A Start: Detours, Part I (Day #51)

Posted in: Thinking Big

embrace (ĕm-brās’): verb. To take up especially readily or gladly.
detour (dē-tur): noun. A deviation from a direct course of action.

I thought it would be easy.

Maybe easy is the wrong word. I thought it would be easy enough. I thought I would be able to collect detour stories and distill them into neat little snippets: I got pregnant unexpectedly at what I thought was an inopportune time. I was scared that motherhood would take me somewhere I didn’t want to end up. And so I decided to write a novel in the first three months of my baby’s life.

My detour can be summed up in three sentences. Most of yours cannot.

Here’s the thing: there is nothing easy or simple or neat about detour stories, because there is nothing easy or simple or neat about detours. We wouldn’t have to struggle to embrace them if they were.

So now what? Today is Embrace the Detour Day. I said I would give you a highlight reel of detour stories. But the stories I’ve collected deserve more than that.

I’m sitting here, staring at my screen, waiting for a Big Idea. An idea with a capital I. A way to do this, and do it right. A way to honor your stories, to give them the respect and the word count they deserve.

I want to think this through. I want to do this right.

I’m not sure what that looks like yet.

So, instead of posting a highlight reel today, I’m going to dedicate this entire week to your stories. I’m going to start with those of you who have blogs of your own, blogs that aren’t called Embrace the Detour but could be. As we move through the week, I’ll share other stories, stories from women (sorry guys, none of you sent me a story!) who aren’t bloggers but should be.

This isn’t my Big Idea. I’m still waiting for that. But this is a start.

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Two Pink Lines

by Lindsey Mead

I woke up on February 15th, 2002, and remembered that I had to take a pregnancy test that morning. It had been an eventful week. Yesterday, on Valentine’s Day, my husband’s father had been diagnosed with cardiac amyloidosis, a very rare and terminal bone marrow disease. We had spent the day with his family in the hospital, trying to figure out what the next steps were. In the afternoon I’d stepped outside to call the acupuncturist I was going to see on Saturday to confirm my appointment, and she asked me to take a pregnancy test. I laughed and told her that was impossible: I was coming to see her because I did not ovulate, and did not get a period. She gently asked me to please just make sure I was not somehow pregnant. Yesterday evening I had run down to CVS to buy a two-pack of pregnancy tests. An elderly woman behind me in line noticed what I was holding and smiled at me. Clucking, she said, with a sweet old-lady tone that somehow belied the rudness of the question, “Do you wish it?” Startled by the question, I just looked at her. I was saved from answering her when the cashier barked that it was my turn.

I hadn’t been able to get her question out of my mind, though. Did I wish it? I don’t know. I don’t think so. Definitely not now. Matt and I didn’t want to have a baby yet. In my mind I was just following the advice of the head of reproductive endocrinology at Massachusetts General Hospital, who had told me when I was 23 that I had polycystic ovarian syndrome. With remarkable nonchalance, the doctor had told me I would almost certainly never be able to conceive alone, and basically told me she’d see me again for a Clomid prescription when I decided I wanted to have a baby. So I’d gone off of the pill around Christmas, thinking I’d take a year to try to sort out my always irregular period and maybe go visit the doctor for those drugs next year.

That Friday morning, I was sitting in my home office, checking my email, getting ready for a 9:00 am conference call, when I remembered the test. Crap! I ran down to the bathroom, frantically tried to unwrap the plastic covering of the box, finally ripping it with my teeth before peeling it off. I read the directions, and peed on one of the two sticks. Leaving it on the edge of my bathroom sink, I dashed back upstairs and dialed into my call. About 20 minutes into the call I realized I had not looked at the result.

Wearing my phone headset, talking about next year’s recruiting targets, I walked downstairs and into my bathroom. I was literally mid-sentence when I picked up the stick and saw two glaring lines.

What?

I was 27 years old. I’d been married less than a year and a half. I was just beginning my post-MBA career. My father-in-law was dying. The economy was melting down around us. Most importantly, I did not want to have a baby yet. This was not my plan.

