Fly Away

flyFor this week’s Finish the Sentence Friday post, I’m supposed to talk about my greatest fear.

Well, that’s awkward. 

Guys, I’m a mess. I’m claustrophobic.  I’m afraid to drive after dark or go outside on windy days. Maple trees terrify me. Big dogs, little rodents, unidentifiable noises when I’m alone. Basements. Bridges over large bodies of water. Thunderstorms. Car washes.

But here’s the thing about fears:

We all have them.

If you want to tell me that you are fearless, that nothing frightens you, go ahead. I will look you in the eye and call you a liar. Then I will turn and run like hell, because I just happen to be really afraid of confrontations.

Fear makes people do stupid things. When I see a snake, fear makes me pee.

When my boss glides up silently behind me and starts talking just a few inches from my ear, fear makes me spin around and shout, “For the love of God, woman, would you PLEASE wear a bell or something?!”

There was a time in my life when I thought of myself as fearless. I went to scary movies and convinced a group of my friends to sneak into an empty “haunted” house in my neighborhood. I even spent a few nights in a local graveyard where it was rumored that Al Capone’s mistress was buried. Local legend said that Flora liked to rise from her grave and dance at midnight, but she never seemed to feel much like dancing on the nights I was there. I never saw anything but a few bats and some people who were as gullible as I was.

I was a bit of a risk-taker. I went to a college in another state where I knew no one; I tried parasailing and rock climbing. I went on blind dates and fix-ups, and I took chances that make me want to go back in time and slap my younger self.

But I wasn’t really fearless when it came right down to it. I had one big fear that I just couldn’t face.

As long as I talked about my book without ever writing it, I never had to face the fear that maybe I couldn’t write a book. If I never let anyone read my work, no one could tell me to give up because I lacked talent As long as I never actually finished writing anything, I never had to face the fear that maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t really a writer. 

I spent years talking about writing, learning to write, planning to write. I was dedicated to my dream, or so I told myself. I can look back now and see that the only thing I was dedicated to was my fear of failure.

And then life dropped a tree on my head.

So, now I’m afraid of maple trees and thunderstorms and sometimes the color blue if it’s the exact shade of the tarp they threw over my face during the rescue. I can have a panic attack every time I see a treetop bending in the wind. I’m terrified every time my kids leave the house because I understand now that all it takes is one second, one instant, one fluke of nature to take a life. I’m a neurotic mess who is pretty much afraid of everything.

And you know what all that fear has taught me over the last five years?

Life is short. There are no guarantees. “See you tomorrow” isn’t always a promise; sometimes, it’s a lie. All it takes is one mistake, one accident, one horrifying diagnosis, and guess what? Maybe you don’t get that tomorrow.

Do you have a dream that you’ve been putting off? Well, what are you waiting for? Whether you dream of writing a book or learning to paint or driving cross-country in a Winnebago, stop putting it off.

Try it.

Take a risk.

Don’t let fear tell you to put it off until tomorrow, because you never know when tomorrow just might drop a maple tree on your head. 

 

There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask “What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?”
― Erin Hanson

 

This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. This week’s sentence is “One of my biggest fears I ever had to face…”

Hosts are Kristi from http://www.findingninee.com  and Michelle Grewe of  http://crumpetsandbollocks.com/

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A Question of Why

“Why do I write?”

That’s a great question, especially since I’ve already been focusing so much on self-doubts when it comes to expressing myself with the written word.

When most people think of being a writer, they picture one of two extremes. At one end, there are the James Pattersons and Danielle Steeles, writers who are ultra-famous and wealthy beyond our wildest dreams. The J.K. Rowlings and Nora Robertses of the world. Successful, well-known, respected writers.

And at the other end, there is the stereotypical artiste. The artsy-fart who wears black and chain-smokes European cigarettes while drinking too much and moaning about pouring his soul onto the page for an audience who can’t yet comprehend his brilliance. He is the starving artist who would never dream of “selling out” or betraying his artistic soul by allowing his work to be chewed up and spit out by the unwashed masses who just aren’t ready for him.

The truth is, I think most writers are just like me. Normal, ordinary people who like to tell stories and just hope that a handful of people out there want to read what we write.

Why do I write?

