Just Keep Floating

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Every summer of my childhood, there was one day when Aunt Marian allowed — no, encouraged — my sisters and me to break the rules of the public swimming area by swimming out to touch one of the buoys that marked our boundaries.

Never going out into water over our heads was her rule. Never touching the buoys was an official rule, enforced by eagle-eyed, whistle-blowing lifeguards. In our teen years, we sort of liked it when we managed to draw the lifeguards’ attention because, you know, lifeguards.

Marian wanted to teach us to respect the water without fearing it. Her own older brothers drowned in a freak boating accident when she was only 19 years old, so she would have been totally justified in banning us from all water activities, despite the fact that we lived right on the shore of Lake Michigan. Instead, she spent endless hours preparing us for our annual buoy-slapping challenge.

“If you get tired, just float,” she told us. “Don’t panic or struggle. Just float, rest until you get your second wind.”

At first, I tried floating face-down, which sort of defeated the purpose of the lesson. By the time I figured it out, I had perfected the art of the Dead Man’s Float. I could hold my breath for ridiculous amounts of time, happily coasting along on the water’s surface long enough to totally freak my aunts out.

Eventually, though, I caught on. When the water got too deep or too scary, I learned to stretch out, face-up, and allow the water to support me until I was ready to try again. It was all about trust. Trust in the water, trust in my surroundings, but most of all trust in myself.

I had to learn to believe, without a doubt, that I would never sink.

I think about Marian a lot these days, and about swimming out to slap that buoy. I’d get tired and accidently swallow some water and start to panic or turn back toward shore, but I’d hear her voice above my frantic splashing: “Don’t give up, Amy! Float, rest until you’re ready to try again.”

Seems like I’ve been trying to slap a lot of buoys lately, with varied levels of success.  I’ve been pushing so many boundaries in so many areas that I have days when I hardly know which way is up.

I’m floundering in deep water. Trying to renovate this house that I simultaneously love and hate, trying to be a single parent to three grieving kids, trying to face my breathtaking fear of winter driving. At this moment, I am snowed in with my youngest son, facing our third snow day this week, and I have been scaring myself silly with all of the what-ifs.

What if the furnace goes out? What if the pipes freeze? What if we run out of food? What if he gets hurt and I can’t drive him to the hospital? What if–God forbid–what if we run out of toilet paper?

What if I can’t do this?

I suppose it doesn’t help that I was awake most of the night, worrying and stressing about everything. But a while ago, as I poured my fourth cup of coffee with shaking hands, I swear I heard Marian’s voice.

Float, rest until you’re ready to try again.

It’s entirely possible that I’m losing my mind and am now dealing with auditory hallucinations, or perhaps it’s time to switch to decaf. It’s also possible that Aunt Marian’s ghost is flitting about the old house just to screw with me, because that is totally the sort of messed-up thing she would do.

Or maybe, just maybe, I need to remember the lesson I learned so long ago whenever I was in over my head and scared to death.

Relax.

Trust.

Believe.

Breathe.

Float, rest until you’re ready to try again.

For all of us who are floundering and splashing through our lives, it’s time to stop and rest. Give ourselves permission to take a break. Regroup. Get that second wind. Every day doesn’t have to be a fight, folks.

Just float, rest until you’re ready to try again.

And when you’re ready, slap the hell out of that buoy.

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Balance

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If we were having coffee this morning, I’d have to start by apologizing for the mess. I’ve got laundry everywhere and dirty dishes piled up so high that we may have to drink our coffee out of wine glasses. Or take turns slurping directly from the pot. Your choice.

It’s been one of those weeks again. Obviously. I can’t figure out exactly what it is that keeps me so busy, but lately I feel like I live in a whirlwind of constant activity and obligation. Got to be there, do that, pick up this, drop off that.

I just learned that a friend of mine has written a book called Balance for the Hurried Woman. Well, I really wish that woman would hurry up and publish it already! I need this book. I need balance in my life.

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I should know by now that every time my life gets overwhelming like this, something happens that gives me a harsh dose of perspective.

This is a small community. Everyone knows everyone else. For example, there’s a woman I know who has a daughter one grade ahead of my son, and we pass each other every day at pick-up time. Our paths have crossed several times over the years, and while we’re both friendly to each other, I wouldn’t really say that we are friends.

