1. Missy says

    There have been many days, many times, where I thought that I was not where I wanted to be. Or where I THOUGHT I wanted to be. I thought that now at this point in my life I would be able to have a full day without anxiety or fear of anything, of isolation and loneliness. I wake up in the morning feeling like I have hit a stone wall, a dead end. But I also realize that I am happy for the experiences that I have had in my life because that have taken me to where I am now, have made me who I am, and I like that. I would rather have had these difficult experiences than not because then I think I may be a shallow person. I realize today that my greatest challenges are my greatest gifts. I am new at sharing with others like this. I have a lot to tell. And I don’t know where to start. In the middle?

    • says

      I love what you said Missy…”my greatest challenges are my greatest gifts.” It takes a lot of healing and perspective to get to the point where you can say that…

    • Barbara Keller says

      Yes, in the middle, and keep going, and circle back when you feel like it. There are no traffic police. Take your time and meander around.

    • Debbie says

      Missy – Your journey through awareness of how what you have experienced has crafted the person you are today is inspiring! Start anywhere! Where ever we begin, is exactly the right spot! Just begin.

  2. Fran Stekoll says

    After graduating from college as a late bloomer with a degree in Gerontology and Social Services I was raring to put my knowledge to work. My husband at that time and I decided to open a Staffing Service in Silicon Valley. We ended up with eight branch offices in the Bay area and my dreams were put on the back burner. I did however offer career counseling as part of our services.
    Twenty eight years later I sold our company, moved to Santa Cruz and became a peer counselor with Family Services. Finally I was able to see clients both individually and in groups as well as couples. I volunteer for 4 hours each week and meet with the other peer counselors every other week where we support each other and receive supervision.. We also enjoy guest speakers from all phases of life to further enhance our knowledge prepare us
    for future encounters. Two years ago I was honored as the Counselor of the Year. I now know that God had truly put a comma where I thought there was a dead end. Also living in an elderly community gives me the opportunity to share referrals on all aspects of needs and I keep everyone updated on what’s available. The Senior Outreach Directory and many services as well as community discussions on all subjects pertaining to Seniors are always placed in our park office as well as our clubhouse to inform those who need it. I feel so fulfilled and continue in my quest to be of assistance whenever called upon.

    • says

      So glad you’re finally being able to get past the comma and do what you’ve always wanted and loved to do. So many people benefit from your information and generosity.

    • Debbie says

      Fran – what an amazing feeling to look “Backwards” and see that every experience you had contributes to your happiness and fulfillment today! So wonderful for you!

  3. Barbara Keller says

    Never place a period where God has placed a comma

    I would be hard pressed to pick just one instance. My entire life seems to be proof of this axiom. A friend used to say, “The movie isn’t over yet.”

    I think it takes a whole life to finish the movie, and there’s no sure period in there till it’s over.

    Once I was living on Vashon Island with my 4 year old daughter and no job. I sold most of my furniture and personal belongs, bought a camper, and found on the last night in the apartment that I was up the creek without a paddle.

    After two successful weekends of advertised yard sales, I still had three large, valuable pieces of my grandma’s furniture sitting in the living room. A round walnut table with an ornately carved pedestal base, a secretary desk with glass doors and lots of detailing, and a large man’s cane back chair, all in perfect condition. I did not have a truck to carry the camper in which we were supposed to live. And I did not have enough money to buy anything. I had spent my money buying the lovely camper. I had sold my little Datsun car. I could not even drive away.

    I was very scared. I lay in bed, not sleeping, having a long conversation with God. “Here I am Lord, sitting on this tree branch, with Rosie in my arms, while you saw it off behind me. Are we going to crash? What will happen to us?”

    I knew I was supposed to trust God, but I certainly didn’t feel trusting or peaceful. I also knew it was OK to be honest with God. So I said “Here I am. I hate it. I’m so scared. I can’t see how it will work out. The sale is over. We have to be out tomorrow. I don’t know what to do. Help me please, and thank you for whatever you have planned that I can’t see yet.”

