On New Year’s Eve 2015, just as the clock struck midnight, my husband and I clinked our glasses of champagne together and shared a kiss. I distinctly remember what I told him as he held me. “This time next year we’ll be in Italy. I promise.”
Now, as I write this at my desk, looking out over my garden in Belgium, I am overcome with the regret of an unfulfilled promise. Not that our non-move to Italy was any fault of our own. The offer of a teaching job in Italy fell through, followed by family illnesses, the loss of several beloved pets, and financial circumstances that caused us time and again to dip into the funds we had judiciously saved for the move. The writer and cartoonist Allen Saunders was right. “Life is what happens to us while we’re making other plans.”
As this year wore on, and as it became ever more apparent that we would not be moving to Italy, I couldn’t help but think that the path of life had been robbed of sunlight. There were chinks of light here and there, of course there were; but, overall, the road ahead seemed shrouded and clouded by the murkiness of missed chances and plans gone awry.
Yesterday, however, – Christmas Day – as I lay on the sofa feeling so stuffed full of food that I thought I may never be able to move again, I had a kind of epiphany. It came in the form of a remembered quote by Stephen King. He said, “If you’re pushing and pushing and nothing is happening, stop pushing.” He was talking about writing, of course, yet I couldn’t help think that this could also be used as a quote for life. We had pushed and pushed for a new life in Italy, but no matter how hard we pushed, life – and our dreams – pushed back against us. Nothing was happening.
What if we stopped pushing? What then? Would that be giving up? Or would it have the effect of allowing our dreams space to breathe, allowing us to step back and see that the path ahead is not clouded by murkiness, but rather it is beautifully dappled – as is life – by light and shade. After all, it is only when you step out of the shade that you can appreciate the warmth of the sun.