Editor’s note: Sharon Randall is on vacation this week. The following column originally ran in April, 2009:
Two stories, two different people, same advice.
I was at a big event where I knew nearly no one. I’m usually fine socializing with strangers, but I’d had enough for one night and was headed for the door when I bumped into a young man in his late 20s, younger than my youngest child.
Clearly he’d had too much of something, if only of himself.
“Look at you,” he said, grinning, “you’re gorgeous.”
“Thanks, sonny,” I said. “Don’t try to drive tonight, OK?”
“Wait,” he said, taking my arm, “you’re also really smart, and you know a lot of stuff and I really need your help.”
He leaned close.
“See that girl over there?” he said. “She’s after me. But I don’t know. I think she’s a little wacko or something. What do you think I should do?”
I glanced at the young woman in question – beautiful, poised, clearly a match. Then I smiled at my new best friend.
“Run,” I said.
“Run for your life.”
His eyes spun like hubcaps.
“I knew it!” he said. “You can tell she’s crazy?”
“No,” I said. “I can’t tell. But you can. Trust your gut.”
Usually, I would say, “trust your heart,” but “gut” seemed a better fit for him. He hugged me, promised not to drive and hurried off, with her in pursuit.
It was the same advice I might have given to anyone, and have, more or less, countless times.
Years ago, a young friend I’ll call “Abby” asked, “How do you know when someone is the right person to marry?”
She was in love with a guy I’ll call “Steve.” I knew they were “meant” for each other. I think she knew it, too. But somehow she needed to ponder the question a little longer, a little deeper, until she found an answer that felt all her own.
Some answers, even if we’re sure they’re right, need time to ripen, like fruit, to perfection.
“You’ll know,” I promised her. “You’ll just know.”
Six months later, they were engaged. I couldn’t wait to ask: “So how do you know someone is the right person to marry?”
“You can’t know for sure,” she said, laughing. “You just have to jump into the abyss!”
On a hill green with spring, surrounded by family, friends, God and all his angels, Abby and Steve jumped into that abyss, pledged their love and set out on a journey Tennyson called “that new world which is the old.”
My favorite moment in the ceremony was when the rabbi asked, “Will you?”
And Abby said, “Absolutely!”
I elbowed my husband, and he gave me a knowing smile.
Life might be easier without its great mysteries, without all the doubts and nagging questions that keep us awake late at night raiding the freezer for ice-cream and wracking our brains for answers. But it wouldn’t taste nearly so sweet.
Some answers – the truly important ones – can’t be found in the brain. We have to search for them in our heart, and pray that we will find them there.
Friends and loved ones can offer advice, and if we’re wise, we’ll weigh their counsel. But in the end, we have answered hard questions on our own. Though a pint of ice-cream can’t hurt.
The heart is a dark and scary place. We need courage to search it, and faith to live by what it tells us. But no answer will ever be as clear or resolute as one that’s deeply rooted in the convictions of the heart.
It’s the stuff that moves mountains. It’s the faith that walks on water. It’s the difference between “wacko, run for your life” and “absolutely, happily ever after.”
How do you know?
Ask your heart.
– Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 416, Pacific Grove CA 93950 or on her website: www.sharonrandall.com.