My face has been etched with lines by the cruel, cold fingers of time. The years, disappointments, hardships and hurts have worn crevices deep and shallow all about my eyes, my mouth, my cheeks and across my forehead. The skin on my body sags as if it is exhausted and can no longer hold up its head. Flapping in the wind like a flag with no strength of its own. It is crinkled and somewhat spotted with age, hanging with weariness from brittle bones. Everything about me is tired. I have walked many decades upon this earth. It astounds me…my age! I’m confused. How did I get here? Yesterday, I swear, I was 17, 19, 25. Sun and moon, sun and moon have passed over and around me, relentlessly, at hyper speed. The hands of time have spun like the giant wheel on a game show, spinning so fast, I couldn’t ever comprehend what was at stake. “Take a chance,” the wheel of time chides. “Next time you spin, your luck will be better!” But it never is. I lose more and more with each minute that is spent hoping, placing endless bets with the seconds, frittering them away. I am tired of losing. I thought I had plenty of those seconds. They were the pawns in the game of life. I was wrong. They are no longer plentiful. And they have become as precious as the queen. I protect them as I would the king. Yet still, I am losing the game. I have worked hard, but I have nothing to show for it. I am at a stage of life where everything is supposed to have finally come together. Where I am supposed to be able to reap the reward of my hard labor. But instead, I still toil. To no avail. Instead of gaining, I have lost. Everything. My marriage disintegrated. It wasn’t much to start with, but it eroded quickly early on, crumbling beneath my feet, until the relationship was deeply and irreparably flawed. And then, it was no more. Friends have fallen away. Connections, tenuous though they were, have frayed and disappeared altogether. I have lost too many jobs and have had too many lengthy breaks between them. All my money is gone…not that I ever had much. Yes, instead of progressing, I’m regressing. I don’t know how I will pay my bills. If I will be able to buy food. How I will afford a car that is reliable or how I can possibly repair it when it needs attention. It’s as if I’ve returned to the place where I started. To that time when I had nothing. To the point of beginning. But I am not just beginning. I am nearing the end. And I am empty-handed.
Yes, this is the place I started when I began my journey…worrying, trying to find a good job that would allow me to have a little left over at the end of the week. Building relationships. Trying to make my way through life. Trying to find meaning. Trying to get through the day. The week. Hoping to build a cushion. A small place where I could be safe and where there was some security. I remember the days of only having a dollar left in my checking account with two days left of the week and no food. But now, now I’m old. I’m supposed to be able to retire soon. A pipe dream. It will never happen. I’m supposed to have more dollars left; a few to spare and plenty to buy whatever I need. But this is not my reality. Funds are dwindling just like those precious, dwindling seconds of time. I have no retirement, no savings, no home, no income. I have no spouse, no purpose, no value, no hope. There is no safety. No security. No cushion. Nothing has turned out as planned. Nothing has worked the way I expected.
Time has been harsh and I have fallen hard. I have lost far too many spins of the wheel.
What I do have is a brother and sister-in-law who have provided a place for me to live for the moment. Until I can get a job. Get my feet back under me. They believe in me far more than I believe in myself. I worry what will happen if I can’t pick myself up again quickly enough. I worry that I will become a huge and trying burden. One they will resent. For I’m afraid there isn’t enough left of my soul to keep fighting. Not enough heart in me to keep trying to prove myself. To keep contributing; pouring myself out. I haven’t the will to continue to eek out a living. I pray they don’t live to regret their generosity. I pray I will somehow be able to compensate them. But nothing is looming on the horizon…well, nothing positive. And already, they are wary. I’ve no resources. My life is a desert. Water is currently unavailable. My mouth is dry and I am very lonely and thirsty. And broken. I have nothing to offer them. Nothing but weariness. And fear. And need.
I have struggled and fought for a very long time. Honestly, I don’t understand why it seems the world is against me. Why so little good has come my way. Why others win with much less effort and I fail though I try with everything within me. The battles, continual and brutal, have taken a massive toll. I have nothing left with which to pay. I am afraid all of my strength is depleted. Everything is gone.
My smile is brittle and forced. My heart beats weakly, with great effort. I haven’t even tears left to cry. Numb and defeated, I stagger through the day, seeking that place where I lost my soul. Where did I leave my purpose? My hope? My courage? My will to live? My ability to believe? Surely they are around here somewhere? Have you seen them? I need them…badly…
I have become worn down. Everything has been worn away. I attempt to think positive thoughts. I purpose to have hope. To be grateful for the things that remain rather than to grieve all that has been taken and is no more. It takes energy to defy my reality and believe in tomorrow. A great deal of energy. Energy I find I no longer have. I start with uplifting thoughts, only to fade. They are blown away like chaff in the wind. Redirected by the current. Thankfulness is shot through with fear. The light is swallowed by a thick fog of desperation. Sometimes, everything doesn’t work out in the end. Sometimes, things end badly. Sometimes, when we are so tired we can no longer keep walking, so old that our steps become a painful trial, sometimes, things end mid-step. Not neat and pretty and perfectly. Sometimes, the end comes before we can finish the story. The last pawn is lost. The last second comes, then goes, and no more come after. Sometimes, time simply runs out. And we lose. Everything.
Sometimes it’s checkmate. And the game is over. And all the positive thoughts and energy in the universe can’t change the fact that it’s finished. That it’s the final spin. We placed the final bet. And lost.