We spent the summer of 2009 at a camp in Northern California. We started dating in late March of that year, after months of silly will-we-or-won’t-we, and now, just two months later, we were together in the redwood forest. We were happy and brand-new and in California—the honeymoon stage played out near abandoned hippie communes in the hills. But we were broken. Panic attacks threatened me around each corner, and my anxiety hit levels I’ve never experienced again. She was growing out of a depression, finding her feet each day, trying to stay upright, carefully teetering forward like a toddler learning to walk. I was falling. Crashing.
We walked on the beach.
We spent our honeymoon in Missouri, and it was hot. The kind of hot that leaves you listless and convinced the world was not made for our frail bodies. The kind of hot that turns seat belt buckles into branding irons. The kind of hot that makes you see a magic show in Branson just to be in air conditioning. We tried hiking one day, and after nearly five hours returned to our car dehydrated and sweat through. The closest town to our rental spot had been torn apart by a tornado; trash still piled in the gutters and pieces of wood littered the roads. One morning, we ate breakfast at a diner with an old man who invited us to his table because there was nowhere else to sit. He told us stories. We don’t remember his name. We stayed in our condo, ate Wheat Thins, watched movies, worked on a puzzle, cried a few times.
We walked on the beach with the wind full on our faces.
We walked the empty streets of Milwaukee. The two of us on a cold and rainy November weekend, certain we had walked unwittingly into the zombie apocalypse. No one was anywhere. It was just us and Milwaukee and the people we watched The Lion King musical with and the people pouring out of the Bucks game as we walked back to our hotel. But it felt like it was just us. We ate dinner at a restaurant called something something “pig.” I had sausage and sauerkraut; she had steak. The weekend was cold and rainy, but the weekend still glows warm.
We walked on the beach with the wind full on our faces, ripping off our hoods.
We drove home and argued. Why was I so angry? About something so small? It’s not about that; it’s about the fact that I feel useless and nothing seems to be going the way it was supposed to go and if God was trying to tell me that this isn’t what I’m called wouldn’t this be how he might tell me? You’re not useless. All will be well. God speaks in ways other than your inner critic. God speaks.
We walked on the beach with the wind full on our faces, ripping off our hoods. We’re in love.