    The next morning an older woman who lived on the island came over. She had bought a few things the day before. She came back to explain that her husband, (She described him as a well to do Chinese man who wanted to make her happy.) had given her permission to buy the three remaining pieces for my asking price, $1500. The woman who bought my car came back to offer to drive me to Seattle to look at trucks. I found one, a great, well cared for, red Ford 150 for $1500. She left us there, with a smile and a wave, to drive the new pick up back to the island. Some local guys put the camper on the back. We were on our way.

    That was one marvelous moment. I was truly thankful. But it’s good to remember that it wasn’t a period there either. By the time I sold the camper and the truck I was dead sick of both of them, and needed the money for something else. Life is way more like a river than a sentence to parse.

    • Terry Gibson says

      I love this story, Barbara. I especially love the last sentence, “Life is way more like a river than a sentence to parse.” Beautiful. PS: I hope you are healing well.

      • Barbara Keller says

        Thanks so much for remembering. I am. This right leg, only 5 weeks past surgery, is way better than the 6 months healed left knee. I want dancing last night, not even a cane. Yes, I was exhausted after an hour, but I held up well for that time. I’m so thankful. Feeling like I might have a mostly normal life for a while more is so encouraging.

    • Jennifer Ire says

      Love this experience of yours. Reminds me of stepping off the figurative mountain with faith that the path is under my feet. It always has been. It is a good day to remember this. Thanks.

      • Barbara Keller says

        exactly. A good day to remember, but not always easy, I find. Just because the path was there last time, one sort of wonders, “will it be here this time?” Therein lies the struggle and test.

    • Debbie says

      Barbara – I had also copied this line “Life is way more like a river than a sentence to parse.” as one of my favorites from you post. I loved how you owned your doubts along with your faith.

      • Barbara Keller says

        Thanks very much. I believe that’s the key. If the faith isn’t fake, then it’s going to have a down side and rough spots. For me, it’s the ticket. Tell the truth and trust God to love me anyway. He has been faithful for 42 years. It’s starting to feel real.

    • Ilana says

      Great story, Barbara- It just goes to show that things are never as bad as they seem. Thank you for sharing. IM

      • Barbara Keller says

        Thanks. Maybe sometimes they are as bad as they seem, but it’s good thing they aren’t always as bad as they seem. For me, prayer is the way to get through it.

