In 2003, my life was a runaway train racing toward an old, dilapidated, wooden bridge. I had 3 teens in high school and I was severely conflicted about my demanding salaried position at a large corporation that primarily served government, legal and financial customers. I had lost the house of my dreams to a predatory lending scam and my mother had just been diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer. On top of it all, I was turning 40 that winter.
I had given up playing music and performing back in '98, when I had to look for a better day job that would support the family. I got an incredible break through a temp service and eventually worked my way up the corporate ladder to the point that we could afford to buy a house and a van big enough for all of us to travel in comfortably. I also paid off a lot of old lingering debts. All this by the dawn of the new century. The mortgage, however, came with a ridiculous interest rate and many broken promises. Before long, it was eating us alive and was fast becoming unmanageable. These were the early days of the predatory lending craze. No funding was made available to help us save our home. So, we made a short-sale agreement and moved. It broke my heart to leave that house behind.
It was the beginning of my break.
The corporate office world was not a happy place for me, either. I was successful at my job and the company recognized my efforts with promotions and awards, but I was increasingly aware of my inner conflict with the politics and anal thinking rampant in such a place. I felt I had to become someone else each time I stepped through the revolving door. I was cringing inside as I agreed with policies I didn't really believe in, faking smiles in the elevator and hiding out in the bathroom to keep others from seeing me cry. I worried someone would notice the worn places on my shoes. I'd heard chat about someone wearing outdated styles and wondered if they were talking about me. I sat in meetings with people who discussed all the trouble they had deciding the color of their new car or problems with their current building contractor. A quote I will NEVER forget: "I certainly won't use them when I build my next house." I stood in front of training rooms filled with professionals praying that no one would ask me where I went (or didn't go) to college. As well as I did with the 'work' I needed to do in this position, it was the most out-of-place I had felt in my entire life.
This is where my break began to splinter and deepen.
For my 40th birthday, I searched on eBay for a 12-string guitar. I was reaching for something to help me feel like myself again. I found a Samick Greg Bennett edition that had a gorgeous curved headstock. Although not nearly as expensive as some other guitars I passed by, it was still a bit of a splurge. It was, however, the first one I had allowed myself in quite some time. I clicked the "Buy it Now" button and felt a little light come back on in my heart. Music has always been my one constant friend, going way back into my childhood. It's the place where I can lose the pain and heal wounds. It's my retreat and where I feel closest to my source...always. So in this chaotic time splintering my heart, I reached back to my old friend and started playing and writing music again, on this beautiful guitar. My fingertips were burning with new callouses while I typed away on the computer at work, reminding me I played late last night. New songs were flooding my thoughts and I even started learning a few new tunes off my kid's CDs. This guitar helped me get through the challenges that lay ahead as my physical and mental health began to fail.
At that point, I was officially broken.
I won't go into details, mostly because they are sketchy and unclear to me, but by the summer of 2005, my entire world had changed. Many would say NOT for the better. I thoroughly disagree. Do I still have that job: NO. Do I still have health insurance and a cabinet full of prescriptions: NO. Do I have a big house, new car and a closet full of shoes: NO. Do I feel like my life is worth living now: YES. Do I finally feel like myself: YES. Do I feel love in my heart again: YES. I had a terrible and painful journey through some extremely dark times, but I made it to the light at the end of the tunnel and found that God had held that old, dilapidated, wooden bridge together just long enough for me to make it across. I'll always believe that He speaks to me and moves me through music. Reconnecting is what helped to put the brakes on that runaway train and bring me back to cruising speed: back to that quiet place inside where I could at last hear His voice again. I could wrap my arms around the guitar and feel its sound awaken me.
Peace, at last, as my pieces began to fit back together again.
A few months ago, on a Saturday night, I played my precious guitar for the last time. If I'd have known it would be the finale, I might have played a little longer. For all the world I wish I had taken it home with me that night. But I was assured our equipment would be safe over the weekend. By Monday, it was destroyed. The neck was snapped into splinters. Was it knocked off its stand? Was someone too hasty in picking up cords and pulled it over? Did a ghost do it? The owner of this venue says 'experts' he had look at it tell him it's a "Stress Break" which I guess means he holds no responsibility and will not replace it for me. He did offer that if I work for him, he could 'help me' with getting another one. He even suggested he could get a 12-string for a 'song and a dance' if someone came to the music store to hock one to him. That's what he thinks I should settle for: a piece of junk that he expects me to come work for him to earn.
Now, working is not the issue...because I've worked for him before. The reason I'm no longer on his staff goes deep into what I would say are 'ethical' and 'spiritual' concerns I have with his business practices. On top of it all, there is a level of chaos and drama that surrounds every aspect of the place. It's as if he and his minions are addicted and go so far as to even manufacture stress when they start 'jonesing' for it. The old me would have done what I was told, though, to get a new guitar. But, the real me has decided to pass on his offer. I'd rather no longer settle for what is dangled before me or compromise my peace just to get what I want. I'll believe, instead, that if I stay true to my heart and in a place of peace, what I 'need' will find me. I'm working hard to not compromise what I know in my heart is right or accept any more stress-junkies back into my life.
Stress builds steam as it surges around us and often looks for the tiniest crack to wriggle its destructive force into. The people who surround us can either help deflect that force or find ways to intensify the heat. I've learned, and highly recommend, that we as interconnected energies on this sleeping satellite, should strive to gather to us and support those that help deflect stress; leaving those who insist on bringing chaos and drama with them in their own space. We can believe they will find their own stress brake someday, but we can't BE that brake for them. Everyone has the right to their own ride and it is up to each of us to find the right track to our destination. I've decided to try to choose the train with adequate brakes from now on, letting God be my source and engineer.
You know, what we really need in life IS a stress brake...to help us avoid the breaks that tear us apart.