Everyday Angels

I want to tell you a story. Now, before I go on, let me preface this. I am a practical woman by nature. I don’t get all wrapped up in new age-y stuff and even though I believe in fairies, I try to keep my whimsy to a minimum. This story is about angels. Not in the usual wings and Della Reese type angel, but normal people who do something nice or extraordinary. These are just regular people who help out at times when the smallest act of kindness is miraculous in its long-term effect.

There was a time in my life when I was at my end, when I was just too overwhelmed, too alone. I was 21. I was very, very poor, living in a suburban ghetto and working a shitty, low paying job 1.5 hours away from where I lived.

I was in the middle of a great depression. It lasted about three years and in that period of time I became mildly agoraphobic. I went to work and I came home. I didn’t have enough money for a phone or a TV. I didn’t have money for food or gas or anything that wasn’t rent related. I saw no one. I read books and smoked cigarettes. I did have Cleo. She was a brand new kitten and my saving grace a million times over, but this story isn’t about her.

It’s about a man I met once who changed my life, saved my life.

At the time things were really, really bad. I had no idea when I left fresh-faced for the university that I had the potential to completely fuck up my life, but that’s what I did. Fully and completely. I’m not a half-assed kind of person. It’s all or nothing. I went for broke and man, did I succeed. I had left the university, cold turkey, after a friend’s suicide. My friends, my boyfriend, my stuff, everything. I just walked away with what could fit in my car with false promises to return.

Contact with my family was strained or non-existent. My mother’s cancer had just metastasized. I had been arrested, kicked out, crashed my car and been beaten up. I was miserable, angry and totally self-sabotaging. One-step forward, three-steps back kind of girl.

On this particular day I added flat broke. I thought I could get to work with the gas I had in the tank. I figured I’d borrow $10 to get back home, but I didn’t have bridge toll. I needed a buck. The buck that broke the camel’s back.

That was it. I didn’t even have a dollar to my name. Sitting in traffic, watching my gas gauge, every failure, every mistake, and every fuck up piled up in my head. I never said or thought the word suicide. I thought I would just start over; end the misery for me and everyone I loved that I had hurt. That was my thought for the day.

I had no idea what was going to happen at the tollgate. I didn’t have the money. I found 40 cents in the seat cushion. I saw a dime on the passenger side floor. As I leaned over to pick it up and the traffic slowed. As I came back up, the car in front of me was stopped and I slammed on my brakes praying I wasn’t going to hit it.

I didn’t. It was close, but I didn’t hit him.

The car pulled over to the side of the road anyway.

I followed and got out, defensive and angry.

“I didn’t hit you!” I was pissed. Anger was the only thing keeping me going day to day. I was used to legitimate accusations and disappointment from people. I had to take that because I was a fuck-up. It was too much to ask me to take unfair accusations.

The man was really calm. He spoke softly and gently, which is odd in itself because we were on the side of the Highway 24 and traffic on the other side of the barrier was fast.

“I know. I know. Its okay. Your bumper fell off and I didn’t want you to run over it.”

I looked at the front of my car and sure enough, the bumper was held 2 inched off the ground by electrical wires. Okay. This was a ‘87 Cutlass Supreme. An Oldsmobile. I had not damaged it (yet). It just fell off.

“Oh.” I said and started to pull off the wires and pick up my massive steel bumper.

The man didn’t say anything for a minute.

“What were you doing? You weren’t paying attention.” He asked, nicely. There was no accusation in his voice and accusation was the only tone I had heard in a long time.

I mumbled something about change and bridge toll. I apologized for almost hitting him as I stuck the bumper in the back of my car.

This man, who I almost hit and then yelled at, pulled out his wallet and gave me 10 bucks.

“Be careful.” He said smiling kindly. He held my hand for a moment longer than necessary as he pushed the bill into my fist.

Then he got in his car and drove away, leaving me standing on the side of the freeway.

I don’t know if I took more from that encounter than was intended, but here is what it did for me. It gave me hope, an indelible hope that to this day prevents me from giving up on anyone, especially myself. It started me thinking again. His money got me across the bridge and home again. His act changed my life forever.

I call this guy an angel. I don’t believe in god. I have spirituality, but its more a vague concept. I’d like to say there was a white light surrounding him like Roma Downey at the end of an episode of “Touched by an Angel”, but there wasn’t. He was just a guy who must have seen something in me. And in seeing that in me, I was able to see that in myself.

That was the beginning of the end of that part of my life. I found a therapist, got on medication and slowly fixed that which was broken. By the time I was 25, life was infinitely better.

The reason I wanted to tell this story is because well, I have been feeling down. Not a deep dark depression, but like I said in my last post, down. (This is where it gets difficult for me. I don’t do sappy really well.)

I just want to thank you. Your comments and e-mails have really touched me. You made me feel better. I don’t always respond to comments because, believe it or not, I have a shy streak.

So to that end… Thank you, my angels on the Internet. You are more important than you can imagine.


17 thoughts on “Everyday Angels

  1. You know what that angel did for you? He kept you going. He enabled you to keep moving forward.

    And that’s what’s so important when we feel like everything around us is so foreign (sorry for the obvious pun but it does fit). Keep going forward because forward is where the good shit is.

    That’s how I’ve hung on for nearly nine years of the Krazy Kraut ride. I just keep going on to the next thing and then eventually it doesn’t feel so weird anymore.

    I’m happy you told us this story. I’m happy that there are people out there willing to help us move along.

