More Vinegar Than Honey

Saturday, December 13, 2014 - 6:42 am

More Vinegar Than Honey

To my social detriment, I can’t talk music or fashion or movie stars. I can talk about ideas, but I can’t quote books unless the book is in front of me. All the aloneness in my life, in my marriage, has made me a retreater.

A woman reads on a road barricaded by pro-democracy protesters in the Mongkok district of Hong Kong in October, 2014 (Alex Ogle / AFP/Getty Images.)

Now that I’m out of my marriage, mostly I think about finding a job. So easily I vacillate between surrendering and freaking out: How am I going to take care of my boys? Where do I find safety and community for us? What has value? What is valueless?

A woman crosses the street in Rosemead, California. (Frederic J. Brown / AFP/Getty Images.)

Vinegar is cheap and cleans well. Honey is expensive and sweetens.

A woman leans her head against a pile of cinder blocks at the funeral of a Kurdish Women’s Protection Unit fighter who died during fighting in the besieged Syrian border town of Kobane. (Aris Messinis / AFP/Getty Images.)

But what of this? All I’m doing is looking for a job, and I haven’t been able to get even a vinegar job. Is it because I’m 51? Is it because I’m not very likable?
In God’s Pauper, a fictional account of the life of Saint Francis by Nikos Kazantzakis, Saint Francis dreams he bathes and feeds a foul-smelling man and, suddenly, he knows how to live his life.

A woman walks across a street market in Berlin’s Neukoelln district. (Tobias Schwarz / AFP/Getty Images.)

I dream about a woman I hardly know, a woman with well-shaped legs and the easy smile of abundance, talking about having a tea before her wedding. She turns away from me and, suddenly, tall policemen drive off with my children and my dog while I stand crouched and screaming in the street. It’s not the best way to wake up.

A woman sits on a bench painted in the colors of the Ukrainian national flag in Slavyansk, eastern Ukraine. (Dominique Faget / AFP/Getty Images.)

And that job I thought I had, I hadn’t.

A woman looks through a window in the Comunidade Negra do Barranco Sao Banadito village in Manaus, Brazil. (Raphael Alves / AFP/Getty Images.)

Then I hear 16-year-old Malala Yousafzai on the radio telling me I have to stand up for myself. I have to put down the shoe. Here I am right now, more vinegar than honey. I have an education. I have a talent. But you, dear sister, have the courage of a thousand women.

A woman passes through Damascus Gate, one of the main entrances to the Old City of Jerusalem (Spencer Platt / Getty Images.)

There’s no one in silence or action to tell me what to do anymore. I have to become a lunatic of courage. Oh God, I’ll just cry and everyone will see me cry, see me for the fool I am.

A woman sits at the entrance of a small shop selling food in the Canaan settlement of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (Hector Retamal / AFP/Getty Images.)

Francis says,

“We’re going to start with small, easy things; then, little by little we shall try our hand at the big things. And after that, after we finish the big things, we shall undertake the impossible.”

This is my first small, easy thing.

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lives in Minneapolis with her children and her dog. More of her writing can be found at www.writingshannon.com.

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