I like to entertain people. I like to make you laugh. I like to spin a tale that catches your attention and pulls you in, that makes you forget to blink and then breathlessly ask, “and then? What happens next?”

I like talking. Telling stories. I get a kick out of taking everyday occurrences and looking at them upside-down and sideways to find a story to tell. I like to look at the world around me and ask “what if?”

What if those old people over there were actually long-lost lovers?

What if that handsome man over there is actually a killer on the run?

What if (insert random situation) had ended differently?

What if . . . what if . . . what if . . 

Try it sometime. It’s fun.

People have always told me that I should write a book. Okay, I think a lot of those people were probably just trying to find a polite way of telling me to shut up, but I can still find encouragement in their words.

Why do I write?

I write because it gives me pleasure.

Some folks get really dramatic and talk about “bleeding on the keys” or writing because they must. Oh, there are plenty of powerful memes and inspirational posters about having a story within that must find its way out.

Yeah, okay, all that shit’s pretty cool.

But writing — real writing — isn’t just about those bursts of inspiration and manic late-night sessions at the keyboard when the ideas and words are flowing like streams of uncontrollable vomit. It’s not just about waking up with a gasp at 3:28 in the morning because a sudden idea has hit right now and hit HARD and you’ve got to jot it down NOW before it is gone forever.  It’s not just about those days when you zone out in the middle of a crowd because there’s a scene from your newest story playing out in your mind like a movie and you’ve got to watch it so you don’t forget.

Writing can be all of that. And when those things are happening, the best thing you can do is grab the safety rails and hang on for the ride of your life.

But most of the time, writing is hard work. It’s getting up before dawn to scratch out a few words before the day starts. It’s taking classes and studying the greats and attending workshops. It’s reading books and honing your skills. It’s practicing, practicing, and practicing some more. It’s starting out with a tiny germ of something and doing your damnedest to turn it into something better.

It’s about writing when you’d rather watch TV or play on Facebook. It’s about editing and re-writing and editing some more. It’s about accepting that you are not perfect. It’s about swallowing your pride and learning from experience when someone is brave enough to tell you that what you’ve written really isn’t very good. It’s about being willing to “kill your darlings” if that’s what it takes to create a better story.

[Note: if you don’t know what it means to “kill your darlings” please don’t worry about my children at this point. Trust me, it’s a Faulkner thing.]

It’s about knowing when to listen to a critic and when to trust your own judgement and maybe, if you’re smart and very very lucky, ending up at that perfect place between the two.

Why do I write?

Sometimes, I read back over something I’ve written, and I cringe. Yikes, did I actually write that self-important bit of crap called “Had I But Time” back in the ’80’s, complete with a nod to Shakespeare in the title? Worse, did I really send that out to publishers? Oh, dear Lord, may the universe forgive me . . .

But just as I’m ready to haul my mortified self under the kitchen table to hide in utter embarrassment, I’ll read over something else I’ve written, and I think, “Hey, that’s not bad.” Of course, that thought is often followed rather quickly by, “It’s not exactly good, either.”

What can I say? Self-confidence is not one of my greatest strengths.

Why do I write?

I can’t give you one easy answer because there is no easy answer. I write because . . . I’m a writer. It’s not what I do; it’s what I am.

I may never make a living as a writer. I’m fairly sure I’ll never be among the ranks of the super-rich and mega-famous, although I would  be totally okay with being either one. Just saying.  But in the meantime, I’m totally okay with being exactly where I am as long as I am writing.

Why do I write?

Because I love it.

This has been part of the Finish the Sentence Friday blog hop, with the prompt “Why do I write?”  Your host is Kristi from Finding Ninee, so please check out her blog and some of the other fabulous writers who participate in this weekly writing exercise. 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Panic

I thought that by this time in my life, I’d have a few more answers. Oh, not to the big questions like how to cure cancer or how to bring about world peace. I’m not even talking about questions like “how do I find a way to live on Toblerone, cheap wine, and mass quantities of coffee while still maintaining a perfect figure?”

That question would, of course, have to come after answering the question of “how do I actually get a perfect figure in the first place?”

I could even go my entire life without knowing the answers to “How many roads must a man walk down?” or “What do you get if you multiply six by nine?”

