It had recently been Gloria’s experience that the simplest of tasks could require of us the most monumental of efforts.
Admittedly, her sense of this truth was complicated not only by her prolonged exhaustion but also the multi-layered pressures of what might be called “the climate” – though that term didn’t really work for her, any longer, on the whole. It had long ago begun to buckle and crack under a steady stream of the increasingly heavier modifiers with which it was often paired.
The “political climate”.
Climates-of-change. Climates-of resistance-to-change, and then climates-of-resistance-to-the resistance.
Then there was the sexual climate. The shifting grounds upon which men in particular were finding it difficult to “find their footing” (these, exact words she had overheard from a “well-meaning” man), which may have been a definite climate of late but was decidedly not her problem, from that point of view at least. Except that it of course was.
Gloria wasn’t just scared, of this nominally simple thing she knew she had no choice but to go ahead and do – in fact, desperately need to do, for so many reasons – it was also that, in considering it, she felt the full force of every possible reaction her decision might prompt, from any of a number of environments which, so long as she kept her eyes and ears open and waited long enough, would present the right evidence (regardless of its truth) to discredit her.
So, she hesitated.
At the very moment upon which all of it, all the years and months of fear, shame, guilt, doubt, fury and sadness – so much fury and sadness – at the very moment it was all due to finally begin to change, Gloria hesitated.
It was okay that she froze.
She was allowed to freeze. She knew this, instinctively, and knew also that, among those who counted, she wouldn’t be judged even if she did ultimately fail to complete this heaviest of simple tasks, that in the moment seemed to be pushing down upon her with more gravity than all others she had ever undertaken over the course of her entire life, combined.
And then, subtly, slowly, something began to change.
Despite the high-level of anxiety that she had carried with her at most times even before it happened, itself a sort of humming, charged suit of armor, that brought its own costs along with its only half-delivered protections – Gloria recognized something bright and buoyant working its way suddenly through her. It warmed her limbs, straightened her back and relaxed her mind.
She could only call it hope; this sudden, mysteriously manifest feeling, this certainty, that she would be ultimately protected, no matter the climate or what happened now or later.
After all this time. She could almost cry, and probably later she would.
She recognized it completely, wholly, as that promised thing that only seems to come either after we’ve given up grasping for it, or feel we have nowhere else to turn.
She knew it wasn’t hers to keep, only to borrow, and so she breathed and prepared to use it, in full honor of the unexpected gift, and in line with what she knew for certain was, after all her time in the darkness, its purpose.
In this way, the very fears that had paralyzed Gloria, ironically set her free.
She suddenly didn’t care how “they” might be viewing her hesitation.
She didn’t care about the fear, the fury, the sadness or the shame or the guilt. It’s not that these feelings weren’t still there, just that for the moment they had receded in importance. They had paled in comparison with hope.
Neither did Gloria care what effect her decision might have on anything but the truth, which for her was an imperative that, despite her pain and exhaustion, needed protecting, here and now.
And so, yes, the small moment Gloria had involuntarily taken to think, to consider her own basic, immediate needs, possibly for the first time in months – it freed her.
The anxiety retreated. She didn’t need it or want it. It would be back, and that would be all right. She would deal with that then.
The swirling thoughts slowed to a stop, with several of them falling away entirely, at least for the moment. That, too, was fine. She was coming to believe that they were just as often her friends as her adversaries, depending on how she viewed things, or how much help she got from others like her, which always had the effect of at least temporarily getting her out of her own head.
And, finally, in the space created by these invisible, cascading changes, and with the aid of that warming glow of hope pulsing through her from the inside-out, the doubt that had crippled Gloria’s ability to do the simple thing she knew she had to do, transmogrified into its antonymous other: faith.
The task was here.
She had known it was coming.
They had told her exactly how it would happen. She had practiced. The practice had never felt real.
This was real, now, and it was time to act. She wasn’t alone.
“Is this him?”
It was. Of course it was. Everyone knew it was. But there remained the simple task of-