After I met with the WRSCC last October, they granted candidacy, but asked me to take a UU History class. When we got back to Anchorage, I signed up for the class at Meadville Lombard, even though I was a few days past the deadline.
The onslaught of reading began immediately. I purchased some of the books, downloaded others online, and checked a surprising number of them out of our local library. One I requested through inter-library loan, and for $3 it came to me from Naropa.
Avoidance is one of my favorite ways of (not) dealing with anxiety, and I found all kinds of ways to avoid reading. Then we flew to Michigan for Christmas. By the time we arrived back in Girdwood, I was feeling seriously behind the eight ball.
My anxiety reached its peak the week before I left for Chicago. One night I was up until 4 a.m., mind racing, thoughts swirling. As we do these days, I posted my anxiety on Facebook. A friend messaged, “Seriously, what are you so anxious about?”
- flying by myself.
- getting to the place I’ll be staying.
- walking back and forth to class in the big city.
- the presentation I’m working on for class.
- meeting new people.
- figuring out how to be a minister again.
- Liesl’s health and safety while I’m away
Liesl dropped me off at the airport. The line at security was non-existent.
I worried about her driving home–an hour’s drive–on the Seward Highway in the dark, without studs on her tires. She called while I was still at the gate to say that she’d made it home safely.
I boarded the plane without incident, had a lovely conversation with the woman sitting in the window seat, then realized that everyone had boarded, and the seat between us was still empty. A gift of an empty middle seat. Unheard of. And we left Anchorage early.
Liesl had loaned me her noise-cancelling headphones, and I plugged in some podcasts, then snoozed–as much as that’s possible on a plane.
We landed in Chicago–again, early.
It was easy to find the Go Airport Express counter, and the person working there was very friendly. He knew that my plane had landed early, and the shuttle was ready and waiting for me. The driver was also wonderful.
It was about 8 a.m., and I discovered that Chicago has daylight that early. I wouldn’t be walking to class in the dark the next morning.
Check-in at the International House didn’t start until 3 p.m., and I wasn’t looking forward to a long sojourn in the lobby after taking the red-eye. I stopped into the café, bought coffee and a muffin, sat down to wait. After breakfast, and a few more podcasts, I checked back in with the front desk, and found out that my room was ready. Hooray!
I settled in, took a bit of a nap, then ventured out to find the Lutheran School of Theology, where my classes would take place. An easy 20-minute walk brought me to the front door. Even on a Sunday someone was there to tell me where classes were held, and that I could purchase lunch in the cafeteria the next day.
But I hadn’t learned yet. That night I was still worried. Trying to sleep on a thin dorm mattress, in a loud building, I was awake until at least 3 a.m.
On Monday morning, fortified by a 20 oz. sleep substitute (coffee!), I started out for class. By lunchtime I was convinced that the week was going to be wonderful. And it was.
Liesl had some hiccoughs at home. Our kitchen isn’t set up for accessible cooking, and walking an energetic, excitable Australian Cattle Dog is a challenge, particularly when the weather serves up freezing slush. But for the most part, she and Brady also had a wonderful week, an adventure of their own. The highlights of her week were poker night with friends (where she won almost every hand!), and getting toasted at Chair Five with her co-workers.
On the flight home, I had an entire row to myself, and Bright Galaxy as my companion. I watched the landscape flow past beneath the plane, and I was filled, overwhelmed, with gratitude.
The faith of my childhood taught me two conflicting messages about ease and adversity. One said that “When God closes a door, he always opens a window.” And the other said, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”
Neither of these is the lesson I learned from this experience. “God” wasn’t opening a window for me, and I wasn’t being lured into a wrong path by its broad, easy expanse.
This experience was an invitation to let go of my fears. To acknowledge that the catastrophes I imagine–with such clarity and detail–are just that. Products of my imagination.
The ease of my trip to Chicago was a rare gift, a treasure. I’ve written this lengthy post primarily for myself, as a cairn of remembrance, a pile of Ebeneezer stones. When anxiety comes knocking again, as I’m sure it will, I’ve asked Liesl to just say, “Chicago.”