  4. Jim Dowling says

    Outside of TV and the movies, Brother Marcel was the biggest man I’d ever seen. I’m guessing he was a good 6 foot four, in his early twenties and probably new to the profession. He had a deep voice, a friendly smile and he told the best stories. I liked him a lot. Brother Marcel was my third grade teacher at St Mary’s International School in Tokyo.
    On ‘library day’ Brother Marcel would usher the whole class down a long hallway to the library. Arriving at the door he’d hold a finger to his lips and remind us, “Remember, quiet in the library.” We knew the routine. Find a book, sit down at one of the big tables and read. No talking. There were lots of rules at that school, some more important than others. Break one of the important ones and you very well might get “the ruler.” The thought was more than enough to keep me in line.
    So, it was library day and some thirty happy, obedient children funneled through the door and dispersed among the aisles. I pulled something off a shelf, sat down and buried my nose in a fat book. I heard a whisper and looked up. It was Ford Dotter. I went back to reading. More whispering. Ford could get a person in a lot of trouble. He lived on the edge – got in trouble constantly, but it didn’t faze him much. I was young to understand any reasons behind his behavior, but knew something wasn’t right at home. Two times in fourth grade, Ford and his older brother disappeared into “the wilds” of Tokyo and didn’t return for two days.
    Ford kept up the whispering. Caution was overruled by curiosity. I scanned the room. Brother Marcel and the librarian were huddled together a long way off, speaking in hushed tones, their backs away from us. So I looked. For my benefit alone, Ford was making a painfully grotesque face, using fingers to stretch the skin away from his bulging eyeballs, his thumb to create a pug nose. It was hilarious. And I did laugh. And for a few seconds I forgot the hallowed rules. I made a similar face back. Ford stuck his tongue out. I probably did the same. Somehow I got sucked into this back and forth with the kid.
    Then I felt the hand clasp my shoulder. Brother Marcel. He was not pleased. “Back to the room right now! Wait at the front of the class until we get back.” That’s when it hit. The terror. My irreversible dead end. We were destined for the ruler and all the feared pain of local legend would await me. I’d been a witness — seen kids I thought pretty tough reduced to shuddering tears. It was my turn.
    Two pitiful waifs, we headed down the hallway. Neither Ford nor I spoke. I was oblivious to the world around me, totally engrossed in my predicament. I prayed, pleaded, made promises and cut all manner of deals with God and Jesus if they’d just spare me that ruler. In class, we stood mute, up at the black board as instructed and waited. It seemed like an eternity, but we finally heard them shuffling down the hall. Everyone filed in, quieter than usual, expectant.
    Brother Marcel entered last. “Sit down,” he said calmly and walked up a row, past his big desk, to the yardstick where it leaned in the corner. He picked it up, then pivoted around to face us. It was very quiet and still. He came to my desk first and put his hand out. He looked serious, but not like a man who relished this aspect of his job. I dutifully presented my hand, a small thing, palm-up in his. Miracle time had obviously come and gone.
    I stared through watery eyes into his as the ruler rose slowly in the air. It seemed to hover a moment before crashing down. “Thwack!” A sharp crack shattered the still.
    But I felt no pain! No, in that final split second my hand vanished. I’d yanked it away. The ruler landed squarely in Brother Marcel’s palm. It just happened. Some kind of reflex. I was as dumfounded as anyone.
    Uh, oh. Rules broken in the library paled next to this.
    Brother Marcel’s eyes never left mine. The fingers of his left hand slowly closed in a fist around the ruler. Anticipation in the room was palpable. He blinked a few times, then straightened up, turned, and walked off. He put the ruler back in its place in the corner. And that was it. Class lessons resumed. Brother Marcel would never speak a word about it to either Ford or me.
    It took years. It wasn’t until I myself became a teacher that I fully grasped what transpired that day… the valuable lessons learned by all parties. Marcel was a good man, young, but wise for his years.

    • says

      Jim, you’ve got such a strong compelling narrative voice. It’s always such a pleasure to read your stories. I’d follow you (the writer) anywhere. Whatever you want to write about, I’m sure I’d be engaged from word one, just like I am here. So glad you’ve become a regular contributor to this blog.

      • Debbie says

        I have to agree with Laura. What an engrossing story and read through it so quickly just to find out what happened. Then again slowly to savor your skill. Thanks so much for sharing your work here!

    • Ilana says

      Jim- What an incredible story and I agree with Laura, you told it with such a compelling voice. Thank you for reminding us that such wise and generous people exist. IM

    • Terry Gibson says

      Ditto, Jim. It reminded me fondly of when I was slated to be strapped on the hand by our nun Principal for missing a letter in the name of my own province, British Columbia. Tokyo? Been in the Japanese countryside so you stirred up many memories for me. Thanks so much!

