January 23, 2020
I stood there, on a summer’s sidewalk. The Wisconsin sunshine furnace heated concrete which replied skyward with a pleasant warmth. Like dampened, knitted mittens upon an old radiator’s coils, my body soaked in the heat. I squinted my eyes to look in any direction, even down at my bared feet. Brilliant, white sun with the warmest of blue skies, it all seemd to rest a hand upon my exposed shoulders.
Rare. A rare summer heat that does not cause a scramble to find shade. The sidewalk is not too hot for toes unaccustomed to being uncovered. Shoulders and nose rejoice in the kisses of fresh, warm air.
My mind needed to catch up. Smiling, I felt as though I was a horse, resting while standing. Pausing, breathing. Resting. Of course, I did not realize it at the time.
There I stood, on the sidewalks of Hendricks Street in a Wisconsin smalltown, north of cities of any geographic and economic importance, amid rivers of fish and forests, but forests not of the romantic, emerald green. Amid all the shortcomings, there I was, home. On a Hendricks Street sidewalk off Third Street in summertime.
I looked down at my hand in a turn of the head which seemed to last hours. A comfort in repetition or perhaps of practice replaced any impatience. My fingers wrapped around the handle of an antique suitcase. A familiar case, its black covering and white piping trim held my most prized, eight year old possession, my collection of Barbie dolls.
I stood without sense of anyone or anything, in the comfort of an eight year old’s possessions and the eyes of a fifty-four year old woman. I stood entirely full of sense, with ponytail, red bandana top and cutoff jeans. The only missing objects might have been my equally antique Snoopy stuffed animal and my bicycle with its basket. But I was not going anywhere. I was not saying good-bye. I felt no anxiety, no impulse yet no joy. I just stood. I looked down at my hand clutching the case’s handle.
I was resting.
“The Rest in the Story” is a title which will not burn with flames of desire and passion, hm? I would love to say that there are times with omissions of burnings and desires; these are the times of kindling fires. But I refuse the romanticism here. Nope. Not this time.
Why cannot there be times, when it is the grandest of rests?
For the new year I was determined to embark on a quest of self discovery and self improvement, directed not by the spinning of passions and emotions but rather pointed by the magnetic north of a compassed question, “Well, why don’t you find out?”
Well, Steph, why don’t you?
Then all heaven broke through with family outings, solid plans, good news, solutions and marvelous breakthroughs. No, I am not kidding. Some dreams were redirected. Some dreams were destroyed. (Some of that destruction was the proverbial “Thank G~d for the times He said “No””). I cleared out a financial mess which had plagued me for years. I cleared the decks, so to speak but not without a bit of concern.
But I felt a bit lost without some of those ghosts. That is what they became. Ghosts.
Why must I always wonder? Why must I always think about things? Why? I came full circle, as is said, face to face with questions and hopefully as much truth as I could muster.
But I realized I could not return to those questions because the answers would rely upon people who never had cared. At a time in my life when my whole life changed, they had judged me with purposeful cruelty. I realized that truth, as many realizations do, when I found myself in a different business setting. I was working on a contract. In the midst, we spoke of transparency. I found the moment surreal when I described, with ease and without forethought, the quality of answered questions. In business situations, there are always answers to be had. A problem or a question always has an answer. If someone never gives you one or the answer is murky or if the answers never are clear even after the test of time, then there was no answer. The answer had nothing to do with the question.
The absence of clarity is the answer.
Sounds straightforward now, does it not? Perhaps time needed the ride of forty five minute daily commutes in order to clear those decks. My sense of justice would never be satisfied because if it was, then I would have sinned a greater sin than the first placed upon me. I needed to change. There would be no justice or revenge which could balance the harm they inflicted upon my soul, my G~dgiven soul.
They got my intellect to write curriculum. They got my efforts to carry through lavish holiday celebrations. They got my innovations in the classrooms. Then they terminated me, splitting the remainder of my salary among them.
Plus, they could call me un-Christian after years of reveling in their acceptance of me, a mongrel of culture and religion.
When I recognized that kernel in my mongrel soul, I realized I wanted to change. The experience will be with me forever. I will never forget it. Even if I did, I will always have my diaries from that time. I do not want to forget but the impact of their cruelty has become a part of me. I will look at the world differently. Forever. Unfair? Yes.
But I am wasting time. Tick. Tock. The gift of age and time is the necessity to prioritize. Was that experience necessary? I did not think so, but I have changed my mind. The experience was totally necessary even if it has taken me five years to figure out how.
Now, in 2020 no less, I need to let it change me again. And I think the important distinction is my need to let it change me. I had hoped for apologies but I have received none. My ex-husband – I know, right? – recommended I forgive myself rather than focusing upon forgiving them. What happens when I place all my incredible focus into my own forgiveness? How does that manifest in life?
Well, for example, I want to write a book. I imagined that I would detail the experience with raw honesty to somehow show the world. But I do not want to write a book focused upon cruelty. I made a vow to myself and to my father.
I will write a beautiful story, a beautiful book. But it may not be pretty.
In these January days of 2020, I can feel my path unfolding. I have to not negate the universe. I do not want to nonchalantly shrug my shoulders at G~d’s direction for me. It would be like having all the tools needed for the job you know you are supposed to be doing, yet questioning if you have those tools.
Steph, stop it.
But I no longer tell myself to stop it. I remembered those years of deference to people who would later mock me. I also remembered other years when I worked for people who deserved and received my deference but would never allow that deference to become purpose.
They wanted my intellect. They did not want my fear. I am fortunate to work for a second corporation who wants my respect….and my intelligence.
I was ready to keep walking. My mind spent hours at rest. “Look down, see the suitcase, see my hand clutching the handle.”
“Look down, see the suitcase, see my hand clutching the handle. Warm, white sunlight.”
May you have moments in which you rejoice in the bizarre comforts of your mind and the sage advise of dreams and the directions of ones prayers. May you be blessed with such times – no matter if they are seconds, minutes, hours within a day. (Mind health!) May you be able to welcome the calm and peace of sunlight’s warmth (or as in the case of this Wisconsinite – my memory of that ‘July feeling’ of sunlight!).
As we head into the season of love (yahoo, Valentine’s Day…), I wish you an abundance.
And, selfishly, I wish for you to return for the finale of this series entitled, “Well, why don’t you find out?”
I think it’s time. I have my suitcase.
Love, Blessings, and big old sloppy, embarassing fifty-four year old kiss.
ps. I will always wonder why I cannot be more civilized romantically? Or at least a bit ‘cool’?