Yesterday, I got up and got ready for the big exam. I was dead calm and practically sick at the same time. (How is that possible? I don't understand it myself.) Tim drove "the good car" to work because I was meeting my sister who would be driving me to Erie. I would be leaving my car in a crowded Walmart parking lot for the day.
The first snafu of the day? My cell phone was not in my pocket. With a sick feeling, I realized that I'd tossed it on the seat of the car I'd driven home from work. Which was, coincidently enough, NOT the same car I was driving to meet my sister in. That car was enroute to Tim's work, with Tim in it.
I called my sister from my kitchen and said, "Don't rush, I was looking for my cell phone, and I'm leaving 15 minutes late," in a very exasperated voice. She said, "Oh, thank goodness. I woke up 35 minutes late!" Out the door I charged, at 6:45.
I drove the 45 minutes to where I was going to meet her, and on the trip, managed to get myself in a tizzie. For some reason, I became convinced that I had forgotten something. I drove while sorting through the paperwork in my purse. I needed 2 forms of ID, one with a picture. (Being a bit anal about things like this, I had five things, including my birth certificate and marriage certificate. Check. I had my test authorization with the all important number. Check. But still the panicky feeling persisted. I pulled into the parking lot, and found my sister immediately. I transferred everything to her car and locked mine up. "Anna," I said, "I'm about sick here. I've forgotten something, I just know it." And she began to tick things off. "Got that. Yup. Got that..." I answered. She looked at me and said, "You've got everything, relax." Suddenly, I pushed the paperwork back at her. "It starts at nine, right? I have to be there at nine. I haven't made a mistake there, right?" and she laughed at me. "It says nine. You're good."
So we drove the next 45 minutes together. I fretted. I'd made a conscious decision not to take any books. Everything that I'd read indicated that it was not a good idea to try to cram, last minute. It just made you feel stressful and panicky. So I'd put my books away at 1 PM before I went to work the previous day, and I steeled myself to leave the house without anything but the requirements for the test. The two of us chatted as she drove, and I drank my coffee, and she assured me that I felt no differently than she had felt when she headed out for her nursing boards the previous year. It was good to have her expertise.
We got to the test site. We located the test center, which was not yet open. We had a full 1 1/2 hours before the test, and so I took her out to breakfast with fresh baked granola and a yogurt parfait to go with the eggs and turkey sausage. The black berries in the yogurt were huge, the size of my thumb and we marvelled at it, even as I ate one and tasted summers long gone, when my siblings and I would spend afternoons picking blackberries.
Then it was time to head to the test center, where she dropped me off. She could not go with me. Security is tight at these places.You go through tons of security, finger printing, photo ID, social security card, and then you lock up everything you brought. You must take off any big jewelry, and you are 'wanded' with a metal detecter before you are led to your computer in a separate room to begin the test, holding nothing but your locker key.
They take their security seriously. I found out how seriously. I'd heard that the room is kept cold for the computers, and someone said that they'd nearly frozen to death while taking the test, because they were dressed in light summer clothing. So I wore a tank top, but had layered it with a light sweater. Part way through my test, I was too warm, so, never taking my eyes from the computer screen, I shrugged the sweater off absentmindedly and read on. I just about jumped out of my skin when a woman immediately came in and said sternly, "I'm sorry..." (*aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!~!! My gosh, you scared the wits out of me!) and she said, "I'm sorry. I'll have to take that sweater." (I assumed she didn't mean for keeps, because it is one of my stylish sweaters, so I let her take it.)
In any case, the test was 200 questions long. I had five hours. I figured that I could manage 40 questions an hour, so I wasn't all that worried about time. I began, one at a time, taking my time, thinking carefully. We could mark questions we were doubtful about, and come back to them at the end of the test.
At the end of the test, I went back two think on the two questions that I'd marked, and then sat there. I thought, "I probably should just begin at the beginning and go through those questions again to check my answers." Another part of me said, "NO! Don't! All that does is cause you to doubt yourself. You always wind up changing your answer." I wavered, and then decided to go with my first instincts on this test. My finger hesitated, and then I clicked "End test" even as my brain screamed "Nooooooooooooo!!!! I changed my mind....I need to double check my answers..." I walked out of the computer room, and collected my things, (including my confiscated sweater), and I was fingerprinted and my photo ID was checked once again. It was shocking to me that I'd spent less than two hours in the room, and that made me all the more certain that I'd rushed through the test and made mistakes. I should have double checked those answers.
I went out into the sun, and sat down to wait for my sister. I could not call her, not having my cell, but you know, I needed a chance to process it all. I sat down in the grass, and I waited to see what I felt next. What I felt was...glad...just so glad to be sitting in the grass, to have that test behind me. Most astonishingly is that I felt certain that I had nothing to worry about. There was no fear. I sat there surprised and marvelling. This was not what I expected to feel at all, but I was glad for it. I looked down an beside me was a tiny gold finch feather. I picked it up and studied it, my own heart so light that I felt as if I too could fly.
When my sister pulled up, I got in the car still holding my little feather. She had something to show me, and so we hied off to a second hand store. She showed me a telephone stand she'd found and she could envision it in our front hall. She really thought I should get it. I looked at the woven seat, and the little table, and well, I felt so lighthearted, I DID buy it. To treat myself.