  5. Jennifer Ire says

    I have always been the type of person who becomes bored with a job in about 4 years. Sometimes I make it to four and a half, but that’s my limit. At that point if I cannot get a transfer to something new I walk away. More often than not I have walked away. So I have problems with dead ends. The interesting thing in my life thus far is that on looking back as this prompt has made me do, I see each ending producing a beginning that has been wonderful.
    My first three jobs were in the Civil Service in Trinidad. First was with the court system where I learned accounting and had a fabulous boss, who taught me everything about the entire accounting unit. Then as with all his staff he gave us all the jobs to do in rotation even his. In turn, we each ran the office when he was away and he supported every decision we made then taught us how to do differently, it has been my best job ever.
    I left that and went to Community Development where the accounting skills were ratcheted up a level as I was part of a team where annually we worked on the budget for the department and with the minister as he was defending the numbers in Parliament. Nothing was as exciting as having to re-do budget figures while the minister was on the floor of the House asking the what if questions. This was before the age of computers.
    I have gone from job to job in my life, fleeing boredom, and each one seemed to have engaged me in skill exploration and enhancement and fun. I have also gone from place to place and region to region. I am at the point now where I ran from the last dead end about 2 years ago. I chose to retire form a job that was killing me even as I was enjoying many parts of it, and could not even consider another institutional job. The dead end was the reality that there was nowhere to go, nothing new to engage my brain and creative self. The boss could not imagine other possibilities, or maybe did not want to, so I walked.
    I am in my second year of “retirement” and I am looking at the period very closely for the little tail that will grow the period into a comma to begin happening. That must happen soon as my funds are disappearing like smoke. I have the past as promise and I am writing and looking back at my life and the ground from which the new will arise. There has to be a reason behind the volume and diversity of experiences that my life has led me through, I believe so. So I am writing and waiting, fertilizing the soil in which that comma is growing. I cannot wait to see what the next phase of my exciting life will be like.

    • says

      Jenny, I loved this part of your last paragraph, “I am in my second year of “retirement” and I am looking at the period very closely for the little tail that will grow the period into a comma to begin happening…So I am writing and waiting, fertilizing the soil in which that comma is growing. I cannot wait to see what the next phase of my exciting life will be like.” I love your faith in the process and if that faith ever flags, I’ll have faith for you. I believe that you will find your way and that a new not-boring opportunity will come your way. You have so much to offer–your skills, yes, but also, who you are. I’m so glad I got to meet you at Commonweal last summer.

      • Jennifer Ire says

        Thanks Laura,
        Sometimes I think I am pathologically hopeful, and then I look back and see amazing rescues? and how much I have experienced and survived. So I am happy that you will be back-up for me (smile) I feel comforted.

    • Debbie says

      Jennifer – This line you wrote also resonated with me as well -“I am looking at the period very closely for the little tail that will grow the period into a comma to begin happening.” The words contain such hope and reinforce the concept we are always growing. I will add my wishes to yours that the little tail begins to grow soon in the fertile soil you have created.

  6. Nancy Qualls-Collins says

    Those of us known as baby boomers were raised in a transitional period. Shorty after mid-twentieth century a “COMMA” marks the delineation of the life of our grandparents and parents and the new life that we baby boomers would learn to live.

    Our fathers went to work and stayed at the same job for their entire working career. Life was good, a man would come home to greet his family, have a nice dinner and have a relaxing evening watching television and/or reading the newspaper. The men expected to have higher education were doctors and lawyers. That was until mid-century when employers started requiring man have a degree…COMMA…

    Our mothers raised us to be housewives, homemakers and mothers. We were children of the “white picket fence” era. A girl would marry her high school sweetheart, or the guy she ended that summer after graduation with. We had every reason to believe we would carry on as our Mothers, Aunts and Grandmothers had, keeping the home and raising the children. In the 50’s and early 60’s we did not expect we ever have to go to college work …COMMA…

    Two things happened to women. One, women’s lib and the concept that we no longer needed to be obligated to our husband’s for our living. Previously the men earned and usually handled to money. Women started going to college and working. We were suddenly given the freedom to think and live our own lives…COMMA…

    Two, society evolved and it became necessary for women, as well as the men, to work in order to survive in a reasonably comfortable way. Those of us born in the early 1950’s were brought up thinking we would live a life like our mother’s, and in high school when the counselor asked us which path we planned to follow, the standard or the college curriculum, we chose the standard. Little did we know that within a few years we would need a college degree in order to be “successful”. Women hit “the brick wall” the hardest because we were forced to make the biggest changes. But we baby boomer ladies broke through “the brick wall” and, not only became mothers and homemakers, became successful career women.

