“When I think something nice is going to happen I seem to fly right up on the wings of anticipation; and then the first thing I realize I drop down to earth with a thud. But really, Marilla, the flying part is glorious as long as it lasts…it’s like soaring through a sunset. I think it almost pays for the thud, ” Anne confided to Marilla after yet another dream had been shattered in L. M. Montgomery’s novel Anne of Avonlea. Marilla then suggests that it is better to “walk calmly along and do without both flying and thud.”
I imagine Jess O’ Brien is quite a bit like the impetuous Anne Shirley. In last Sunday’s installment of Chesapeake Shores, when she received the invitation to visit her boyfriend David, Jess jumped in a cab and raced to track down her sister Bree. Even before exiting the cab at the bookstore, Jess squealed in excitement and almost unintelligible relief that David still cared for her. Then, at the first sight of David, Jess flew directly into his arms, didn’t she? She had been anticipating her reunion with David for months. Through months of waiting, Jess’ built in her mind the exquisite joy she would feel when she could be with David again, and she demonstrated it in an unrestrained and unashamed way by throwing her arms wide to her joy – and to David. Jess was completely present in the moment, without a thought for the implications such a greeting might have to David’s family. Her delight in seeing David made me giggle and pulled me back in time about 23 years. She reminded my of my own teenage self when the boy I’d liked for a year agreed to go to a dance with me. After school, I hurried home and left a sentimental note for my mom (who was my best friend), sharing the wonderful news with her.
Now, I also imagine that Bree would agree more with Marilla’s perspective on “flying on the wings of anticipation.” Having bottled up her hurts, she has developed a tendency to keep others at arm’s length and to anticipate the possible consequences of becoming too attached, too excited, too in love with the moment. She tries to see all the sides of every situation – her reason overcomes her emotion. As an adult, I often do this with my own kids. I find myself warning them about how someone might not come to their birthday party (even though he promised to be there) or how “plans change” and they need to “roll with it.”
What is the right balance of wisdom and impulsiveness, of keeping your feet firmly planted in reason or relinquishing the reason to the euphoria of what could be? Perhaps we need to realize that both sound reason and unencumbered joy bring their own fog that clouds our vision and distorts reality.
After David’s sister, Alex, warns Bree that David’s parents aren’t really intending to “get to know Jess,” Bree’s defenses come up, and she attempts to draw Jess into the safety of her walls. However, Jess refuses to let anything mar her reunion with David, arguing that “not everyone is capable of backstabbing betrayal.”
Jess continues her dance of joy by recreating the famed Sixteen Candles scene. What woman hasn’t dreamed of her significant other re-enacting the best romantic scenes from television with her? After all, that is why we watch those sappy romantic comedies, isn’t it? Yet, as Jess is soon to learn, romance in real life doesn’t play out like it does on the movie screen. In fact, the fog of uncertainty descends more quickly than I think any of us really like. Jess’ entire focus and pursuit is of a relationship with David, yet the differences between their families and their backgrounds begin to create a fog that obscures her focus. Just as tears blur her vision and she runs to Bree for comfort, Jess stumbles into a dense haze of doubt. In this case, Bree is the one to help lift the fog by reminding her sister of the truth she knows: love knows no bounds.
Maybe that is where we find the balance – in the people who walk with us through times of celebration and times of heartache and confusion. We all need a Bree or a Jess in our lives to celebrate the joyous moments with us and to temper our flights of fantasy with a bit of reality. We need people who are along for the whole ride – the ones like Bree who cry with us but see us as we really are – faults and all – and remind us that we are made for amazing things, and the ones like Jess who see each mountaintop as a moment for unencumbered joy, regardless of the impending reality.
These foggy moments with family and friends are necessary, even if they cause our flying anticipation to result in a thud. Just as the morning fog of a winter afternoon slows our driving and focuses our attention to the road, the fog of life’s shifting momentum makes us pursue our desires carefully and thoughtfully, with renewed focus and purpose. It forces us to pay attention to the road signs steering us around obstacles in our paths – the road signs of reason than help us make the best choices. In those same moments, though, we must hold onto the joy. We must hold onto the promise that resides on the other side of the fog so that we can overtake it and re-claim it as ours.
It may feel like the fog has settled for good and you’re searching far and wide for some elusive fantasy that will never be reality because there are so many confusing and distorting circumstances surrounding you – but you’re not. Like both Jess and Bree, you were made for incredible things.