I Saw A Shark In The Clouds…
I really did…
I saw a shark in the clouds today. Not a cloud shaped like a shark, the clouds surrounded the shark and the shark was just this big old Jaws Great White Shark in the middle made up of nothing but beautiful blue sky. And then I looked to left and I swear there was a big mouthed bass, and then to the right… a catfish…all the same way. Now before you go thinking I was dipping into Old Grandpa Cough Syrup or was out in the woods nibbling on mushrooms, let me put your mind at ease. I was in the truck going down the road somewhere between Florida and New Mexico.
See, we are a ‘travelin’ band’. We go from one side of the country to the other to play our little songs, not because we think people need or even want to hear our little songs…but because we are either…artist who must pursue our craft…or …we are crazy as a bedbug. Most folks go with the latter. But we travel long distances and we cover a lot of the country and up until today, I let a lot of that go pretty much unnoticed. I am not proud of that.
I don’t know exactly what the term for ‘fear of traveling in a vehicle’ is called…I am sure there is one. But I got a bad case of it. It is unreasonable and just this side of insane, but I have horrible anxiety attacks when I ride in any car or truck, train, plane, bus, motorcycle, little red wagon, horse and carriage…you name it. It was not always that way. I can remember loading up my kids and traveling alone from Florida to Memphis, TN without thinking twice. The thought that we might be in a car accident or break down in the middle of nowhere never entered my mind. I loved traveling, I loved driving, and I loved seeing new places. And then it happened. I got ‘that phone call’. You know… the one where they say, “Ma’am your husband and little boy have been in a car accident. Your husband is at one hospital and your son is at the Children’s Hospital, we are not sure if they are stable.” I had just met my next door neighbor, (who is still one of my closest friends today) but I ran over and said, “Take me somewhere…I don’t even know where, I don’t even know where the hospitals are here.”
They were both okay in the end, but the trauma of seeing my little boy in a neck brace and his head swollen like a basketball and not even knowing the condition of my husband did something to me that day. A lady had just pulled out in front of them…. just an instant in time… and our lives would never be the same. I think that is when my mistrust of anything mobile started. We all know the moment we get into a vehicle it is not just our good judgment, but that of a million others that count, but it is probably not normal to worry every second, then again, being normal is not something I have ever been accused of.
Maybe if that had been the only incident, I would not be so crazed, but add that to:
“Ma’am this is the Sheriff’s Department, we have your husband at the emergency room..he was in an accident and someone finally found him.” (He was okay too)
“Mama, we were in a car accident, your grandkids are a little shook up but we are all okay… the van is totaled but we can get another van.” (Praise the Lord)
“I don’t know how to say this but your Aunt and Cousin were in a car accident, your aunt was killed instantly… your cousin is in intensive care, you should come now.”
The last one was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. I was convinced there is no safe place on the road. And the last one about my Aunt and Cousin…..is what takes us back to the shark in the clouds.
I know you are wondering by now how the two could possibly be connected. Well, I’m gonna tell you. My Aunt was married to my Uncle Junior who was like my other father. He lost his wife and almost lost his only daughter,( his first had been taken by breast cancer) in that accident. I didn’t think we would survive the whole thing and (forgive the pun)… it put the nail in the coffin, so to speak, with me and the love of travel. But my Uncle Junior and Mama Bess told me I needed to get over that and gave the old adage “Get back on the horse”, so I did. But the fear never completely went away. So I will travel…but I also will be either reading a book, working, playing a game or sleeping. Basically, I go into the ultimate denial stage and just pretend we are not going down the interstate at 70mph. And this worked until a few years ago…. the night an 80 year old man got confused and went down the wrong side of the interstate hitting the car in front of us head on. Once again we were very fortunate to have minor injuries, but I remember thinking, “See, I told ya’ll, the road is not safe and we should all move into caves and protect our loved ones.” I was back in fear mode once again.