    • says

      Nancy, welcome to the Roadmap blog–and thanks so much for your retrospective piece on the changes you’ve gone through in your lifetime. I loved the way you used COMMA over and over again in your piece. Please keep coming back.

    • Debbie says

      Nancy – there are so many times in my career where I have sent thoughts of gratitude to those brave women who had gone before me. Not too many years before, as I am on the tail end of the “boomers” – but still far enough ahead that there were already “holes” in some of those brick walls, and some doors had been left ajar for us that followed. Thank you for that and for sharing your perspective with the blog community!

  7. Ilana says

    The Period at The End of My Sentence

    I remember the exact moment when I thought the period had been put on the end of my sentence. This was it. There was nothing left for me to do. I had been rendered useless, helpless, ineffective; with nothing left to give to the world. I was lying in a hospital bed drawing crayon pictures of a clown holding a bouquet of balloons. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple; like a fucking six year old in her ‘rainbow phase.’ Last week I was studying Freud. Today I had to abandon Cosmopolitan magazine because my freshly violated brain could not comprehend the words. I was coloring because I did not have the mental capacity to read a God Damned Cosmopolitan magazine article.

    It wasn’t just that. Well, yeah, it was. A master’s degree in psychology had been my dream for 12 long years. I had fought so hard, overcome so many obstacles to get this far and now it was over. My brain didn’t work. I believed it never would again. I’d forgotten that the occupational therapist said I was fine. It had slipped my damaged little mind how the man had laughed at my in depth answer to what he had meant as a simple yes or no question. They all said I was way ahead of the game but I couldn’t follow a single paragraph in Cosmo. I was used to reading 100 pages of Yalom a day; highlighting in three different colors in outline form. I’d forgotten, either that or I just didn’t believe them, that my brain would recover. I couldn’t read it now so how was I ever going to read it again?

    I couldn’t open my mouth either; or move my eyebrows, see more than shadows out of my left eye or smile. I had opened my mouth several days ago. I’d been alone in my room when it happened. No one was there to see it and tell me not to be scared. I opened my mouth and felt something in my left jaw unhook. My face was coming apart! It was before they took the restraints off and my hands were still strapped to the bed. I couldn’t use them to put my face back together. I had carefully and painfully maneuvered everything back into place with my chin. Petrified, I didn’t try to open my mouth more than a quarter of an inch for the next five days. By the time I did my jaw was locked in place. A quarter of an inch was as far as I could go. It hurt like hell to try but even when I forced myself, nothing happened. I never told anyone about that. Not because I didn’t try but because they couldn’t understand me. “Something unhooked in my jaw! My face is coming apart.” “A jaw bone does not unhook, Ilana. You’re fine. Nothing’s wrong with you mouth. You’re just having trouble controlling your muscles because your nerves have been cut. The doctor had to cut those nerves to get to the aneurysm and now they’ll have to grow back. You’ll be fine.” I gave up.
    So the door was closed. I would never be a functioning member of society. My parents and my new husband would have to take care of me for the rest of my life. I couldn’t read. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t even open my God Damned mouth. I looked down at the smiling clown holding his rainbow bouquet of balloons and suddenly wanted to shred the paper I had drawn it on. Crayons, like I was a fucking six year old. I thought of all my text books, highlighters and four color pens. I had become an expert at color coding, highlighting and outlining my notes. Not anymore. That was all over now.
    Days, weeks, months; I don’t know how long it was until I believed I would go back to my studies. It must have happened by degrees. It would be seven months in all, until the day I returned to classes as began to read, color code and outline again. I did eventually learn to open my mouth, walk, and bathe by myself. I did eventually graduate and for over a year I held down a full time job that actually used my degree. When I did leave that job it was for a promotion, of sorts. I became a mother.