One day this this week, I noticed that she was wearing a pretty green scarf wrapped around her head. Nothing unusual, really; she’s got a knack for accessorizing, so I assumed it was a fashion choice.

A few minutes of casual chit chat while we waited for our kids, and I realized that it had nothing to do with fashion.

I hate cancer.

I don’t understand how she can just go on with life as though nothing is wrong. Well, I do understand, in a way. That’s the way life goes; got to be here, do that, pick up this, drop off that. The world doesn’t stop just because one person is terrified or overwhelmed.

Still, I don’t know if I would be able to go through the motions if I were the one facing chemotherapy. I think I’d be in a helpless heap of fear on the kitchen floor.

After I talked to her that day, I went home and tried to tune out the sound of my son’s voice begging me to play a game with him. “I have to finish the dishes first,” I told him. “And there’s laundry to do and the place is a mess.”

And then I thought about the woman with the pretty green scarf.

I sat down and lost two games of backgammon but won a round of Yahtzee by three points. I also learned that I will never beat that child at Hide & Seek in this apartment because the only place I can hide my big ol’ self is in the bathtub behind the shower curtain, and he’s smart enough to always look there first.

Look, I know the dishes and laundry still have to be done, and I understand that there are people out there who have figured out how to balance their responsibilities while still having fun with their kids. I’m just not one of those people, I guess.

Funny thing, balance. I loved gymnastics as a kid, and my favorite part of every class was the balance beam. Some people were afraid of falling off the beam, but I wasn’t. I knew it was exactly four inches wide and sturdy and perfectly straight, and I would be fine as long I didn’t look down, as long as I kept my head up and my eyes focused on a point ahead of me.

I knew I’d be okay as long as I had faith in what was beneath my feet.

I’ll get back there, eventually. I’ll find my balance in life, as long as I keep my head up and eyes focused on a point ahead of me.

In the meantime, I’ve still got to be here, do that, pick up this, drop off that. But those things are all just going to have to wait if my son wants to play backgammon or if I see a scarf-wearing neighbor in need of a friend.

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This post is part of Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Alli. Please check out some of the other posts on this theme!

Cat’s Crazy

I think my daughter has begun to worry about my sanity.

That’s really not anything new, to be perfectly honest. Most people who have known me for more than thirty minutes generally have a few questions about my state of mental health. It might be my habit of blurting out random words that have nothing to do with the words that I think I’m saying. Or perhaps it’s the way I make obscure jokes and references to 1970’s British television programs and then laugh alone at what I just said.

My habit of trying to say multiple sentences at the same time probably doesn’t do much to allay their concerns, either.

At any rate, the moment that really tipped the scale in my daughter’s mind took place yesterday during a shopping trip to the Bent-n-Dent, which is run by our local Amish Community. She commented on the multiple cans of cheap New England clam chowder I was stacking in our cart.

“My cat likes it,” I explained.

“You’re buying soup for your cat?”

“I like it too. We share it for supper sometimes.”

“Mother. No.”

“What, do you think I should buy him his own can?”

Let me explain. In the past three years, I left my husband and watched my two oldest children go away to college. My youngest child spends every other week at his father’s house, which means that I spend every other week alone. Completely alone. I went from being part of a family of five to living alone, and as a result I recently got permission to have a cat as an Emotional Support Animal.

My cat, however, needs more support than he gives. His name is Mr. Twinkletoes (named by my son), but I call him Nimrod. And he doesn’t like me.

I bought him a scratching post and a bunch of little toys, but to no avail. I bribe him with canned cat food and bags of little kitty treats. I clean his litter box multiple times each day. I’m telling you, this creature is more high maintenance than all three of my children combined. And still, he will not allow me to pet him.

He likes to steal my desk chair. He won’t sit on my lap, but he’ll climb the back of my chair and wriggle his way in between the chair back and my butt, where he promptly goes to sleep after giving me a few well-placed puncture wounds on one cheek or the other.

The only time Nimrod seems to like me at all is on those nights when I open a can of New England clam chowder for supper when I’m home alone. Then he goes into a frenzied routine of twining himself around my ankles and crying until he eventually falls over and just lays there, twitching. I think he may be part possum, actually, because he then plays dead for a while, and the only way to “revive” him is to scoop a little bit of my soup into a dish for him.

