Ever have a delayed reaction? Sometimes it’s only a few moments, but for the bigger stuff, the scary life stuff, it can be much longer. It’s been 18 months since my “escape” from Ohio, and just a few months ago I finally accepted our time there. Let me explain…
Cincinnati, Ohio, evoked very strong emotions for me when I lived there. Every time I had to say that I lived there, or had to head “home” after traveling (I cried almost every time), or every time my car sunk into an abyss, I mean pothole, on I-75, my face invariably scrunched into a “this is painful” expression.
I tried to like it. Really, I did. Joined a church, got involved, went to baseball games, joined a gym, got a couple jobs, etc. I even put an “I LOVE CINCINNATI” sticker on my car in order to build community (it was our church’s signature sticker). I tried to will myself into agreeing with the statement. After having it on my car for more than a year, I took it down. My reason? I was “living a lie” – my exact words to my husband when he asked why the mantra was no longer in my back window.
We moved there from Savannah, Georgia. This flip-flop-loving girl went from an 8-week winter/5-month summer small-town city living 30 minutes from the ocean, to a land locked, allergen-ridden, pothole laden city with 1,000 suburbs.
My bad attitude went so far as a determination to leave that city without leaving so much as a dusting of a footprint on anyone or anything. I wanted nothing to do with that temporary landing place. But, as almost always happens, I was handed a big ‘Touché’. This city made me cranky, but there’s nothing like being put in a situation in which you feel trapped, to force you to learn about yourself and the important elements of your life.
Living in Cincinnati – a city that gave me seemingly endless weeks of rain and gray and snow and cold, unwelcome people, and a sense of being overwhelmed on its 10-lane highways – afforded me the chance to experience life in a way that I wouldn’t trade for a two-year stint in Hawaii. (Yes, I just wrote that). Some of these Blessings have to do with proximity, some with the shifting of our financial situation. Some of these could have happened living in another city, some could not have happened anywhere else but in (or around) Cincinnati. None is any less important than another, and each is indelibly associated with this crazy place.
- The chance to build a foundation for a genuinely thriving marriage. We had hardly any friends, so most of our time was spent together.
- Finding and personalizing my favorite verse in the Bible: Ephesians 3:20.
- My love for Zumba.
- The chance to get to know my husband’s best friend and his family (my 3rd family) since they lived so close.
- The making of a new life-long friend/Soul Sister.
- The crossing off of no less than four items from my Life List. (Including writing a novel).
- The chance to write my first novel. (It’s important enough to deserve its own line!)
- The ability to travel home for my best friend’s (first) baby shower, the baby’s birth, and his baptism, all within 6 months of each other. (Ohio is much closer to New York than Georgia is).
- A powerful teaching experience in an impoverished community that will always stay with me.
- The freedom of living almost debt free.
- A cable-free household. Serenity.
- Nightly walks/time with Greg.
- A group of friends/co-workers who mean so much to me they’re in my acknowledgements in “Making Room”.
- Two girlfriends who made such an impact on my life I named Elizabeth’s bridesmaids after them in “Making Room”.
- Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and Friday Night Lights, both watched on DVD because I had nothing else to do. They became part of my writing playlist.
- The chance to have my first (and only) shot of tequila. Couldn’t feel my tongue for awhile afterwards, but it was worth it.
- An internship that shed light on the fact that I am tailor-made to be a school counselor.
- A church that challenged me to rethink and redefine the terms “love” and “church.”
- Live MLB games for three consecutive summers.
- Jungle Jim’s: A grocery store that, on quiet Sunday mornings, exceeds the quality of Wegman’s.
- Ice hockey for Greg.
- Some of the best ice cream we’ve ever had. (Read about our love for ice cream here and here).
- A new motorcycle with a backseat = a full summer of riding fun.
- Bonding experiences with family I had seen once in ten years, complete with the kind of laughter that invites headaches and stomach aches.
- Hang-out time with the family I grew up with but hadn’t seen much of in recent years.
- A teaching stint in Japan that changed me and my world.
- Cherry Blossom season. (Along with the 4-season rotation I semi-missed while in GA).
- Nightly firefly sightings. (I had never seen them before!)
Greg and I went to Cincinnati excited to start an adventure. We loved Savannah but were ready for something new. Well, we ended up complaining for two years. Toward the end of that time we came to the conclusion that God put us in a time-out so that we could learn a few things.
There’s a song I love called “Blessings”. My favorite line is:
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise
Indeed, the life events and experiences we hate the most can be the very things that catapult us into a deeper, richer life. And thank God for them, as they push us further and further toward the person we want to be, the person God wants us to be. The kind of person who is continually refined, like coal being put under pressure and heat but turns out as a beautiful diamond. The kind of person who has concrete examples of experiences against which to test and display their character.
I don’t ever want to move back there. Those learned lessons were a one-and-done deal. Or, two-and-through since we lived there 2 years. But perhaps the biggest lesson I learned was to stop complaining. You are where you are for a reason, so zip your lips and listen to what God is trying to teach you. It might suck for awhile, but it always gets better.
Some photographs from our time in Cincy: