A few months back, searching for an old Halloween photo, I found this picture. We had moved to a new home, in a new subdivision, several miles south of San Francisco. I know this to be true because my dad’s beloved and well maintained lawn, flower garden, fence and side yard fish pond didn’t exist yet.
The one thing that makes me doubt my childhood memory, is that I am holding hands with Wayne.
Wayne and I lived at the top of a hill on opposite sides of the street. He chased me home almost every day. He was kind of a bully.
If he got close enough, he would grab at the hem of my dress and sometimes tear it. A couple times he pulled hard enough to tear open the waist seam. There was always lots of yelling and name calling. I don’t remember any words, but I do remember the running. And I remember when I stopped.
It was a hot day and running uphill is a bummer, even for a kid. So I stopped and turned around. I did not have a plan.
Wayne was just inches away when my right arm swung out and punched him in the face. All by itself! For real!
To my amazement and secret delight he started to cry. He ran across the street. He cried all the way home. By the time we walked up our respective front steps I felt a little bad. I’m not heartless, you know. It must have hurt a lot to cry that much.
After dinner, Wayne’s dad called my dad. Wayne reported I’d punched him for “no reason”. I told Dad I “barely touched him” with my paper lunch sack. When we got to Wayne’s house it was evident he’d been hit with more than a paper sack.
It’s a long story and not important. We both got in trouble. Wayne for his bullying and me for not telling the complete truth. The infamous paper lunch sack, propelled by my fist, held a empty Tupperware container… AND a fork… AND a metal thermos. Is there any wonder his eye was a mess? I think not.
What I have been thinking on from that long ago memory, is how I felt when I stopped and turned around.
I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was a little afraid. But I also felt brave. I knew I would be ok.
I’m not advocating to punch people in the face. Not at all. And it’s been a long time since running up hill from boys has been a problem. But I still do a lot of running.
I run in my head, my heart, my spirit… when I don’t know what to do.
When there were money problems and job problems, I ran. When raising teenage boys was tough, and marriage was hard, I ran. And today, with sickness and death and unknown future, I run.
I know I’m running when I retreat into Netflix and books and my own imagination – – none of which is bad unless you live there (which I’ve tried to do a few times).
I know I’m running when I start cleaning things that aren’t dirty, organizing things that are orderly and ironing clothes that aren’t wrinkled.
And I know I’m running when I wander around in a carb and sugar induced stupor, which happened last week when my mom’s health took a nose dive. I was waiting for answers that would not come. Normally I can pull up and press in, but this time it took a husbandly intervention. He’s the best. Although I hope they forget our last name in case I ever have to talk to them again!
Of my three escapes, I lean toward busyness over food and fantasy. I’m grateful for that. Otherwise I’d probably be a contender for the TV show, My 600 Pound Life. I can put away a lot of carbs and sugar.
Another thing I’m grateful for is that I still stop and turn around. Eventually. And initially I feel the same way as that childhood memory… I don’t know what I’m going to do… I feel a little afraid… I also feel brave… I know I will be ok.
Making a decision on an unclear topic or telling the difficult person “no” is hard. But survivable. Especially when you know it must be so. You learn and grow and life moves on. Just like building my faith by remembering the good things God has done for me when I thought all was lost, I must remember to remember the times I stopped and said “enough”… and just did the thing.
So put down the cupcake, Brooke, and go make the phone call, or write the words, or take a walk.
You know everything will be OK.