...but luckily I have this photo on my handy iPhone to remind me that life is, in fact, whatever you make it. Planning a trip back east to visit prospective colleges, I was losing my smile and spark after five days of whatever-could-go-wrong-going-so-wrong. I was so upset by what was going wrong that I forgot to remember what was going right.
The college options I had meditated and prayed for were materializing. At that moment I thought that was a burden, until my phone buzzed, and I saw the 'expect the best' photo and listened as my daughter told me which of her brilliant, beautiful and talented friends did not get in to their dream schools that day.
I couldn't make flights following a visit at NYU work out so I had to book our visit to Boston early, at a great cost for flights, hotel and transportation to and from the airport. I was adding it all up, and then my phone buzzed and there was the photo you see above flashing at me again. My gigs were moved to this week - and I would make up in one day what it cost me to move our travel. Matthew arrived on time to grab our bags and whisk us to LAX. The traffic was thick but we got there, walked in, put our bags on a conveyor belt, walked straight thru to screening and to our gate and onto the plane. It was waiting because the previous flight had been delayed by 3 hours. Expect the best...
We arrived at our hotel after a harrowing cab ride, taking us all over the place, past road closures and orange cones and up and around the bend. As I was going to complain about the route I checked to see the time on my phone and there it was again - 'expect the best.' I took a deep breath and imagined the rest of our stay as being perfect.
For the remainder of our time in Boston I walked my talk and expected the best. And it was. Including finding out my kid's best friend was staying in our same hotel and would be taking the train into New York with us. Not knowing any better we accidentally got into the quiet car - and were shushing our girls for three and a half hours all the way into NYC - laughing our butts off. Be vewy vewy qwiet...
Penn Station was a zoo - and my happiness began to unravel. I seemed to have so many mixed emotions about NYC these days. It had always felt like my town - its heartbeat matching mine and the pulse of the people walking and talking synced. But I had let myself believe that a large part of why I loved the city so much is that I once loved a man who lived there. False. False premise. We've been over this. I knew it to be false, but still I had uneasiness as I struggled to get my bearings coming up out the ground like a mole rat - thinking ok...which way is east?
The four of us travelers split up for a few hours and were reuniting in Times Square for dinner. I don't like Times Square. I never have. It reminds me of the cruise ships I sang on when I was young and just starting out. It's a place for civilians and amateurs. It is crowded and smells wrong. It is bright and noisy and people are stopping in the middle of the street and sidewalk and photographing billboards. Billboards that in their own community they'd launch a FaceBook page to remove. I'm so small I'm afraid that one day I will be swept up in the tide of humanity, never to be found again.
My uneasiness was growing. We were serendipitously meeting up with my daughter's high school group at a play that night, the Stanley Tucci directed "Lend Me A Tenor." While I was looking forward to taking that little Stanley man in my arms and letting him dip me back for the big kiss - I couldn't shake a strong sense of sadness. I was checking my watch for the time all day and so I had not been reminded to expect the best. "Lend Me A Tenor" was so brilliant I wanted to jump out of my seat and run up to the stage, knock Jan Maxwell on her butt and assume the role of Maria Morelli. We waited in the ubiquitous autograph line outside the stage door but apparently Stanley leaves first thing - lickety split - and so no kiss would be happening that night. I turned on my phone to see how much of a charge I had left and up came 'expect the best.' Right then, a very drunk young man made a ceremonious bow in front of me and handed me a rose. Then he and his friend then staggered into traffic - in front of an NYPD cop on horseback! I wanted to shout RUN to the boys - but instead I just slipped the rose into my purse and pretended it came from Stanley.
Saturday was spent at NY University - and I found it hard to focus on the positive. Know what I mean? I found myself looking for the flaw, the crack, the negative. I didn't know where any of this was coming from! Then my phone buzzed and there was a text from my friend Jill in California that made me laugh and the 'expect the best' sign that made me smile inside. My daughter and I walked the whole day all over NY - from Union Square to NYU and then all over looking at dorms and eating halls. We went to a cafe called S'mac and I treated the kids to a meal at a place that would have my butt the size of Florida if I ever lived in NY.
If I ever lived in NY. Hmm. When did if come into play? Why couldn't I shake this ennui? Is this where the anxiety was coming from? Was I chickening out on my plan?
I came back to the hotel before she did to change and met the most charming Texan ever. We made a date to have a drink on Sunday afternoon and I invited him to accompany me to meet my girlfriends for dinner. When my daughter got back we walked all the way down to the 500's on Broadway to shop - then over to Little Italy to eat - then back up to Union Square to sleep. I swear it was five miles we walked. Sunday we were up early to get my daughter back on a plane to LA. She was in a foul mood and we left without a kiss goodbye. Something I do not recommend allowing to happen. I grabbed a paper and sat in the lobby lounge reading the NY Times, doing the crossword puzzle, and having coffee. My phone buzzed - yes "E.T.B." came up - and it was my daughter telling me she was safely at JFK - and loved me.
I decided to go for a run. The day was glorious. There was a street fair on and I weaved in and out of the vendors stopping only at the guy selling albums - LPs - just looking. Out on my run I saw the real New York and the real New Yorkers. People just like me, doing what I would be doing, in a section of the city without neon or cabs or tourists or jet hotels. I grabbed a coffee from Dunkin' Donuts and sat in the square listening to some incredibly bad music and eating organic grapes. I heard the accent all around me that I love so much - that reminds me of my family. I unwound from the pressure of the college road trip as performed by a single mother who makes her living as an actress and therefore has no steady income and is not in her 30s.
Just then, because apparently it is my fate - a truly crazy man in a beard and mustache and white leotard and tutu and tiara and carrying a wand passed by and screamed in my face - "EXPECT MIRACLES!!!!!!" So right then, right there - ok, after I stopped laughing - I found I just didn't care. I gave it up. I let it go, just as I had all the other things in my life, both recent and not so. It was like a deep yoga cleansing breath. I expect miracles. And voila - New York got me back.
My mood and anxiety was over wondering how I could do it. I had to be reminded that I am Candi Freaking Milo - I can do anything! I laugh in the face of danger. I run from strangers. The rules do not apply to me and never have. Moving to NYC was never about a guy. Moving there was about following my heart. So I put my hands on my chest and listened to my heart and found that the rhythm of it matched the city's. I promised to remind myself that in New York I am beautiful and funny and happy and free. To remind myself that the money for college will find it's way to me. That every curse of this trip was truly a blessing. That Stanley should have waited.
Up walked the Texan with a rose for me. He and his insurance group were out enjoying the day. We did end up going for a drink but the date ended there. I couldn't listen to a man in a bolo tie talk about the 'freaks he saw on the streets. Bunch of liberals.' Oops. These are my peeps he was talking about. So I walked away. Three blocks uptown to be exact and met my girlfriends at Giorgio's - and we closed the place giggling and being girly about where I was going to live WHEN I moved to New York...
A bit tipsy I wobbled the three blocks back to my hotel and flopped onto the huge king bed. My phone went off and EXPECT THE BEST flashed before my eyes. The text was from my daughter telling me I was the best mommy in the whole world and that she loved me.
I drifted off to sleep thinking to myself - wow, imagine what would happen if I expected miracles...