Monday, July 4, 2011

Fraidy Cat Choices in a Fraidy Cat World - Pt. 2

I had arrived at the meeting feeling more overwhelmed and lonely than usual. I was more certain than ever that my old life was really over. I laughed little and made even less eye contact with anyone. I made my way out into the chill night air without saying goodbye. I tried to make my exit invisible. If only, I could climb into the shelter of the car, blast the heat on, and soak in the shelter and anonymity of the darkness. I would make the miles between me and home last as long as possible. Increasingly, the car was my only safe space in the world. The safest place was the darkest corner of an otherwise busy parking lot after dark. In those invisible places my anguish poured out in abundance.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creations
The door closed behind me with that hollow sound of sharp thuds on chilly nights. It opened again with an urgency that made me hasten my sluggish steps. Someone was in a hurry to punch off the next thing on an overcrowded to do list. I envied a place to go and a life to live. In the next breath, I knew. It was him. He was not close enough that I could take a long slow inhale of his cologne. He was close enough that if I turned abruptly, we would collide. If only I could bring myself to turn.

We were alone in the darkness. No one but us seemed to be in a hurry that night. He had not lost his military swagger, and his gait belied his Marine background. He was gaining on me and waiting for me to turn. We were parked in adjacent spaces. In an instant I knew I had a choice to make. The choice would define who I was. It would determine the future of my family.

They say your life flashes before your eyes just before things like a wreck occur. In that moment as my world threatened to collide with the unknown, life did flash before my eyes. It was as if some super computer had taken over my brain. I gasped the chilled air in panic and was rewarded with a sudden light-headed disorientation. The word began to tilt and spin under my feet as if I was on a carnival ride.

My heart longed to let my body spin just like my head was spinning. Only inches separated me from words that had gone unspoken for months on end. There was no doubt in my mind what choice I would make if I turned. We could both say what was hanging in the air. I knew we would make a plan. Our conversations would no longer need to be quick snatches here and there. I could drink in the laughter in those eyes at my leisure. He could remind me again that he saw me in the midst of my painful life even though I felt invisible.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creations
I paused with my hand on the handle of my car door. I paused a scintilla of a second. Then, I slowly opened the door, got in without looking at him, cranked the engine, and drove away. I heard the pieces of my heart crunch between the pavement and my wheels. Watching in the rear view mirror, I saw his car, then his tail lights, disappear in the other direction. I knew I had ended what had never really begun. I knew he would understand the period at the end of my sentence. I knew things would never be the same. I was as alone as I had ever been.

I pulled over in the darkest corner of the first busy parking lot and doubled over in grief. I was going to a house that was not a home. I was going back into the lion's den. If my husband was awake, there would be no warm and cheerful greeting, no eyes dancing with mirth, no real recognition of me at all. In fact, the best I might hope for was a growl if I got too close to the door of his office. It was a place I dared not set foot inside anymore. I did not know what I would discover several years later. A monster was living in the shadows of our lives. I did not know that monster had robbed us of all we might ever have been. All I knew then was how harsh and cold and lonely my world had become.

As the sobs subsided, I told myself there would be consolation in the fact that my choice had been honorable, unselfish, and for a greater good. I had not been above reproach because he belonged to someone else as did I. Yet, I had chosen to honor the fidelity he had promised to her decades before. I had not done to another woman what I did not want done to me. I had chosen my children's peace of mind over my momentary comfort. Had I chosen a different path, I was sure that I would have only added confusion to an already confusing life. At least, I could spare them that added chaos.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creations
Wrong added to wrong would have not made anything right. I looked up at the skies with so many stars watching over me. “Oh, God...why have you forgotten me? How much longer can I live through this? Will it ever end? I am so lonely. Where are you?” Only silence filled the air. I cranked the car and headed into the cold and lonely night toward home.

When next I saw him, our eyes met and held with unspoken resignation and grief. I raised my shoulders in question. From down the empty hallway, he nodded one slow nod to say he understood that reality was what it was. In the following months, we did a slow, sad dance. The laughter was still there, but our eyes no longer twinkled when they met and held. Often, he would give me that slow single nod. Now the message was, “I still see you, and I understand. I still care, but I understand.”

One sunny morning just as spring began to signal its approach, I rounded a corner intent on making another quick and invisible departure. I came face to face with the woman I had come so close to betraying. I pulled up short as did she. She asked to speak to me a moment. My heart sank. My reckoning time had come. I had earned whatever she had to deliver. She laid her arm on mine and began to thank me for the small remembrance I had provided for a recent family event. She told me how much it meant that, in the middle of all I had going on, I would remember them.

Behind her, he rounded the corner in a mad dash at the behest of that never ending to do list. His effervescent and almost omnipresent smile did a slow, confused fade. Shock registered on his face as his thoughts mirrored my own raggedy expectations. As he stood agape, she and I embraced. His eyes closed, and a sigh escaped. He looked at me and smiled that now familiar slow, sad smile. A glint of tears filled his eyes. Again the slow nod. This time it was to acknowledge relief for choices we did not make all those months ago. He nodded again and mouthed, “Thank you...I mean it...thank you,” and then quietly turned and walked away. As miserable as I felt in that moment, I knew I could look myself in the mirror that day and all the days after. I might flinch, but I could do it.

See, I told you. I didn't want you to be shocked. I told you that my life has unfolded in such a way that you can hardly come up with an inner fraidy cat whose acquaintance I have not made. I bet you are closer to believing me now, huh? I hope you'll come back tomorrow and bring a friend. I'm afraid you won't. I'm writing my way back to God. Won't you come along?

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creations

Psalm 139 (NIV) 1 You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely. 5 You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. 

6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. 7 Where can I go from your Spirit?    Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me,  your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.


  1. Of course I'll come along. I wouldn't miss it!

  2. Carol, I love the words "I am working my way back to God." You have much to say. Marcia

  3. I love the scripture you use to illustrate... It is so on the mark and speaks to my soul. I find myself in your words... It's just I don't know how to express what I am feeling ... How is it that you do?

  4. Marcia, lol, I had to do a double is 'writing my way back to God' vs working my way back. I nearly had an attack! Writing at 2a leads to some interesting discoveries re line edits the next AM when I realize what I posted.

    Coming from a multi-award winning writer such as yourself, I appreciate the kudos. I am honored that you stopped by my blog today. I hope you'll come back often and stay a few minutes more each time!

  5. Dear Anon, we are even! Your words moved ME! I did think the passage for today was especially appropriate given that a choice made in secret is no secret to God. Thanks for your confirmation.

    As to how I do what I do? Of course, I depend upon God's enrichment as he allows what I write to resonate with those who drop by. Other than that, I can say that I have always been a voracious reader of anything from fiction to nonfiction. I read x2 newspapers a day in 4th grade. I think that background gifted me with both rich language and rich imagery to draw from. Finally, perhaps I am a little more willing to 'put it out there' than some because the fraidy cat in all of us DREADS public exposure. It's why we wear our game faces and our Sunday-go-to-meeting faces and our never let 'em see you sweat faces. Don't you think?

    Thanks for dropping by. I mean that! Come back and bring a friend...won't ya?