There’s a song I love by The Script that laments over lost love. In the lyrics, the singer promises to leave “the light in the hall and the key under the mat if you ever come back”. The line that gets me though is this one:
They’ll be a smile on my face and the kettle on
And it will be just like you were never gone
An avid tea drinker, every time I listen to this song, I can’t help but think about the amount of effort it would take to keep the kettle on continuously. Those things whistle. Loud. And there’s the man with the scruffed up hair and twice worn socks with a smile on his face and his ear plugs in so he can keep that kettle going, because love is going to walk in. And he doesn’t know when, and maybe he’s stopped believing it will even happen because he’s got Facebook now and can see that she’s dating someone else, but in all his life, this may be his one movie moment and he doesn’t want to miss out. So he keeps that kettle going and that light on because when she comes back, everything will change.
It’s like the thirsty fortune teller who read my palm with the lines in her face and the dirt tucked behind her nails, who told me my moment was coming. And so I waited and waited for that moment to come, on high mountain or low valley, for everything to change, until I began to forget what I was even looking for. Until part of me wonders if maybe she heard that once and waited like the steady rain for her moment to come, and when it never did she began reading palms for other people because it created something. This teller realized she wasn’t going to be no star, that there would be no box seller with her name on it, and so she thought that maybe she should could play a supporting role in someone else’s story.
Because isn’t that really what it’s all about? These life changing, wipe your soul clean, joy joy hallelujah moments?
One day I slept, all day. I was somewhere in that hazy span of teenage years where I was old enough to stay out all night but too young to pull through the next day without a breakdown. I was fresh off the plane from a mission trip, one of those ones that made me know in the scrapes and creases of myself that I was called to greatness, and that my moments were coming. And when I lay my head down to sleep straight back from that early morning flight, I knew, heart of hearts, that the world was waiting for me to seize it. I fell asleep dreaming of interviews with CNN, the BBC, sharing a laugh with Katie Couric, headlines comparing me to Mother Theresa, people waiting for me at airports with posters and candy. My life would be that movie moment.
And then I slept. All day. I woke up at three and did some laundry. And then I fell asleep on the living room floor until I was woken up for dinner, face wet from the puddle of drool- the only thing I managed to create all day long.
You know what I realized that day? The world went on without me. There was no movie moment.
In this country and in this generation, I think we all secretly hope that we’re the next big thing. Manifest Destiny, destined for greatness. I think we’re wrapped up, bundled up and then tossed out into the world, convinced that our future will be a long string of movie moments- amazing promotions, speeches, dramatic relationships and epic reunions. So we turn on our kettles and we paste on the smiles and we wait for that moment to walk through the door. And then the smile starts to fade a little as we wade through our twenties and realize that maybe those movie recruiters lost our address. Maybe that big moment, with the films and the tears and the laughter, aren’t going to to walk through our door with a marching band and parade.
Because maybe, at the heart of it, we’re all a little bit like Goldilocks in the woods with the three bears. Maybe we all are looking for that perfect fit, the bowl and the chair that we’ll say, that’s me! And when we don’t find our perfect fit, or the thing that makes us fit in, or the match to the way to fulfilling or one great duty, we forget that the only way Goldilocks did it was getting lost in the woods.
I’m no philosopher or bearer of wisdom but here is one thing I believe: the man in the song has a life to live. And he can spend it with a smile on his face and the kettle on, waiting for his one big moment to walk in. But here’s the kicker: that woman who left him, probably left not because of one big moment, but because of a thousand tiny moments leading up to it. And while he’s waiting for that one screen shot moment, for her to come back through the door with suitcase in hand, hundreds of tiny moments are passing him by: like the spider making a web in the corner he never remembers to sweep, or the sun making its descent so that its rays slice through the trees, the softness of a blanket or the sensation of cold feet on the floor.
Because there are things in life that movies will never capture. There are a thousand, a million, maybe, unseen, unfelt treasures in every day. And maybe we don’t know where we’re going or if this job or person is right for us, but we know the way a hot cup of tea tastes and that is something. There will be those epic, movie moments, but if you unpack them from boxes they roll out like crystal beads, each one comprised of a hundred smaller moments. That engagement might be epic but so was the way he held your hand when you cried or burned the cake for your birthday. That Nobel Peace Prize was the accomplishment of a life time, but it still doesn’t make the sun shine or the birds sing. And you might meet Oprah one day but there is the woman who fed and clothed and loved you so you would get there, and even Oprah doesn’t hold a candle to her.
So maybe we will have those epiphanies, those life changing, knock you off your feet days, but know this: those might bring in an audience for a big screen, but the moments really worth living are all those cracks in between. And it would be such a shame, to miss the hard work of living in the present, to be so focused on the mountain that we forget to look at the step right in front of us.
It would be a shame to miss life because we’re waiting for it to begin.