Do you know what’s more pathetic than a middle-aged divorcee eating canned soup alone for supper?  That middle-aged divorcee sharing her canned soup with a cat. And then telling people about it.

I think Nimrod starting to warm up to me, though. When he thinks I’m asleep, he jumps up on my bed and curls up to sleep near my feet. If I happen to reach down and pet him, he hisses and snarls before drawing blood from at least one of my extremities and then hides himself away in the closet, probably to poop in my shoes.

He also likes to climb in between the shower curtain and the clear plastic liner while I’m taking my shower. I wouldn’t mind it so much if he didn’t insist turning his unblinking gaze upon my body and yowling throughout the entire process.

I really can’t help but take that a little bit personally.

Nimrod has a Christmas stocking because my son insisted on it. I bought some catnip and a little stuffed mousie with a bell in its belly, as well as his very own can of clam chowder. But I’m not putting the chowder in his stocking because I may be crazy but I’m not that crazy.

Merry Christmas from me and Mr. Twinkletoes!

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Oy , what a week!

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If we were having coffee, I think this might be one of those days when the coffee needs a shot of something stronger than Coffee-Mate. At this point, however, I’m not sure if that “something stronger” should be whiskey or antibiotics.

Yeah, it’s been a weird week.

My son, my ex-husband and I keep passing around what appears to be a case of the plague. We don’t even live in the same house anymore, but the three of us can’t seem to kick whatever this is. On any given day, at least one of us is either coughing up a lung or throwing up our insides.

On those few days when I’ve been somewhat healthy, I’ve had to deal with a dead car battery. Finally had to give in and buy a new battery, and I have a sneaking suspicion that the battery ended up costing me more than the car is worth at this point.

Seriously, it’s a sad statement on my life when the most expensive thing I own is a new battery for a 2001 Kia Spectra with 200,000 miles on it.

It’s an even sadder statement on my life to realize that I had started to feel a bit envious of the old battery because it was getting jumped so often.

One of my co-workers asked me why I don’t just buy a new car. After all, she reasoned, I must be raking in the big bucks with my books, right? I just stared at her with my jaw on the floor as she raved about the millions of dollars she heard that authors make. She wondered what I do with tens of thousands I make every month. I tried to explain to her that it’s really not like that, but she assumed I was being modest.

I finally told her I spent it all on a villa in Italy. “Please don’t tell anyone,” I whispered. “I don’t want the IRS to find out.”

Hey, it wasn’t a total lie. I had dinner at a nice Italian restaurant a while ago.

Okay, it was a Fazoli’s drive-thru ten years ago, but it still counts.

On one of my dead-battery days, my downstairs neighbor was kind enough to take me to the school to pick up my boy for a doctor’s appointment. That particular neighbor’s vehicle isn’t much better than mine, and the passenger door doesn’t open from the inside. He had to run around and open my door for me so I could get out at the school, which evidently caught the attention of the school secretary.

“Who was that who drove you here?” she wondered. I told her he was my neighbor, and she raised her eyebrows at me. “Is he a nice guy?”

Folks, I am possibly one of the world’s most oblivious human beings. “Sure, he’s nice,” I told her.

“He’s a real gentleman, isn’t he? Any man that opens the car door for you is a keeper!” she winked at me.

Swear to God, I still didn’t get what she was trying to say.

So, here I am on a Saturday morning, drinking room-temperature Vernor’s and wrapped up in every quilt and afghan I can find. I’ve got the barf bowl, the Netflix remote, and a box of tissue within easy reach, and I don’t plan on going anywhere except down the hall to the bathroom when absolutely necessary.

Which is apparently every four and a half minutes.

But the high point of weirdness in my life this week is the steady flow of phone calls and messages I’ve been getting all morning from friends wanting to know more about my hot new boyfriend that I am about to run away with to my secret villa in Italy.

At this point, I don’t have the energy to correct anyone. I think I’ll just tell them all to pack their bags and meet me at the airport.

As soon as I’m done in the bathroom.

 

 

 

 

So It Goes

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I drive past this tree on my way to work every day. Some days, I feel like I should salute it as a respected foe, and on others I get weird memory flashes of what it looked like when it was a complete tree. On bad days, I give it a heart-felt middle finger as I go past.

