The most innovative company in the world did not offer my husband a job yesterday. Clearly, they did not get my memo. Kevin left an exploratory interview in July with the strong impression this company wanted to hire him, was going to create a position specifically for him––knowing his skills from working cooperatively on projects with the company he just retired from. This new position was supposed to be funded beginning the next fiscal year, which begins October 1st.
This summer, in addition to downsizing and donating books, toys, knick-knacks, and clothing, I have imagined our new life in the fixer-upper house in Pacifica. In great detail––Kevin commuting on BART to San Francisco each week day, me hopping on an afternoon train to meet on Friday nights to catch a play or a band, even a poetry reading. I found the independent bookstore, wine bar and menu for the Italian restaurant at the foot of the street I want to live on. I Googled chiropractors and acupuncturists, grocery stores and churches, found a mainline Protestant denomination with a choir I could join. I bookmarked the Pedro Point restoration project and Pedro Point Neighborhood association, thinking involvement in those groups would introduce us to our human neighbors and neighborhood geography. I signed up for Pacifica alerts on “The Patch” media network and may know about local news there (including the delay of the Devil’s Slide tunnel on Highway 1) than I do in my current town.
I visualized the house and the furniture we’d need to buy once we moved—a dresser, bookcase and desk (ours are built-in here), and thought about which window would provide the best ocean view from the dining room, from the desk. I thought about the surfing beach less than half-mile away and my 23-year-old nephew who is a skilled carpenter who enjoys surfing and how fun it would be to hire him to help my husband remodel.
The evening after we went house hunting I was chopping vegetables for dinner, asking myself why I wanted to buy the clumsy fixer-upper with the disgustingly moldy apartment below the house that would have to be gutted. Kevin and I spent thirteen years in the first house we bought in a continual state of building projects. I’d relished the idea of moving into our current home after it was done, instead of living through the mess. Why wouldn’t I be content with a smaller tidier healthier house? There was one that offered plenty of parking for us, our RV and guests, and an ocean view from the front windows. But there were things we didn’t like about it—the sloped ceilings upstairs made for cramped closets and little floor space, windows that opened to the side of the house, not the front. It seemed like anything we chose, we’d want to improve on. Why not keep it minor? It was the feeling we had at the house on Grand Avenue––the quiet neighborhood, the dead-end streets, the beach below, the mountain behind, mature plantings, it felt like a retreat.
A retreat, I thought, and then the idea came to me while I was slicing onions, an idea delivered as a gift, an offering from God to me. Build a writer’s retreat under the house. Offer the quiet, the peace, the view, to someone who needed to get away from the demands of their daily life to work on a writing project. Provide the gift of hospitality we had consciously built into our current house—which has been the site of business and church meetings, writing workshops, temporary housing for friends and relatives, and permanent housing for my sister. Friends and family could stay in the apartment we would build, but equally important, I would make it available to writers, also offering my services to them, as much or as little as they required—encouragement, editing, groceries, breakfast, airport transportation (the house is only twenty minutes from SFO). Kevin was in the room when the brainstorm hit and as excited about it as I was. Kevin would work for the world’s most innovative company leading a team doing work he believed would make a positive difference in the world, practicing, “Compassionate Capitalism.” I would lead memoir classes at the community center, write at my desk by the window, contribute my presence and limited abilities to Kevin’s remodeling expertise, and then when the apartment was finished, begin a ministry of writing hospitality.
I have been preparing, waiting, and dreaming this summer for the birth of this new life I imagined. And, outside forces are not aligning with my plans. The owners have not responded to our rent-to-buy offer, and their listing is currently inactive. We don’t know what happened. We don’t have a buyer for our house. The job offer I was expecting (Kevin was optimistic but less certain and therefore less disappointed than me) didn’t materialize. I was momentarily stunned when he called me after yesterday’s interview and said, “No job offer.” “That’s the wrong answer,” was my reply.
I needed to take a walk, even though it was ninety-five degrees out. I had to recalibrate my brain, realign my intentions. A wise advisor told me that in praying for our desires to manifest, it’s wise to pray for, “this or something better.” If I just pray for “this”, I’m limiting God’s ability to work in my life, to provide something better, something different that I can envision on my own. And then there’s the Biblical, “not my will, but Thine,” another reminder that I am not in charge. So “This” might not be it. Or it might be. My husband was invited to submit a proposal for his idea to develop a new program for the most innovative company, and it might get approved and if it does, he might be the one to manage it. Or he might get a different job altogether, in an entirely different geographical area, after all, he’s barely begun looking. We still might get that house with its tranquil view, or we might rent a townhouse in some town we move to only temporarily.
If I sinned in being too certain about what I thought was to come, it was a sin of enthusiasm, a desire to move away from fear of the future to the embrace of the future. I dreamed up a future I could embrace, because it was too overwhelming to embrace the unknown. When it comes down to it, I have no idea what’s going to happen and I’m learning to be okay with that. So here I am, trying to embrace a new truly blank future, trusting that as long as it includes Kevin and our three cats, it will be wonderful.