On August 13th, 2012, I went shopping with money from my 30th birthday. I bought a five-year journal called “The Happiness Project.” There was a page for each date in the year, and five places to write on each page, one each for five years. I began writing one sentence each day.
By the time my sister’s wedding was over last weekend, I was a bit draggy. We had stayed up late, eaten too much food, and done lots of running around. I drove for awhile on the way home from Wisconsin, and then I tried to sleep while Marnell drove, but to no avail.
We were planning to stop at Promontory Point in Chicago. I have often stopped at the Point on the way back from Wisconsin, many of these cases recorded in my five year journal called “The Happiness Project”. My state of mind invariably improved beside the water and the skyline.
By the time we rolled into a Subway restaurant at 53rd St., I was already feeling much better. The ivy-covered brick buildings of the Hyde Park neighborhood always lifts my spirits. The idea of eating a sub instead of more chocolate was promising too.
“Look at all the people out on the street,” I said. “I guess it’s because of the nice weather.”
The subway was exceptionally convenient. We slid into an open parking space, we didn’t have to wait in line, and the young man behind the buckets of black olives and banana peppers and pickles was efficient and fast.
“It looks like you’ve done that before,” Marnell told him.
“Once or twice,” he replied, snapping a bag of chips into the plastic bag with the sub, his demeanor visibly expanding at the compliment.
Marnell has a knack for making people behind cash registers relax. Once I was with him at an upscale city venue and the man behind the counter was a cold, hard-looking snob much too good for normal humans, dressed in black in the spirit of the FBI. Our interaction took about two or three minutes, and in the last 20 seconds or so Marnell said something and the man actually laughed.
“How did you do that?” I hissed to him as soon as we were out of ear shot.
“Do what?” he asked.
Anyway… we got the subs and arrived at the lake.
“There are so many people out tonight,” I told Marnell again. “But it could be that I never come here much during August, in the summer like this.”
I had been to Promontory Point when the sky was winter gray and ice dripped off the rocks. I had been there when fall leaves piled among them, and when waves crashed in and washed over my feet.
But tonight, the temperature was perfect: not too hot, not to cold. There was a light breeze and just a few clouds. There was a handmade sign by the tunnel announcing a farewell party. There were people swimming off the rocks and people sitting watching the water and the smell of the campfire. We found a spot to sit and eat our subs and watch the water and the sunlight draining out of the sky above Lake Michigan.
“So many people,” I said yet again. “I guess I’ve never been here on a perfect night.”
I told Marnell I was glad I had anticipated before the trip that I might be a little cranky by the end of the weekend.
“But I’m feeling better now, and this is such a perfect end to the day.”
I had come to Promontory Point with my friend Angie to scope out a field trip in 2008, and we went home on the train giggling about the “defined” man at Subway. I had come with my students from UCS Room 3, and eaten Egyptian food with them at the Nile Restaurant. I had come after my friend Rosie got married in 2009, and keenly felt my aloneness, yet God’s presence. I had come and run the 18-mile path beside the park around Thanksgiving that same year when my mom was dying of cancer. I had come for a day of solitude, and time with God, and bought lunch for a beggar at a neighborhood cafe. I had come with my friend Velinda after we attended the funeral of a friend’s father, and we took bad selfies on the rocks in the wind. On August 27, 2012, I went apartment shopping there and applied for a job, at perhaps my most dismal time of life. On November 10, 2012, I took my dad there with me apartment shopping. He walked around the Point, and then went out for coffee. I tried to convince him that it would be therapeutic for me if I moved to the city alone, and we both cried. I had come there again, after I got my job in heart surgery in Elkhart, and felt secure that God’s direction had been best. I had come with my baby sister, the one who just got married, on March 28, 2016, and we walked the rocks clutching hot drinks and took bad selfies. On November 21, 2016, I ran the lakefront path again.
On April 23, 2017, I had coaxed Marnell to take me there one Sunday afternoon, when I felt I had to escape for a few hours. I sat on the rocks with him and cried because… well, I wasn’t sure why it was so emotional to me, but I know they were happy, cleansing tears.
Now, on August 6, 2017, as the darkness traded places with the light (my favorite time of day!) the clouds above the city changed from deep coral to slate gray. The lights in the city blinked on and airplanes and a helicopter crossed the sky. As the water turned deep, shiny black, the skyline began to appear in it.
A nearly full moon slid up over the rocks above us. We watched as it hid behind clouds, and then emerged out of the clouds, bright with the sun we could no longer see. It was so like a person coming through a hard time in life, and reflecting God’s greatness so much brighter for having walked through shadows.
“That’s how I want to be,” Marnell said. “A small reflection of God’s light to the people around me.”
“Right,” I said, and I sighed, thinking of my capacity for grouchiness, even earlier that very day. “Sometimes I feel like a crescent moon! I mean in the amount of God’s glory I’m reflecting. But maybe we don’t always know when we are reflecting Him best.”
“That’s right,” he said.
As we sat there, fireworks popped in the park above us. We watched the sparks crowning in the dark tree tops above the rocks.
“Must be an important person,” Marnell said, referencing the farewell party sign.
It was a perfect night…
…even before he asked me to marry him!
ENGAGED. (Another bad selfie? 😂) By the tunnel that goes under Lakeshore Drive.
OPENED. The birthday package from my friend Rosie!
COMPLETED. Isn’t God so interesting? As we officially announce our engagement, today, August 12, 2017, I complete the final entry in my “Happiness Project”. On this line, I write, “Thank you God for a wild and beautiful ending!”