So I had a bit of an episode. I lost my diary. I keep all my passwords in there – well, obviously not my actual passwords (I’m not stupid. At least, not in that way) but the clues to them. Like you, I have many passwords and without the clues, I’m helpless. My husband keeps telling me to put them on the Cloud. But what if the Cloud sails away? What if there’s a nuclear war or a cyclone or an environmental emergency? All the passwords could get squished or deleted or randomly anagrammed. I know, it’s not logical. Shoot me now. (Actually, the biggest danger seems to be that data centres might fail due to a software error.)
Anyway, I didn’t panic because I know from experience that sometimes I lose things in the house or don’t look properly or put them in the wrong place. Years ago, after a bad day at work, I rummaged in my bag, thinking it would finish me off if I’d lost my car keys. I couldn’t find them. I trogged around every (deserted) room in the school where I might have left them. Eventually they revealed themselves: in my bag all along.
So I looked in my bag again. Then I went into every room in the house, humming lightly, in a self-imposed non-panic zone – the diary was somewhere. Then I thought back. I remembered looking in it at school. Then I put it down. That was the last time I saw it.
Fortunately, it was parents’ evening and I thought the school might still be open. It’s only a short walk away, so I put on my coat and my new hat (blue, with a tiny band at the side) and set out. I usually like walking at night but this short walk was filled with doom, What if I have to reset all my passwords? What if someone finds the diary and CAN GUESS where we spent our 25th wedding anniversary and the number plate of our last but one car, (and wants to buy something from Sutton Seeds? Don’t bother. I’ve changed it.) There are also lists of things I’m organising at church and school and deadlines for writing jobs.
Now, I’m a lot better at not panicking than I used to be. I would say, on a scale of 1 – 10, I used to be 10. But now I’m much better, probably around a 9. (I’m aiming for 8 by the time I’m 70). So I took deep breaths, counted lamp posts, prayed. Oh God, please let me find it. I really need this diary…it’s pink. As if God wouldn’t know that. Of all the diaries on all the shelves in Uckfield, this one had had my name on it: leather with a lovely band to keep the pages together, and best of all, pink, a there-you-go moment.
When I arrived, panting and hot, I realised I’d forgotten to take off my huge, soft ‘just relaxing’ socks which I’d crammed into sensible footwear in haste. I stole past one or two waiting parents, who smiled as I beamed a Hello, muttered about the diary and slid into the groups’ room. I tried to hide the socks. (Not easy when they’re multi-coloured and half way up your legs.)
There was nothing there. I counted to ten in my head as I searched and tried to come to terms with a passwordless, listless life. I might have let out a tiny sob. Then Michael came in. (Not his real name. Obviously. It would be more like Noah or Archie – though it’s not. BTW, I see Arthur is in the top ten this year. Arthur! 2020 will no doubt be the year for Eric and Doris) Michael was waiting for his mum to come out of parents’ evening.
“Did you say you’d lost your diary Mrs Jenkins?” he asked politely.
“Erm, yes!” I said, “I thought I’d left it in here Michael, but I can’t find it!” He looked pleased. “I’ll help you look,” he said.
He is the loveliest child but I knew it wasn’t there. You could see, from just glancing round the small room. I half-heartedly lifted a few things up and put them down again. Michael scurried around, crawling under tables, disappearing between cupboards. I sighed. “I think it’s gone,” I said, “But thank you so much for trying.”
“Is this it?” He reappeared from a small space between a table and a locker. There were sprinkles of dust in his hair.
“Oh my goodness!” I shouted. I took the diary from him. “I could hug you!” I added. He took a step back. He was clearly pleased though.
“Michael, thank you so much!” I said, “I can’t tell you how much this means to me. I have all my password in here – well, not my actual passwords…but still. You have literally made my day!”
He called back as he left the room, “Sometimes stuff falls off the edge of things” he said.
The walk back was different. I could enjoy all the things I love about walking at night – light through trees, glimpses through windows, the shape of the darkness beyond the rooftops. Ahead, one tree had a fall of leaves. They spun under lamplight like hammered gold, tiny gifts along with the lost-and-found diary. A there-you-go-moment.
They say 85% of the things we worry about never happen. It’s natural to be concerned when things go wrong, but this reminded me how fear can rob us of the present, predicting a future that rarely happens. Sometimes, stuff falls off the side of things. Yes it does, all the time. But don’t give up. Expect the unexpected. Trust wisdom from unlikely places.
Maybe, leave your big socks at home.
I breathed in the smoky smell of autumn and passed a dad swinging his laughing daughter around the room. A lingering walk in the dark is my absolute favourite. If I’d trusted God and my instincts, I could have had it twice.