Some events occur and we know instantly our lives have been changed forever. Other times something will happen, and we don’t recognize until weeks or months later that the course of our lives has been completely altered.
I would put the days I found out I was pregnant with each of our three children in the first category. There was also the Valentine’s Day almost 24 years ago when Joe asked me to marry him. These are the moments that take your breath away. The ground shifts right under your feet.
Then there are the subtler moments when we don’t realize until much later that that was the moment our life changed direction.
The day more than 25 years ago when I met Joe was one. It was on a blind date.
This was in 1990, years before Google, Facebook, Tinder, Match.com, and all the other digital means for meeting people existed. Back in the old days, people met through mutual friends and sometimes talked on the phone before they dated.
I was at a strange place in my life. I recently left acting, or rather the dream of an acting career. I was in a job that paid the bills, albeit by the skin of my teeth, and I was officially on my own financially, living in New York City. I was without direction and kept kidding around with my girlfriends that I was waiting for the postcard from God as to what I was supposed to do with my life.
Desperate for an answer, I had the bright idea that I would go on a prayer vigil.
Although I was raised in the Lutheran Church, I’ve always considered myself more a spiritual person than a religious one. I held the vigil not out of religious fervor but a deep-seated need for guidance. I hoped that by setting time aside each day and concentrating on what I wanted, I would get an answer.
If it came from above in a nice, easy-to-read postcard, that would be all the better.
Each day on my lunch hour, I went to a church that was just a few blocks from my office. I sat in one of the pews, quieted my mind, and prayed for about 10 to 15 minutes.
I was very specific in my prayer. I wanted to know what my purpose in life was and what I should do about it. It was a simple request; I wasn’t asking for much.
Toward the end of the 30 days, I was sitting in church when I suddenly started to cry. At that moment I realized that, although I had some great friends that I really loved, I was profoundly lonely.
I admitted to myself and God that I really wanted to find someone special. I then quickly added that I wanted the purpose first. I didn’t want to confuse God. I wanted that purpose.
I’m a little fuzzy on the exact timing, but it was around this time that my friend Roni mentioned she knew a guy who had the nicest personality and the sweetest face. She thought we would really hit it off.
Sure. I’d heard that one before. For the last few years, I had been going on a string of blind dates with little real success. I told Roni I was game if she didn’t mind giving me the guy’s number rather than the other way around. Why should the man have all the power? It was the 1990s. A guy could wait around for my call for a change.
I walked around with Joe’s number in my purse for about three weeks.
One day I was really discouraged after a recent date. I complained to both my mom and my roommate Michelle about my love life. They suggested I call the guy whose number I had been carrying around.
A week after our first phone call, I met Joe in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. My friend was right – he did have a sweet face. He was also very nice. So I said yes to a second date. But I told Michelle that I didn’t think much was going to come of this.
After three dates I realized I really liked him. After seven I knew this was different from anything I had felt in the past. I had fallen very deeply in love for the first time in my life.
A few months into my relationship with Joe, I was talking to my friend Deirdre. She was telling me how happy she was that I had found such a great guy.
I told her that I was really happy, but that this was not the way it was supposed to work. I had clearly asked God for my purpose in life. I only added that I wanted someone as an afterthought. Why did God hear that plea when I spent thirty days asking for my purpose?
“Kathy, you don’t know God’s plan. Maybe Joe will be part of your purpose.”
And he was.
The ground had shifted. My life’s direction had changed course, and I hadn’t even known it.