(by Karin Fuller)
While driving home from a day-long bike ride recently, I caught myself feeling weirdly happy. A singing-along-with-the-radio kind of happy. It occurred to me it had been ages since I’d last felt so thoroughly up. The previous year had been especially rough; had included the painful end of an engagement and a move to a new apartment and taking on a second job, with my first job undergoing major changes at the same time. It involved parental health issues along with a few of my own. Involved rescuing feral cats and ending a friendship and a string of seemingly never-ending car issues and the ensuing stacks of bills.
Yet there I was, singing along with the radio. Bopping up the turnpike, happier than a gopher in soft dirt.
And then I began to get sleepy.
I was nearing the West Virginia border when my yawning started in earnest. I decided to switch from the radio to an audiobook, since they generally engage my brain more than music.
In the book I was listening to, Robert McCammon’s “Boy’s Life,” the main character was a mostly wise 12-year-old boy who faced having to let go of a dog he loved very much, though he knew it was the right thing to do.
Said the boy: “I had always wondered what Reverend Lovoy meant when he talked about ‘grace.’ I understood it now. It was being able to give up something that it broke your heart to lose, and be happy about it.”
Those few lines became so thoroughly tangled in my brain I ended up missing many subsequent scenes.
I thought about some of the sacrifices I’d needed to make this past year, sacrifices I hadn’t really wanted nor been entirely prepared to make. I believed I’d known the general path I would travel the rest of my life and then was flipped onto a completely different road altogether. It left me feeling as if I was paying a high personal price for someone else’s happiness—without acknowledgement or appreciation or even a half-hearted apology.
I’d tried to have grace about it but mostly failed. I’d wallowed, whined, and worried. But then I happened upon something that helped once before.
For the past couple decades, I’ve had this daily ritual. When I put my car into drive each morning as I head off to work, I say this little prayer. It’s nothing remarkable. It started as a rather ordinary prayer for protection for those I care about. As people came into my life over the years, the list grew longer. As some drifted out, their names remained. Nice little reminders of the role they once played.
Then someone who had been like a sister to me wronged me in such a huge way I’m still suffering financial repercussions from her actions nearly two years later. But prior to that day, her name had a place on my daily list. Like many of the others, it was spoken by rote.
That first day, post-revelation of what she had done, I felt hugely foolish for saying her name, yet made myself say it anyway. In the weeks that followed, I was ashamed of the anger that welled each time I included her. I was still losing sleep nightly because of her actions. I told myself only a complete dunderhead would ask continue to ask God to protect her.
And then came the day her name slipped easily from my lips.
I know myself well enough to know that, had I not been including her name in my prayers, the damage she caused would’ve grown rather than shrunk. I tend to pummel myself; am not self-forgiving. The actions might have been hers, but I had allowed it and therefore, deserved it. In little time, though, I stopped waking at night. Stopped beating myself up for having trusted. Stopped rehearsing what I’d say if she crossed my path.
It worked so well with her that I determined, in the midst of my darkness a few months back, to try it again.
This time, it worked even faster. I quickly began tasting the many sweetnesses in my new life. Saw how happy my daughter had become. Recognized how much fun I was having with her and my growing group of friends. Was excited by the new skills I was learning and the experiences I was having and the many possibilities at the edges of where I am now.
While in the midst of my drama, I didn’t have the wisdom to gracefully give up something I wasn’t ready to lose, but now, recognize that I actually lost nothing. I gained.
My world has become so much bigger. So much better.
And I’m finally living a singing-along-with-the-radio life.