They say they built the train tracks over the Alps before there was a train that could make the trip. They built it anyway.
-Frances Mayes, Under the Tuscan Sun
From the beginning of my life, I was always surrounded by people. As the eleventh of twelve kids, I never really knew what it was to be alone. My mom used to say to us, “if you want to be alone, do the dishes.” That was her funny way of saying, “don’t feel sorry for yourself; you are lucky to have people around!” She was right!
There came a time in my life when everything I had created came tumbling down, and I had to decide how to rebuild. I had three kids who were watching and an empty house that needed us as much as we needed it. I remember saying a prayer to that house, “if you want me to stay here, you damn well better figure out a way.” Somehow things came together and through a bit of hard work and determination, that house and I stayed together to make a wonderful nest for my kids. What a blessing indeed!
Once I got my feet on the ground, I decided to find some pieces for that empty house that would make it a home. The thing I loved most about my childhood was the big table where we gathered, and I contacted a friend to see if she would make me a very long and very special table. Since I am the the 11th kid, I wanted it to be at least 11 feet long. It was beautiful and exactly what I dreamed of having in my home. When the kids weren’t with me, I would sit at the end of this table alone. At first I would cry because this wasn’t exactly how the dream looked, but then I remembered this scene from one of my favorite movies, Under the Tuscan Sun. Sometimes you have to build the dream looking forward, and live your life in that direction. I used to set the table for two, even though it was just me. One day when I was sitting there, I decided to trace my hand and write down in my hand exactly what my partner would be like. I wrote down everything, even that he had sheep (something I had always dreamed of). I wrote that he would have hazel eyes, and the crazy thing is that he thinks he still has hazel eyes, but cancer treatments made them blue! He would love water and have a sailboat. He would love to cook and be passionate about life as I was…and guess what? When you are busy building the track, the train will come and you get to jump aboard for the adventure of a lifetime.
When the day came for Vince and me to marry, guess where the party started? Yep. At that big lonely table; except it wasn’t empty any more. It was filled with joy and everything that we had hoped. It has been the center of our celebrations for our family and friends, and we are working now to build a room in our new house that will be big enough for everyone to gather.
I sold that amazing house to run for Congress. It was like losing a best friend and I think of it often…how it held me when I was alone. Sometimes you have to make room for bigger dreams and leave a place so someone else can build tracks. That was the perfect place. The time I spent alone was often sad, but in that darkness, something was being fertilized in my spirit. In that time, I really got to know myself and be ready to find a new love when it came my way.
How can you take solitude and really savor what is there? No matter where you go, make the space special for you and in that sacred moment, write down your dreams; the life you are looking to create. Write what is beautiful about your life now…and then be ready. The train will come…and maybe even sheep!