When word filtered out that she was gone, just packed up and disappeared like a vapor in the broad, bright light of day, I found no surprise in it.
There was a substantial part of me that had expected it all along.
A woman who is restless with her serving of life is dangerous in a way that a man who is bored with a woman is dangerous. Sooner or later, both will find a path to escape. You can’t stay where you don’t feel at home.
Restlessness took root in her heart and grew as though it was planted in the fertile black bottom land of the Mississippi Delta. Nothing could stop it as it spread tightly around her heart like kudzu wrapping around a telephone pole.
For years, her eyes had told the story to anyone willing to take a look. It was more than sadness. It was deadness. It was eating her up, starting from the inside and gnawing its way to the surface. She yearned for adventure, for a life that would take her from the mundane to the exciting. She innately knew that there was more to life than what she knew.
“You’re so lucky,” she said to me far too often. “Oh, to have the life you have.” She’d drop her head. “What I would give to live your life for just one week.”
I pointed out all the wonderful things she had, the things that I did not: a loving husband, adorable children, a life of little stress.
“You just don’t understand,” she said quietly. And, it’s true. Like Atticus Finch said in ‘To Kill A Mockingbird,’ ‘You can’t know a man until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.’”
I used to think what an interesting reality show it would make for us to switch places for a week because she was right about one thing: Our lives were different as night is from day, as the North is from the South, as a puppy is from a cat. Her kind of different, though, didn’t feed her soul. It starved it. So, when the news came that she had struck out on her own in search of what she didn’t have and hadn’t had for all these years, it felt sad at first. But then I saw the triumph in it.
You have to cheer for a woman brave enough to pluck up her courage and face the unknown especially if the woman is not worldly and she has only a modest education. Most people settle, you know. They settle for the mundane because change is more terrifying than holding on to what is eating you alive. They’d rather die a little bit every day than plunge off the cliff and fall into the sky, not knowing where they’ll land and if they’ll even survive the fall.
But not her. She turned an ear away from her critics, from those who would scold her for being — for once in her life — selfish and thinking of only what she needed. She tuned into the voice in her soul that whispered, “The time is now. Go and find your peace. Don’t wait for death to bring it when it steals your final breath. Let life give it.”
For years, she had given herself completely to everyone else — her family, friends and community. She had saved nothing special for the person who mattered most: herself. Now, there were those who thought it extreme, thought that if she’d given it a little time that she would have gotten over it and everything would have been okay.
I was not one of those. For I know there are some things that time doesn’t make better but, instead, only stirs them up like a storm of dust and makes them worse. She left not for another man or even a job. She left for the most important reason possible.
She left to save herself.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should).” Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her weekly newsletter.