When I was very little, I would go to Laguna Beach with my family. My uncle (my stepdad’s brother) lived there, and all the relatives would congregate, bringing a full spread of Lebanese food: stuffed grape leaves, tabbouleh, kibbeh. We kids would play in the waves, dig for little crabs, build sand castles. One time, I was playing in the water and must have gone in just a little too far. The undertow grabbed me and pulled me under, sucked me into the wave. I couldn’t see, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t hear. I was at the mercy of the wave, tumbling me around with sand and seaweed and water. Just water. No up or down or air. And I was alone. Helpless, tossed, underwater. No way to get control. I still remember that feeling.
I have this recurring dream where I’m in a dark house and I wander from room to room, flipping light switches, but none of them work. And I keep trying, but the lights won’t come on. So, I blindly grope my way to another room, and feel for another switch and no matter what I try, there’s no light. Sometimes, it’s not entirely dark. Maybe the moon is out and not all the curtains are closed and I can see my way around enough to find the light switches. But they won’t turn the lights on.
Life isn’t like the game, with the plastic car and the little people and the neat boxes that lead to milestones and a finish line. Life is unpredictable. And every time you think you have it figured out, you realize that life isn’t something that even can be figured out. And every time you reach a place, you think, now I get it. Now I know where I’m going, with this confidence that only comes from an inability to see the future. You get through the moment of darkness. You find light. You find clarity. And at least then, when that moment of darkness comes again, you know that there will be light again.
The wave pulled me under and under until it gave me up and I was in the light and the air again. And I still remember that feeling.