I just want the answers to the small things. I want to understand how other people seem to be able to get through their days without everything swirling into chaos of dirty dishes, unfinished projects, wrinkled clothes and adolescent zits at the age of forty-nine.

I want to know how other people manage to go through life without looking like Pigpen from “The Peanuts” by ten a.m. I don’t get it. I shower in the morning, do my hair and make-up, put on clean clothes. Just like everyone else, right? I even iron my clothes when necessary.

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Oh, look, a Selfie

Okay, that’s a lie. I don’t even know where my iron is.

I’m not even sure I own an iron.

But still, I look normal and put-together for the first ten minutes or so, before all hell breaks loose. Dirt, stains, spills, wrinkles, and random dog hairs just seem to leap onto my body somewhere between the front door and my car. My hairspray fails, my mascara smudges, and my earring back drops into my bra, where I just might find it again later along with tidbits of breakfast and random bits of broccoli from lunch. By the time I get to wherever it is that I’m going, I look like I’ve slept in my clothes.

Sometimes, I look like I’ve been buried and brought back to life as a zombie in them.

I also want to know how other people always seem to be able to manage their money. I never have any. Okay, so I’m not exactly a highly-paid New York Times Bestselling author or a super-successful . . . well, anything. But still, I get a paycheck every other week. I try to pay my bills. I never splurge on luxuries for myself, other than the occasional Toblerone or bottle of $2.99 Boone’s Farm.

So why don’t I ever have any money? Where does it go?  How do other people do this?

I’m sure I spent some of that money on an iron at some point. It’s not like those things cost much, which is a good thing since it looks like I’m probably going to have to buy another one in the near future.

Another thing I want to know is how to be the kind of mom who’s got a handle of everything going on in her kids’ lives. I always seem to be missing some vital information about a band concert or a school party or a science project until the very last minute, at which point one of my children is guaranteed to tell me that I’ve known about it for weeks but simply chose to forget about it on purpose because I don’t love said child as much as I love the other two.

I kind of wish I knew how to be as good at laying on the passive-aggressive guilt trips as my children are. They must have learned it somewhere, but obviously not from me.

I’ve tried the dry-erase calendars and the Cozi family app on my phone. I’ve tried the Google calendar. I’ve tried everything.  I really  have. I simply have to face the fact that I have zero organizational skills and the attention span of a squirrel on crack.

The sad truth is that I’ve never even managed to keep a houseplant alive for more than a few weeks, and yet I’m responsible for three people that I helped bring into this world. It’s a minor miracle that all three are functioning human beings who manage to make it out the door every morning with food in their bellies and clothes on their bodies. If homework is done and no one is crying, it’s like winning the lottery.

I want answers because I’m turning fifty next month and I always thought I’d have things figured out by now. I really thought I’d have my shit together by this point. You know, be a good example. Have my poop in a group and know where my towel is and all that jazz.

I thought I’d have this adult thing all figured out.

At the very least, I thought I’d know where my iron is.

 

This post has been part of Finish the Sentence Friday, hosted this week by Kristi at Finding Ninee. This week’s sentence starter was “I thought by this time in life I’d  . . .”

Follow the link to see what some of the other bloggers have done with it!

And yes, in case anyone caught it, there are several references to Doug Adams in this week’s post. I don’t know why, but his work has been on my mind a lot lately. 

Family Ties

When I look in the mirror, I see someone who looks nothing like the rest of my family. I’ve never really understood the finer points of genetics, but it seems as though I should resemble at least one of the people who share my family history.

But I don’t. I look like none of them, not even my sisters.

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Mom was tiny and dark, with a little round face and a sort of natural grace that just can’t be taught. I have her wonky eyelid and a lot of her mannerisms, but no one would ever look at our pictures together and guess that I am her child. And I certainly didn’t inherit her natural grace; I fall upstairs and trip over nonexistent things on a daily basis.

Mom’s elegance and beauty skipped a generation and went directly to my daughter. The Princess looks almost exactly like Mom did at that age. I, of course, look like neither one of them.

mom

I got my father’s sense of humor and broad shoulders, but that’s about it. Well, I inherited his family’s tendency to gain weight easily. Yay, Dad. My middle sister was lucky enough to get his pale, crystal-blue eyes and distinctive chin dimple, although none of us got his height.

