Meet Brenda The Detourist! #LoveMyDetour
Why Not Wednesday
“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.”
A pond, and several blocks, separated my then current home from the one I had once shared with a husband, a dog, and an extended family. We had lived together on the north side of the pond but life’s circumstances, and my choices, would ultimately shift me south.
The intent of our move was to create a new and simpler existence by replacing our house in the suburbs with a condominium in an urban area, and initially it appeared that, that would be so. We took little from our past with us, but I maintained my daily jogging routine, modifying it for this flat municipal locale. My new rhythm and route would establish an unyielding itinerary that would take me around the pond to the south side of town before returning me home.
An old, wooden bench was located on the pond’s bank at the one-mile mark of my run, and from there I could catch sight of our home on the other side. The bench would frequently beckon me and so I would sit there and fondly recall my past while optimistically contemplating my future. 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 me to flush out the lost memories, and so, I would always just continue my travel through town and around the pond, back to home. I would follow this routine almost daily, but only for a brief period, and although I am now thankful for its short duration, I could find no gratitude in the days that comprised it.
Life and the Universe, however, happen without our permission.
Before having completely settled into our new surroundings, grave obligations would beset me and force the abandonment of the physical and emotional self-care that jogging provided me with. Death and loss became an uninvited and regular visitor to our family for the next eighteen months. My aunt, the vibrant and active woman who raised me, very suddenly succumbed to her many years on this planet, while a most curable form of cancer took my sister’s husband within three months of his diagnosis. Two additional brothers-in-law would leave my 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 me in an unremitting state of mourning. During this period of bereavement, I also lost my job of ten years, and in the end, the only remaining family I had was my husband, my sister and, my two nephews.
Nothing was familiar and I felt lost. The life I once knew was gone while the one I thought I would have was slipping away. Heartache was my ever-present companion.
Whenever possible, now more out of necessity and habit than for pleasure’s sake, I would don my running shoes and force my weary body and mind to perform this solitary, but recognizable ritual. I 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 my attempt to escape the fear and loneliness that haunted my being, but no matter how long or how far my legs carried me, there was an internal struggle that I could neither get ahead of nor escape from.
On one of these jogs, as always, I paused long enough to look across the pond to our home, but despite the clearness of the day, my view seemed hazy, foreign, and unwelcoming. This icy-cold perception left me heavily draped in feelings of hopelessness and despair. With my heart pounding, I raced home and wept as I crossed the threshold into the house. There I would remain holed up for several days afraid to move and fearing more change.
When, at last, I gathered enough courage to venture outside and follow my habitual route I witnessed the same image across the pond as I had previously seen. The house was still obscure, and no matter how much I pretended or prayed it would not regain its one-time clarity.
A sense of isolation and alienation accompanied me home and extended beyond that moment into and into all areas of my life. Old routines no longer worked and I was unable to establish new ones. I struggled between trying to move beyond the events in my life and trying to ignore them. Fear, security, and familiar pain kept me where I no longer belonged. I held on to the outdated until my hands hurt and my heart ached. I was drowning in confusion and denial.
Life as I knew it had changed—I had changed.
One day, feeling totally broken and too exhausted to jog, I decided to walk around the pond and as I sat on the bench facing north, I saw a house emerge from the grayness. With what seemed to be a new set of eyes I could see reality and life as it was instead of choosing, as usual, to look the other way. What stared back at me was the image of a house that belonged to the man I had married a lifetime ago. It was not my home, if indeed it had ever been.
I was overcome with feelings of relief, acceptance, and courage as I relinquished my hold on the last remnants of a tired and empty dream that was long dead. I would soon leave my husband, home, and dog, the first two permanently and the latter briefly.
I recognized that it was in having to lose so much that I would find myself…here, with a blank page on which to create my own life, on the other side of the pond.
That is why I…#LoveMyDetour.
Brenda de Jong is the author of several short stories and pieces of flash fiction, along with her soon-to-be published book, “My Name is Elpee”. Ms. de Jong holds an M.S. degree in Human Services Leadership and Management and has worked with populations that include: victims of domestic violence, substance abusers, people with mental illness, individuals with HIV/AIDS, and nursing home residents who desire to return to the community. With a minor in Women’s Studies, Brenda has, for several years, set about the task of mentoring women in various capacities, especially in the areas of education and empowerment. You can connect with her on https://cherrycottagefi.com/, Facebook, LinkedIn, and about.me.
On our detour, we realize our value and embrace it – it takes guts to travel a road we don’t have a map for.
Where will you travel today?