The One He Loves

I always thought he would be able to love me if I could lose weight.  Be thin.  And trim.  But the one he loves has thunder-thighs and a poochy tummy.  She’s not as heavy as I was toward the end of our marriage, the time of ultimate despair and self-loathing.   But she’s not even close to small.  She has substance and heft.   Casts a shadow you can’t miss.  Certainly isn’t close to ideal societal standards.  She doesn’t puke up what she puts in her mouth.  She eats.

I thought if I could be pretty enough…so he could feel good about people seeing him holding my hand…he could find a way to love me.  I wasn’t pretty, but I did what I could to look nice for him.  Fixed my makeup and hair.  Did what I could to make myself presentable.  Yet she, the one he loves, she is not what one would call pretty.  She’s okay.  Kind of on the plain side.  Normal.  Average.  Not the “arm candy” type.  Not the type who possesses beauty that would inspire such great devotion.  And yet.  He is.  Devoted.  To her.

I thought if I worked hard enough and made enough money to take care of us, he would find value in me.  Appreciate me and what I “brought to the table.”   But the one he loves works for a non-profit.  She’s not a big earner in any sense.  She lets him take care of her.  And he inherited a fortune from his parents.  So he takes care of her in ways he never even thought about with me.  Because he loves her.  And he never loved me.  No matter how hard I tried to give him reasons to love me.  No matter how much I tried to make things easy…or at least easier.

I thought if I dressed well, colored away the gray, looked put together, acted normal and was stylish, he would love me and be proud of me.  Or at the very least, be accepting.  Yet, the one he loves is sloppy.  Her hair is salt and pepper…mostly salt.  Frizzy, unstyled.  She wears no makeup.  Her clothes are haphazard and mismatched.  She looks anything but put together.   But he loves her.  The unfashionable and frumpy.  Because she doesn’t have to act normal.  She doesn’t have to try to have worth.  She just is.  She just does.

I thought if I was successful, he would see that there was more to being a good wife than cooking a meal every night (at which I failed miserably) and cleaning the toilets or dusting (yep, failed at that too).  He was the one with the low paying job and easy hours.  I was the one who was paying our bills and providing opportunities for him to enjoy and indulge.  I was working myself to death in an attempt to make something of myself.  But he left me.  And married her.  The one he loved and loves still.  Because she doesn’t have to do anything to deserve it.  She doesn’t have to earn acceptance.  She is cherished.  She brings a smile to his face.  No matter what she does…or doesn’t do.

That face once looked at me with utter disdain.  It was painted clearly across his disapproving features and reflected in those disappointed eyes.  What I was…it was never enough.  I wasn’t good enough.  Or enough.  Because I wasn’t someone like her.

The one he loves is accepted.  Cared for.  Appreciated.  Wanted.  Valued.  Important.  Beautiful in his eyes.  Everything I always wanted to be, but never could become.

Being thin, successful, hardworking, loyal, intelligent…none of it made a difference.  Because I was me.  And he really didn’t like me at all.

I wasn’t able to live up to his expectations.  I wasn’t able to change who I was inside.  I couldn’t make feelings I felt and thoughts that played endlessly through my weary brain go away.  I couldn’t fix the broken places.  I couldn’t be a different person.  I couldn’t change everything that was shattered and damaged.   I couldn’t stop being…me.

I’m glad he found her.  Truly I am.  But I do so wish he could have found something to love in me.

 

Alone Again, Naturally

“…In my hour of need
I truly am indeed
Alone again, naturally

It seems to me that
there are more hearts
broken in the world
that can’t be mended

Left unattended
What do we do? What do we do?

 –Gilbert O’Sullivan – Alone Again (Naturally)–

In a couple of weekends, many of us who are fortunate enough to be off for Good Friday will have a holiday weekend.  A time when family and friends get together.  Share.  Connect. Relax.  Enjoy.  At least, that’s what genuine friends and healthy family members do to celebrate a holiday.  Close family.  Close friends.  It is a time to celebrate.  Together.

But I’m going to be alone.  Again.  Life happens all around me.  Not with me.  Not in me.

Most of my time after work is spent sitting on the couch with my dogs on my lap.  I am their bed.  Their protector.  I give them warmth.  They snuggle their noses under my hand and breathe heavily. They keep me company and I am glad they are with me.  But I am still very alone.  Again.  Naturally.  Just me and the dogs. 

I thank God for the dogs.

The TV plays endlessly.  I’m not watching.  Or even listening; not really.  It’s noise.  To keep me company.  To chase away the silence.  To distract me from the emptiness.

I feel so isolated.  So unwanted.   Life holds no meaning without connectedness.

The upcoming holiday is one that prompts us to reflect.  To reflect on the past.  To be grateful.  I remember.  But I do not want to remember.

The past holds no appeal.  It holds only pain and sadness. Abuse. Rejection.  Brokenness.  There is no hope there.  The past is the place of my demise.  The past is where I was destroyed. Fractured.  Fragmented.  Ground to dust.

But the future doesn’t hold hope either.  Only the promise of more of the same.  More rejection.  More pain.  More isolation.  More destruction.  More silence and emptiness.

I fought it.  I fought this fate.  But fate was not intimidated by me, nor impressed with my efforts to escape.  My past became my future became my past became my future.  A river with swift and dangerous currents that flow where they want.  Eroding the ground where I stand.  The currents sweep my feet out from under me and carry me away. 

I absently listen to the television playing endlessly.  Background noise.  I need the background noise. Distraction.

It has been rainy and it is predicted to be wet and gloomy over the holiday weekend.  I have been in this place before too many times.  I will watch the water painting rivulets down each window pane, my vision distorted; blurred.  I will try not to think about the emptiness of my life.  I will try to blur reality.  I will try to convince myself that what is isn’t.  But running takes energy and I’m almost completely drained.

I’ve been alone.  For too many days.  For too many years.  For too may decades.  It has been raining. For too many days.  For too many weeks.  I’ve been in pain.  For too many days and for too many long, sleepless nights.

They say more storms are coming.  Wind.   Violent weather.  My whole life has been a violent storm.  I have been alone through too many violent storms.  I am weary of the storms.  Of being battered and beaten by them.  I don’t know how many more storms I can face…alone.

Alone.  As I have been nearly every day of my life.  Alone.  In a vast universe.  A dot.  Nothing.   Alone. 

Life holds no meaning.  My life seems so empty…because it is empty.  I have tried to fill it up.  I have tried in vain.  My life, like the coming holiday, is hollow.  I am drowning in endless emptiness.   Desolate.

I talk in the silence to cover it with my words.  I turn on the TV.  I talk to my dogs.  I make noise to drive away the meaninglessness.  But nothing works.  Nothing.  I pretend.  I ignore.  I discard reality.  Deny.   But in spite of my pretense, there is one fact I can’t escape.  I am alone again.  As always.  I am alone and disconnected.

Alone again.  Naturally.

I dance to the radio to make myself move.  To force my limbs to life.  I dance alone as my dogs watch me, amused by my wild contortions and seeming madness.  They grab their toys and run around me, shaking them viciously, happily squeaking squeakers.  I dance on.  Alone in the midst of their joy.  I twirl.  Alone. 

Beating back the silence. Trying to beat back the silence.  Always trying to escape the silence.  And the emptiness.  Always trying to fill this yawning void that can’t be filled.

Alone again, naturally.

 

 

 

Kiss

He moved closer
closer
so close I wanted
to step back
but then he
suddenly pulled me
to himself
holding me fast
in his hungry grip
and he smiled at me
just before
his lips
touched mine

Gently at first
he kissed me
the shock of it
leaving me
paralyzed
and uncertain
frightened
stunned

His hunger grew
as he parted my lips
with his unrelenting tongue
I was so young
I did not understand

Sensing my resistance
he pulled away slightly
for a moment
looked at me with a wicked smile
playing on
those lips
that had just
devoured mine
“I’m teaching you”
he said
before quickly kissing me again
harder
deeper
more insistent
out of control

I wanted to tell him
to stop
I wanted to tell him
I didn’t like it
that it felt wrong
but I could barely catch my breath
barely breathe at all
my brain was frozen
and I could not make
my mouth
form words

Confusion clouded my thoughts
fear kept me from action
I pushed
in a weak attempt
to escape
his iron grip

“Please daddy…
please, no”
It was all I could say
once I was finally able to speak

He only chuckled
and said
“We’ll have more lessons
soon
many more lessons”
“I will teach you”
“I know what is best for you”

And then, he left me
standing alone in my room
unsure of what to do
feeling very lost
empty
and bewildered
feeling dirty
somehow tainted
and degraded
knowing something precious
had just been stolen
that parts of me
had been broken
into pieces
and shattered
from
having just experienced
my first
kiss

 

 

 

Sacrifice

She thanks me for
the sacrifice
I made
so she could live her life
uninterrupted
by the truth
by consequences
or by pain
she’s grateful
that I kept it quiet
and that I do not
blame
her
or my father

It’s redemption
that she seeks –
she longs to know
they did not fail
and I turned out okay;
at least the parts that show
so they could not
have done too badly
after all
and surely
no one does the job
of parenting
the way they thought they would
surely
no one does it
any better

She claims
she’s always loved me
always will
and she prays
the love she has for me
will fill
the cracks
and wounds
unintentionally
inflicted

It’s in the past
she’s quick to state
where it should stay
but surely God
will use it
to bring good about
of that promise
there’s no doubt
so I should cast
my cares on Him
and let it go
these long ago
dark secrets
and get on with life
I did the right thing
when I made
the sacrifice

Yet –

something in
her rhetoric
disturbs me
in some deep
unsettling way
hard to identify
not visible
to the naked eye
it touches something
buried in my mind

What kind of love
thinks of itself
first
using a child
their own child
to fill their needs
or worse
taking
abusing
never noticing
the devastating blows
it is releasing
the devastating
wounds
it is inflicting

The damage
not intended
surely doesn’t count
against them
does it
I could not
hold it
against them –

and while I don’t
while I have worked
long
to forgive them
still I am a prisoner
of their sordid
ugly
“needs”
twisted desires
rejection and neglect
for I am
yet tangled
in the tentacles
of their abhorrent deeds
done in darkness

This “sacrifice”
she claims I made
was just a child
doing what she had to
to survive
their crushing abuse
a vain attempt
to try
to stay
alive

And even now she cannot see
in truth
they’re the ones
who sacrificed
me

 

 

You Believed In Me

Oh, Grandma
I never did get to tell you…

Things were not
talked about
in our family.
Words
always remained
unspoken –
heavy
ripe
and hanging in the
silent air –
implied.

The air
was so very
cluttered
frightening
and full.
But we knew the rules
and did not give birth
to thoughts
or feelings.

You
sometimes
broke the rules
and handed us
such precious
gems
of love.

How well I remember
the day
I came running to you,
poem in hand –
silly second grade
rhyme
that seemed so wise
to my second-grade mind.

You sat me
on your lap
out under the trees
and read each word
as if
it were
the most beautiful
you had ever read.
Very seriously
you appraised each line
(there were only four)
each rhyme…
then graciously
you handed me
the most precious
gem
of love
you could have given me.

You exclaimed
with heartfelt sincerity
that my poem
was wonderful!
And beautiful!
And that I had such talent
and should
always
keep writing…

I played by the rules.
I never told you
how much you meant
to me –
you
my only fan,
my only encouragement.
The regret
hangs
heavy
in the silent
air.

But because of you
dear Grandma
though I cannot say the words,
I pluck them
ripe
and
write them
down.

 

Carving

When we are born, with our first cry and gasping breath of air, we begin a lifelong quest to find our place in the world.  A place where we have what we need.  Where pain can’t reach.  Where we can “be” without having to fight for every crumb.

We enter this life confused and often leave just as befuddled as we were on our first day.  But we are usually much more tired and considerably more jaded by the end, having lost hope of ever building something meaningful or of leaving our mark behind.  Weary of the battle in our futile attempt to find a small place where we can plant our feet, that we can call our own and where we can be safe from the hardships of life, we slip and slide through the days, trying to navigate around traps and trickery, attacks and trials.  We learn fairly quickly that no matter how much or little we gamble, no matter what chances we take or how safe we play it, the house always wins.  We are born and we will die.  We arrive empty-handed and will be forced to leave the same way.

In between, we are frantically carving.  Carving out some semblance of an existence.

In fact, we spend a good portion of our days seeking to create a small space in life in which we can exist without too much disruption or pain.  We spend a considerable amount of time carving a life out of emptiness and despair.  We tell ourselves that what we do matters.  That we matter. Our contribution matters.  That we are creating a legacy of which we can be proud.  But in our quiet and lonely moments, we know better.  The truth becomes all too real.  We have nothing worthwhile to offer and will have even less to leave behind us when our time runs out.  We are one of millions who exist only to die, having accomplished nothing much, if anything, of lasting value.  The world goes on.  It leaves us behind as if we never existed.