    Now, here I am, almost 12 years later entirely capable of opening my mouth. These days keeping it shut has become the bigger difficulty. I can read. I can write. I’ve recently gotten a hold of my old honors thesis and plan to update the research because the topic has become very important to me again. Hell, I can read and study in Hebrew too. They were right. All of them were right. They said I would get it back and I did. I didn’t believe them but here I am.

    Can I tell you a little secret though? I remember what it felt like to believe the period had been put on the end of my sentence. Writing that paragraph scared the hell out of me. For the time it took me to compose those lines I was right back there, as powerless, as useless to the world and as terrified as I was all those years ago.

    But now that I think about it, it’s kind of ironic. What made that paragraph so scary to write was the exact reason it was so untrue. I remember everything about it; the clown with his rainbow bouquet of balloons, the feel of the crayons in my fingers to the pillow behind my back. Most people can’t do that. When I met with my surgeon two weeks after discharge he said, “You don’t remember me.” “Of course I do! You used your hands to show me how you were going to clip off the broken blood vessel in my brain.” “What?!” He was shocked. “Most barely remember the two weeks they were in the hospital at all.”

    I was ahead of the game. My mind was interpreting, cataloging and remembering enough information that I managed to impress the surgeon. I remember them taking out the ventilator; it didn’t hurt as much as I’d thought it would. I remember them taking the tube from my brain; it didn’t hurt at all. The same when they took the central line from my chest and the stitches from my head. When they took the catheter out, that was different. That one hurt quite a bit. And the worst, the absolute worst was the tube in my right wrist. That was a pain I will never forget. That and the look on my husband’s face as I stared at him to avoid watching the torture. He was furious because they made a mistake and spilled cold blood all over my arm, scaring me even more. I remember all of it. I remember the fear that my life was over and it’s because I remember that I could not have been more wrong.

    It begs the question, though. Remembering or forgetting, which is the best way to heal? Perhaps it is a mixture of the two. Writing that paragraph scared the hell out of me but if I hadn’t relived it I wouldn’t have realized how very wrong it was. Maybe there’s a reason why the words “scared” and “scarred” are so close. I’m scared because I was scarred and I’m scarred because I was scared. My brother tried to convince me that it is better to ignore the scars, better to forget. I don’t think that works for me. Admittedly, sometimes we have to put down the pain and move on but that’s not the same thing as forgetting. No, for me remembering is good. Remembering is right. Remembering is true. With remembering I can be more equipped the next time I think that circumstances have put a period on the end of my sentence.

    • Barbara Keller says

      Oh my goodness, what a piece of writing. riveting, poignant, insightful, marvelous and so well written. Thank you. I’m so glad you got better. You made it very real and it scared me.

      • Ilana says

        Thank you Barbara- That means a lot. This was another one that was scary and painful to write. It always helps to get a response like yours. IM

    • Debbie says

      Ilana – you shared some of your anger with us tonight! I am so glad – that extra tenor in your voice feels strong and magnificent! Your insight on “scared” and scarred” is intriguing and I know I will be reflecting on this for some time. And I also agree there is a balance between remembering and forgetting.

      For me, it works more like weaving the colors of the past into the fabric of who I am today. The tapestry is more vibrant for all of the extra texture and hues – yet they appear in a different context, viewed through the distortion of experience and time. They will always be a part of me, even if some of the intensity eventually fades.

      Thank you for sharing this experience from a new perspective!

      • Ilana says

        Wow Debbie- You have really opened my eyes with your comment. I love what you said about the tapestry. In addition I was completely unaware of you edge of anger in my voice. When I read your comment I thought, “What is she talking about? I wasn’t angry.” Then I reread my own piece. Holy $%&! I was pissed. It was cleansing, empowering and healing to express and feel that anger. Thank you for pointing it out. IM

  8. Carolyn Lehman says

    “We don’t have anything to offer you. Go home and pray you are one of the lucky ones.” That’s what my doctor told me a few sentences after telling me that the pathology from my routine hysterectomy had come back with a diagnosis of a rare, and little understood, uterine sarcoma.