No matter what my reaction on that particular day, the fact remains that I notice the tree every single day. I see it. I am aware of it. If the day should ever come when the road commission removes what’s left of it, I’ll still be aware of it as “the spot where The Tree used to be.”

On stormy days, I drive out of my way to avoid it, which is awkward because the avoidance route takes me past my ex-husband’s house, the home I shared with him for eighteen years. Basically, that means I get to choose between the route that may trigger a panic attack or the route that may make me look like an obsessed ex-wife with a serious stalking problem.

Such is life.

It’s been five years today since the top of this tree landed on my kids and me as I drove under it.

This picture was taken four years ago today, when my family and friends gathered on the side of the road for a group prayer. My daughter stuck daylillies into the bark of that poor, dead tree stump and we all marveled at the fact that there were still pieces of glass mixed in with the dirt on the side of the road.

I love this picture. It combines ugliness with beauty, old with new, loss with hope. To me, it represents a new beginning. A fresh start. A second chance.

Such is life, right?

I have a little favor to ask of everyone who reads my blog today. Imagine that tonight, at 6:18 p.m., the top of this tree is going to land on you and change your life forever. Imagine that today —this day— is the last day you will ever have to be the person that you are right now.

What will you do? How will you spend those hours?

 

Weekend Coffee Share: Hitting My Stride

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If we were having coffee this morning, I’d invite you to take it outside to the little wrought-iron bench near the entrance to my apartment building. It’s a little chilly outside — it’s May in Michigan, after all — but it’s a beautiful sunrise, and there is always something so peaceful about drinking that first cup of the day outside, hands wrapped around a warm mug while the steam rises and fogs up my glasses.

I used to love sitting on the porch at my aunts’ cottage in these early hours. We couldn’t see the sunrise from there, of course, because the house faced west, overlooking Lake Michigan. Still, the reds and golds of the sun rising behind us would reflect on the water, glittering and sparkling like so many jewels spread out as far as the eye could see.

I am a morning person. I am not an optimist by nature, but I try to believe that every morning brings with it a chance for a fresh start, a new beginning. An opportunity to take a deep and soul-cleansing breath, to wipe away the grainy residue of sleep and occasional dried tears and look at the world through fresh eyes.

Years ago, I would go for a run on mornings like this. I never ran very far or very fast, but I ran. Those first few steps were always clumsy and awkward until I found my rhythm, and I’d bargain with myself. “If I don’t feel better by the time I reach the stop sign, I’ll turn around and go home,” I’d promise.  Then I’d pass the stop sign and tell myself the same thing about an oak tree or a mailbox or some other landmark.

Eventually, I’d stop bargaining. Everything would just sort of glide into place and I could go on auto-pilot. When that happened, I wasn’t running for fitness or watching the time, or even measuring the distance. I was just being. Doing. Moving. And when it was over, my whole body felt stretched-out, warmed-up, energized. It felt as though my body and my spirit fit together perfectly.

I don’t run any more. Some days, walking is almost more than I can handle. But I miss that feeling of fitting inside my own skin.

Oh, this isn’t about physical fitness (or lack thereof). It’s about feeling lost. These past few years, life has felt like those early moments of my morning jogs when I had to keep pushing myself. “If things don’t get better by the time I reach that point, I’ll give up,” I keep thinking, and then I re-set my goal for another landmark. I keep waiting for that moment when things glide into place, when my body and spirit work together perfectly again.

I am restless. I am angry and bitter at times. I am tired.

But as I sit here on this wrought-iron bench with you this morning, sipping away at lukewarm coffee, today feels like one of those long-ago mornings at my aunts’ cottage, when I would take those soul-cleansing breaths and wipe my eyes. It feels like one of my early morning runs, and I have almost hit my stride. A few more steps, just a little farther, and I’ll find my rhythm.

And I guess that makes me an optimist, because mornings like this make me believe that I will find it, that I will hit my stride, and that my body and spirit will work together again someday soon.

That’s what being a morning person is all about.

 

I Wanna Hold Your Hand

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If we were having coffee this morning, I think I’d have to send you home before I got myself into trouble. I’ve had things happen in my life this week that I’m not allowed to share, and I am not good at keeping my mouth shut. A few sips of coffee, a couple minutes of friendly conversation, and I’d relax enough to start blurting out things that could cost me my job.