Very few of us are remembered beyond a handful of years after our death.

All the time we spend carving out a tiny bubble that offers us minimal protection and that allows us to breath and live, life is carving away on us.  Carving away pieces of our heart.  Carving lines on our face.  Whittling away at our hope.  Our dreams.  Until there is nothing left.

We go on vacations to “relax” because the stress of trying to keep what little we have makes us sick and keeps us up at night. We take up hobbies and spend way too much money on entertainment.  We sit, playing game after game of solitaire to pass time, never realizing until it’s too late that the short time we were allotted has been whittled away until nothing is left but dust.

We think we are making something of ourselves.  We think we are creating a worthwhile life.  We carve and carve…careers, clothes, houses, cars, power, building up bank accounts  and stacking up possessions as if we could take it all with us.  We work long hours at jobs we dislike to “provide” for ourselves and those who are important to us for reasons me may never fully understand.  We constantly seek a better address, a more important job, authority and recognition.  We attempt to carve something beautiful out of our busy lives.  But in the quiet of the night when the emptiness is magnified to the point it can no longer be ignored, even we don’t believe in the beauty of our creation.

For all the whittling we do as we try to make the best of our circumstances and opportunities, for all the maneuvering and positioning, no matter what our intent or what level our integrity, we all end up at the same place.  Death takes the final slice of us, cutting off our breath.  It turns out the lights as it carries us away into the darkness.

We think we are creating a masterpiece.  That is what we tell ourselves as we pat ourselves on the back and soak up each “success.”  Yet our masterpiece is but a tiny, insignificant dot in the fabric of time.  We can deceive ourselves into believing we are something magnificent and important, but reality always has the last laugh.  Our fantasies are no match for reality’s chisel.

dust-760x380We think we are the carvers.  We tell ourselves this because we carve a life out of nothing. But it comes to nothing, and so it is nothing.  And at the end, we learn that we were not the master craftsmen we believed ourselves to be.  Life has whittled us into a shape and form we never intended.  With our final breath, we discover we have created only sawdust in spite of all our hard work and backbreaking effort.  We’re left holding only scraps and slivers and splinters.   This is when we finally see that we are indeed nothing but dust..and to dust we all eventually, inevitably return.

 

 

The Invisible

We walk beside you.  Work with you.  Go to the same class you attend.  Watch the same shows.  Cheer for the same teams.  Drive the same roads.  But you don’t see us.  Don’t notice us.  We are the invisible.

The abused.  Trying to blend in.  To look and act “normal.” To deflect attention. To be noticed is to be scrutinized and judged.  Rejected.  Mocked.  Because no matter how hard we try to be normal, we are different.  We have seen, experienced and felt things that we weren’t designed to see or experience.  We aren’t equipped to handle the gut-ripping emotions; the overwhelming and intense pain of the soul.  Fractured, we become the walking wounded.  One of those pathetic, disturbing creatures who should surely be avoided at all costs.

We try to fit in.  We laugh when you laugh, hoping you won’t notice that it took us a split second longer to react.  The computer in our brain is always analyzing as it seeks to produce the correct response. To find the proper words.  The correct facial expression for the occasion.

If we are good actors, you will never notice us beyond a passing glance.  We won’t stand out.  We will remain invisible.

The old.  We’ve nothing to flaunt.  We can’t shake our head of shiny, thick hair in the sun to demand attention because we no longer have a lush mane.  Our shorts are longer so as to hide skin that has lost elasticity.  Our tops have sleeves to camouflage our flaccid arms.  Parts of us resemble a Sharpei.  Mid-drift tops are shunned and low necklines have long ago been abandoned.  We may still wear fashionable clothing and have a spring in our step.  But your eye will not be drawn to firm buns or toned calves because we don’t possess them.  In fact, it is likely your eye won’t be drawn to us at all.

We move through the grocery store unnoticed.  At best, we do our shopping without leaving a trace of ourselves behind.  At our worst, we are sometimes in the way.  A pest.  Quickly assessed and then disregarded.

