Last Monday, my friend Sam was on her way to Eastern Market when her car broke down on 395 and Maine Avenue. Some passers-by helped push her car to the shoulder, where she called me, and I called for a tow truck. We moved our dinner date back, until after she could have her car towed to my street, where it was still parked this weekend. I sent her a message yesterday asking how everything was going with her car, and she replied, “I have to get a new car. Worst time ever. It’s OK. I was due some drama. Things can’t be perfect.” Up until now, Sam had been fairly satisfied with her work, dating, and social life. She has never been the sort of person, as far as I know, to wallow in despair. We all know those people. They’re the ones that won’t leave a terrible relationship, a terrible job, or a terrible financial situation, but we let them talk to us endlessly about how they’re enduring. Drama. Sam isn’t like that at all, so it struck me as odd that she would say she “was due some drama.” I haven’t ever really thought of my life in terms of waiting for the other shoe to drop, an adage that illustrates a pessimistic philosophy of life, and I don’t know that I ever will, but our culture and our language seem to privilege pessimism over optimism.
Two weeks ago, my friend Sara called me to tell me she and her boyfriend were breaking up. Theirs was a surprising relationship: they were at the right party at the right time on a night when neither one had expected to be out. They met over casual conversation by the food, exchanged phone numbers, and eventually went on a date to a museum. That date led to more, and it’s been many months now since they’ve been together. Storybook, right? When Sara called, crying two weeks ago, she said, “I should have known better. Nothing lasts forever. I can’t believe I let myself feel good about this relationship.” The statement fits under the adage of “waiting for the other shoe to drop.” She had forgotten, according to her, to be mindful of the other shoe, to be weary of it, and to anticipate that it would soon drop. She was angry at herself for forgetting sorrow while enjoying happiness.
I had a classmate at Georgetown who enjoyed kicking off the other shoe, if I can add to the phrase. Anytime I’d put happy status updates on my Facebook page, he would see it as his role to bring me down a peg, straighten me out, or remind me that my life and all good things I experience have limitations/expiration dates. Once, I put up a picture of myself in which I thought I looked pretty good. I’d dropped a few pounds. The hair was working. The angle of my face was right. I liked it. It was clearly a good picture, and he commented, “So you think you’re Brad Pitt now?” A strange comment. Another time, when I celebrated that my students had written strong papers, he reminded me, “Just wait.” Of course he meant not all my students’ papers would be worth celebrating, which was true, but why the need to remind me? I’ve since deleted this man from my Facebook friends because I don’t focus on the other shoe, and I certainly don’t need anyone else to focus on it for me.
On Sunday, my friend Lindsay visited me in my new digs at Eastern Market. We walked around the open air market (for which the area is named) and looked at furniture, fruit, and flowers. I bought something I’d been looking for: a teak wood umbrella stand. Lindsay bought strawberries. We went back to my place where I set up my new piece, and we sat in the cool living room and devoured the juicy, sweet seasonal fruit. We also talked about decorating ideas and Lindsay asked how I felt about the new place. “I really like it,” I said. It’s been a rough two years, something I haven’t noticed much, because I’ve been so busy, but in this moment, and because Lindsay knows me so intimately, we both knew what my life has been like, and it hasn’t always been blissful. “This is a happy time for me,” I shared. I must admit though that I so easily forget times that are not happy, and as a result I feel like it has always been a happy time for me. Today, I’ve been reflecting on Sam, Sara, the Georgetown classmate, and my conversation with Lindsay, all of which focus on some method of looking at life’s curve balls. I realised that I have never waited for the other shoe to drop; instead, I’ve always done the opposite. I expect and know that things always get better, even when they’re good, but what’s the adage for that philosophy?