    That was nine years ago.

    Of course I didn’t accept her prognosis. My husband and I pursued more information, tried an experimental chemotherapy and radiation “that might give you an extra year or two.” Pushing for that comma.

    And I got it. Published a book, grew from a volunteer to part of the leadership of a local cancer support organization, saw the first member of the new generation of my family via sonogram as she wiggled around in her mother’s womb. (And held her, and read to her, and helped her learn her letters.)

    Now I am in treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, quite possibly the result of the adjuvunct treatments that I sought out and underwent for the first cancer. No regrets, though. I made the best choice I could at the time; knowing the risks, I rolled the dice for life.

    This time first-line treatment failed. Now I am hoping to qualify for stem cell transplant. Searching for, ever hopeful of, seeking faith in the possibility that yet another comma lies ahead.

    • Debbie says

      Carolyn – your post is a powerful testament to strength of will and “ownership” of your life! Thank you for sharing this with us. I join you in hope that this new challenge will turn out to be yet another comma.

  9. Barbara Keller says

    I’m so glad and so sorry. I’m glad for the things you did and the life you savored, sorry for the grim prospect. And I’m sorry I can’t sit face to face with you and tell you what I believe about salvation and heaven. But this isn’t the right place. You could look me up on facebook if you’re interested, Barbara Keller. I will say a prayer for you.

  10. Debbie says

    For some reason, this prompt made me think of two pieces of poetry written many years ago. With your indulgence, I am sharing them with you tonight…

    Prisons (January 1994)
    We are not imprisoned from without,
    we build our prisons from within.
    We leave the butterfly meadows of our youth
    where anything is possible
    descending into “adulthood”,
    Discarding our dreams for the illusory blocks
    of security and obligation that slowly
    raise our cell walls above heart level,
    The bars on our shrinking windows
    fashioned by fearful speculation about the unknown.

    Sometimes, if we are lucky, we notice
    the small shafts of sunlight leaking
    through the cracks in our walls,
    Reminding us there are still butterfly meadows
    for those who dare….

    Within My Reach (1998)

    Delight my way comes
    I hear the footsteps in the hall
    Yet the cacophony of confusion in my head
    Deafens my heart to the gentle knocking at the door
    White knuckled with fear and
    Frozen with indecision, I see
    The keys to happiness dangle
    Within my reach.

    And a quote by one of my favorite authors “Anonymous”:

    “Of magic doors there is this, you do not see them even as you are passing through.”

    A reminder, tonight, of how long I have really been on this journey…

    • Ilana says

      Debbie- Beautiful poetry. I liked that you told us when each was written. It made me feel good to see the slowly growing optimism in the second. The keys to happiness dangle WITHIN your reach. I loved that line. Wishing you well, IM

    • Bobbie Anne says

      Debbie, Thanks for sharing your poems! They are positive and are a record of how you have progressed on your journey. You may not see the door as you pass through, but you get the chance to keep on going.

  11. Ilana says

    To this amazing community- I enjoy reading your posts and I really treasure your responses to my posts. Because those responses mean so much to me I try to respond to yours as well. However, I have had an incredibly difficult couple of weeks and I didn’t have it in me to comment as much as I usually do. I was amazed by all the supportive comments that came out this week. In the space of time that I did not feel the strength to do what I ask of you all everyone else went above and beyond. I was touched to see how we all support each other. Thank you all! It helped heal my heartache. sIMz

  12. Terry Gibson says

    Emma stared at me intently with her usual happy brown eyes clouded as huge tears poured down her face, etching two paths down to the curves at each edge of her mouth. “Trust me,” I said, while gathering up the change of clothes I brought over earlier that evening. “…you don’t want to be in a relationship with me . . . my life is . . . . “ I tried to swallow the lump which had formed in my throat. “My lie is a f—king disaster zone.” I noticed that I too was crying.