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I’ll admit, I can see just a tiny bit of myself in his sister, my Aunt Marian, and that scares me a little. I loved Aunt Marian and I miss her every day, but she could be a rather intimidating woman when she wanted to be. I still shudder when I remember the way she squared up that already-square jaw, clenched her teeth, and glared when she was angry. Holy moly, I would have confessed to just about anything when she gave me that look!

I hope I didn’t get the genes for that, although it might come in handy in my job as a lunchlady.

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I don’t look like my cousin, either. Okay, we both have pictures of ourselves with large bodies of water in the background, so that’s something. I wonder if she manages to get hit by seagull poop every single summer like I do.

I’ll have to ask her about that someday.

beckie

My oldest sister says I am wrong, that I really do look like our father’s family, but I just don’t see it. Whenever we go to a family funeral, I see a big group of large people with lots of bony shoulders and sharp noses and round bellies. And no butts. Swear to God, there is not a single man on my father’s side of the family who has a butt.

Unfortunately, the women in Mom’s family all more than make up for that absence. Even the skinny ones have more than their fair share of derriere.

Gee, thanks, Mom.

As a kid, I often wondered if I was adopted. It really bothered me for a while that I just never seemed to fit in with everyone else. Now that I’m older, I’ve noticed just enough similarities to know that I really am related to these people, but not enough similarities to feel quite like I fit in.

And then, a few weeks ago, I found this picture of my Aunt Ida.

 

Hot damn,  maybe I wasn’t switched at birth!

I really don’t mind looking like my Aunt Ida. In fact, it makes me pretty happy. I always had a special connection with Ida.

At one point in her life, Ida looked like this.

 

There just may be hope for me. I mean, come on, she was gorgeous.

All silliness aside, what do I see when I look in the mirror? Sure, I see a woman who doesn’t look anything like my parents or siblings. I see a woman in dire need of a dye job and a good moisturizer. I see someone who really needs to get a little bit more sleep and lot less stress.

But I see so much more. I see the sum total of all the best parts of a lot of good people. I see potential — and I don’t mean the potential to look like Aunt Ida’s cover-girl shots. Trust me, that ship has sailed. It’s not happening. I mean the potential for Mom’s intelligence, Dad’s laughter, Ida’s self-confidence. Potential for my cousin’s strength in the face of adversity. For Marian’s tough exterior.

So maybe I don’t look like most of them. That’s okay, because we are family. Like it or not, we share the same genes that make us who we are, and that’s pretty awesome.  It’s not about who looks like whom; it’s about knowing where we came from and recognizing everything that’s good in all of us.

***

This has been part of Finish the Sentence Friday, hosted this week by Kristi of FindingNine.com and April of April Noelle.  This week’s prompt is “When I look in the mirror, I see . . .”

 

 

Just Breathe

My 2016 word for the year is Breathe.

I really thought about chortle or burble and definitely had to fight off my inner smartass over the urge to use floccinaucinihilipilification . But then I  decided to straighten up and take this week’s writing prompt a bit more seriously.

Although I’ll admit to being a wee bit self-impressed because I didn’t have to use spell-check to spell floccinaucinihilipilification correctly. Self-impressed and just a little concerned.

2015 was not one of my better years. It goes without saying that I really hope 2016 will be better. But since 2015 did its level best to make me more of a realist than the optimist I used to  be, I’m not really pinning a lot of hopes on that.

I also thought about using geradeaus, the German word for “straight ahead”.  I’ve spent an awful lot of time running around in circles in both my personal and professional life in recent years, and it’s really time I tried to focus on moving forward in the right direction. Geradeaus.  I’m tired of looking back at my mistakes and trying to swallow that bitter taste of regret; I’ve wallowed in the past long enough.

But I settled on breathe because, well, it’s something I sort of forgot to do in 2015.

I got caught up in my daughter’s graduation and then her moving out, and I got overwhelmed with being forced to trade my little dream house for a subsidized apartment that I hate. With a passion. I hit a really low point in my life with my battle with Depression. And even though I really hate to mention the elephant in the room, I spent a big portion of 2015 worrying about an angry little blogger who chose to focus an awful lot of negative energy on me. Instead of letting her get under my skin, I should have just remembered the old lesson from Kindergarten about sticks and stones.

