How many times have you felt like giving up on your marriage when it’s just one thing after another? Your end goal keeps moving in unexpected ways, or is blockaded time and time again. If you’re like me, it seems like you cross one hurdle, or overcome one obstacle, just to uncover another one.
Among the many times I’ve experienced frustration and despair, the story I’d like to share (including the lesson learned), happened in 2010, when my husband was assigned by his corporate heads to relocate to another continent for a year. As exotic and adventurous as that opportunity sounded to our friends, the realities were anything but. One of the first complications to be maneuvered for instance, was simply finding a place to live — which is harder than you might think from long-distance and in a mega-city like London, England. The whole episode parallels, in my mind, the plot of one of my favorite old movies: The African Queen.
Our cell phones met at a pinpoint in orbit. House-hunting in London was tough when the Columbia River was closer than the Thames. Romantic they may be, both rivers are full of unexpected twists and sudden currents. And in the spring of 2010, as we negotiated our way through a sticky situation while on opposite sides of the globe, it felt like we were plummeting down the rapids toward a three-hundred foot drop off.
For weeks, Dale was stoking the boiler like mad, keeping our hopes afloat and the engine running. He was determined to find us a new home in the old world but “available” properties were either unacceptable or unavailable. Meanwhile, I was clinging to the rudder for dear life—straining through the spray to see what was coming round the bend.
Charlie: How’d you like it?
Rose: Like it?
Charlie: White water rapids!
Rose: I never dreamed…
Charlie: I don’t blame you for being scared – not one bit. Nobody with good sense ain’t scared of white water…
Not only could we not find a place in greater London, we couldn’t agree on priorities. Though we were verbally self-sacrificing we knew each other’s hearts too well: he wanted covered parking and a stand-alone shower and I just had to have windows and light. I began to think that none of it really mattered since there was no place to “let” in Surrey anyway. Disappointment upon disappointment…frustration after frustration…we were caught in a landlord’s market; an eddy with no escape.
Rose: The whole thing is like a fever dream, isn’t it?
Charlie: All the channels we’ve lost—an’ the the twistin’ we’ve done—we may come back where we started—if we come out at all.
Rose: We’ve always followed the current, dear—what little there is.
Meanwhile, Dale’s time in London was running out and the precipice was approaching. We made a desperate offer on a property that represented a major compromise for us both. The deal fell apart. It was 2:30 a.m. for me and he was at the airport about to board. This was it. Like the scene in African Queen when Rose and Charlie have exhausted themselves navigating the the Ulanga and have no other option but to lie down and die in the Belgian Congo, we hung up and cried.
Rose: Dear Lord, We’ve come to the end of our journey, and in a little while we’ll stand before you. I pray for you to be merciful. Judge us not for our weaknesses, but for our love and open the doors of heaven for Charlie and me.
Minutes after our sad conversation, the screenplay of the African Queen began inexplicably to run through my head. I came upon the scene of the little steamer, entangled in a jungle marsh; the bodies of Charlie and Rose prostrate on the deck, as motionless as their boat. The camera sails higher and higher until we can we see what they cannot: the lake—the big, open lake that has been their destination all along—is just yards away. Overnight, clouds gather and explode, swelling the river and setting the African Queen on her way.
I bolted out of bed and dove back into the on-line real estate market. And there it was: our miracle. An exquisite flat in the very complex and location we’d dared not hope for—posted only minutes before. In the spirit of “snatch and grab it” and with the help of friends there I’d yet to meet, the place was basically ours by the time Dale landed in Chicago.
Charlie: What happened?
Rose: We did it, Charlie, we did it!..
Charlie: Well I’ll be… Are you all right, Rosie?
Rose: Never better. And you, dear?
Charlie: All right!
Rose: I’m all turned round, Charlie. Which way is the south shore?
Charlie: The one we’re swimming towards, old girl!…
HINT OF ROMANCE:
Real romances with happy endings are always underwritten by Faith and Optimism. Keep them alive no matter what.
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