Life is uncertain. You get into a routine, one day rolls into the next, you start to take things for granted, you start to think “this is what it is.” But you’re wrong. You forget that life is uncertain, that things change in an instant. It takes just four words to rock your world, to change the course of your life.
Have lunch with me.
That’s how Beth and I started. We had worked in the same office for several years without a whole lot of contact when Beth said those words to me one day. One minute I was on one trajectory, and four words later it had changed.
Over lunch she confronted me: I flirted with everyone in the office except her. Why not her? I didn’t have a good answer, so we started hanging out together. First as friends, going to the beach together, having lunch at work, etc., then slowly it progressed until the tipping point the night we saw Prelude to a Kiss (again: four words), when we slipped over into love. (Beth wrote about it here.)
Let’s move in together.
We had been dating for awhile when she said these four words to me. I was practically living at her place anyway, since my apartment overlooking the open-air drug market of L.A.’s MacArthur Park scared the hell out of her the one and only time she spent the night and she refused to ever go back there again. One minute I was just a guy with a steady girlfriend, and then four words later it was serious.
I moved in with her a few weeks later and we’ve been together ever since. The longest we’ve been apart have been the 10-day business trips I took for my last job. Except for those, I’ve spent nearly every night and day since those words with Beth.
Will you marry me?
Four really big words, guaranteed to change your life. And they did, for the better. When I asked and Beth accepted, that lead to our relationship growing even deeper than I knew it could be.
I think I’m pregnant.
Oh man. Four even bigger words. And we had only been married for about a month! Our honeymoon tans hadn’t even faded when Beth hit me with that one. One minute I was a newlywed, and then four words later I was a father-to-be. But it was fine, in fact it was perfect. I had always wanted to be a father and now my dream was coming true.
Congratulations, it’s a girl!
With those four words, the doctor made us a family. If you think getting married changes things, wait until you have a kid. One minute it was just me and Beth, as it had been for several years, and then four words later we were three. Me + Beth = Zoe. That’s us, that’s my family, it’s my favorite equation. We’re perfect just the way we are, we don’t need anything else to change.
I found a lump.
Four words to stop your heart in your chest. Beth said them to me yesterday morning and everything changed. Cancer is what happens to other people, but suddenly it was in my house — or at least the possibility of it. When you hear those words, that’s where you go with it. You can’t help it, you can’t stop it. You look for all the other things it could be and tell each other that’s probably what it is, but there’s a cold stone of fear lodged in your heart that tells you what it really is.
One minute you’re living the normal arc of your life, and then four words later you’re watching it all end far too soon on the drive-in theater movie screen in your mind over and over and over again. You’re seeing scenes of empty dinner chairs and half-empty beds and empty spaces where Mommy goes and… Just emptiness. Those four words rock your world and it just keeps rocking and rocking and rocking as you count the hours until she can see a doctor to tell you…
It’s just a cyst.
These four words let you breathe again, reel you back in from the abyss. It’s what Beth’s doctor said today after examining her. He’s sure it’s just a cyst and referred Beth for a diagnostic mammogram to confirm his diagnosis. He assures us we can stop worrying that it’s cancer. We won’t know for sure until after the mammogram, of course, but we’re both feeling much relieved at this point. Not totally out of the darkness yet, but certainly standing at its edge.
You don’t really know how scary something like this can be until you go through it. You think you know, but trust me: you don’t. And all we have is a lump. I can’t even imagine how scary having those fears realized might be. I don’t want to find out.
Life changes with just four words. I never noticed that before.
Beth writes about the experience here.