Three-Legged Solution


Springsteen still has me thinking.

When she feels like crying, she starts laughing, thinking about glory days”

I don’t envy the people in this song; I didn’t envy them in grade school or high school or college.

Not that I have a regrettable past; I probably wouldn’t even change anything, given the chance.  But neither would I voluntarily relive a moment of it. Not one day, let alone days–and it doesn’t have a laugh track.

And so I am asking myself: when I’m old, kicking back, as Freedom said, what sort of track will my life hold, and what will make me view it with satisfaction?

I used to say that I could imagine nothing greater than knowing that  my children grew up to be decent human beings, but that’s a knee-jerk reaction; the obvious, easy answer. Because honestly, it isn’t enough for me to hedge my bets on the integrity of somebody else’s actions, now or in the future.  So what is?

This morning at four-thirty, when the sun was up, but not up, and the neighborhood dogs were still prowling, I was accosted, as usual, by my neighbor’s three legged mutt. Snarling, nipping at my shins and barking himself hoarse all the way down the block.

I have to tell you, running the gauntlet every morning is getting old.

On my way back, I kept my eye out for a really big stick.  Not finding one, I settled on two large rocks. One in each hand.

And then I felt ashamed of myself for gearing myself up to do battle with a three-legged dog. 

But for heaven’s sake–you can’t expect me to walk around my own neighborhood with my heart in my throat can you? I mean—the irresponsibility of some…

The stillness of the morning was torn completely ragged by the grey orbs of violence I held in my palms. And no matter how many of my neighbor’s faults, or those of his dog, I listed, the break remained unmended.

Well, what am I supposed to do? I asked the morning muses. Let him bite me?

Well…what if he did?

I hate it when they talk back like that.

They. Like I have voices in my head, right? I prefer to call him God.

How would I feed my family, if I were injured? I asked.

And he asked me if I have ever, ever needed for one thing. If I have ever walked even one day of my path alone.

Well… No.

And then he asked what I feared more—a three-legged dog or my own face in the mirror every morning?

I dropped the rocks. 

One at a time.

I’m not saying the need for a few well-aimed rocks will never arise.

But I realized that if I considered the genuine me and not the distracted, instantaneous reaction that compelled me to pick up the rocks, I was not truly frightened. Not today, not ever. Not of the dog. Not of my own weaknesses, not of anything  the future might send my way.

I don't actually live by fear, not when I'm thinking in real time and living each moment, and connecting with that voice of assurance at my core.

Which is when it occurred to me that the best days of my life are those in which I walk with absolute confidence—not on a path that is breathtakingly beautiful, or perfectly timed, or even free of trouble, but one where the steps I’m taking and the items I hold in my palms are things of my own, conscious choosing.

And that feels enough, for now.

Glory days. In the blink of a young girl's eye? I don't think so. 

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