How to move on if you missed the eclipse
On Monday, August 21st, 2017 the first total solar eclipse in 100 years that could be seen across the country from the American West Coast to the American East Coast occurred. Copious amounts of people ordered the fancy, NASA approved, 3-D looking glasses from Amazon, set their smart phone alarms, queued up Bonnie Tyler’s 1983 hit release Total Eclipse of the Heart, and anxiously awaited what scientists and mere mortals alike described as a miraculous, spectacular, once- in-a-lifetime event.
And I freakin’ missed it.
Yes, at my home in downtown Baltimore, at precisely 2:42pm, clouds covered the sky, and the sun much less the moon was nowhere in sight. As I imagined the day when my future children would ask me, “Where were you when the total solar eclipse of 2017 took place?” I dreaded the four unavoidable words I would sadly utter to them in response. I freakin’ missed it. As I sat on my couch in my tiny studio apartment I scrolled through my Facebook and Instagram feeds inundated with breathtaking photos of the eclipse accompanied by boastful captions about the miraculous, spectacular, once-in-a-lifetime event. I took a long deep breath. How could I move on from this overwhelming feeling of FOMO?
So I asked myself, when was the last time I missed out on something truly extraordinary? And it just so happens that two days prior to the eclipse that in my opinion should no longer be discussed, I traveled to Delta, Pennsylvania for an event called The Lights Fest where one can go to purchase a paper lantern and on it write intentions for the year. The plan was to light the lantern using a tiki torch and release it into the sky alongside a few thousand strangers’ lanterns as the tear-provoking song, Hallelujah played in the background. It was going to be a spiritual feeling of connectivity both with other humans and the universe itself. I had been looking forward to the event long before it was even scheduled.
You see it wasn’t my first lantern lighting, oh no. Four years prior to this miraculous, spectacular, once-in-a-lifetime event, I was visiting a friend in Northern Thailand. When I asked her what sights should not go unseen during my visit, she urged me to wake up before sunrise, rent a motorbike, purchase a paper lantern, and ride up the mountain to Doi Suthep, a temple that Thai people believe to be sacred ground. She said releasing the lantern off the balcony of the temple at sunrise was an experience I would hold in my heart forever. So on the motorbike, up the mountain with lantern in hand I went. And as the sun began to rise in the distance, I went to light the lantern. Right when I was about to release it into the sky and experience this magical moment, the entire lantern caught on fire. I’m talking massive flames in the air.
Faces of Thai people close by began looking over at me as I panicked of what to do next. An unforgettable moment this will be indeed, I thought, if I burn this sacred temple to the ground. Quickly the fire made its way to my hands. I had no other choice but to throw the inflamed lantern off of the balcony. It landed onto a pile of leaves and the fire grew bigger. Now don’t fret. I was thankfully carrying three very large water bottles for reasons still unbeknownst to me, and was able to put the fire out before being thrown into Thai prison. That ended up being ironically pretty miraculous. And while this unsuccessful lantern lighting evolved into a rather entertaining story to tell at parties, I started dreaming of the day I would finally light a lantern into the sky the right way.
So there I was four years later in Delta, Pennsylvania. The time had come. This was it, I thought. Tonight I light. I listened carefully to the directions from the fire marshal; I opened the lantern all the way so I would not set it on fire again; I watched the small flame fill the lantern up, and as I raised my hands into the air, I felt the strange pull of the universe usher me to release. 3, 2…this is it….1…. I turned to look at my friend who was lighting her lantern next to me. I wanted this experience to be one we shared together. I’ll wait a few seconds for her to light her lantern. 3,2,1…SHIT! The fire in my lantern had burnt out along with my dream.
Immediately an overwhelming feeling of sadness, disappointment and anger washed over me. You have got to me freakin’ kidding me, I said aloud. My friend looked over at me with sincere sympathy as she saw how upset I was. But then something truly miraculous and spectacular happened. My eyes met with the intention I had written on my lantern earlier in the night. “To surround myself with all the magical things that delight me,” I wrote. And then around those words I had listed the numerous things that bring me delight, one of which was “letting go,” a practice I had continuously struggled with in my life. And I thought to myself, this is the perfect moment to implement my intention into my life. To let go of the way I think things are supposed to be and begin embracing the unexpected messy imperfect way things actually are. And so I did just that. I lied down on the blanket in that black field with my best friend as we watched the lanterns fill the dark sky with light.
Two days later, after I missed the eclipse, I practiced letting go once again, and let myself laugh the FOMO away. It’s okay, I told myself. Then I did what any millennial would do. I googled when the next total solar eclipse will take place, marked the date in my iCalendar, made a note to purchase the fancy, NASA approved, 3-D looking glasses from Amazon, and decided I’d be ready then. Ready for whatever miraculous, spectacular, once-in-a-lifetime lesson I am destined to learn on that day.