My ex used to say that my mouth “runs like a whippoorwill’s ass.” I know nothing about whippoorwills or their asses, but I have to assume he didn’t mean that as a compliment.

At any rate, this was one of those weeks that was just full of stuff I need to talk about . . . but can’t. It was also full of healthier eating, turmeric tea, and several frustrating attempts at meditation. “Just relax and empty your mind,” I was told. Honey, at my age, if I empty it, there’s no guarantee I’m ever filling it up again. “Let your mind roam,” they said. My mind has no sense of direction; if I let it roam too far in any direction, there’s a very strong possibility that it’s never coming back.

But there’s one direction my mind keeps taking right now, and that’s where I have to tread carefully.

I got to help someone this week. I got to hold a hand and give comfort to someone who needed it.

Something I don’t share often is the fact that my mother used to teach First Aid/CPR classes when I was a kid. My sisters and I would be the pretend victims for her classes to practice on. I used to love putting on the fake wounds and artificial blood so I could sprawl out on the classroom floor and pretend to be dying. It really appealed to my dramatic nature.

I got to be really good at faking a heart attack or insulin reaction. I could pretend a pass-out like nobody’s business. And the fake wounds with glass or sticks poking out of them were my favorites; I sometimes “borrowed’ them and stuck them under my clothes to freak out my friends at school the next day.

When it was time for the final exams in Mom’s classes, we really stepped up our game and staged some majorly dramatic accident scenes for her students. I loved it. Exam week for them was like a Broadway opening for me.

I was in middle school when she quit. Mom was even more of a drama queen than I am, but she rarely talked about the event that changed things for her. She had to use her training only once, performing CPR on an elderly gentleman in a parking lot, and she couldn’t save him. In that moment, I think she realized that knowing how to save a life wasn’t the same as actually having to do it.

She got scared.

I took First Aid/CPR certification classes as soon as I was old enough to do so. It was only natural, considering the environment I grew up in. And when I became an aunt and started helping out with my nieces and nephews, my sisters insisted that I become certified in Infant/Child First Aid/CPR as well. When my ex-husband, the Big Guy, became a volunteer firefighter and Medical First Responder, he urged me to take some classes and renew my certifications, but I let it all slide.

Looking back, I think I was scared. I don’t want to be responsible for life and death. I want to be the one in the back of the room who stays calm enough to dial 9-1-1 while everyone else is spinning out of control.

About ten years ago, the Big Guy saved a man’s life right in front of me. We were in a restaurant when an elderly man at the next table collapsed, and I held his wife’s trembling hands while my husband used CPR and then an AED to re-start a heart. They took the man away in an ambulance and we went back to our dinner as though nothing had happened, but reaction hit while we were on our way home later that night.

The Big Guy suddenly pulled over to the side of the road and started laughing. “I feel really good,” he told me. “I saved a life tonight.” He laughed and laughed, but his eyes were moist and I couldn’t do anything but hold his hand.

I remember that his hand was shaking.

This week wasn’t as dramatic as all of that. There was no real First Aid needed — which is a good thing because my certifications have all lapsed. I don’t think I would have known what to do if any kind of real medical intervention had been necessary. But once again, I held a trembling hand and offered comfort.

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I was needed.

I helped someone.

I don’t know exactly what this is that I’m feeling, or what to do about it. But I think . . . I think I need to help people in some way. I don’t know how or where, but I need to do more. I mean, it goes without saying that I realize I need to get recertified in everything. Top of the to-do list. Find out how much it costs, get signed up, and go to class. But after that? I just don’t know.

I have too many physical limitations to even consider being a first responder of any kind. But I need to add something to my life that allows me to help. To hold a trembling hand when needed.

Something’s got to change. I think maybe this is part of what I’ve been struggling with in recent months as my kids grow up and need me less and less every day. I need to be needed. I need to help.  I just don’t know who, what, when, where, or how. I feel restless, like I’m looking for something . . . but I don’t know what it is or where to start looking.

You’ve Got This

Today’s Finish the Sentence Friday prompt is a bit different, and it was a difficult one for me to write. I had to write a letter to myself — past, present, or future. I chose to write to myself at a point in my mid-twenties, when I had everything all figured out.

At least, that’s what I told myself back then.

