Tag Archives: Loss

Running forward facing backward

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He lives his life running forward facing backward. It’s a precarious journey, subject to all kinds of stumbles and setbacks. Not a straight line when you’re running while looking back. Swerves and curves. Smacking into roadblocks while you’re not looking. Not looking ahead. Looking back instead.

Back was good. Wife, kids, job, Porsche, money. Lots of money. Lots of money down the drain. Wasted down the drain. Drain waste, looking back. It went fast. Everything else followed the money. Everything good followed the money down the drain.

“I will not allow the kids to see you like this! Do you want them to think about you sleeping on the sidewalk?”

Maybe. Maybe he wants them tucked into their pillow-topped, $3,000 mattresses with thermal pillows wrapped in car pillowcases. Porsche pillowcases to inform their dreams. Maybe he wants them to know that while they are nestled and warm their daddy tries to fit into a corner between a dumpster and a concrete wall shivering with an eye infection and a runny nose. Dreams informed by drunken thieves, mean women who scream their insanity up to the stars, hungry kids who think silence can produce a half-eaten apple – mostly core. Maybe he wants them to see this. Think about him sleeping on the sidewalk, just for a moment before falling into the softness of a safe bed.

No. Better to look back. A handsome daddy bending down, smelling of smooth scotch and designer cologne. Back to soft fingers and manicured nails strumming the guitar and singing a lullaby.

“DO YOU KNOW HOW LONG IT’S BEEN SINCE I’VE HAD A MANICURE?!!” He is up in my face. His fist is clenched and raised above his head. I know he isn’t going to hit me, though, because he’s looking backward and I am the future. His eyes bug furiously out of his head, incredulous that a manicure has become  inaccessible. And the back he is looking for as he runs forward is getting further and further away.

I fold my hands together to hide the roughened cuticles and the ragged curves of my own nails. Shame drapes over me for a moment, then I clear my throat. Manicures are behind me, part of my past. I don’t see them in my future because I’m looking straight ahead.

“Did you know that when a store gets a new guitar they immediately take all of the strings off and replace them? Perfectly good strings!” He hops into the dumpster and deftly finds some footing as he looks for the needle in the haystack – the guitar string in a dumpster. With a sudden cry he lifts his chin to the sky and a smile lightens up his cracked skin. Both hands rise up, filled with pale filament that curls and bounces down his arms.

“I found them!” his raspy voice raises an octave and he smooths the bundle over and over and over with his stained fingers.  And the strings grow longer and curl around each other, forming braids and steps and handrails, until they make a kind of bridge away from backward. He turns and takes a tentative step on the bridge. He moves forward, looking forward. He’s found a place where guitar strings can be had for the taking. And that’s enough. 

 

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Walking the Plank

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Transition throws me for a loop every time – silly, of course. We all know that the only constant in life is change. But somehow my longing for comfort and control gets me to settle into a place with a deep, satisfying sigh. Close my eyes. Take a break from watchfulness. Then everything tips and I find myself rolling sideways, stumbling down a new ramp of transition. Looking for a new normal.

Some transitions are instantaneous. In 2003 my husband collapsed on his favorite street in San Diego, Shelter Island Drive, just outside the bank. From that moment on, he never drove his truck, never wrote a check, dialed a phone, made love, or flipped a pancake. Everything changed and I spent eight years catching up.

Other transitions are expected. The kids grow up and launch their own lives, families, children, careers. They are navigating their own transitions without me. The family home is sold. I live alone.

What I didn’t expect was the final step in another, slow, insidious change that I’m just now having to acknowledge. Over the course of Mike’s long illness, I had to let go of my online bookstore, localauthors.com, which had kept me in the loop of writing and writers. I published my ninth book in 2002, Conscience of the Community, the memoir of the Rev. George Walker Smith. I’ve written a couple since then, but that was the last one published.  It may always be the last one published. There might never be a tenth and my writing career may be over.

I was making a comfortable salary in communications and as a political advisor, then $10,000 less after a layoff. Then another layoff three weeks after my husband died. Then $30,000 less at a temp job. Then unemployment; then the end of unemployment. In three years, it appears my working career has also slipped away.  Along with it has been a precise and surgical removal of my self-reliance, replaced by utter dependency on God’s grace.  

It’s scary to be lonely and disregarded by others when status and recognition have been a part of my identity as a writer, a worker, a woman.  How I want to cling to them and scrape up some remnant of the career I’ve had, to stave off fear. Because the biggest challenge of aging and poverty is fearing that no one cares. It’s the core fear of each of us, really, at any age and in any transition.

Alongside the highway of transition are neon signs, flashing with audacity at my fear. God Loves You! God Cares for You! God is Strong When You are Weak!  These words have illuminated my road for most of my life. But walking down this slow path that winds to the bottom of my ramp of loss, I see a new sign, handwritten on a simple plank.

You are mine.

It makes me smile. I am seeing the Lord provide for my daily bread. He is sustaining my health. He has given me time to ponder and read and know him. This transition may be the best yet. 

Originally posted at DevotionalDiva.com

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