I came home today after eight days on business, during which I spoke for the first time in front of a 100+ crowd. I clicked along my powerpoint pointer, got a few laughs, and became flustered when a photographer came too close. When it was over, I sat down with an adrenaline rush that lasted until....4 days later. It's been a long week. I say that knowing there is no way to put into words the amount of physical and mental brainpower that went into pulling off the week past of 37,000+ attendees at our conference, and the thrill that came from knowing I'm working toward something with meaning and purpose.
But nonetheless, eight days is eight days, and that's a long time to be away and to be "on" -- to have that smile, button the suit jacket, extend the hand and shake. On the plane back tonight, I alternated between reading a major federal regulation that dropped a few days ago, and sleeping. I woke up feeling disoriented, and turned on my cell to find out very sad news. A long-ago friend had died in a tragic accident, and my hands literally shook when I read the news. I looked out the window for a few long minutes and tried to catch my breath, then gathered my bags and walked off the plane.
At baggage claim, I watched a toddler fling herself into the arms of her mother and I kept walking as my eyes filled with tears. I have a wonderful life and a host of loved ones, but every now and then my breath catches with what I don't have. Age has taught me that instead of counting my blessings one-by-one and feeling guilty, I have to just feel what I feel and not apologize for it. I heard their loud greetings and laughter as I rode the elevator, and I shook my head against an impending spiral-down, centered, sighed, and carried on.
I alerted my favorite people via text that I had landed, and rode home in a cab in silence. I watched the lit-up monuments slide past my window as I tapped a forefinger on the glass silently to greet them. "Hello again, there you are; and here I am."
I live in the middle of a fairly popular place in DC to eat, socialize, etc. Tonight as my cab made its way, I noticed the familiar black Escalades and saw that certain side streets had been cleared. I knew what this meant -- El Presidente was near. I didn't think much of this, since I didn't assume he was hanging out in my living room and that's the only place I wanted to be.
We arrived, and the cabbie hauled my giant suitcase to the ground. I grabbed it, and started pulling it around the corner to a local corner store so I could grab a cheap bottle of wine and a frozen pizza (for cash only) from a local owner that I knew would be watching re-runs of America's Funniest Home Videos and laughing like a crazy person over them. I left the store, pulled my fleece jacket tighter around me, and headed for home.
To my left -- I saw her. Michelle Obama was sitting in a presidential (I would assume) vehicle and I guess had just come from eating at a restaurant on my block. I was tired and little heart-broken, along with wanting, needing, uncertain...all of those adjectives that don't exactly add up to being your most gracious neighborhood host.
And yet, I did something I almost never do. I raised my hand in a half wave/ half-salute. I didn't know what else to do.
We looked at each other for a second, and then she raised her hand back to me. I wonder what I must have looked like to her -- a native in stretchy pants and a blue fleece sweatshirt and red eyes from crying. She watched me for at least an hour (fifteen seconds) and that was that. The car left and she was gone, and I was still standing there. The entire encounter couldn't have been more than two minutes.
Sighing, I picked up my two bags and grabbed my suitcase handle, and turned back to my house. My way-upstairs neighbor hollered at me "welcome home!" from the party he was having on the roof and rose a beer to me. I smile and waved back. Hello again -- there you are.
Here I am.