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Dear 20-something Me:

Right now, you see yourself as being so daring, so willing to take a risk. You think you’re brave because you’ve been parasailing and you’ve gone to Europe and you want to try skydiving. You talk about taking a year off and driving cross country with an old pop-up camper so you can write, write, write.

But face the fact, Kiddo: you’re never going to do it because deep down inside, you’re afraid. Afraid to be alone, afraid to take a risk, afraid of failing. You’re terrified of city driving, of getting lost, of dealing with a flat tire by yourself in the middle of nowhere.

It’s not just the cross-country trip that’s got you in a cold sweat. You put on a good show that fools a lot of people, but you’re afraid of everything. It’s just so easy to talk about your dreams and make your plans without ever following through; if you never actually try, you’ll never have to deal with failure. You’ll never have to accept defeat.

Stop letting yourself be guided by fear. You’re going to miss out on so much in life because you’re afraid to fail, afraid of making mistakes, afraid of being hurt.

Here’s the thing: You are going to fail, you are going to make mistakes, and you are going to get hurt. And you know what else you’re going to do? You’re going to survive.

Sure, a lot of things are going to go wrong in your life. But a lot of things are going to go right, too.

So go on the date with the guy that you’re about to turn down because you think he’s out of your league. Okay, maybe you’re right and he’s setting you up as a joke, but maybe he thinks you’re out of his league. Take that chance.

Apply for that dream job instead of missing the opportunity because you think you’re not organized enough or smart enough. You’ll never know your limits if you don’t push them once in a while.

Finish writing something — anything!– instead of throwing it away at the halfway point because you worry that it’s no good. Stop worrying about rejection letters that you’ve never received because you’ve never had the courage to finish your work.

And Kiddo, I want you to listen to me on this one: in a few years, Depression is going to hit, and it’s going to hit hard. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s not a sign of weakness or failure.

Understand that fear is okay. Letting fear control you is not.

You’re stronger than you know, and a lot more resilient. You’re going to survive the failures and the mistakes and the hurts, and you’re going to have a pretty good life with a lot of amazing people and breathtaking moments. It’s all going to work out if you just step back once in a while and take a minute or two to believe in yourself.

You’ve got this.

This is a Finish the Sentence Friday post. This week’s sentence is “Dear Me…” Hosted by Kristi of Finding Ninee and Michelle of Crumpets and Bollocks.

Invisibility

The hardship I am most thankful for is the accident that changed my life in 2011. I know that probably seems a little predictable for me to choose that night when discussing hardships, but I’m not thankful for the reasons you might expect.

Sure, I learned that life can change in an instant. I learned just how precious and fleeting life can really be, and I learned how very important it is to always say “I love you” because you may never get another chance. I’m so thankful for the change in perspective I got that night. I mean, it should have been a ten-minute drive to the church and back. I’d done it every Tuesday night for years, and there was no reason to expect that this particular Tuesday night was going to be any different.

I’m not thankful for the four and a half-years of constant pain, or the downward spiral of job loss, divorce, depression, eviction, betrayal, and . . . where was I going with this?

Right. Being thankful for hardship.

I learned that life is too short to keep pushing my dreams to the back burner with the excuse that there will be time later. No, there may not be time later. Time is finite, and life can end with something as simple as driving past a maple tree in a thunderstorm.

If I hadn’t broken my neck that night, I don’t know if I ever would have gotten around to writing anything. My little romance novels may never sell well or make any kind of bestseller list, but they mean the world to me because they represent my lifelong dream of writing. I did it. I made it come true, something I may never have accomplished if not for life hitting me upside the head with a tree.

I wish life had been a bit more subtle, but it is what it is.

Still, none of this is what makes me so very thankful for everything that happened that night. That part is a little harder to explain.

Sometimes in life, I feel invisible. I’ve always been sort of average. I’m the kind of person who tends to blend in with the wallpaper if I’m not careful. In high school, I once missed two weeks of school and discovered that not one of my teachers had even marked me absent. No one noticed that I wasn’t there.

I’ve never felt important. Never been elected into office, never been anyone’s boss, never been much of a leader. Someone’s mom, someone’s wife, someone’s sister, but never the Someone  that is anyone else’s point of reference.

The night of my accident, I saw the look on the fire chief’s face when he recognized me. I watched the color drain out of his face and I heard the emotion in his voice when he kept saying, “Oh, no. Oh, no, no.” I saw the way no one else would look me in the eye.

