I gazed over my steering wheel through swirling snow at an empty road. What a lonely stretch for my car to conk out on. A bridge bisected the highway between my growling stomach and an inn a mile ahead where a hot meal and roaring fire awaited. Last year, another traveller in a similar situation slid off that icy bridge into the ravine below.
Moments before my almost-new car died, I passed a dingy glow through the trees. The shack and my car’s engine trouble couldn’t be connected, but my imagination convinced me otherwise.
My pen poised over the paper. Should I backtrack on foot to the creepy house, attempt the mile trek in the snow over the slick bridge, or stay put? I drew a blank on wording and plot. This month’s writing group host threw us a curve ball and presented the stranded scenario as our five minute writing prompt. She writes fiction, but the rest of us stick to topics and events we know. I was lost, but not on a rural road.
My resulting uninspired paragraphs did not surprise me, but the exercise did. As Gay pointed out, “It’s good to get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself.” The choice in the scenario I decided to take, to slog through the snow and crawl over the bridge, reflects my current choices in life. I’m no longer sitting in the car frozen in paralysis, but I’m not quite up to checking out Hansel and Gretel’s cottage. I’d rather face known perils and outcomes than face the unknown unprepared.
My unfolding out of the car of security began one boot at a time. After a hiatus of 17 years, during which I ran the house and mothered full-time, I cracked the door to the idea of getting a paid job again. Our oldest son would leave for college soon, and I knew I needed something in place to carry me through the loss.
Four years later when the school district eliminated that position, I took the GRE (scary enough for me) and applied to graduate school. (What was I doing?!) A year and a half later, I was immersed in my fourth semester when we interred Mom’s ashes. Six months after that, I became a reference librarian. The new job helped numb the rawness of Mother’s death, just as the school district’s job distracted me from two sons’ launching from the house.
With each loss, my hands shook, but I reached farther.
I’m not a risk taker. I check the forecast before packing bags and prefer to make hotel reservations and buy museum tickets before going to the airport. I write about past events, not invented ones, but the riskiest moves I have made, delivered the heaviest purses.
These leaps into the unknown were paved with spit-out fingernails and clumps of hair, but I have marveled at vistas I never thought I could see. Experiencing new things gives me an eagerness and hope that is absent in my comfortable corner of the couch with the pillow tucked behind my back.
I would not write blogs or stay nights alone in the countryside with scorpions and copperheads unless I knew someone had my back and that my choices had potential for greater outcome than my growth or happiness. I sought my Lord with each decision, and in my weakness and lack of confidence, He sent the encouragement and confirmations I needed to hold my nose and jump.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
My husband and co-writers keep nudging me to join Toastmasters. Mousy, tight mouthed, hunched me, in public speaking class? Yikes.
I don’t have anything to wear. I need to wash my hair. The water looks too cold. I don’t have time. I’M SCARED!
Already I know I’ll do it. Timing is everything. It’s time for you to do something too. What is that thing staring you in the face, and what is keeping you from jumping in? Do you need someone at your back? Let me jump with you. Neither one of us wants to have regrets that we didn’t take the leap. suzy@suzanneDmarshall.com