan mumbled whatever the Christian Camp Counselor equivalent was to "Oh shit!" and before I knew it, we were in the water. Which was not at all a good thing for me, as I couldn't swim.

I remember how cold and slimy the water felt. I remember watching our overnight supplies tumbling into the lake after me. But, more than anything else on that day, I remember the utter terror I felt when I realized that my feet were not touching ground. I was in deep, deep trouble.

At the top of my lungs, I pleaded for my life. "DAN! HELP ME!!! I CAN'T SWIM!!! I CAN'T SWIM, DAN!!!!!"

It was a minor miracle, with all my frantic splashing, that I could see anything at all, but I did notice that our flipped-over canoe was in between Dan and me. And I had enough time among the panic to start to get pissed that he wasn't coming to my rescue.



"WHAT?!?!?! ...OH!!! ......oh."


Now, it's some twenty years later, and again, I feel like I'm drowning. A week ago I was in love, and now I'm heartsick. I had to take some time off work, as if I were grieving a death in my family. My eyes are a rich crimson for the lack of sleep, and my ribs are hurting from six days of sobbing. And yet, the question remains... What am I going to surrender to?

My sorrow? This fear of sinking? This feeling that I might never return from such a murky body of water? Or to the thought that there's something out there, keeping me afloat.

the five things i fell in love with today...

1) We have a two year old in our classroom whose Friday afternoon snack time melted-chocolate mustache made her look EXACTLY like Inigo Montoya. I wish I could share a picture with you; it's uncanny.
2) Life jackets.
3) Fortune cookies.
4) Stopping myself at snack time before I completed my recital of Inigo Montoya's famous speech. Not, as it turns out, toddler appropriate.
5) Well, hey... whatever my decision, I know I won't have to surrender to chronic halitosis! Thank you, Altoids! You really are curiously strong! :)

Song of the night...
"No one is alone" by Mandy Patinkin

Movie of the night...
"The Princess Bride"


  1. I know we don't really know each other, but I'm so sorry to read about what you're going through by way of what you share here and on FB.

    That being said I love this post. The canoe story made me laugh and the rest of it made me think. That's my favorite kind of post.

  2. That's very sweet of you, thank you so much!!!

  3. I want my father back, you son of a bitch.

    If you haven't learned yet, we're teaching you to swim in Chicago this summer. ;)

    It occurred to me when I've suffered similar heartache that it's something like eating a bowling ball. It's just too stinkin' big to get your lips around. And even when you do manage to chip off a tiny piece and choke it down, there's still 8.92 pounds of bowling ball left to eat. (Yes, I use a 9 pound ball, because I'm a big wimp with spindly little T-Rex arms.)

    But the good news is that even if you have manly arms and a 15 pound ball, it's not infinite. Eventually the sadness starts to recede a bit, and then a month down the road, you surprise yourself by smiling about something. And then the joy come creeping gradually back into your life over the next year.

    Grief owns you now, but its reign is temporary. And I'll challenge anyone to a duel who says otherwise. And there is something I think they should know -- I'm not left handed either.

    Love you, brother.

  4. Hey, Ry...
    It's been awhile.
    The other bald 30-something man in my life is also going through some major crap in his life.
    Must be something about the bald.

    Anyway...every year my grandfather gives me a promise from the Bible. This year I got Numbers 23:19 - God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?