Touching what is real

Last week Ann and I drove across the country with our daughter Alex to North Carolina for graduate school.highway

We had loaded the car that we were going to leave with her with the must-haves for this next phase of her life. We had it checked out thoroughly before we left and had quite a bit of work done to make sure it would last her as long as she needed it.

I put on my “I’m not crazy, my mother had me tested” t-shirt with Sheldon on the front, from the show “The Big Bang Theory.” From the open-mouthed stares we got at gas stations throughout Wyoming I realized that I probably hadn’t thought that one through completely. I think we were fortunate that a group of wranglers didn’t pull me aside to see what the heck I was trying to say on my shirt. Of course, my physical resemblance to Sheldon didn’t help much either.

As we pulled into the motel that first night, we thought that the car sounded a little rumbly. We were tired and took the attitude of “if we ignore it, it will disappear” and went to bed.

The next morning, with fresh minds and rested bodies (well, sort of) the rumbling was now a roar as we fired up the car.

Ignoring didn’t do the trick. Dang it.

mufflerWe realized it was the muffler. It had lived a good long life and given its all to providing us peace and quiet for many years. But with a final cough and sputter, it was dead.

Really dead. Since it wasn’t causing a problem with the car other than sounding like a hoard of motorcycle enthusiasts, we decided to continue on to the East coast and then have it fixed while Alex was in orientation.

If we thought the stares from my t-shirt were open mouthed, they only prepared us for the looks we got with our roaring Chevrolet Malibu. Not necessarily the muscle car it sounded like. dragracing

At one stop light, one of those little Mitsubishi decked-out cars with the added tail fin and fancy rims pulled up next to us. We sounded much the same, and the Mitsubishi revved its engine at us. Images of “Grease” came to mind with the girl taking off her scarf and challenging us to a race. I was tempted to put it in neutral and give it a few pumps on the gas pedal, but I looked down and realized I was still wearing that “I’m not crazy” t-shirt. The combination was probably too much. I don’t think I’d be as lucky this time.

Wisdom prevailed and I let the Mitsubishi leave us in its dust.

We made it without any other problems to North Carolina, other than we couldn’t hear each other anymore and everything was prefaced with “huh”?

Gratefully, Ann and I found a wonderful shop that fixed the car while Alex was discovering the University. Everyone was so kind. As we explored the city and found places to get the rest of Alex’s supplies, things began to look familiar. It was great to have a concrete visual of where our daughter is going to live for the next two years.

It made it easier to leave her there.

Now, this was the longest I have been away from my safety net of home for quite a while. I thought that I was really doing pretty well. As far as I could see, I wasn’t driving everyone nuts or causing problems. We were laughing and enjoying and happy.

Part of this wonderful mental illness cocktail of bipolar and OCD that spins around in my head is psychosis. Basically I have a hard time differentiating between what is real and what isn’t. It’s not unusual for me to realize I’m praying for characters in a book or that I saw on TV, but completely forget about problems with those I love. When I hear about some of these problems, I seem shocked that I didn’t already know and usually Ann quietly tells me that, yes, in fact I did already know.

With the long trip and exhaustion hitting all of us, by Saturday the whole ‘what is real and what isn’t real thing’ became blurred for me. It was kind of like I had transferred my home base to the hotel we were staying in. Our home in Utah was a fuzzy memory. dumbbell

I headed to the gym and then spent the rest of the day circling the parking lot with my IPod. Usually that helps to clear my head.

But I found myself looking at my family with a detached interest. Certainly they looked familiar, and I only had positive feelings toward them, but I was having a hard time connecting the truth about who they really were, beyond mere acquaintances.

After the long flight across the country and then the two hour shuttle to the drop off point where our nephew picked us up, we finally punched in the garage code and walked through the back door into our kitchen.

I thought that I’d immediately feel reassured by the familiar and beloved surroundings: the cherry cabinets that our kids tease me that they are “MY cabinets” and that I love them more than the kids, the dining chairs that are second hand but that always make me smile each time I walk by, the big King-size bed covered in deep reds and golds that always makes me feel like I am in our warm and inviting home. window But it was still kind of fuzzy. I recognized it all, but not really as our home. Real but not real.

That day Ann still seemed a very nice person that I thought I’d like to get to know better.

And yet again, I found myself asking “What is real?”

Turns out that the physical surroundings that I use as anchors and security systems to keep me grounded aren’t quite the solid reality I thought they were.

That night I knelt at the big, red and gold bed and closed my eyes. I began quietly to state what I, in fact, know is real. You know, faith.

God the Father is real.

The Atonement of Jesus Christ is real.

The companionship of the Holy Ghost is real.

The blessings and vitality of the gospel are very, very real.

And now I could look at Ann, and know that Ann and our love is probably the most solid reality in my life. Alex and Nick and their goodness and love are concrete certainties.

I could see again.

Not necessarily my immediate physical surroundings, they still made me wonder a bit; but the things that make our immovable foundation that we tie our anchor to.

And that meant that I could feel again.

What is real in your life?

Perhaps you too will discover that the intangible is in fact that which is the most real. sunset

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