That morning, my world shifted ninety degrees. It still shocks me to think about it now. I had been so casual, literally forgetting to go look at the white piece of plastic that brought the news that my life had changed. Of course I had no idea that morning what was coming, no sense of how fundamentally those changes would shake my emotional and intellectual scaffolding. There’s keen irony in the fact that I, the world’s most careful and cautious girl, got pregnant by accident. I joke often that I might not have kids yet, to this day, had it not happened the way it did: there’s always a reason to wait.

I’m glad I didn’t, for myriad and complex reasons that go far beyond the obvious one: my fierce love for my daughter. I’m glad Grace arrived when she did, even with the intense and painful introduction to grace that she brought with her. I’m glad I think she had a small part in helping my father-in-law fight through to his heart transplant and eventual good health. Perhaps most of all, though, I’m glad for the visceral reminder that I got that day that we are not in charge, no matter how we wish we could be. Yes, I frequently forget this, clamping my white-knuckled hands on the wheel in a desperate effort to drive the universe. But always, eventually, I remember those startling pink lines and I’m again in awe of the power of something greater than us, aware of how small we are, humbled into trusting the vast design even though I don’t understand it.

(Lindsey’s blog, A Design So Vast, is one of those blogs that feels important. Like you’ve gained something simply by reading. She says of her blog, “I write mostly about the challenge of truly inhabiting the moments of my life, the joys and difficulties of trying to be a mindful parent. I talk about my effort to find something to believe in and about my groping around the edges of my faith.” Reading Lindsey’s honest and beautiful posts about her struggle to truly inhabit her moments, I find that I do a better job of inhabiting mine.)

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Dark chocolate & Pasture Lined Roads

By Nicole Robinson

Life is always one detour after another. We detour through this and through that. The best detours lead us down long pasture lined back roads under a cloudless blue sky. We forget the destiny and stare in awe at the beauty of a single solitary mammoth oak tree in an endless field of flowers. We forget about time and deadlines and why we started down that road to begin with. We drive along soaking up the beauty, and find ourselves more than just a little bit saddened by the impending arrival at our destination. The trip, the detour from our busy lives, was more than we expected; it was breathtaking. Those are the detours that I treasure.

Other detours are filled with chaos. We stare at the long line of cars packed inches apart, yet leading in the wrong direction, off of the interstate. We stretch our necks to see the partially covered orange signs stamped with those tragic words: “DETOUR.” There is no time for a detour. An appointment will be missed. The trip will be too long. We crane our necks trying to see where we are going, yet we can’t see past the truck in front of us. We can’t see where we we’re going, and we don’t know how long it will take. We just follow, blindly. Frustration builds, but we have no control. As fate would have it, our cell phone has no signal and it’s raining. I hate those detours.

Like Forrest says, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” If I got to choose though, I would always choose the dark chocolate with gooey caramel in the center. Yes, I would always choose that piece, just like I would always choose the pasture-lined back road detour. What happens after your 1000 pieces of dark chocolate? Or your daily ride down a pasture lined back road? Is it still such a treasure, a joy? Or does it get old and normal and mundane? [Okay, so dark chocolate NEVER gets old, but you get the point.]

If life is a roller coaster and we never experience a dip, will we enjoy the ride to the top? Will we even know we reached the top if we’ve never been to the bottom?

I’ve experienced my share of pasture-lined back roads and rainy traffic-jammed chaotic DETOURS with all of their harsh block-letter yuckiness. Both were SO worth the ride, and for both, I give God thanks!

(Back in December, Nicole said of her blogging, “my goal is to be successful, to be consistent, to be creative and even somewhat interesting.” She is all four. Her blog, Mommy’s Little Corner, is sometimes light and sometimes heavy, but always reflective and inquisitive. The questions Nicole asks grab hold and don’t let go. Which is just what good blogs do. Don’t miss the follow-up to Dark chocolate & Pasture Lined Roads tomorrow at Mommy’s Little Corner.)


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