  2. I love reading your blog. I lived in Germany too with my German husband and also experienced these frustrations. Hang in there.

  3. OMG! Have you looked @ your ClustrMap counter lately? There is someone in FUCKING SUDAN whose read your blog! Keep it up. We love & miss you. Hope to see you over the holidays (although we’ll be in FL for part of that time). Sorry I don’t call or e-mail more. It’s so unfair that I get to keep up with your life, but don’t have to tell you about mine. In short, kid is cute, husband is HOT! (I’m talkin’ about mine, Sweety, though Sparky ain’t half bad). You’re looking sooo skinny. Are you eating, darling? (GBF’s are allowed to ask annoying motherly questions.) Got an e-mail from Willie today — he’s got a job in England working for EMI; in his e-mail he sent the link to the ridiculously flash-y Kylie site; he seems to think that since they work for the same company, she’s his new best friend. Kisses!

  4. Hey Jen,

    I know, you hate my German language, but now it fits best:

    Kopf hoch! Du hast einen super Mann, eine schöne Umgebung. Nur das Wetter ist halt scheiße zur Zeit :-). Also: Gas geben, geradeaus gehen, und nicht zu viel Zeit in der eigenen Depression verbringen!


  5. Have been reading your blog for awhile. Just wanted you to know that you have another person who is checking in just to see “what’s up.” Hope things are looking better soon.

  6. I just happened upon your blog today.

    Isn’t it amazing, those forks in the road…?!

    Speaking of bridges and tolls and strangers, one of my favorite memories of my dad (and it defines him perfectly) is when I was bout 6… he pulled up to the tollbooth of the Golden Gate Bridge, handed the attendant some bills and said, “This is also for the car behind me.”

    It was a Random Act of Kindness before it had a yuppie-sounding name!


  7. Hi Jen,
    I just discovered your blog and I’m impressed by your writing. Such honesty and frankness is rather rare on the internet.
    Go on and never give up!

  8. Hey Jen – Excellent posts. I haven’t been checking in for a while. Are you going to do NANOWRIMO this year? Tai Chi is good. Do you like Tai Chi? Chai Tea is also good, but doesn’t have quite the same impact. Love from Oregon. You’re a good one.

  9. Dear Jen,

    I have been lurking, reading, enjoying and just generally envying you/your life/your blog for several months now.

    I am currently in a bit of a post-divorce-quit-my-job-and-moved-far-away transition in my life that’s taking much longer than I had hoped to turn around. Things feel stagnant, stale and monochromatic and I dip into that well of despair from time-to-time that you describe so perfectly in your last post.

    When I try to imagine the kind of life I want to create I often find myself wistfully thinking how wonderful it would be to live in a foreign country (I did go to Italy for 3 months right after quitting my job last year but failed to find anything to keep me there long term) with a cute husband who loves me, becoming bilingual and meeting new friends who also have fabulously witty blogs. In short, I imagine how awesome it would be to live your life (or at least the version of your life that you live in my head).

    I also have had serious pangs of envy (in a totally nice not evil way) over your incredible relationship with the Wonder Twins. By comparison my life seems shallow and dull and vapid. So to now read about your struggle with depression and your sense of failure and alienation in your early twenties makes me realize two things: (1) we never really know what’s going on with other people and shouldn’t compare our insides to their outsides and (2) you are a very real, very brave person that I would enjoy knowing and who I no longer envy but instead admire very much.

    I wish I lived in Germany (despite the fact that I hate the language, the people and the country . . . although oddly the bread is always fantastic) so we could have lunch once in a while (God I sound like that stalker on “Men in Trees” – do you get US TV shows over there in real time? It’s a brand spankin new show a la Northern Exposure starring that nut Anne Heche who actually does a good job with her character . . . check it out when you’re back in the States).

    Your blog always makes me laugh and often touches me deeply – the past couple of posts more than ever.

    Just wanted you to know. And glad you’re feeling well enough to write again. Oh yeah, and happy belated birthday. The Fin looks so cute lounging in front of the pooter gazing lovingly at mommy’s face.

    Glad you’re back.


  10. Hey sis,
    Sorry it took me a while to get to your blog, but I have to say this is one of my favorites. Especially because I remember that time in your life and what a different person your were then. You have come a long way since then, and to think that was one of those pivital moments that changed direction your life was going. I just hope that you have repaid it and done that for someone else, oh yeah, me. Anyway just wanted to say I love you and impressed with the responses that you get from people all over the world. I think I’ll give you a call.

  11. I just read this. I hope more and more angles come your way. You certainly bring a certain sangreia carrying Roma Downey light into my life.

  12. I don’t know what to say. I was kinda blown away by all your responses.

    Carol: I love paying for the guy behind on bridge tolls.

    Amy: Yes, I am. and I’m scared. Are you? Von Tauber did it last year and finished. I was so jealous. I absolutely have to do it this year. I’ve never tried Chai Tea, but i have tried Tai Chi. A little slow for my ADD tendancies. Maybe if I laid off the espresso and drank more Chai, I’d find Tai Chi more my speed. 🙂

    A.M.: E-mail me, my address is under complaint department.

    GBF: An e-mail is forthcoming. I’m coming home for all of december so I would expect to have some face time with you! And I’m kinda eating. Sparky is very sad that he didn’t make a better impression with Willie, now that he and Kylie are best friends.

    Wonderboy/Jeffy: I love you, brother. And congrats on that promotion. I’m so proud of you.

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