91: Steady the Course

91: Steady the Course

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reboot Your Life

Steady the Course

Some people believe that holding on and hanging there are signs of strength, but there are times in life when it takes much more strength just to let go.

~Ann Landers

“I can’t get past this,” I sobbed. “I don’t even know how to live on my own. I’ve been married my entire adult life! What will I do?” After twenty years of marriage, my husband and the father of my children, the only man I’d ever been with, had left me.

All I could do was cry. It took everything I had in me just to get up each morning. There were decisions that I knew I had to make, issues I had to address. But how could I? I couldn’t find the part of my brain where rational behavior lived.

My whole being was overwhelmed by my emotions, the raw throbbing hurt that attended my every moment and choked my sense of survival. I questioned my self-worth, my sense of who I was so tied up in who he was. I’d heard about the dark hole that swallows up the depressed. Looking down into such an abyss myself, I contemplated suicide. I was afraid, but I didn’t know how to stop what was happening to me.

I prayed for a miracle. At first, my prayers were for the marriage to be restored. But as time passed, I realized that I couldn’t lay my husband’s actions on God — he hadn’t made the choice to leave, my husband had. I still prayed for a miracle, but my new prayer was for strength to go on.

One Saturday morning, a friend called and suggested a boat ride. I am afraid of water, so I argued that this was absolutely the worst idea possible. I really, really, really didn’t want to go!

But she persisted. “Oh, come on now. It will be good for you,” she said.

“Good for me?” I retorted. “You know I hate the water. I don’t swim all that well. What if I fall overboard?”

“Then I will pull you out,” she said. “I’ll pick you up in an hour.”

At first, the boat skipping over the water was a great feeling, and I enjoyed the wind hitting my face and blowing my hair. I imagined that the boat would take me far away, far from my problems.

Suddenly, we hit a choppy spot in the middle of the lake where the waves pitched us back and forth. I clung to the sides of the boat while my friend clenched the wheel, determined to steer us to calmer waters. At that point, all other concerns paled. The most present need was to steady the boat. The realization hit that perhaps all I needed to do with my life — for right then, anyway — was to steady my course and hang on.

It was a turning point for me. Over the next year, I planted flowers, sewed curtains, and cleaned the house from top to bottom. I gave in to creativity, cooking up new recipes and painting a stained glass effect on a window. I went to counseling. I read books. I prayed. But most of all, I just hung on.

At last, healing came. I even reached a point where I was content to be alone and just to be me. My children said, “Mom, what’s happened to you? You seem to be so together.” I laughed. I was trying to appreciate the good things: my children, my friends, each new day, dreams for the future.

Then the unexpected happened. A wonderful man came into my life — a kind man, full of love and patience, a man whose first thought was for me rather than for himself. I had never known that kind of love before.

I wish I could say that I handled this well. But I can’t. I cried yet again. I was so frightened by my past marriage experience that I couldn’t commit or trust. A vision of that boat ride brought me back to my senses as I remembered that I needed only to steady the course. With time came trust, a wedding, and the most meaningful love that I have ever known.

So often we believe that miracles must be grandiose. We watch for the lightning to flash and wait to hear the thunder. But sometimes, miracles can be found in everyday lessons. An epiphany can happen on a boat ride.

~Eloise Elaine Ernst Schneider

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