The un-pretty.  We don’t fit the proper mold.  Our features are not perfectly symmetrical.  Our eyes may be too close together or too far apart.  They aren’t blue and our hair isn’t full and blonde.  Our legs are too short.  Our feet too big. Our smiles crooked or too generous.  Our ankles too fat.  Our thighs rub together and our stomach protrudes.  We turn heads…in the other direction.  No one smiles when they see us coming.  If they notice us at all, they look away, avert their eyes, find someone more pleasing to watch until we have passed by.  Someone who is impressive.  Who is worthy of adulation.

The abused who are also older and who don’t meet…and likely never have met…our societal standards for pretty – well, it’s a triple whammy.

Silent.  Invisible.  Here and gone without leaving a ripple behind.  We don’t even imprint on your retina.

I’m sure there are others who feel this way.  Refugees.  The poor.  Who can’t afford a cool car or trendy clothing.  The obese.  The unintelligent.  Those who never had an opportunity to go to college.  There is an army of marginalized members of society lurking in the peripheral vision of the masses.  Those who failed the test because of factors that were and that remain far beyond their control.

The invisible sea of individuals who don’t measure up.  Who are odd.  Who have no hope of acceptance because of how they look, what has been done to them and a pathetic lack of resources.

I am adrift in this sea.

I am one of the abused.  Badly abused.  Rejected.  I am older.  Old by the standards of youth.  I have never been one of the beautiful people.

Not only has the outside of me failed to measure up, no one has been able to find beauty in my soul.  Or in my heart.  No one has been able to accept me for who I am.  My warts are somehow far, far worse than those of most others.  My flaws too horrible.  So, I go through my day without acceptance.  Without touch.  Mostly without notice.  Without anyone to care or to assure me the difficulties and hurts I’ve encountered will somehow work out.  That I can and will get through them.  In reality, they probably won’t work out and I’ll only get through them if I can find the strength within me to keep walking in spite of the agony.

You don’t see me, but that slight breeze you felt on your cheek may have been the air I stirred as I walked past you.

We are the invisible.  Imperfect creatures.  Broken.  Not as successful as is expected or required.  Certainly, not as glamorous or physically pleasing.  Our deficiencies are often hard to mask.  And so, people block us from their mind and gush over the more perfect among us instead.  Worshiping youth.  And “hotness.”

It’s actually not too terrible…not be recognized as being a person or of having value.  I’m certainly left alone.  And though no one speaks to me beyond what is necessary, though they cut me off in line and seem surprised to see me standing behind them if I have the courage to speak up, for the most part, life’s transactions can be conducted in the shadows with a certain amount of efficiency.  And without too much hassle.

There was a time when I wanted someone to see me because I prayed there was someone special in the world who would love and accept me despite my flaws and brokenness.  I have learned.  Reality has replaced fantasy.  And reality is empty of most everything, though it is filled to overflowing with isolation.

Now, I am content if people don’t bump into me and knock me down.  If they don’t cut me off.  If they lower their eyes as I walk by.  I am content when no one is hurting me.  No, not content.  But grateful.  Grateful no further damage has been done.  That I have returned safely home.  Have made it through the day without additional wounds and scars.

There is something to be said for being left alone.  There are worse things than being invisible.  I am trying to find the good in it.  Or to at least ignore the bad.

I’m trying to embrace invisibility.  To hold it close, even as I have always longed to be held.

 

Frozen

tundraCold.

Beyond cold…

Frigid.

There are no perky songs.  No happy endings.

Frozen tundra.  Ice everywhere.  No relief.  The cold is unrelenting.  Cruel.  Biting deep.  Ripping me with furious frenzy.  Piercing me through and through and through.

Emotionless.

Numb.  Totally numb.

The true walking dead.

Cold and dark.  Dark and cold.  I need some warmth.  I need some light.  I need some magic.

But there is no magic here.  Not in this empty, freezing, harsh land.  Nothing to save me.  Nothing to bring a sudden and miraculous thaw.  A rebirth. Life has ended.  There is no hope.  No rewind button.  No second chances.

The silence is complete.  A total vacuum, swallowing any noise and every anguished cry.  It is so quiet, the emptiness beats on my eardrums, creating a roar that is deafening.  An endless roar that makes no noise whatsoever.  Everything is sucked into the silence.  It eats everything alive.  Consuming it whole.  Until only death remains.  Death, darkness and this frigid, unlivable landscape within my heart.