In 2016, I want to remember to breathe. When life gets overwhelming this year, as I’m sure it will at some point, I want to remember to take a moment, focus, and just breathe. In and out.

I want to breathe and remind myself that, no matter what, life gets better. It may take a while, and it will probably hurt like hell along the way, but it gets better.

As my favorite comedian, Mark Lowry, has said, “It’ll pass. It will or you will.”

Like it or not, 2016 is here, and all the New Year’s Resolutions in the world can’t slow it down or stop it. It’s going to bring good things and bad things and things that make me scratch my head and ask “what the hell was that all about?”

Time to buckle in, take a deep breath, and hang on for dear life.

Happy New Year, everyone. What’s your word for 2016?

This is a Finish the Sentence Friday post. This week’s sentence is “My 2016 word for the year is…” Hosted by Kristi ofFinding Ninee,  Mardra Sikora and Allison McGrath Smith.

 

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.

A Bit of Advice

Last summer, I watched my oldest child graduate and move out. Now, before I’ve even had time to catch my breath, I’m preparing to watch her brother follow in her footsteps, and it’s a lot harder than I expected it to be.

Sure, this one was my baby for ten years before their youngest brother was born. And he was my “difficult” child, the one who had me pulling out my hair and threatening to sell him on ebay by the time he was in second grade. We had a lot of rough years getting to this point, and it’s breaking my heart to realize that I have to let him go just as I’m finally starting to understand him.

But even more than that, there is the realization that I am also waving good-bye to all of the kids that are graduating with mine. I’ve watched some of them grow up from pre-school or even earlier; when so many of them tower over me or speak in deep baritones, it seems impossible that I once held them on my lap or dried their tears.

I wish I knew the right words to say, the right wisdom to impart to all of them. I wish I knew the secret of life so I could tell them all what to do to make everything turn out just right.

I guess what I’m really trying to say is . . . .

. . . sometimes it’s okay to ask for help.

. . . it’s all right if you hate Shakespeare.

. . . try a peanut-butter-and-dill-pickle sandwich at least once in your life.

. . . every once in a while, do something that scares the hell out of you. However —

. . . stop doing dangerous things that scare the hell out of your mother. Seriously, our hearts can’t take it.

. . . go ahead and cry.

. . . be nice to someone who doesn’t deserve it.

. . . forgive someone who doesn’t deserve it.

. . . eat dessert first once in a while.

. . . wait to say “I love you” but don’t wait too long.

. . . don’t mix peppermint Schnapps with pizza. Trust me on this one.

. . . give three sincere compliments every single day.

. . . let it go, whatever “it” is that’s hurting you.

. . . don’t be afraid to make the first move.

. . . understand that life is not going to turn out exactly the way you expect, and accept that it’s going to be amazing anyway.

. . . call your grandparents more often.

. . . read Slaughterhouse Five.

. . . don’t be afraid to say good-bye. Not everyone is meant to be in your life forever.

. . . find something beautiful about yourself every day.

. . . know that life is not a competition and you don’t always have to win.

. . . take the high road whenever possible.

. . . read a banned book at least once in your life.

. . . remember that there’s more to life than what you see on the internet.

And last, but definitely not least . . . .

. . .forgive yourself once in a while. You deserve it. 

 

This is a Finish the Sentence Friday post. This week’s sentence is “What I’m really trying to say is …” Hosted by Kristi of Finding NineeMardra Sikora, and  Vidya Sury .

 

 

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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Which One Are You?

I can’t believe it took me so long to realize that my Aunt Marian actually knew what she was talking about once in a while.

She dished out advice all the time, in any situation, and she usually had no idea what she was talking about. She loved to toss around words of wisdom that really weren’t even close to being wise. She spoke in cliches, rhymes, and quotations that quite often had no bearing whatsoever on the problem she was trying to solve.

My sisters and I became experts at the hidden eye-roll. There was an art to rolling one’s eyes behind Aunt Marian’s back because she was only one of our four aunts who lived together and did everything else together. If one aunt took up cross-country skiing, all four took up cross-country skiing. If one took up Bridge, all four took up Bridge. If one took a swimming class — well, only two passed the swimming class.  Aunt Noni sank like a stone and Aunt Verna stood on the sideline taking bets as to whether Noni would drown or not.