    Who was this woman anyway? Gorgeous. Six years my junior. Lively. Funny. An artist. Lipstick wearer who wore shoes I’d hear clicking from half a block away. We had such fun together! Laughed. But, I just couldn’t do it to her.

    “Don’t you want to talk about it?” she asked, crumpling up on the black leather sofa like a shirt.

    My movements in the kitchen punctuated my inner chidings. Open cupboard door. Take out glass. Fill with water. Drink. Replace glass to where I found it without the benefit of a wash. Cupboard door closed. What was I doing?

    Suddenly I smiled, remembering how she woke me out of a deep sleep last night. How I shrugged off the lure of a passionate and gripping dream, “Okay … okay.” I sipped on my water. “Wha-at?”

    “You know how you like talking?” she said, looking pale and tired in the semi-darkness. “Can we not talk again?”

    No. I didn’t take offence. As she explained, Emma wasn’t used to talking to anyone. Yes. She had been married. No joke intended. I know there are great marriages but hers was not one of them. It had been long over before she had the means to move out.

    “One day you’ll thank me for this,” I said, trying to stay as far away from her as I could. I wanted no affection. Hugs. Things were hard enough to stand as it was.

    I was a disaster in relationships. I didn’t need them. I didn’t need sex. I was much safer in my own company. Although I could be a boring conversationalist …

    “Is there someone else?” Emma asked, striking a match to light her smoke.

    “No.” I rested my hands, palms flat, against the small counter top, enjoying the coolness on my skin. I stayed there a moment knowing she couldn’t see my face from that vantage point.

    That was another thing. I didn’t get involved with smokers. I grew up in clouds of smoke and watched Dad die from cancer only a year ago. Also, one of my brothers died just a few days before I met her.

    Getting involved with someone so quickly after another loss was wrong. On every level. I knew this and tried to explain but she didn’t seem to get it. How could I convince her that it wasn’t personal? In my gut, I was sure I was doing the right thing.

    “You know there’s nobody else,” I said. As I struggled to take her key off my chain, I cast my eyes quickly in her direction. How could I be with someone else when I was still feeling so foolish about my last date with Susan.

    It was her birthday and I had worked so hard to be able to rent a limo—really stupid, yes?—to drive us all over Stanley Park before dropping us off at the Orpheum to see “Les Miserables.” Well, I got put in my place very quickly: she wouldn’t sit with me, nor speak to me during intermission. I’m sure I was more humiliated in my life but couldn’t remember it as I winced again and again. I made such a fool out of myself! Being ‘in love’ showed me just how pathetic I was. I was far too hurt to go with this thing with Emma. I knew nothing and she was younger than me. How could we make this thing work?

    I approached her and sat down. She smoked through ragged fits of tears and I gently put my key down on the coffee table. We cried together, reaching for each other’s hands at the same time. I couldn’t meet her eyes. I knew I was confused, grieving, and feeling so deeply disappointed that I was wavering on my decision. Don’t think about your own pain, I yelled inside myself. This was the second time I put us through this.

    Twenty years later–after two decades of loving, living, travelling, learning, growing and sharing, the comma still exists. If it became a period, I’ll regret very little, continue loving still, but will move on as life dictates and designs that we all do.

    • Debbie says

      Terry, there is a rawness about this post that takes my breath away. Wincing at your frank expressions of self-denigration (undeserved!) and impressed by your ability to care about someone else even in the midst of all that pain.

      You juxtapose moving statements with gently humor that brings a smile even as you ponder the stark words just past. The passage below demonstrates your gift this way:

      “I was a disaster in relationships. I didn’t need them. I didn’t need sex. I was much safer in my own company. Although I could be a boring conversationalist …”

      I also liked the additional of dialogue! This was a courageous post – thank you so much for sharing it with us!

      • Terry Gibson says

        Thanks Debbie! I appreciate your response. It is about time I dig deeply. I’ve been stuck but my latest bumpy ride demands I do, say, and write more. I’m curious what you think of ‘Susan.’

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *