A pond, and several blocks, separates the woman’s current home from the one she once shared with a husband, a dog, and an extended family. They had lived together on the north side of the pond but life’s circumstances, and her choices, would ultimately shift her south.The intent of their move was to create a new and simpler existence by replacing their house in the suburbs with a condominium in an urban area, and initially it appeared that, that would be so. They took little from their past with them, but this woman maintained her daily jogging routine, modifying it for this flat municipal locale. Her new rhythm and route would establish an unyielding itinerary that would take her around the pond to the south side of town before returning her home.
An old, wooden bench was located on the pond’s bank at the one-mile mark of her run, and from there she could catch sight of their home on the other side. The bench would frequently beckon her and so she would sit there and fondly recall her past while contemplating her future with optimism. Those moments spent in reflection would bring to mind a confusing mixture of memories that ranged from vague recollections to euphoric recall of the years past.
Time constraints disallowed the opportunity for her to flush out the lost memories, and so, this woman would always continue her travel through town and around the pond, back to her home. She would follow this routine almost daily, but only for a brief period, and although she is now thankful for its short duration, she could find no gratitude in the days that comprised it.
Life and the Universe, however, happen without our permission.
Before having completely settled into their new surroundings, grave obligations would beset her and force the abandonment of the physical and emotional self-care jogging provided her with. Death and loss became an uninvited and regular visitor to her family for the next eighteen months. Her aunt, the vibrant and active woman who raised her, very suddenly succumbed to her many years on this planet, while a most curable form of cancer took her sister’s husband within three months of his diagnosis. Two additional brothers-in-law would leave her life suddenly and permanently; one from a massive and fatal heart attack and the other from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
As months passed and the seasons changed this onslaught of endings and grief continued, leaving her in an unremitting state of mourning. Additionally, during this period of bereavement, she lost her job of ten years, and in the end, the only remaining family she had was her husband, her sister and, her two nephews.
She felt lost. The life she once knew was gone while the one she thought she would have was slipping away. Heartache was her ever-present companion.
Whenever possible, now more out of necessity and habit than for pleasure’s sake, she would don her running shoes and force her weary body and mind to perform this solitary, but recognizable ritual. She always traveled the same route, never straying from its established course, because, although its familiarity was not necessarily comforting, it was too frightening to do otherwise. Running was her attempt to escape the fear and loneliness that haunted her being, but no matter how long or how far her legs carried her, there was an internal struggle that she could neither get ahead of nor escape from.
On one of these jogs, as always, she paused to look across the pond to her home, but despite the clearness of the day, her view seemed hazy, foreign, and unwelcoming. This icy-cold perception left her heavily draped in feelings of hopelessness and desperation. With her heart pounding, she raced home and wept as she crossed the threshold into the house. There she would remain holed up for several days afraid to move and fearing more change.
When, at last, she gathered enough courage to venture outside and follow her habitual route she witnessed the same image across the pond as she had previously. The house was still obscure, and no matter how much she pretended or prayed it would not regain its one-time clarity.
A sense of isolation and alienation accompanied her home and extended beyond this moment into all areas of her life. Old routines, no longer worked and she was unable to establish new ones. She struggled between trying to move beyond the events in her life and trying to ignore them. Fear, security, and familiar pain kept her where she no longer belonged. She held on to the outdated until her hands hurt and her heart ached. She was drowning in confusion and denial.
Life as she knew it had changed—she had changed.
One day, feeling totally broken, she decided to walk around the pond and as she sat on the bench facing north, she saw a house emerge from the grayness. With what seemed to be a new set of eyes she could see reality and life as it was instead of choosing, as usual, to look the other way. What stared back at this woman was the image of a house that belonged to the man she had married a lifetime ago. It was not her home, if indeed it had ever been.
Feelings of relief, acceptance, and courage came over her as she relinquished her hold on the last remnants of a tired and empty dream that was long dead. She would soon leave her husband, home, and dog, the first two permanently and the latter briefly.
She recognized that it was in having to lose so much that she would find herself…here, on the other side of the pond.
This is the story of every woman who has ever lost herself and her dreams to those of another.
This is a tribute to all of the women who have found themselves and their dreams by crossing their own ponds.