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At the emergency room, it took a while for the x-rays and CT scan to show that I was beyond anything they could do for me at our little hospital. As they were wheeling me back out to the ambulance, I remember someone saying that there were some people in the hallway who wanted to see me.

I couldn’t see much because I was immobilized by the C-collar and backboard, but I remember faces. Lots of faces, leaning over to speak to me. Some were crying; one of my husband’s friends leaned over to kiss my cheek and I was surprised to feel his tears against my skin.

I thought at first that one of the firefighters had been injured as well. I figured the crowd in the hallway was there for him, and I panicked until my husband assured me that no, there were all there for me.

It’s been four and a half years, and I’ve never forgotten the way I felt at that moment when I realized they were there for me.

Me. Not someone’s wife, someone’s mom, someone’s sister. Me.

In the days and weeks that followed, I was amazed by the flood of cards and phone calls, of people stopping by to bring food and Diet Coke, or just to visit. People who came to clean my refrigerator or drive my silly butt to the Sav-A-Lot because I was going stir-crazy at home with nothing but my neck brace and a whole  lot of self-pity.

It’s been four and a half years now. I have a lot of bad days, especially since I seem to be going through a pretty rocky stretch of bad luck with things like cars, housing, and money. But at the end of the day, no matter how bad it’s been, I can look back on that moment and draw strength from it.

You see, that was the moment I understood that I matter. Sort of my own personal “George Bailey” moment, like in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, when George realizes that he’s really had an impact on the people around him.

I’m thankful for the accident because it showed me that I  am loved. That I matter.  That I’m not invisible.

 

This is a Finish the Sentence Friday post. This week’s sentence is “The hardship I’m most thankful for…” Hosted by Kristi of Finding Ninee, Reta of  Calculated Chaos and Vidya of Collecting Smiles

 

 

999

A thousand years from now, no one will know who I was or remember one single word of anything I have written. I’m okay with that, though, because they probably won’t remember E.L. James either.

A thousand months? Well, perhaps my grandchildren and great-grandchildren. What about a thousand weeks? That’s more like it. I’d like to be a smashing success by then, please. Tons of bestsellers to my name, oodles of money in the bank, all that kind of stuff. It would be especially nice if I could reach that point in a thousand days, to be honest.

This week’s prompt made me sit down and do some math, which is never a good thing. I started figuring out all kinds of things multiplied and/or divided by one thousand, and I started wondering where I’ll be in a thousand days, a thousand hours, a thousand minutes. And you know what I came up with?

It doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter where any one of us will be in a thousand years, or a thousand months, or a thousand weeks. Not even in a thousand minutes. Because all it takes to change the world is one second.

One second for a heart to stop beating.

One second for a car to cross the yellow line.

One second for a madman to pull the trigger.

One second . . . . and a life will never be the same.

Life is short. The ones we love can slip away from us in a second, and we realize too late that there were so many things we should have taken the time to say.  Words that could have been spoken in a matter of seconds.

I love you.

I’m sorry.

I forgive you.

I was wrong.

That little gold second hand on the clock keeps on ticking away the seconds while we spend our time focusing on the hour hand. My son is learning to tell time, so around here we talk a lot about the “big hand” and the “little hand” but no one ever mentions the second hand.

Tick-tock.

It never slows down or speeds up. The seconds just keep going by, one by one, and we never notice until they are gone. And no matter how much we may want them back, they are gone forever.

It only takes a few seconds to say words that can never be unsaid. A few seconds to tear a soul to shreds with bitter words, or maybe a few seconds to get news that turns a world upside-down.  To hear the words, “I’m afraid there’s nothing we can do,” or “I’m sorry, we did all we could.”

It only takes a second to think that all is lost, to believe there is no hope. It only takes a second to think you have only one option, one choice before you.

Life isn’t about where any of us will be in a thousand years, or a thousand days, or a thousand seconds. Life doesn’t have a destination; it’s not a race to get to wherever it is that we are going to be in a thousand anything.

What matters is what we do in the nine hundred and ninety-nine that come before.

This post has been part of Finish the Sentence Friday, with the sentence starter “In a thousand years from now. . . ” hosted by Kristi at Finding Ninee and co-hosted by Lizzie at Considerings and Dana at Kiss my List.

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