It came down to Good versus Better. I own Eighty-one, a retail store, and I’m Good for what it asks of me, but I’m Better at writing. For years I’ve had this inner whisper, that I was giving my Good the best hours of the day, and leaving my Better the scraps at day end. All these stories I’ve written, most were begun after 7:30PM, with sawdust in my hair, after a long day in the shop.
In my 50’s I could push these whispers away, that this was a time for being practical about life, making money, all that grownup stuff. But when I crossed into the 60’s something changed. Decades are powerful short as you age, and a year seems a wisp. I’d be talking to my elders, and thinking, ‘This is you in ten years, this is you in fifteen…’
I felt crossroad-ish, which is evidence of – and test of – growth. There’s a Loss in closing Eighty-one. It’s The Known, safe, proven, bird-in-hand, all that… But as far back as kid-dom, I’ve been seeking meaning in my life, which inevitably is a spiritual quest, and nowhere do I feel God’s presence, and approval, like when I write. I could not count the number of times that words make me gulp, soak, sink, find, cry, feel, think, know, and reveal. Peace, perspective, prayers, they all happen when my fingers are on the keyboard.
So, better late than never, why not trust God? My life is His gift to me. Any tools in my toolbox were His gift to me. That I am a particular person is by His design. These things only-I-see, these doors left open for me, these are not tricks, but paths. Why not choose Faith? Trust the unseen, hear the unheard, trust Him to take my Better and do something wonderful with it…
…which all sounded high ‘n mighty until…
Suddenly Mr. Sensitive
Because Eighty-one is a public thing, a retail store, I had to publicly “announce” it…and through the door they came, this assortment of people, well known, sorta known, hardly known, unknown, bringing with them their expressions, reactions, and points of view.
A family member once described me as “independent.” I’d just decide ‘n do, with little regard to how people would react. I confess now, part of it is that I am a loner, and what-people-think is barely a consideration. This is both flaw and asset, reaping either scorn or admiration, each to its season, of which I was clueless…
…until now. Suddenly I was Mr. Sensitive. I’ve stuck my neck out, and here come these random reactions.
“What’re you gonna do?” Did you read my story? “What story?” Do you know that I am writer? “No.” Are you local? “Yes.”
It felt so pearls-cast-before-swine. What’s a guy gotta do? I’ve been writing for years. Surely, somehow, on your own, or with a nudge of someone else, you’d have found my stories, and then once found, wouldn’t one of them hit the head, heart, or spirit?
The story of my mother singing Amazing Grace at her father’s funeral, the story of my grandmother serving coffee to guests, watching my father hear the news that he had three-to-six, and best get his affairs in order… the very best of me, right there, to be had, for Free, all these years, and yet not seen by seeing eyes.
For a few days there I had a hefty sized knot in my stomach.
If Only God Would Cough
Writer/director Woody Allen was always wrestling with his lack of faith in his movies. There’s this line, “I don’t expect God to talk to me, but just once, it’d be nice to hear Him clear His throat.’
I’ve been Woody, wanting God to show up, be apparent, do what I would do. Time and testing, I’ve found God to be the master of subtlety, often talking to us through others.
On a bad day, me just-a-flinching, an old friend came by doing angel duty unaware. She mentions this monthly gathering, a meal and a guest speaker. “Some of these speakers,” she whispers, “are just so boring… but then I’ll look at another table, and see someone wiping a tear.”
That was good to hear. They were moved by what bored her; they’d be bored by what moved her. That’s what happens in the great jumble of people, in all their variations of time ‘n timing, wire ‘n wiring.
My job isn’t to appeal to all, but to present myself back to God, tool sharpened, looking for His assignment. Whether I write for one or for many, is not my concern.
Seated In The Balcony
On the following Sunday I attended my father’s old church. I know these people. Or do I? I was sitting up in the balcony, and down there, were these first names and last names, and O the mirror it was, that I expected them to know what was So Important to me, yet I didn’t know what was important to them. Did I know that they were planning a wedding, or dreading a funeral? I would shake their hands, and say, “Good to see you,” but all I knew about their thick lives was thin unto veneer.
In the silence of that realization was the correction I needed.
I know so many people, but know so little about them. How dare I ask them to be more to me than I to them?
There’s a certain invisibility to life. At worst it makes us feel alone, and unworthy. On the other hand, being invisible lets us hear Him, and hear ourselves. It also does wonders against pride.
This life of ours, it’s so one-of-a-kind. If the crowd applauds or boos, it means nothing compared to how God views it. I was blowing in the wind there… I’m glad to return to center, with just the right kind of invisibility, to steer my own wheel.
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This edition of Uncle P’s Bedtime Stories is brought to you by Eighty-one, where we think a certain amount of invisibility is necessary for individuality.
Volume I, a collection of some of his favorite Bedtime Stories is available at Eighty-one, 3507 Ryan, Lake Charles. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org