Like I said, I drove off in my trusty Subaru without a backward glance to the life I had lived for nearly 20 years in Denver, Colorado. It had been a good life, with many great experiences and good memories, which made it all the more difficult,and poignant, for me. I had eight hours to think.
I couldn’t help but reflect on who I’d been when I arrived there–a college graduate as of the day before I arrived; a newlywed with hopes and dreams and my whole life ahead of me; I had had a mom visiting me there through the years. I realized how much I had learned and grown in Denver. I realized I had, really, grown up in Denver.
I had entered the workforce and learned valuable lessons; I had learned to be a wife; I had learned to work to have what I thought was a real and great marriage; I had become a mother; I had served in the community; I had served in my church and had learned what it meant to be a Christian and to live a Christian life; I had made friends; I had traveled the world and had life-enriching cultural experiences; I had informally continued my education; participated in book clubs and learned about new things. And I knew all of that was ending. Actually, it was already over.
I had discovered my marriage had been built on lies and a sham of epic proportions (in my little world) with its tentacles reaching into every aspect of my personal, public, religious, and family life; I was re-entering the workforce; and my mom was dead. Everything I’d ever known or had, it seemed, was gone.
I had been unrighteously judged and accused of things I had never known about much less participated in by literally hundreds of people who knew me (and who should have known better) and by countless other hundreds of strangers (that is all I can admit to myself, who knows? It could be in the thousands, really.) Except for the support of a very small network of friends and family who had not betrayed me and abandoned me in my hour of need, I was alone. And I felt more alone than I knew one person could feel.
I don’t know how I would have done it, how I could have driven off to face my new opportunities, had I not had a very important epiphany. You see, I had my two youngest children with me in the backseat. So I couldn’t cry, wail, or do anything else that felt natural and right, to me, in that moment. I couldn’t upset them like that. Their life seemed like it was going to have enough challenges ahead without me adding to them. All I could do was think. Eight hours to think.
Thoughts ran through my mind at warp speed, so many, so quickly I don’t know that I processed them all. But I do remember wondering to myself, “How can I do this? How can this be happening? How can I be leaving my LIFE? How can I be abandoning all I have become and built over the past almost 20 years? How can this be real?” And then it hit me like a bolt of lightening. I won’t have a scar from it like Harry Potter, but it has been forever seared in my mind.
I realized I could do it, and had done it with as much grace and dignity as I could muster, I could drive off without a backward glance, I could be an example to my children and show them how you carry on and do what you have to do (even do what you don’t want to do) with your head held high, even when the direction seems impossible because…I had been blessed (yes, I realize now, BLESSED) with my neighbors.
My neighbors were good people. But some had been affected by my former spouse’s choices (and those that hadn’t, for some reason, jumped on the bandwagon anyway) and had gone from being like family to me to turning in to absolutely the most hateful and hostile people I have personally ever had the opportunity to know!
I reflected on my neighbors and realized they had a purpose in my life. I saw them for what they were to me–a blessing, in their own way. Corrie Ten Boom, author of “The Hiding Place,” was sent to a German concentration camp. Her story taught me about gratitude and choosing to give thanks in all things for SOME thing. And to look for the tender mercies that come to each of us in our lives.
In her trying and miserable existence, one day the only thing Corrie and her sister could find to be grateful for was fleas! It seemed a little ridiculous but they chose to be thankful for the fleas they lived with. (After all, gratitude is always a choice, isn’t it?) They even prayed to God and expressed their gratitude for the fleas. And do you know what? Those fleas ended up saving Corrie’s life when Nazi soldiers wouldn’t enter their barracks for inspections–because of the fleas!
I haven’t had the chance to thank those neighbors for being true fleas to me until now. But thank you. I mean that, sincerely, from the bottom of my heart.
Each of you made it easier for me to do what I had to do, and to do it with gratitude, and I will always be grateful.
Onward I drove. Eight hours to think.