Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Letting Go and Letting The Doobie Brothers

Monday, I drove up to Indiana with Kate and Jacob. It was a chilly, rainy day with no hint of sunshine, but we were making good time. It's an easy trip since we live right off I-65 in Birmingham and all we have to do is get on the interstate and follow it for eight hours or so.

Jacob slept most of the way. Kate played games on her iPod Touch and texted her boyfriend. I listened to my iPod on shuffle. Both kids moan and groan about long drives, but they're pretty good travelers. I don't mind having the break from a typical day. The hours in the car offer a lot of time to think about things.

As I passed through Huntsville and Nashville and Louisville, I thought about how, for a couple of years now, my prayers have sounded mostly like this: Please help me, please help me, please help me.

I thought about how, lately, my prayers sound more like this: Hurry, hurry, hurry.

I worry a lot that I made the wrong decision a year ago, but my family frequently reminds me that I needed the time off, to write what I need to write, to feel what I need to feel, to heal what needs healing. But the year is almost up and I'm anxious for something to happen. Something good, lest the universe get the wrong idea here. Something wonderful.

Hurry, hurry, hurry.

Just past the first exit toward Columbus, Indiana, I said to the kids, "We're making really good time. I think we'll be there in less than an hour."

Then traffic stopped. I put the car in park as hundreds of cars lined up behind us. A police car pulled into the turnaround to block people who might be thinking, "Suck it, Indiana, we're going back to Kentucky."

And there, on a short stretch of interstate between two exits, we sat for two and a half hours.

We sang along to songs. Loudly. This one is on a mix on Kate's iPod called "Songs Jacob Hates" but I'll tell you a secret: It's one of Jacob's favorites. Mine, too.
Don't tell Jacob I told you.

Kate played with her makeup and, when Jacob couldn't take the boredom any longer, she put some on her brother. We laughed hard at his blue eyeshadow and pink cheeks. "I feel fabulous," he joked. Then he used a bottle of water and a handful of napkins from Taco Bell to clean his face. There is no photographic evidence.

Don't tell Jacob I told you.

We went back to waiting.

 I put my iPod back on shuffle. A live version of "Black Water" by The Doobie Brothers came on.

I remembered a day in early summer when I met my friends Todd, Chris, and Rob for pizza and beer at Davenport's in Mountain Brook. It was an official, "funemployment" day. None of us work for Southern Living anymore. All of us are trying to make our own things happen. We're all trying to bet on ourselves, take a chance on our dreams, and somehow continue to pay our bills and avoid life under a highway overpass. We lingered over a long lunch and we laughed a lot. We decided to extend our lunch plans to include a movie, The Hangover 2.

We each paid our share of the bill at the cash register up front. After we paid, Chris and I stood by the door waiting for Rob and Todd. A mother and her young daughter were sitting on a bench by the door, waiting for a table or waiting for someone to join them.

"Black Water" came on over the speakers. Old Black Water, keep on rollin', Mississippi moon, won't you keep on shining on me.

Chris and I started singing along. So did the mom. Her daughter's dark brown eyes grew wide with bewilderment.

Adults are so embarrassing!

But who among us can resist the urge to sing along to this:

I'd like to hear some funky Dixieland, pretty mama come and take me by the hand
by the hand, hand, take me by the hand, pretty mama
Come and dance with your daddy all night long.

Who me? I'm hanging out with DJ Todd and DJ Chris.
It was a fantastic moment. We didn't know that woman and she didn't know us but, for this one moment, we were all singing together and laughing. We were bonded by our silliness.

We were bonded by our freedom.

Freedom to sing along without embarrassment (embarrassment is for suckers). Freedom to take a long lunch on a weekday with people we care about. Freedom to live in this moment.

In the car, stuck on a wet, gloomy stretch of Indiana roadway, I thought about how I've been struggling with the idea of letting go and letting God. I worry more lately. I feel anxious. I'm in a hurry for something to happen. I'm in a hurry to get somewhere. My stomach is in knots over the possibility that maybe I was wrong, that my story is not one that needs to be told, that I wasn't listening to God when I made my choice. I was just listening to how tired I was.

After more than two hours, we finally inched up on the scene of the accident that had shut down traffic. My stomach dropped. My chest tightened. The entire front half of a black four-door car, maybe it was a Saturn, was smashed in. The driver's side door was gone, the windshield busted. An 18-wheeler sat behind it, its driver-side tire and hood mangled.

Wherever those people were hurriedly going, they weren't there now.

Police guided the line of cars onto the shoulder, curving widely away from the smashed car and the wrecked 18-wheeler, and then back into the two lanes leading to Indianapolis.

Everyone slowly picked up speed. Some drivers whipped in and out of traffic, trying to make up the time they'd lost on the way to somewhere important.

But I went the speed limit.

None of us went crazy during our road trip that should have taken 8 hours but actually took close to 11. None of us lashed out at anyone else. We mostly laughed. We accepted what life was bringing us at that moment. The three of us, me and my two favorite people in the world, have had good practice at accepting what life brings us. 

I'm going to try to make my prayers sound more like this: Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.

I'm going to try to let go and let God. I'm going to let The Doobie Brothers, too. Just listen to what they have to say:

Yeah, keep on shinin' your light
 Gonna make everything, pretty mama
Gonna make everything all right

And I ain't got no worries
Cause I ain't in no hurry at all. 

That's as good a guiding philosophy as any I can think of right now.


  1. Amy, that is such a wonderful lesson in so many things. Thank you for writing it. I needed to read that.

  2. Thank you! I need to read it again and remind myself. I spend a lot of time freaking out these days. I miss you! I'm looking forward to the party at Rob's.


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