This being the epitome of cliche notwithstanding, the need to write this is powerful.
I just got spam with the subject "Haunted by your past?"
Actually no. I'm not. If anything, I'm taunted by my present.
As is typical for me these days, I've been second guessing myself a bit. To the point I sometimes have little imaginary power-meetings in my head with anyone I think I should be listening to. But only people that I think I can guess at what they would say. Let's see, this morning sitting around the table, there was me, God, Robert Forster... the list goes on.
See, in the last day I've really been thinking hard & even worrying about some things that I shouldn't be. Things that I have no control of. Well that isn't saying much - other than choices [& occasionally our bowels], we don't really have control of anything do we? Just the way we react, I guess. Anyway, it was all over relationship stuff & I was worrying to the point of asking for some simple recognizable indication from God or whoever was listening as to what to do, how to react, how to perceive it - or even just a sign telling me which direction to face.
From what I hear, we all do this at some point in our lives. From time to time we all get all spiritual & ask God for a sign or some such nonsense when we're so confused or worried about that one thing that inevitably happens - Life.
So I had this meeting of the minds, in my mind, while on my way to an appointment at the medical center. As I walked into the lobby I noticed a man sitting in a chair, motionless. He was in his sixties I think. He was completely bald. No hair anywhere on his face or arms. That & the fact that he was sitting outside the cancer center led me to conclude that he was going through chemotherapy. I'm quick like that you know.
Anyway, he didn't look long for this world. Almost everything about him gave you that impression. His still posture in the chair, the absence of muscle on his arms, his feet lightly pointed all caddywompus. Everything but his eyes.
His face looked bereft of spirit but his eyes looked at me - almost through me- with so much life that I felt joy & shame at the same time. Despite using this phrase many times in the past, it bears repeating: it was like standing in the presence a of woman so beautiful that you feel ashamed of your own ugliness.
I walked on.
A few steps past him I pushed the up button for the elevator. As I mulled the old man over & waited, a middle-aged woman rolled a young girl in a wheel-chair up next to me. The girl was frail. She was clearly very sick. The doors opened just as they arrived. I paused so they could get on. Going by me the young girl looked up with the grandest smile.
"Wow, that was lucky. We didn't even have to wait."
I agreed because usually those elevators are pretty slow. And I'm usually pretty late.
We were all in & the doors closed. As her mother was looking at a map of the clinic & cancer center, the young girl - the prettiest thing in her wavy dark hair - kept looking at me & smiling. It seemed as though to make sure I had thought about what she had said. I started to feel sick. Something about her made me feel like she knew me.
I got off at the 3rd floor.
Still puzzled a little I turned to look back at her, rounded a corner & almost ran into a slowly walking man & woman. The woman was supporting the guy by his left elbow. He had a serious limp; was barely making any ground at all. He must've been in pain because every step was gingerly taken.
Even though I dodged the man, I still brushed up against his beige wind-breaker going around his right. With my feet still moving I spun around toward them & caught his smiling eyes & said, truthfully, that I was sorry & I wasn't watching where I was going.
In an unsarcastic tone, very genuine, the man said so that I could hear, "Let's get out of the way. He's got somewhere to be." I know it sounds sarcastic & hateful but his tone was clearly honest. It was kind of like when you were a child & your grandfather gets excited for you about the smallest things & it seems fake but you know he means it. The man sounded like he was trying to apologize for being out of place & in my way by affirming that I was important enough to be given passage.
I turned & walked on.
But then... in no time at all... a few steps & my feet went numb. I felt like I could collapse right there in the hall, in front of the limping couple.
My head was swimming. In just a mere moment my own life started to play out in my head. I wasn't ready for it.
The time I was impaled in the abdomen, the car accident that took many of my memories & personality, the emergency appendectomy in the middle of the night, the minor heart attack at the age of 35. All the times that life was handed back to me to spend how I chose. To think about what I would buy with it. The gifts I had not yet said thank you for. How much shame I felt in a single moment. More than I may have felt in an entire life.
But with it immediately came relief. Relief from my current worry. Like water over a handful of sand. And there again... underneath... was joy.
Just then, slowly, the images of each of the wonderful eyes I had just walked so quickly past began to appear. One after another. It hit me so blindingly & painfully. My heart hurt.
Did I just walk past & brush off three different strangers? Or maybe it was one very familiar pair of eyes. Did they belong to the one I had been praying & pleading to? Was that one trying to tell me something? Flying from one set of eyes to the next, staring at me? Watching me closely to see that I'm listening? To see that I'm hearing the message? A message that didn't come out of the sky or from a flaming bush? A message that could only be delivered in terms I could understand?
It feels to me that I almost missed it. There in that hallway, the cold chill, the weakness that took me over, the burning in my gut. It feels to me now that, as hokey & predictable as it sounds, we must miss countless signs & messages everyday. How many times have we been looking in the face of God & just walked on? How many times has the voice of God been hovering just beneath the noise floor we've gotten so used to & yet we don't even notice? It feels to me that in the end, life really is easy. We're the ones who make it hard.
I'm thankful & glad I noticed.
And embarrassed at my pettiness. How long will it be before I need to be reminded again. Probably already do.