There is a space between the lines, and it's full of whatever a person sees.
My phone lights up, dings and vibrates in the stillness of the dark room next to the bed. My pupils adjust to the gray light through half-open eyelids, and my brain reaches for the day's baggage. Sometimes it picks up too much at once and the baggage is too heavy to get out of bed at all. I often wake up slowly because I have to consciously discard whatever concerns aren't necessary in that moment.
As I sat up in bed not too long ago, I was confronted with all my problems at once, near and far: from work problems, money shortages, medical problems and a desperate need for a reliable car, to wondering if I'll ever be able to retire (at this rate, unlikely). In short, my half-closed eyes saw a cinder block wall where the door should have been.
I didn't know where to begin. Finally, I turned off my thoughts and switched on the light. Then, one step at a time, I walked the dog, showered, dressed and drove to work with my chin up.
The next day I took my junker to the dealership for the electrical problem that had me driving without dash instruments half the time. Commuting on Interstate 70 without a speedometer gets a little spooky. I hated to imagine what might give out next but I also loathed the idea of car shopping - once again, I didn't know where to begin.
While the mechanics did their thing, I decided I might as well start learning about the car market. A dealer helped me figure out my buying power, which was almost nothing. But there was something - a 2012 economy-class ditty with only 32,000 miles that was priced $2,500 below the scriptured Blue Book price. The little Nissan seemed to fit my needs, but I knew I had a lot more research to do. At least I finally had a place to start the research.
It was hard to imagine a better deal in my price range, but I had to make sure I wasn't buying another lemon. A little voice inside me said it was time to dig into the problem that had seemed so far away for so long. I called mechanics around the state and scoured Internet forums. That's when I stumbled onto the same car with only 9,000 miles listed for the same price! Suddenly, the little guy with almost zero buying power had two dealerships competing for his business.
Now it's a little easier to keep my chin up as I drive to work. There are still plenty of problems on the horizon - and it's maddening, even paralyzing to contemplate how the future is perpetually full of them - but the new car reminds me that life is zipping along just fine for me in this moment. I just have to tackle one problem, one step at a time.
Change sucks. It's annoying and stressful to constantly adapt. Change is also an opportunity to grow, however, so how you regard it is important. As much as I cursed the electrical problem in my '98 Subaru Forester, which required me to take it into the dealership, I wouldn't have found the timely opportunity that was the solution to a long-standing problem.
In any given day, between sunrise and sunset, birth and death, your life will be full of whatever you see.
That's why I try to make an active decision about what I'm focused on, especially when it comes to anger or love. Everything else is merely the abyss surrounding the high wire I walk. There are times when I get dizzy walking that line, though. I freeze up, afraid to make a move because I see everything on the edge of going wrong.
Big changes in my life, like the car dying, are often a wake-up call. They force me to stop thinking and take another step.
That's a good thing, because moving forward from wherever we are is the only way to survive.
- "Open Space" appears on the second and fourth Friday of the month. Derek Franz writes for the Eagle Valley Enterprise and lives in Carbondale. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.