I also found a framed picture from an art gallery, painted in the style of the Wyeths, a painting of a huge landscape, with billowing clouds and in the center, three small scale cows drinking from a lake as a rowboat goes by out far out in the water. I stood there looking at that for some time. I have been lost in this big, big world, and sometimes, I have been a cow on the shore. Other times, I've been able to row off in that boat. I wanted that big painting quite badly. So I got it. I've been thinking to take a screwdriver to the modern metal frame to see who the artist is, but haven't gotten around to it. It is a numbered print, which is interesting.
Anyways, my sister and I shopped and talked, and I said, "You know, this day trumps graduation hands down. It's just amazing to me not to have anything looming. I never felt like I could relax. Even when I was doing a relaxing thing, I felt guilty about not studying..." Suddenly we stopped in front of an old dresser. It was a tall thing, with four drawers, and square in the middle of those drawers were two doors that opened up revealing a compartment for sweaters or bulky items. We'd never seen a dresser quite like that, and we studied it. Anna said, "Oooh. That IS nice..." and I said, "The paint would have to go," in a musing sort of way as Anna looked at the wood inside the drawers. "It's solid," she said, in the same musing voice that I have.
Suddenly, a woman who'd just previously made quite a fuss over the telephone stand I'd loaded on to my cart darted in front of us. "OOOOOOOOOh, no! No you don't! That's MINE!!!" and she snatched the tag from atop the dresser and RAN. Two sisters looked at each other and burst out laughing. "That's THAT then," and we headed out glad that the decision had been wrested from us. Had the woman not intervened, one of us would have been buying that, and worrying about how we'd explain that to our respective husband.
By that time, it was noon, and I called Tim on my sister's cell. It was his lunch break. He did not sound all that surprised that I felt good about the test. He was full of news of his own. A house was going up for sale, a mansion not far from us. Something far bigger than what we already have, which is already far bigger than anything I thought I'd ever have. I'd wanted to see it, just because...well...I wanted to see what it looked like on the inside, being enthralled with the wrought iron and leaded glass and the over grown garden on the outside. I just wanted to see it, and Tim was quite excited to see it as well. Unfortunately, I caught on rather late that he was of a mind to try to buy it if we could, and we've been debating the issue for a couple weeks now, sometimes with a fair bit of emotion involved (mine). He'd finally gotten hold of the person he needed to talk to, and was very grumpy when he told me the price of the thing. He wasn't paying THAT, he said, and there it was again: a huge sigh of relief.
I ended the call, and said to Anna, "Well, by golly, this is working out to be the best day EVER!"
We drove back home talking about this and that, in a very contented and comfortable way, and inside, I kept marvelling at the lightness of my heart.
She treated me to an ice cream to celebrate, and then we said our goodbyes and headed off in our own direction.
When I got home, I putzed, making Tim a nice supper (for a change), and finding homes for my new things. I talked to Mary on the phone who was waiting to hear news.
After Tim got home and we had supper, we walked down town for a few groceries. Passing by one of the apartments, we saw the windows thrown open in a previously empty apartment. We did a double take and said simultaneously, "Our Kelly's back!" She'd had cancer treatment, and had moved back home to be cared for by her family when the treatments got extreme. We said, "Go. Don't worry about the apartment. It will be here when all this is done, and your life begins again. As it will." She's such a lively girl that it just made me sad to see her apartment quiet and dark with no lights or noise for those weeks. We'd received an e-mail saying that she'd been given the all clear, and that she was intending to build her body back up and get to her own little cozy apartment as soon as possible. Once again, we had soothed, "Don't worry about it. Everything's fine...it will wait..." And now she was home again! We bolted in the front door, greeting Linda as she headed out with her girls. Up the stairs we went, and knocked on the door. Kelly answered, looking tanned and fit and strong, and I said, "Oh, you're back, you're back! I'm so very glad!" and I was. She was preparing to go for a run, and I marveled at her. She's been through such a lot, and there she was, just as spunky as ever. I almost cried.
Our greetings exchanged, we headed out once again, stopping to blab on the way. Stopping to blab on the way home.
Coming home, the church bells began to strike the hour. And then they began to play a hymn. I found myself singing along in my head "Aaaaaaaaaaaa-le-looooooooooo-ya!!!!" I looked over at Tim and said, 'the bells are singing what I feel'.
Just like those bells, I wanted to ring out the good news. We rang the doorbell on Rachel's big old house, but she was not at home. I walked back down town for a meeting, calling out, "Knock knock" from the front yard where Susan and her husband sat eating their supper on their front porch. I visited from the sidewalk and we all laughed together. The meeting was full of laughter and talking and planning, and then I walked home once more, turning into my own driveway where the solar lights glowed softly, and I thought once again, 'what a perfect day this has been!' and the church bells chimed 9 o'clock.
I felt like I couldn't bear to be more happy than I was that very moment.
Do you think that I should be concerned that I am so unconcerned about that test?
I'll find out for sure today, but really...I'm still feeling pretty good.