I took this picture above to capture the friendliness and beauty of The Netherlands on a sunny Monday. Fittingly, things aren’t always what they appear. I was met with warm smiles, waves, and pleasantries by these two young women as they walked down the street. I waved back and tried to span the language barrier with a few words in English. That’s when they looked straight at me and continued their pleasantries, in Dutch no less, to their friends who were seated at a restaurant directly behind me.
Ah well, it’s just another day in life and, along with it, the opportunity to make the best of what the universe dishes up–some of it edible and some inedible. Worse, what if today wasn’t just an ordinary, everyday kind of day? What if we associated more meaning with this day of the year than other days.
For instance, I know a man who took his fiancé to Paris and put a lock on a bridge over the Seine River that has millions of locks on it. It wasn’t just any ordinary day for him. Rather, it was the day he professed his love to the woman–now his wife–in the trendy way that has taken Paris by storm. It also just happened to be the day that the weight of his lock, along with millions of other ones, exceeded the structural capacity of the fence along the bridge. The fence gave way and crashed into the river below.
I suppose it’s for that reason I would never do anything like place a lock on fence of a bridge that spans a river in a city whose name itself has come to symbolize love. I’m half Irish. My mom’s Celtic superstitious tendencies apparently have a genetic component to them. Pair that with a universe that has a twisted sense of humor and I would never dare to put myself in a position to make meaning of that for the rest of my life.
At the same time, we just can’t bury our heads in the sand. We can’t be reclusive just to avoid all the miscommunications, injustices, and twisted pranks the universe serves up to us. If that were the case, we would end up like Boo Radley in the book To Kill a Mockingbird. He always lived in the shadows, avoiding the light which reveals both the brilliance and flaws of a diamond.
Unfortunately, the light which shines down on us and the things the universe throws our way have more meaning to them on some days more than others. Heck, even rain on a wedding day is easy to brush off. I wish the universe was as kind to me.
Today just so happens to be my birthday. My writer’s voice had a sick way of reminding me today that the things the universe dishes up and serves my way take on more significance today than other days.
Not one to bury my head in the sand, I lived the day as if it was any other Monday. Because I spent the weekend with my fiancé in the northern part of The Netherlands, we woke-up early to drive her to work in the southern part of the country. It took us 90 minutes to span the distance. As an aside, I live in the middle of a state back in America. When I drive 90 minutes south, I still end up in the middle of the state. There are cultural complications I continue to confront.
At the start of the drive, I nearly drove into the path of an on-coming bus. The traffic light of an intersection just so happened to be out and it was flashing yellow. In America, when a traffic light is flashing yellow, the side for on-coming traffic is flashing red. In The Netherlands, when a traffic light is flashing yellow, the side for on-coming traffic is flashing yellow too. That would have been nice to have known yesterday. Thankfully, we averted disaster. Nevertheless, the cynical nature of my writer’s voice was in full swing and I, the birthday boy, received the brunt of its criticism. Undoubtedly, being broadsided by a bus takes on more meaning on one’s birthday than on other days.
Ironically, avoiding near disasters is no different on one’s birthday as it is on other days of the year. My writer’s voice didn’t have much to say once we safely outran the bus. I then learned that catching every bloody red light in the city takes on more meaning on one’s birthday too. Funny, because once we made it out of the city and encountered a pleasant ride on the highway, I soon discovered that the good things had no significance attached to it.
When we finally made it to the southern part of the country and were nearly at our destination, a van next to me swerved into my lane to avoid a car that was turning. I swerved just in time to a avoid any contact. That’s when a more pleasant voice silenced the workings of a cynical writer’s voice.
“Great reflexes,” my fiancé announced.
I smiled and even captured a twinkle in her eyes in my mind’s eye even if the eyes in my head dared not look away from the road. That’s when the crisp sounds of an arrogant writer’s voice surfaced. “Cat-like,” it smugly announced.
I’ve said it before and it’s worth repeating. Life isn’t as much about what the universe dishes up and serves our way. Rather, it’s more about what we do with the things the universe dishes up. We all get a lifetime of experiences to grind down our internal cyncicm and arrogance into something more palatable.
© Gregory Masiello, 2017