In other words, if one aunt got an eye-roll and look of disgust from a niece, all four aunts took it personally. If we wanted to show our opinion of some ridiculous piece of advice that Marian spouted, we had to do so in such a way that none of the other three caught us.

At any rate, most of Marian’s advice was pretty worthless.  But as I get older, one of her frequently-used bits of wisdom is really starting to make sense to me.

It  became a standard on a particularly memorable Fourth of July when I was about six years old. It poured that day. I’m not talking about a simple thunderstorm. I’m talking about one of those all-day gullywashers that bring thoughts of Noah to mind. A steady, heavy downpour that showed no signs of stopping as the time for the parade drew near. There was another family staying with us that week, and we argued back and forth over whether to walk to town for the parade or just stay home and stay dry.

Finally, Marian let fly with her particular brand of wisdom. “There are doers in this world, and there are watchers,” she announced. “I’m a doer. Which one are you?”

Of course, we girls were all young enough to draw inspiration from her words. “I’m a watcher!” we all piped up, and off we went.

It was a mile to town, and we were all soaked to the skin by the time we got there. Back in those days, there was a hill leading up to the main street where the parade went through. Now that hill is covered with shops and condominiums and restaurants, but back then, it was delightfully muddy and slippery. We climbed and skidded and rolled and slid up and down that hill for what seemed like forever, and to this day I have no clue if we ever actually saw a parade or not.

We were doers that day, not watchers, and that became one of Marian’s favorite speeches. In her mind, she was some kind of great, fearless adventurer. She later amended her doers vs. watchers speech to include the phrase, “If you want to hang with us, Kid, you’ve gotta learn to sleep on the bench, under the bench, or hanging from the bench!”

In truth, she was a homebody. She talked a big talk about being a doer, not a watcher, but there came a point when she stopped doing. She developed Rheumatoid Arthritis, COPD, and a non-union fracture of her left leg, among other conditions. She was sick; she was sedentary. She rarely left the house except for doctor appointments. But still, she saw herself as a doer, not a watcher, and my sisters and I never quite had the heart to tell her otherwise.

I think of her quite often now, especially as I develop more and more issues with my body since my accident four years ago. I hurt. I hurt all the time. Last week, I turned down a chance to go to the flea market with a friend because I didn’t think I could handle it. This past weekend, I chose to skip our local Octoberfest; I was hurting from the extra hours I’ve been working, and I didn’t think I could walk around the festival all day. Then, yesterday, I almost stayed in the car in the elementary school parking lot at pickup time and trusted my older son to bring his little brother safely out to the car.

For just a moment, it felt like Marian was sitting right there with me in the car. I swear to God I heard her voice speaking right out loud. “There are doers in this world, and there are watchers. Which one are you?”

I am not a watcher, Marian. I am still a doer.

It’s been so easy to give up on things, one at a time. Bit by bit, without even realizing that I had stopped doing.  I didn’t make it to the beach this year because I didn’t know if I could walk in the sand. I never took the boys to Full Blast for a day at the water park. I didn’t even make the trip to the flea market in Shipshewana.

Yesterday was kind of a turning point for me. I’m trying to keep my spirits up and stay positive, but life isn’t always cooperating. The changing weather and extra hours on my feet at work are catching up with me, and I have days when even a simple task like showering is almost more than I can physically handle. I want to give up. I want to sit at home and put my feet up and pop some pain pills and tell everyone to go ahead without me; I’ll be fine with a good book while they’re gone.

Some days, I just don’t want to prove to anyone that I can still do my work even though I’m so much slower now. I don’t want to work twice as hard to do half as much, apologizing all the while to those who might resent having to pick up the slack.

But Aunt Marian was right. There are doers in this world and there are watchers, and I refuse to be a watcher.

I’m a doer. Which one are you?

This post has been part of Finish the Sentence Friday, with the sentence starter “I can’t believe it took me so long to realize that. . . ” hosted by Kristi at Finding Ninee and co-hosted by Ivy at Uncharted and Roshni from Indian American Mom.

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