That Wasn’t Your Train (On The Quiet Strength of Giving Up)

It’s an honorable and agonizing thing, waiting. Waiting for a job opportunity, waiting for a relationship with a family member to settle, waiting for the person we love to finally and truly love us the way we want to be loved. Sometimes we put so much energy into hoping and waiting that it can exhaust us for all other things, blind us to all the goodness that’s just around the corner.

It’s a lovely thing to hope for something. To put your faith and trust in a situation that you can’t really know the outcome of, to want something so badly that you’re willing to work towards it even when the world is telling you it’s an impossible battle. Courage can look a lot like craziness to the people watching.

But here’s the thing, there’s got to be an endpoint. You can stand on the platform of the train station at the exactly perfect moment, ticket in hand, craning your neck to look down the tracks, certain that all the pieces are about to fall into place for you, and still that train might not show up.  Because the truth sometimes is this: That wasn’t your train. You can pack your bags and plan your trip and dream of all the lovely things you’ll see, but that wasn’t your train. You can imagine conversations that will finally happen, new experiences that will be open to you, even sweet little naps you’ll take along the way, and still, that wasn’t your train.

Sometimes the reason the thing or person or relationship doesn’t show up is because it just wasn’t your train. And that’s such a hard thing to recognize and accept when you’ve been waiting so long, working so hard, hoping and wishing and praying with everything you’ve got. We’re taught to not quit, that hard work pays off and dreams are meant to be chased. We’re told that if we love people enough, they will feel that love and reflect it back to us. We’re told that the best things in life are worth sacrificing for.

This is all so, so true. But it’s also true that sometimes, we have to let go. We have to realize that we can want something with all of our hearts and it still just isn’t in the cards for us. At some point, we have to stop waiting for that train.

It’s a sad and sickening feeling that washes over us when we know it’s time to go, but I promise you we all feel it. We feel it in our hearts, in our brains, in our bones. We each know on an almost genetic level when it is time to walk away. So why do we work so hard to ignore that understanding, to try to bargain with facts and slip out from under the truth?

There’s a moment in any relationship or situation that has gone sour when you have to ask: Will I leave now and begin to heal, or will I stay longer, and hurt for longer? Those are the only two options. Try to remember that. There is no magical third choice where things become all you had hoped for. It’s ugly and it hurts, but it’s true. Sometimes, things are just over.

Maybe today is your moment. Maybe today is the day that you take one last look down those tracks, and send out one last bit of love for the thing or person or situation that you wanted so badly. Maybe today is the day you take a deep breath, pick up your carefully packed bags, and leave the station. It’s so hard to do, and you might have to take slow steps and stop to rest and ask for help from friends and strangers and pet some dogs to make yourself smile when it hurts too much. But the thing is, you have to leave. You have to turn away from the thing that wasn’t yours so that you can move towards all of the things that can be yours, all of the people and places and situations that are waiting for your love and time and attention.

Maybe there is no train for you. Maybe there’s a bus or a plane or a bicycle or maybe you’ll walk on your own two feet for years and years. Maybe you’ll slowly see that the bag you’re carrying that’s full of memories and old dreams is no longer comforting, but just a weight that’s holding you back. Maybe you’ll be brave enough to set it down, to keep moving without it.

Maybe you’ll meet other people who waited for their trains, people who are walking around damaged and raw and sentimental for the things they left behind. Maybe you’ll see that in each other, see the hope that glimmers beneath the surface, the hurts that still need soothing. When you see that, when you recognize those people, reach out to them, connect with them, be present with them. Whether you know them for five minutes or five years or five lifetimes, these people will become your tribe, your salvation, your hope for whatever comes next. And you will be theirs. You will be able to encourage and support them, to listen to and really hear them, to know that your energy is going into someone that is ready and able to receive it. Feeling that acceptance of your love and time will heal your heart more than a thousand therapy sessions, more than a million inspirational quotes.

So, go. Make today your day. If something is hurting you, if someone is not showing up, if that opportunity is just not going to materialize, turn around and walk away. This is real life, not a movie, so there’s not going to be a dramatic scene with perfect background music and one silvery tear slipping down someone’s cheek. Nope. This is just everyday life, and today is the day to just walk.

Walk away from what isn’t and towards what could be. Allow yourself to feel the hurt and know that it’s sad and cry if you need to, but walk away. Remember all the work and love and hope you put out there, recognize that it was not wasted, that every time you give time and love and energy it changes you for the better. See that whether that time and love and energy was received or not has no reflection on you, and is only a sign that you need to move towards people and places that can accept what you are offering.

It’s ok to take a quick look back if you need to, to wave a little goodbye to the things that weren’t, the future that isn’t. But remember, just one quick look. Don’t linger, don’t hold out hope for a surprise happy ending. Just say goodbye and keep on walking.

Because, honey, that wasn’t your train.

We The People

I was too nervous to watch the election coverage last night. I turned my phone to silent, put on my coziest pajamas, and went to sleep. I woke once or twice, and fought the urge to check on the progress. What would be would be, and I somehow felt that my faith in the good, paired with my refusal to look at results would protect us all. I was so wrong.

I wept this morning when I saw what had happened while I slept. Sobbed, actually, unable to make sense of what I was seeing. Today is my youngest child’s 3rd birthday, and I am terrified of the country he will wake up to.

But that’s the trick, isn’t it?  To not see this as a reflection on our country, on the people we will walk past and talk with today? The trick is to see this as the delusion of the group who was somehow able to turn out in larger, louder numbers. To remember that the most publicized voices are rarely the ones we should be listening to.

We are a good people, we are a loving people. Look at the ways our country has changed and grown in the past few years. Look at the people in our lives – friends, coworkers, family members – who now have rights and protections they were denied for so long. I have to believe in my heart that the love and courage of the many can still drown out the hatred and fear of the few. And I have to believe in my heart that this is still the truth: there are more of us than there are of them. We are stronger. We love harder. Our faith in the good cannot be shaken even in the face of darkest evil

I’m thinking this morning of all the photos I’ve seen in my life of dangerous places, war torn nations, ghettos where children still played in the streets, friends still sat with heads tipped together and spoke of big, impossible dreams. We have been fortunate in recent history to live in a country where our leaders, for the most part, tried to keep us together and safe and happy. There are countless people in countless places who have never felt those things, but who work towards happiness anyway.

That is what I have to do, what we all have to do in this terrifying time. Work towards happiness anyway. Love one another anyway. Fight for what is good and right anyway. The test of a person, a family, a people is not what we do when the road is smoothly paved for us, but what we do when everything around us has crumbled. We show our true colors and make whatever God we believe in so very proud when, in moments like this, we stand together and refuse to let fear destroy us.

Please, do not let fear destroy you today. Cry your tears, wrap up your tender little hearts, and go out into this beautiful world. Smile at strangers. Over-tip the person who makes your coffee. Call your mom or your dad or your sister or your friend from second grade and tell them how very very very much you adore them. Hold the door for the person behind you, even if you think they might be one of them.  Especially if you think they might be one of them. Because that’s what he wants, isn’t it? To scare us, to divide us, to build a freaking wall between us. No. Not today, not in my life, not in my country. I will not let the hatred of some dampen the love of many. I will not let fear crush my sense of community with every single person around me.

Today is not about that one man. He is not us and we are not him. Today is about you and me and all of us, rising together to show the world what we are truly made of. We are made of love. We are made of courage. We are made of strength. And nothing can tear that away from us.