Keeping My Eyes Open

I'm not sure why I went with this photo, other than it's one of the few recent photos of all of us.
I’m not sure why I went with this photo, other than it’s one of the few recent photos of all of us, from Mardi Gras, and I’ve been wanting to work it in anyway.

Eight years ago, when Maile and I were at the bottom financially (or the lowest bottom we’ve been at so far because I guess you never know), I applied for a very well-paying job doing something I probably would have marginally enjoyed. Okay, barely enjoyed. Or not really enjoyed at all. It’s hard to say if I would have enjoyed it for very long. Due to some extenuating circumstances that I won’t go into, I did not get the job. I was furious. Writing work was sparse, and I was tired of living month-to-month. I craved the security of a 9 to 5.

A few months later, I landed a book-writing project. Soon after that, another. For the next eight years, albeit on a financial roller coaster, I went on to write over 20 books and finally, last year, tricked a publisher into signing me to a three-book deal to write fiction. Well, maybe there wasn’t any trickery. The publisher seems to be going into it rather enthusiastically.

None of this would have happened if I would have landed that job. That’s a fact. It was a demanding, hours-heavy position that would have left little time for writing. Most of the progress I’ve made as a writer during the last eight years has come out of desperation as much as anything else. With that job I would have had less desperation, and without that, I would have written a fraction of the words I’ve written.

I’ve thought about that a lot during the last eight years, how sometimes it feels like things are going to hell in a handbasket and then, out of nowhere, the very thing that seems worst about a situation starts to makes sense. It’s happened numerous times. One project will vanish only to make room for an even better one. One opportunity slips away and something else even more intriguing fills the gap.

Of course, it doesn’t always happen that way, and by that I mean, the rotten things that happen don’t always make sense. There are not-so-great things that have happened recently for which I have not received a decent explanation from God. Sometimes, I fall into the cosmic trap of thinking it’s God’s duty to explain or justify or clarify everything that happens in my life that I don’t agree with or understand.

Yet, God keeps on handing me good things and bad things for which there is no rational explanation. Which gets me to the point of this whole thing, which is not that everything makes sense. I’m not here to tell you that if you wait long enough, that hard thing in your life will turn to good or lead to you picking the right Powerball numbers.

But after eight years of being self-employed, after many heartaches and disappointments, after Maile’s two miscarriages, nearly facing bankruptcy, and even after our bus’s brakes went out as we went down the Teton Pass, I can tell you this: continually searching for meaning in the madness is sometimes the meaning itself. In other words, it’s the looking for meaning that has sometimes kept me sane, the asking and doubting, the questions and silence, the searching and searching. And searching.

* * * * *

When things looked like they might slow down back in November, I started driving for Uber and Lyft. It’s a flexible way to add some income when I’m in between projects. The things is, if I was busy, I probably wouldn’t have ever done any ride-sharing, but here we are.

Like I said, now that I’m eight years into this self-employed writing thing, I try to keep my eyes open for what I might find, even in places or times that aren’t exactly of my own choosing. And what do you know! I found stories hidden there in the hundreds of rides I’ve given with Uber and Lyft. Every single fare I’ve taken has been a real, live person with real, live problems and dreams and jobs and hopes and disappointments. I’ve driven immigration lawyers and transgender sex workers, mall employees and high-powered business people, students on their way to school and students who were absolutely hammered. Granted, not everyone wants to talk about their lives – Lord knows, I only feel like talking to people about 50% of the time – but the ones who do want to talk always seem relieved to have spoken, to have had someone listen to them even for just ten minutes.

So here it is again: a difficult thing ends up shining a light on something new, some kind of fresh story, some kind of glimpse of God in these people all around me.

* * * * *

Not every bad thing in your life will come with a ready-made tag explaining or pointing out the redemptive work that has happened or is happening through it. But searching for that redemption – in other words, giving yourself the permission to hope in even the direst of circumstances – is not a terrible way to live a life, even when the question goes unanswered.

4 Replies to “Keeping My Eyes Open”

  1. A good reminder, Shawn. When hope shines, fear fades. That’s not a bad way to live either. Thanks for being faithful with your writing.

  2. How I love that line “continually searching for meaning in the madness is sometimes the meaning itself. ” That rings so true for me as it is my experience as well.
    Keep these coming – So much universality is revealed in these small glimpses into your riders lives.

  3. I love this, Shawn. Thank you. Most of the time, I am still reading along with you – as you know, you are a favorite of mine. I have very little energy for commenting these days , however.

    We placed my mama on hospice care two days ago, which may not mean much. My mother-in-law was on hospice for 30 months before she died. But somehow, to me, It feels momentous. I am very tired.this morning from a difficult trip to the dentist with her yesterday. These words are exactly what I needed, so I thank you for them.

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