He was out of my life but not yet out of my brain. What would my ex-husband do if he knew what I was thinking? What would he think if he knew what I was doing? It would be months before I could kick him out of my head completely. And then there was the rage. How was I going to get rid of the rage?
In one month’s time, I had lost almost everything. I had lost him, and although this was my own doing and a good thing in the long run, feelings of loss, regret, and grief still seemed to reside too close to the surface of my skin. And then, in a series of events that almost seemed orchestrated, the owner of the house I was living in decided he wanted the house back for his daughter and son-in-law. We had to move out right away; the block on my car cracked beyond repair; and the temporary job I held at the community college suddenly ended too. Stuff hit the fan, so to speak.
I began to attend a tiny church nearby, and I risked telling the whole sordid story to a new pastor. He and his little flock took my children and me in and helped us to begin to heal. But I knew I had changed, and all you had to do was look at my face, see the tightness around my mouth, the flinty coldness in my eyes, and you knew it too. But I pushed up my sleeves and figured out what to do next.
One morning I sat with the newspaper open in front of me. We were staying with my grown son for the time being. My two children were hanging over the back of the chair. We were scanning the listings for an apartment of our own. I didn’t have much money, but I wanted to give them the hope and promise of a new life together. We wrote down an address of an apartment complex not too far away and went to look at it.
The complex itself was filled with tall pine and fir trees. Dappled shade and sunny patios with potted plants were separated with soft green lawns and beautiful landscaping. There was a pool, a hot tub, and a billiard room. My young son and teenage daughter became excited as soon they heard kids of all ages splashing around on colorful inflatables in the large blue swimming pool. I saw the yearning on their faces and I knew I had to make this happen as soon as possible. It felt like a peaceful and fun place to begin life again. The manager told us it could be several months before something opened up and she would put me on a waiting list. Perfect. I would have time to try to land a job and save for the first and last month’s rent and security deposit required to move in.
Next we went to a local chain store where my daughter and I picked out inexpensive matching floral bedspreads for the twin beds in a bedroom we would share, and a new spread for my youngest son. We took them over to the storage unit. I wanted my children to get a sense that this was real…we were really starting over, just the three of us.
Next, it was time for me to look for a job. I picked up applications, took them back to the house, filled them out, and then dropped them back off at local companies the next day. There were only two major employers in the area, and I seriously wished I had not let my ex-husband talk me into quitting my job at the courthouse. One day I got an interview with a one of the companies, DenMat Corporation. I arrived at the appointment, nerves jangling like the gold tone bangle bracelets I wore on my wrist.
Two people conducted the interview. Both would be my direct supervisors. If I got the job, I would be working as a secretary, and the executive secretary would be supervising me in that capacity. I would also be working for the sales manager. He asked me if I knew anything about the company or what they manufactured. I admitted I didn’t know a thing. They both laughed, and I felt my face redden. The company manufactured Rembrandt Whitening Toothpaste. “Blew that one,” I thought.
Two days later I got the phone call. I had gotten the job! It paid little more than if I had applied for welfare, but I didn’t care. We were on our way to independence.
I had no idea how that job would change my life. I excelled at my duties and was soon plucked out of secretary row and given the job as the assistant to the Marketing Director. She was glamorous, reminding me of Vivien Leigh in Gone With the Wind. She had jet-black hair pulled back in a ponytail and fabulous clothes. She had directed the marketing departments for Merle Norman and Max Factor. She gave her staff extravagant birthday gifts, often took us all out to lunch as a reward for our hard work, and invited us over to her house for dinner. She cared about growing and challenging us to move forward in our careers, and soon she elevated me to the position of Product Manager. It came with a nice raise and made me feel as if I had a “real” career.
One day I got a call from the manager of the apartment building. My name had come up, and I needed the first and last month’s rent plus the deposit by the following Friday. If I didn’t have it, she would have to move my name down and give the apartment away to the next person on the list. I had been saving like mad, but was short $100. With no parents, grandparents, or friends with extra cash, I had no chance of getting a loan so I figured God was going to have to provide the money. So I asked Him.
On Wednesday, I looked up from my desk when I heard my name over the loudspeaker asking me to come to the reception area. A friend of mine was standing there with a big grin on her face. I hadn’t seen her for several months, so I was a little confused, but happy to see her. She asked me if I would come outside.
“Linda, I was meeting with some ladies for prayer this morning, and I felt impressed that we needed to do something for you.” She handed me a card. I opened it and there was a check for $100! I immediately called the manager of the apartment complex and told her I was coming by after work to pay for our place.
In the meantime, I had become good friends with the woman who interviewed me. She had a picture of herself windsurfing on her desk. Windsurfing was something I had seen at a nearby lake and fantasized about learning how to do. I asked her to teach me. She was reticent, as most women who try it give up. But she agreed if I agreed to commit.
For the next three months we were at the lake almost every weekend. I became passionate about the sport and went every chance I got. My son took lessons too. As soon as I could afford it, I bought my own equipment, a truck with a camper shell and racks on the top for my board and mast, and a wetsuit. It was the most fun I had ever had in my life. I felt powerful, and my muscles began to get toned and strong. The wind in my face and hair as I scooted across a lake seemed to blow off all that rage I never thought I’d get rid of…at least most of it.
When the wind wasn’t up, I took my mountain bike on as many new trails on the Central Coast of California as I could find. I had a guidebook, and I checked them off as I went. When I wasn’t there I was at the gym, lifting free-weights. When I wasn’t at the gym, or the lake, or on the trails riding my bike, I was body-surfing at Pismo Beach. In fact, there were days when I did at least three of these activities before nightfall. A neighbor, seeing me drop off my board and grab my bike, stopped my daughter and asked, “Doesn’t your mother ever stop?” I was forty-years-old and this was the first time in my life I had been active and athletic. And as my body changed, my mind changed as well. I felt free of anxiety and depression for the first time in a over a decade.
My children were also very happy. My daughter entered college and moved out on her own. My son and I moved closer to the beach and nearby lake. When he wasn’t spending time with grandparents, we made fun plans for every weekend. And we had our “date” for breakfast out every Friday morning before I dropped him off at school. We had healed. And if things would have remained just exactly like that for the rest of my life, I would have been very content indeed. But of course, God had more surprises in store. Stay tuned…