The saying goes something like this, not exactly like this, but something like this:
There but for the grace of God, or Spirit, or the Force, go I.
I challenged that particular adage many times in my youth. I would stand in our rather large bathroom (I often wondered why the bathroom in my childhood home was so large when the bedrooms were so tiny!), looking long and hard into the mirror over the sink, wondering who I was. My childhood was rife with mystery, unsolved to this day, and it challenged me on a daily basis to try and figure out who I was.
There I would be, combing my long hair (full of split ends, so dry and lifeless it forever hung on my shoulders like a leftover scarf – one that had been left out in the noonday sun, then dragged through a mud puddle in the afternoon rain), and I would look deep into my brown eyes and I would murmur, “It could be worse. You could look like this!” Then I would exaggerate my mouth, my nose, my whole face, until the grotesque creature looking back at me would have frightened the very dog I kept by my bed, the love of my life at that time.
“There but for the Grace of God,” I would think. After all, it was the grace of God that allowed me to be born. To be who I was. To look as I did. To live where I lived… you get the drift. Our life was comfortable. We did not have much, but we also did not have need of much. Of course, like good Americans, we spent hours every day wishing for more! Oh but the grace of God did not reward our wishes with more. We continued to ‘get by.’ There was a roof over our heads, food on the table, a car in the garage. We even had one of the first color TVs in the neighborhood. But, we weren’t considered affluent – thought some of my friends were. Not necessarily more ‘affluent’ in terms of what they had or where they lived, but in terms of who they were. Yes, they made me feel less about myself. Because, I didn’t even know how to set a proper table. And, my parents were divorced.
It wasn’t until I grew into adulthood, far into adulthood, that I understood how foolish I was to pay any attention whatsoever to the grace of God idea. At some point in time, I left the grace of God behind and I clung to the “God helps them who help themselves” idea. It meant I could be whatever I wanted to be and I was not dependent upon outside influences.
Of course, that’s not entirely true. We, as a species, and all other species I know of, at least, those with brains (we’ll stick with the animal kingdom, shall we?), use visual clues to inform us. How you look, walk, dress, smile, talk, wear makeup or don’t wear makeup, even how you laugh, influences how other people see you. This is true of animals, also. Dogs use visual clues to understand their humans, and it turns out they are much better at it than we are.
So, there but for the grace of…whomever or whatever… is not entirely wrong. And, God helps them who help themselves is a trite way of saying, “Get off your #@#ss and do something with your life.” For me, it meant looking forward, not backward.
Oh, but I did spend too much time looking backward, in my youth. Who didn’t?
As I grow, shall I use the word ‘older’? I shall. As I grow older, I discover nuances to this presence we call life. I have learned that we each of us must take that strange journey into our past, to learn who we were and I know that girl does influence who I am today, but I also have come to realize, she does not determine what my future holds for me.
Oh the pull of the future; that whisper beckoning us along the path we trod today, the sound so soft as to be almost silent, as it drifts around trees and out of corners along the way; that whisper is the story of us, created on the foundation of our past.
We are approaching a New Year. Yes, it came too soon. Yes, it crept upon us on the silent pads of some peculiar creature of our own making, invisible until just now…just today, perhaps. Regardless of how it arrived, a New Year is there, in front of us. It looks much like the old year, doesn’t it? It shimmers and shines, and there are shadows and dark spots, where we hope not to go. There is opportunity waiting, but wait, is that failure I see gripping opportunity in its awful teeth?
Perhaps the New Year is a carbon copy of the old year.
Perhaps it is not.
I, am looking forward, not backward. I am headed into tomorrow, not yesterday. The teeth of failure are not sharp enough to deter me from opportunity. I am stepping over that line … from yesterday to tomorrow, and I am going to do whatever it takes my wayward self to do, to be the woman I have chosen to be. The woman I was meant to be.
I am here, I am going…there…and the girl who stood day after day in front of the bathroom mirror, many moons ago, may remind me of this or that, but her question, “Who am I?” has been answered.
This is who I am. A wayward woman, full of determination, stubbornness, and distinction. Bring it on, New Year. I am ready for you.
Are you a wayward woman? Are you married to one or working with one? Is she (are you?) determined, stubborn, distinctive? That’s good. Because wayward is a path best taken by those who insist on making their own way. It’s the path to tomorrow, not to yesterday.