by Charlene Paul
There once was a woman who lived in a small town. She wasn’t a young woman, but she wasn’t an old woman either.
At the end of each year, the woman would sit at her little table and review her resolutions of the past year. Rarely did this bring her peace as she realized, year after year, decade after decade, most of her resolutions had gone unfinished. She remembered reading somewhere that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different outcome.
As she began to write her resolutions for the new year, she realized they were much the same as they had been year after year, decade after decade.
“I must be insane,” she thought. With thoughts of despair and disillusion, she went upstairs to bed.
Her dreams were suddenly interrupted by a balding, chubby little man with a lisp.
“You, insane?” he asked. “Inconceivable.”
“What? How did you . . . ?” she struggled to complete the sentence. “Who are you?”
“Never mind,” said the strange little man. “Come with me.”
When the man took her hand, she found herself sitting in a musty old theatre watching actors on a grand stage. Startled, she saw that it was her on the stage. In one scene, she stood next to her husband on their wedding day. In another, she lay in her hospital bed snuggling her new baby daughter. In still another, she took her six young children to school and practices and church. The action continued as she baked, sewed, cleaned, and cared for friends and neighbors.
“What is this place?” the woman asked.
“As I told you, it is in all ways, and in all things, totally inconceivable that you are insane,” replied the little balding, chubby little man with the lisp. “You just keep writing the wrong resolutions.”
The woman began to protest, but found she was back in her warm bed. The stranger was gone. She lay there until her heavy eyelids closed in sleep once more.
She was abruptly awakened by a sword-yielding Spaniard, with black shoulder length hair and a black mustache.
The woman pulled the covers up around her neck as she exclaimed, “Get out of my room!”
“My name is, . . . ,” stammered the man. “Never mind. You write the wrong resolutions. Prepare to fly!”
And with that, he took her hand and soared out the window into the night.
“Where are we going?” asked the startled woman.
“Your true life awaits, yet you resolve to live another,” he answered.
When they landed, she saw herself holding her dear mother’s hand as she breathed her last breath. She turned her head and saw herself baking, talking, drinking hot chocolate, climbing hills, and watching movies with twelve grandchildren of all ages. She turned her head again and saw herself hugging and kissing her husband after a long day’s work. She watched herself taking dinner to a shut-in down the street, and serving meals at the local soup kitchen.
“This is my life. Why are you showing me this?” the woman asked.
“If you look before you, you might see what is already there.” The man reached for her hand once more and commanded, “Prepare to fly!”
Back through the night they flew until she found herself, once again, in her cozy bed.
It seemed only seconds before a third visitor appeared. He was a giant as far as she could tell. His hands were the size of platters, and his waist had the girth of a huge oak tree. This visitor didn’t speak; he merely beckoned her to follow.
When she looked, she saw she was quite old. Although the visitor had explained nothing to her, she knew she was all alone. Her once youthful, positive self had been replaced by a frail, frightened, unsure woman she barely recognized. Her heart was heavy and her mind was cluttered by thoughts of all the resolutions that had been left undone.
“I don’t want to see this!” she cried out. “Why are you showing this to me?”
The visitor spoke not a word.
“Is this what is to become of me?” she cried.
The visitor slowly nodded and then shrugged his massive shoulders.
The first rays of morning peeked through her window as she awoke. She thought about her night visitors. Had they been real, or had they merely been restless dreams brought on by an upset stomach?
She remembered sitting at her little table thinking about her resolutions for the coming year, and how futile it all seemed as year after year, decade after decade, her resolutions went undone.
The balding, chubby little man with the lisp had told her she kept writing the wrong resolutions. The sword-yielding Spaniard, with black shoulder length hair and a black mustache had claimed she was resolving to live a life that wasn’t hers. And the giant with hands the size of platters and the girth of an oak tree had shown her where her life was headed.
Maybe insanity was not the problem after all. Maybe, just maybe, her resolutions did not reflect her life. There was no room in them for ups and downs and challenges and change. They focused on what she needed to do or what she needed to improve. They never reflected her accomplishments, or those things she was doing well.
The woman quickly dressed and hurried downstairs. Once again, she sat at her little table contemplating what to write. But instead of setting resolutions, she bowed her head and thought about her life. Year after year, decade after decade, she had set resolutions without any room for living. Year after year, decade after decade, she wrote the same things expecting the outcome to somehow be different. But she wasn’t insane; she had just written the wrong resolutions.
She glanced at the window from which she had flown the previous night, and with tears in her eyes, the woman finally understood.
Epilogue: There once was a woman who lived in a small town. She was not a young woman, but she was not an old woman. She was just a woman who did her best to live. And finally, she was at peace.