Monday, October 1, 2012

Blessings in Disguise

It is the beginning of a new month and I am looking forward to seeing what's in store. Last month gave me a few moments of pause: a friend having to back out of meeting in Turkey, a broken foot, and a lost passport.

At any one of those points, I could have fallen into pits of anger and despair and not come out. I spent some time in the pits, I'll admit. But being in a pit is no fun, so I chose to climb or hobble out. I am so glad I did.

September began with my friend Joshua telling me he would not be able to meet me in Turkey. I had met Joshua in April in Assisi when we struck up a conversation in the hostel we were both staying in. After exploring Assisi and Perugia, which included an incident where we considered scaling monastery walls because we'd been locked within them, we kept in touch. From Assisi, he continued on to Albania, where he has been living and working for the last 6 months. I worked my way through Europe and eventually came back to the U.S.

When I learned that the CPT delegation to Iraq would begin in Turkey, Joshua and I made plans to meet there and travel together before I joined the delegation. I had wanted to return to Cappadocia and he wanted to visit there for the first time.

Excited to have a travel buddy, I bought my plane ticket so I'd arrive a week before the delegation. Then I got the news: Joshua would not be able to meet me in Turkey. I can't say I took the news well. I had no desire to travel by myself in Turkey- I had already done that earlier this year.

After I got over my initial fury, I began to consider my options. Joshua had, thus far, had no visitors in Albania. I'd never been to Albania. I thought about my 8 1/2 months of traveling and remembered how seeing familiar faces along the way lifted me up. Maybe it was time to pay it forward.  Joshua and I talked and agreed I'd visit for a weekend. I am so glad I did. For me visiting friends is primarily about the friends. Sight-seeing is secondary. I got a healthy mix of both in Albania. I enjoyed lots of good conversation, heard lots of Albanian history that already I only vaguely remember, and saw into the life of my friend. I enjoyed meeting some of his Albanian companions and seeing his current home and work (church construction). I think it was nice for him to have someone to talk to, face to face, in English, with no personal stakes in what he was saying.  Possible setback #1 turned into a blessing.

Then there was the foot... Through fortune I still scarcely believe, I was invited for the four weeks prior to my departure to join the women's boot camp I used to attend - for  free! This would get me in good physical shape before my travels. I was so excited! The first week was a welcome wake-up call to my body's current (sad) level of fitness. The second week was not as traumatic and I looked forward to the last two weeks of camp.

Third week: Wednesday was "bring a friend to camp" day. I had a friend in from out of town who joined me for that day's Amazing Race challenge. Midway through the hour, she fell and sprained her ankle. She insisted I finish the workout while she iced and elevated her ankle. I did, half-heartedly, checking on her after every execise I did. She elevated and iced her ankle all morning and then took advantage of the wheelchair service when she went to the airport that afternoon.

Thursday: one of my favorite workouts: Junkyard Day! As I was running through an obstacle course (not actually doing an obstacle, but on a flat surface), I somehow landed wrong on my left foot. I thought I felt a crack, but decided I was being overly dramatic and continued on, though more slowly and carefully. Feeling pain, I took my shoe off and pressed my fingers over my foot. I didn't notice any swelling. After the workout, before a planned walk with a friend, I took my shoe off and felt around again. Still no swelling. My friend and I walked. Well, he walked; I tried not to limp. My logic was that if I could walk, whatever I'd done to my foot must not be too bad. When I got home and took my sock off, I saw the swelling on my foot.  I couldn't ignore it anymore. Crap.

Still in denial, I put off making a doctor appointment. I rested, iced, compressed, and elevated my foot. I  took ibuprofen. My foot swelled more and turned some interesting colors. The day after my accident, I made a doctor appointment, and was afraid I'd be told not to travel. I began to wear my mom's boot. She had broken her left foot over the summer. Her boot fit me well. My doctor said what I'd expected: "Your foot is broken. Keep wearing the boot." He didn't say what I'd feared: "Don't travel."  Neither did the leader of the CPT delegation. My walking friend offered this: "Maybe you just need to slow down." I didn't tell him I'd said the same to my mom when she broke her foot. It was easier to give the advice to her than hear it from him. But I've tried. I'll spend the rest of my pre-delegation week in Istanbul, instead of hiking in Cappadocia. This, too, is a blessing, because it means I get to see friends that I made last time I was here. Possible setback #2 turned into a blessing.

Then it was the night before I left.  I was packing.  I tend to do things last minute.  I went to get my passport from the drawer I keep it in.  No passport.  It hadn't occurred to me to look for it any sooner than that night because I knew where my passport was. Except apparently I didn't.  I began searching.  And searching.  And searching.  Taking lots of deep breaths.  Reminding myself that even if I didn't get to leave the following day, I had plenty of time before the delegation to get a new passport.  My parents and sister helped me search.  None of us had any luck.  My sister looked up how to get an expedited passport.  After searching everywhere I thought the passport might be (and a lot of places I didn't think it would be), I stopped searching.  I finished packing and made plans and said prayers that I'd get a passport before my flight at 3:40 the next afternoon.

Thankfully, I was taking the Megabus into Chicago, arriving at 9 AM.  En route, I called the Passport Hotline and made an appointment for 10:30 that morning. I had the necessary forms (though I still needed to fill them out), a photocopy of the lost passport, and my previous passport.  I only needed printouts of my flight itineraries.  I had planned to spend the morning with my friend Lavinia in Chicago.  We did spend the morning together.  She helped me get from place to place, made sure I was fed, accompanied me to get a new passport photo, and sat with me in the passport office.  When I wasn't occupied by passport-related activities, we caught up on each other's lives.  By 11:30 AM, I had turned in all necessary paperwork for a new passport. By 1 PM, I had a new passport. Lavinia had to leave before that glorious moment, but she had gifted me with money to take a cab to the airport.  I got to O'Hare with plenty of time to make my 3:40 flight.  The woman from Lufthansa who checked me in saw my broken foot and blocked the seat next to me so that I had room to stretch out my leg/foot out during the long flight.  Possible setback #3 perhaps not turned into a blessing, but it certainly gave me the awareness of the blessings that fill my life.

I have been considering what each of these events is meant to teach me.  First and foremost, I am reminded of how extraordinarily blessed I am.  My mom has told me more than once that I live a charmed life.  I have a lot of evidence to support that claim.  Secondly, I am reminded of the power of positive thinking and persistence.  A lot can be accomplished when "can't" is not uttered.

So here I am in Istanbul, celebrating my blessings in disguise.  I hope you are equally blessed.

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