The weight presses down. Shortening spines. And we wonder if we can go on. Then when the loneliness seems more than we can bear, an exchanged glance comes and lightens it in immeasurable ways. Sometimes it’s when you’re sitting in a cafe musing over a story idea. Or when a coworker says, “Want to do lunch?” A high five during Groove at the gym. Or Dog Beach sharing puppy stories. And often with soothing music in the background.
In my divorce year I was a desolate wraith, drifting from one hollow task to another. In constant pain, I didn’t know who I was or what I was doing. My body moved but there was such a chasm between action and connection that I ceased to be the friend and family support I’d long prided myself on. Barely living, I began searching for a new way to define myself as I navigated this alien life thrust upon me.
After months of crying, I swallowed my fear and forced myself out of the house to a local beach resort hosting a free outdoor concert. With the mantra. Dancing is easy. You can do this, I fisted my hands and took two steps away from my car. Then stopped, unable to move.
I stood on that cliff staring at the diamond sea below and fought the urge to run. What if I started to cry again? Images of his hardened back came to mind. If my husband, who I trusted with life itself, didn’t want my friendship, why would anyone else? I was so full of doubts and insecurities that I was sure they flashed like a blinding lightning storm.
The tears began to well as I looked to the wispy clouds, ethereal shapes in blue that I’d so often shared with him. When we’d co-created wonder. No, I couldn’t do it. Not without my love.
Then one cirrus cloud stretched its long arms and diffused in the atmosphere. The trees rustled as I imagined a voice whispering, “Leap into the abyss.”
I took a deep breath and let it out. Shoulders back, I strode toward that grassy green where hundreds had gathered to enjoy the spring sun. Then stood on the sidelines watching. I gave one person a shy smile. They didn’t notice me. Then another. I was invisible.
A minute later, the music started to play and I remembered all the times I’d swayed to the notes. This waltz mirrored who I truly was. Dammit, just because one man didn’t see my wonder, didn’t mean it had disappeared. It was within me. But I needed help. So I walked up to group of dancing women and said, “Hi, my husband just left me and I’m newly single. Can I hang with you guys?”
“Sure!” Carol said inviting me in with hug. After she introduced me around to others with divorce stories like mine, the volume increased. That band started rocking and so did we. Within moments we were all leaping and bouncing like children just let out to recess. And we danced round and round until the sun hung low on the Pacific.
With these accepting individuals swirling and kicking their feet, I started down a new path. A road of friendship I have been on ever since. One I continue to be thankful for. For many years now this wonderful group of women have twirled and leapt together while meeting life’s challenges.
Which come when you least expect.
Not long ago, I had another breakup and once again felt the old doubts rear their ugly head. More crying. More insecurities. More wondering who I was and where the Hell I was going.
Then I met a new friend. Experienced another time of joy. While exploring this discovery, I expressed my thanks and said, “Life surprises us.”
To which he countered, “No, it’s what you make of it. We surprised life.”
And I nodded. Yes, by letting new people in, we do surprise life.
We absolutely astound.
(photo by David Stroup)
The author of The Pharaoh’s Cry, Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles, as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. Laurie Woodward co-wrote Dean and JoJo: The Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet, and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net