One of the best rules of childhood is the Rule of Do Over. No matter what game we were playing or what crazy competition we had going on, when things didn’t go down quite the way we’d planned, the Do Over could be invoked by anyone at anytime.
Sometimes it was immediate.
“No fair, my shoe came untied! Do Over! Everybody back to the big tree. We’ll race again. Ready. Set. GO!”
Other times it was delayed.
“Chris just rode her bike into a telephone pole. Do Over next weekend!”
True story, having just learned to ride a bicycle, I came flying down the hill on my bike in a practice run for a race against the neighborhood boys, lost control and slammed face first into a telephone pole. I knocked out two teeth, and scraped myself up really good. So the bike race ended up delayed until the following weekend and I rode my little heart out despite the bruises, bandaids, and missing teeth.
Somewhere along the line though, we all grow up. The rule of the Do Over is cast aside and everything we do is FOREVER and EVER. God help you if you screw up the FOREVER stuff because at that point, you’ve royally screwed up your life beyond all hope of redemption.
Or have you?
I used to think so. The string of mistakes that started at 19 snowballed out of control until, at 34, after living with the fallout from those mistakes, I finally slammed on the brakes and took my life back. Sounds great doesn’t it? Yeah, well, it wasn’t. Not then anyway.
I stood there with all the busted up pieces of my hopes, my dreams, the what-might-have-beens, the what-I-wanteds, and all those jagged pieces were tangled up in pain, hurt, fear, confusion, and disappointment. The people around me were full of ideas of what I could or should do next. And me? I couldn’t move without some broken shard or another cutting even more deeply and by that point, I had had quite enough of being hurt. The oft-repeated question from my therapist was, “But what do you want?” I had no answer. All I could do was make it abundantly clear that I would not make a move until I was damn good and ready. What direction that move might take was too far ahead to even think about. All I wanted was to get through any given day without feeling like I was going to come apart at the seams.
That was seven years ago and while on the outside, things may look very much the same – same job, same car, same living situation, – on the inside, everything has changed.
Deacon Ron’s favorite question for me from the very beginning has always been: “So what are you and God up to?” If you’ve been reading my posts for any length of time, you know what a wild ride that has been. My relationship with God has been stormy for years. Patience is not my virtue. Trust, more precisely – the lack thereof, is my biggest issue. God has the distinct advantage of having time – as in all of the time or better yet, being beyond all time. Thusly, He’s perfectly content to wait out my little temper tantrums. Little by little, as I’ve stopped – okay maybe not stopped – allow me to rephrase – as I’ve cut down on yelling at Him and started listening to Him, a path forward has been presented, one I had caught a glimpse of at 19.
And my response is quite simple: “Are You freaking crazy?!”
But it kept coming up so I finally said, “Okay. But if You really want me to pursue this, I have a lot of things in my in my way:
The time away from the kids
Did I mention the fear?
If You want me to do this, You’re going to have to take care of this stuff because I can’t. It’s all beyond my control.”
Well apparently God wants me to do this because instead of seeing this as a list of obstacles, He’s treated it like a Honey Do list and just started crossing things off one by one.
My RA went into a nasty flare around the time I was on the Cape back in March. My friend, who has the gift of healing, offered to pray with me when I got home. As he prayed with me, the pain in my hands lessened and by the next day it was gone entirely. My vision, which had slipped badly, returned to normal overnight. The RA has been in remission since the first week of April. With my somewhat baffled doctor’s approval, I’ve stopped taking all of my RA medications and I feel the best I have in fifteen years.
I no longer wake up feeling like I’m 80. That has taken some getting used to, but in a good way. I find I’m no longer afraid to make plans beyond this week because I’m not worried about whether or not I’ll feel well enough to keep them. The freedom in that is bigger than anything I can put into words.
My kids aren’t little anymore. I find myself with two rapidly maturing and increasingly independent young men. While they still aren’t thrilled if I spend time away from home, they aren’t quite as panicky about it as they used to be. Again the word that comes to mind is freedom. I cherish the time I have with them. Yes – even when they’re beating the crap out of each other. But to know I can leave them for a few hours and their world won’t stop spinning is a huge weight off my shoulders.
Over the past few months, I started to notice something else was missing. The Gremlin. That bastard hasn’t been jabbering at me. And it’s not like I suddenly have some newfound ability to tune him out. He just shut up. Completely. He’s not gone. But he’s silent. And the fear that he wielded so well in his diatribes has been replaced by quiet and peace.
Huge things were being crossed off my list of impossibles in a ridiculously short span of time. Then I came home one Saturday to find the Fairfield County Catholic waiting for me with a huge front page add for Sacred Heart University. My next step had quite literally shown up on my kitchen table. I took a deep breath and took it before I could chicken out. I called and started the process to return to school part-time in pursuit of my bachelors degree in theology and religious studies.
When I walked out of the admissions office after being enrolled as a returning student, I did the happy dance all the way to my car and then burst into tears.
You see there was one other thing I hadn’t dared to list off to God:
This way was open to me at 19 and I didn’t take it. Therefore it was closed, locked, bolted, bricked over and never to be spoken of ever again.
The reasons I gave for not taking it then depended on how much I was beating up on myself at any given time. Those reasons ranged from I stormed away from God in a fit of rage, was an emotional basket-case or was just plain flat too weak to handle it. All of which have some degree of truth in them and none of which I really wanted to face. But in order to do this now, I had to.
The past few weeks, this has been pretty much all God and I have talked about. Or more accurately, I rambled on and on while He waited, infinitely and maddeningly patient, until I ran out of words. Then when I could finally be quiet, the answer came.
“What made you think you were supposed to do this then? You weren’t ready then. I wasn’t done with you yet.”
Could it really be so simple? That all this time I’d spent kicking myself – with plenty of help from The Gremlin – that there’d been absolutely no reason to? My life has been one hell of a rollercoaster ride and the life experience I will carry into my classes now will bring far greater meaning to them than my 19 year-old self could have ever imagined.
Like that long ago bike race, I needed a little time to recover after my wreck but here I am, at 41, invoking the Rule of Do Over, taking a path I was shown at 19 and have been preparing for ever since.