Caught in a spell I cast and from which I cannot escape.  I created my own prison and sentenced myself; incarcerated myself.  No chance of parole.

It made sense at first.  The pain was too much to bear.  It was so raw, I felt it physically.  Pain from all the abuse.  Rejection.  From being unloved, unwanted, unacceptable.  Being so alone.  Sucked into the void.  There were layers and layers and layers of isolation wrapped tightly around me, trapping me in an empty, crushing world that terrified and maimed me.  There was no relief.  No escape.  The pain was so intense, it was killing me.

I embraced numbness to soften the intensity.  Told myself nothing mattered.  That I didn’t matter.  And if I didn’t matter, I didn’t have any reason to feel or be broken.  I didn’t have a reason to be in pain.

Instead of the pain killing me, the numbness did me in.  The numbness I created.

Unintentional suicide.

There is no returning from death.    Once frozen, even a thaw will not restore life to the heart that has stopped beating.

Frozen.  Forever frozen.

No perky songs.  No happy ending.

 

 

For Edith

This is for my friend Edith.  Because old friends are special.  They just are.

We became friends in junior high and were very close until our 3rd or 4th year of high school.  Best friends.  Best friends of the best kind.

Not that we weren’t friends after we graduated.  We were.  We wrote each other for years (I had moved away; she hadn’t).  We sent each other birthday and Christmas cards.  I was a bridesmaid in her wedding.

We were different.  Very different.  In a lot of ways.  But there was a connection.

She was honest.  Real.  Genuine.  She had a good heart.  She was intelligent.  Loved animals, especially dogs…like I did.  She lived on a farm.  I was a town kid.  She drank unpasteurized milk.  I tried, but I just couldn’t swallow it.  She rode horses bareback.  I fell off the back, literally.  If I could get on in the first place.  They scared me.  She was a horse whisperer.

Different.  But somehow, we connected.

We did our algebra homework together over the phone.  We talked about what was in our heart and on our mind.  We understood each other.

I respected her.  I saw a purity and beauty in her that inspired me.

Still does.

One recent Friday night, we got together for the second time since her wedding all those years ago.  The first time, we met in a restaurant and it was awkward.  It was hard to reconcile the older version in front of me with the person I knew in high school.  Probably was for her too.  But when we met at my house, we talked.  And it was easy.  It was fun.  I saw the young girl I knew way back when.  When we were 17.  We still had a connection and it was special.

We’ve gotten together a few times since and each time, I see more of the friend I knew so well.  I see her integrity.  How genuine she is.  How caring.  Giving.  Unique.  We are still different.  She has kids.  I don’t (except for my dogs).  She still lives out in the middle of nowhere on a farm.  I’m a city gal.  I love clothes.  To her, they’re something you need…but they’re not fun.  Yet the differences don’t matter.  They only make our relationship more interesting.

I’ve also discovered some things about her that I didn’t know back then.  Ways in which we aren’t different.

We both love mysteries and we read a lot of the same authors.  We are both Christians.  She was even in high school, though I didn’t know.  Took me longer, but I got there.  So we share quite a few values.  We think a lot alike.   We’re both a little shy and socially awkward, even after all these years.  And we run deep, preferring to talk about things that carry some weight instead of rattling on endlessly about nothing in particular.

I don’t have many friends.  I only have a couple who know anything about the real me.  Edith knew me and loved me back in the day when I was raw, messed up, struggling and pretty close to unlovable.  She believed in me when no one else did.  And I am grateful.

We lost touch.  We missed out on a lot of years.  But still, I feel her acceptance.  She has opened her heart to me again and I am amazed at the treasure she holds within.  Though I am still battered and messy, she sees a person worth knowing.  And she is willing to take the flaws with the good she finds in me.

She enriched my life then. She enriches it now.

So, this is for my friend Edith.  Because old friends are special.  And Edith is one of the most special of all.

Boots

About 7 years after I married the man I was with for 22 years, I finally landed a fairly good job that paid reasonable wages and that offered some stability.  It certainly wasn’t my first job.  And I worked hard to get this far. It was my first management position, my first time as a salaried employee and the first place that offered me a little bit of a future.

