On Easter Sunday, I broke my knee. You’d think that by going to church, I would’ve been spared such a tragedy, but no, it was not in the cards for me that day.
I had been riding high with my new life down here in Naples, Florida. Finally I had a chance to live in a beautiful brand new home overlooking a lagoon, in a pristine neighborhood. I have never lived in a home since I was 18. I could never afford it.
In college, I lived in the dorms, along with a few small cramped apartments with roommates. Living near the beach was idyllic until I finally realized I couldn’t make a living in Santa Barbara and moved back to Los Angeles.
There, broke with no employment options, I lived in a crappy part of Hollywood, where I had four police locks on my doors, and went to sleep at night with the sound of helicopters circling overhead. Sirens were my companions, as I struggled to make a living at various temp jobs without much success.
I knew that if I wanted to get out of my poverty, that I had to figure it out for myself. My mother was newly married, and she was not going to help me. So I moved in with my lover at the time, and bounced around with various temp and waitressing jobs until I got into the advertising business.
I got a job at a small weekly newspaper and there, I seem to find my niche, working around brilliant people with verbal skills, which enabled me to move forward with my aspirations for a better life.
I continued moving up the corporate ladder, eventually working at many prestigious magazines. It seemed like a charmed life compared to where I had come from.
But poverty still sits in the corner of the room for me, and no matter what success I have attained, I have always feel like I am going to fall off a cliff and end up in the poorhouse once again.
You see we didn’t have much growing up, and those ghosts never really leave you, no matter how successful you are.
Although I’ve been successful in my advertising career by some measures, and have some financial security now, it seems more of an illusion than a reality. I just don’t believe it.
In November, my partner wanted to move to Naples to help take care of her mother. It was her turn, and I could either come along for the ride or stay home in Los Angeles and deal with things on my own.
So reluctantly, I decided to unearth myself from all of my activities and friends and go down and help her. It’s been a good situation, but I still can’t believe that I am living in this pristine community with successful people who don’t seem to endure any struggles.
Most of my friends in Los Angeles are artists, and some are broke. Some are still working even into their late 60s and early 70s because of a variety of unfortunate circumstances that have happened to them. What did they do to experience such misfortune?
And here I am, in charming Naples living the life that many aspire to. Shouldn’t I just relax and feel grateful? Isn’t this what people work so hard to attain, financial security, comfort, and fun?
It reminds me of those lyrics from that Peggy Lee song, “Is That All There Is?”
In Naples, people are gorgeous, wealthy, healthy and seemingly have no problems. The house is immaculate. Nice cars are driven by everyone. Everyone plays golf, tennis, pickle ball or some combination of all three. There a cocktail parties every night. It’s like living at a resort. Why do I not feel I deserve this?
I do not feel comfortable accepting this good fortune as my fabric right now. It doesn’t seem real. I don’t feel like I deserve it.
And maybe that’s why I broke my leg. To remind me that I’m mortal, that none of us can escape tragedy, no matter how glorious your life seems to be. None of us are spared the potholes in life, no matter how much money you have, how cute you are, or how big your house is.
Once this mishap is behind me, I’m sure I will be tempered a bit. I’m not sure what lesson I am to learn from this. Maybe there is a fork in the road that I am supposed to take. Maybe there is some larger purpose that will become apparent in the months ahead.
I hope I listen.
Mary McGrath is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in a number of publications including:Chicken Soup for the Soul (Jan. 2019), Newsweek, Wall St. Journal, Betterafter50.com, Purpleclover.com, LANG Newspaper Group, and Good Housekeeping, Please find her work at www.marymcgrathphotography.com