LONG DISTANCE, or a half hour with Jesus
March 1996, Uptown Newsmagazine
Ursula’s letter laments that our friend Joe died alone while traveling in New York. In response, I write that Joseph’s ICU nurse, knowing death was imminent, was with him all night and held his hands as he let go of life. In truth, we all face that moment alone, even though someone’s arms may be around us, and someone’s hands may hold ours.
Ursula also writes she envies my freedom to do what I want; and then in the same paragraph she writes she’s put her retirement off till the year 2000 because she wants the security of her job and its medical plan as well as the financial remuneration that allows her to continue traveling to exotic places. I tell her to stop beating herself up. If travel makes her happy she should continue working so long as the company allows her to do so.
“What are you going to do?” asked my tax accountant when she toted up 1995’s income and outgo.
“You must understand,” I replied, “that this is a leap of artistic and creative faith.”
“I’m an accountant,” she said. “I don’t understand ‘leap of faith.’” Then she added wistfully, “I almost wish I did.”
If security were more important than fulfillment, I’d still be working for someone else and making ten times what I earned during the past year. If security were more important than freedom, I’d have remained in a long-term relationship with a man who was absent emotionally.
Friends are my most precious gifts these days. Erik lies on the floor, propped up by pillows, while we watch the video of “Moonstruck” he’s brought over. He reaches out several times during the film and squeezes my ankle affectionately. I realize suddenly that there is more intimacy and love in his touch than I received during the final ten years of my marriage.
Do you address fear in your work,” asks my friend Tom, “admit to it?”
Perhaps not. Perhaps I paint my life and myself too brave, too resilient. In many ways I am frightened. I do worry over the future, but I have to put up that brave front; it is all I have to protect myself against the possibility of failure.
What is failure? Isn’t it the time for expression that matters?
I admit that in the middle of the night and I am alone, fear sometimes assails me. I waken and murmur prayers of thanksgiving—for friends, a warm apartment and for the beauty that surrounds me. Surely something that feels so right, that brings such happiness will eventually sustain me.
I face uncertainty. Who doesn’t? What could be more exhilarating? I weigh each opportunity as it is presented, then choose to pursue the prospect or not. My decision is influenced less and less by how much money I’ll earn and more and more by what will satisfy me creatively and feed my soul.
This morning in Balboa Park, a man stood near the Moreton Bay fig tree across from Old Globe Way. His attitude was that of a man talking on a cellular phone; his attire told me otherwise.
After I’d passed I could hear his voice. “So, you say I’ve got a half hour with Jesus? Put him on.”