I felt comfortable enough to think about buying a house.  Not a big house.  Not a new house.  But a starter home with a yard for a dog and a garage.  A spare bedroom.  I even considered getting a new car.  Nothing fancy.  But something that wasn’t 15 years old with all kinds of mechanical problems.  Something that wouldn’t leave me stranded by the side of the road.  Something I could rely on.

Around this same time, I decided it was time to get myself a nice warm pair of snow boots.  I didn’t live in a part of the country where winters were long and severe, but we did get some ice and snow, sometimes a lot of it, if only for short periods of time.  I was tired of not having anything to wear when it was ugly out, getting snow in my shoes, freezing my toes.

My (then) husband loved Cabela’s and it was in one of their catalogues I spotted the perfect pair of boots.  They were made of a tan leather that was thick and water repellent.  They had a fluffy fleece lining and they were tall enough to reach half way to my knees.  They laced up and had slip-resistant rubber soles that promised to provide traction.  But they were pricey.  At least on my budget…good job or not.

We managed to purchase a 1500 square foot home for $55,000 in a fairly nice part of the city, filled with young families and police officers.  It had a big yard and a two car garage, walk in closets and 3 bedrooms with 2 baths.  I also purchased a brand new Honda CRX with 15 miles on the odometer.  My car payments were only $125 a month and, because of the down payment we made on the house, our house payments were less than our rent had been.  So I bought the boots.

They were out of my size by the time I decided to buy them.  They were a popular item.  I had the option of going up a half size or down.  I went down.  Vanity ruled.  My toes hit the end making them just a little uncomfortable with thick socks, but it wasn’t as if I was going to wear them all the time or hike in them.  These were my bad weather boots.  They were reasonably cute, but they were made for cold, wet, snowy conditions.  They were created to serve a higher purpose.

I’ve moved 3 times since that first house.  Three different houses in progressively better areas, one of them a state away.  I’m on my 4th dog since the one I had when I lived in that house.  My marriage ended in one of those houses when my ex left me for another woman, professing his lack of love for me and undying love for her.  I’ve held 6 jobs since the one where I became a manager for the first time in my life.  I’ve gained and lost weight, gained and lost friends, aged considerably and wrinkled even more.  It has been 30 years since I decided to buy those Cabela’s boots.  They’ve kept my feet warm and dry every snowy, cold, icy day during each of those 30 winters.  Sometimes I’ve worn them when it wasn’t snowy, but just because my feet were cold.  They still look brand new, other than the fact that the fleece in the bottom is packed down a little from having carried me around over time.

Yes, those boots have outlasted jobs, houses, dogs, friends, positions, dreams, and even my husband.  They are still there for me, faithfully keeping me warm, dry and upright when the weather is nasty.  I suppose only God has been with me longer, but because He seems so distant, it’s hard to remember He’s also still with me.  Though He has probably carried me more than they have, sadly, the boots seem more tangible.

boots-1-2017-fb1I put them on a few days ago because it was cold and rainy out and I was surprised to feel some dampness on one of my socks when I came back inside and took them off.  It made me sad.  Even though they look fairly new, they have, after all, aged just as many years as I have.  They’ve been there for me in the worst of times.  They’ve stood with me during the worst storms.

I can’t blame them for this tiny failure, in light of their long and faithful service.  And I will surely hang on to them for a few more years until they no longer offer me any protection from the bad weather of life.  In fact, I will likely keep them even after I can’t wear them simply because they have been there for me when everything else in life fell out from under me and left me broken and alone.  When I retire them, they will have earned some honor.

After 30 years, they are the only thing I still have that I had then.  This fact makes me both happy and profoundly sad.  Piece by piece, I have been dismantled and now, only the boots remain.  They are all that is left of the person I was those many years ago.  A little leaky, but still standing by, ready to protect and serve.  When I put them on, I am touching my past.  A past that was fitted with hope, belief in a wondrous future, a place of new beginnings and potential.  None of which survived.  Even my body has not fared as well as this simple pair of boots.

So much is wrapped up in those boots.  They represent a completely different universe, one where I once lived, and they carried a very different person within them.  Now, when I say goodbye to them, I will be saying goodbye to all that they symbolize and all that has been left behind.  We’ve made tracks, me and those boots.  Boots that cramp my toes even as they warm me.  We’ve come far together to have never gotten anywhere at all.  To have left so much behind.  To be all that is left to each other.

The World Through My Eyes