Fear is a horrible thing. Fear is paralyzing and never leads to anything good. Fear is the main ingredient that Satan uses in his prize winning recipe to keep us from ever doing anything, enjoying anything, or serving God in anything. He uses it like a drug. Fear is addictive, once you have picked it up it is almost impossible to put it down without a strong intervention. Uncle Junior passed away last week, it was very hard to let him go. He was that rock you knew you could turn to in time of trouble. I think he was also my ‘strong intervention’. Something happened to me when I said my last goodbye to him. I was reminded of every conversation we ever had. One of those conversations was about all the wonderful things we get to see on our journeys, and I said, “Well, I don’t see a lot of things because I am too busy trying to pretend I am not going down the road.” I laughed, but he didn’t. He said, “You have to stop that, the best part IS the traveling and seeing all the different things. Do you know how many people would LOVE to have a job where they got paid to travel? I sure would. Most of us have to pay to go anywhere and you get paid to appreciate and enjoy all the things God has made. You need to put those books down and look out the window now and again.”
I said he was right and I would try, but I didn’t. Like some other great wisdom that has been shared with me, I just put it in the back of my mind with the excuse that he just didn’t understand how afraid I was, how the fear had taken over any common sense. Not a fear for myself or my life. I do not fear death… it is a different kind of fear and anxiety that is not rational and not easy to explain. Then on the way home I got the call, he had passed away and all I could think was what he had said so many times. “Today could be it for any of us and we should probably act that way”.
When we left yesterday to go back on the road…. he was on my mind so strong I found I could not read a book or write, or play solitaire or listen to music. I just sat and looked out the window. And there it was…a perfect shark in the clouds. I love the “name that cloud’ game and I still play it with my grandchildren where we lay on the ground and say what the clouds look like…but this was different. It wasn’t the clouds making the shape. It was the sky making shapes around the clouds. It took my breath away. I had been looking at it all wrong. Thinking the clouds were in control, when the sky was in control the whole time. There was something very comforting in that thought. A peace I had not felt in a long while. Don’t ask me why it was a shark…I think my brother, Kenneth had something to do with that…he took me to see Jaws and was an avid fisherman, AND he had a warped sense of humor just like me!!
But there it was, undeniably talking to me. I am not saying Uncle Junior’s passing was a way to teach me a lesson. It was his time to go, he had been anxiously waiting to go and join his wife and child, his Ma and Pa, his brothers and sisters. But I do think… no… I KNOW he has enough pull up there to make a couple of miracles happen. I imagine it this way. He went to Mama Bess and said..”Well, she is still doing that whole ‘fear of traveling’ thing and missing out on some amazing things God is trying to show her…and Mama Bess said…well you give it a try…she is obviously not listening to me and Kenneth chimed in with ..make it a shark.” And so there it was….I saw a shark in the clouds…actually I saw a shark in the sky and it was swimming through the clouds! I expect to see a unicorn and squirrel before this trip is over. I don’t need to be afraid, fear is my enemy. Be safe, take all common sense precautions, and then …what will be will be. Whatever happens will happen but in the meantime I have been missing all the blessings around me. Fear is the devil’s playground. He knows if he can keep us scared, he can keep us from being a witness. He revels in stealing our joy. The worst Christian witness is a ”miserable Christian”. Fear and anxiety and worry can make you awfully miserable. The fear trap waits around every corner in many shapes and forms. The bible says over and over, ‘Fear not”. I think fear is our need to be in control. The enemy knows that and uses it against us. But…”Yea though I walk through the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me…”
I think I have taken so much for granted. Uncle Junior was right. There are many people who cannot even get out of bed, who would love to see all the wonderful sights we see every day, while I bury my head in a book and pray for time to pass so I can get OUT of the truck. Shame on me! And shame on all of us who do not make the very best of every single minute. The devil found my Achilles’ heel and he has made great progress with me. I plan on stopping him in his tracks. My heart may still beat a little faster than it should, I may never completely get over the anxiety of traveling, but I can make an effort to appreciate the little things, open my eyes and my heart to the enchantment of the earth God created. Heck, we may even seek out the world’s largest ball of twine, maybe kiss a dolphin or pet a dolphin (whatever it is you do with dolphins) stop at every ‘Historic Landmark” on I-10 and take a pic or maybe I will chase a prairie dog or two this trip and take one home to the McFarm. What I will not be doing this trip is burying myself in ‘busy stuff’ to shut out the fear. We are all on a journey of some sort and any number of things can happen to us along the way. Might as well sight see….
Thank you Uncle Junior for another lesson, and thank you God for Uncle Junior and for being bigger than all my fears.