Walking the Plank
Transition throws me for a loop every time – silly, of course.
We all know that the only constant in life is change. But somehow my longing for comfort and control gets me to settle into a place with a deep, satisfying sigh. Close my eyes. Take a break from watchfulness. Then everything tips and I find myself rolling sideways, stumbling down a new ramp of transition. Looking for a new normal.
Some transitions are instantaneous.
In 2003 my husband collapsed on his favorite street in San Diego, Shelter Island Drive, just outside the bank. From that moment on, he never drove his truck, never wrote a check, dialed a phone, made love, or flipped a pancake. Everything changed and I spent eight years catching up.
Other transitions are expected.
The kids grow up and launch their own lives, families, children, careers. They are navigating their own transitions without me. The family home is sold. I live alone.
What I didn’t expect was the final step in another, slow, insidious change that I’m just now having to acknowledge. Over the course of Mike’s long illness, I had to let go of my online bookstore, localauthors.com, which had kept me in the loop of writing and writers.
I published my ninth book in 2002, Conscience of the Community, the memoir of the Rev. George Walker Smith. I’ve written a couple since then, but that was the last one published. It may always be the last one published. There might never be a tenth, and my writing career may be over.
I was making a comfortable salary in communications and as a political advisor, then $10,000 less after a layoff. Then another layoff three weeks after my husband died. Then $30,000 less at a temp job. Then unemployment; then the end of unemployment.
In three years, it appears my working career has also slipped away. Along with it has been a precise and surgical removal of my self-reliance, replaced by utter dependency on God’s grace.
It’s scary to be lonely and disregarded by others when status and recognition have been a part of my identity as a writer, a worker, a woman.
How I want to cling to them and scrape up some remnant of the career I’ve had, to stave off fear. Because the biggest challenge of aging and poverty is fearing that no one cares. It’s the core fear of each of us, really, at any age and in any transition. Some days I feel like I am walking the plank.
Alongside the highway of transition are neon signs, flashing with audacity at my fear. God Loves You! God Cares for You! God is Strong When You are Weak!
These words have illuminated my road for most of my life. But walking down this slow path that winds to the bottom of my ramp of loss, I see a new sign, handwritten on a simple plank.
You are mine.
It makes me smile. I am seeing the Lord provide for my daily bread. He is sustaining my health. He has given me time to ponder and read and know him. This transition may be the best yet.
Francine Phillips is an author, journalist and poet from La Mesa, California. She has an M.A. in marriage and family counseling from Denver Theological Seminary and teaches Bible study groups. Francine has raised seven children in a blended family and is now a widow.