Jenna overcomes depression
Jenna cried when her alarm went off to jump-start the morning. She knew what was to happen today. This was the Saturday that Jenna did not want to face. Today was the day of Stephanie's wedding. And it was several hundred miles away from where Jenna was in Winston-Salem. It was all she could do to try to find some way to make it to the wedding, to drive as quickly as she possibly could to the wedding in Cleveland, or take the next flight out that way.
Knowing that she could not find a way now to go seemed to make getting out of bed not worth the effort. She had no reason to get up: no one seemed to love her like John did Stephanie, no one seemed to appreciate her, and she hated her life. Jenna did not want to smile today, much less try not to let this hard day get the best of her. She lay in bed until the last possible moment and put on any pair of pants and shirt that would be acceptable for her to wear to work. No matter if it matched or not.
Just the thought of eating made Jenna feel physically sick, so she did not attempt of even eat anything for breakfast. Having to go to work today made it worse.
She had received the invitation in the mail a few weeks ago. Receiving it like that made her feel like she was distant and isolated from her childhood friend, like a stranger. She selfishly wondered if Stephanie would ever think about Jenna today and wish she were there with her on this special day.
While she was glad for her friend, Jenna wanted to be the one to be married, or at least have someone who loved her and her alone. For Jenna, this was the most difficult breakup she has ever had to face. Jenna knew that today was going to be hard to get through and keep her emotions at bay. Larry was certainly successful in leaving a void in Jenna.
Jenna had never known of such a hard breakup. She wasn’t so sure if she was going to be able to make it through the day without keeping her emotions at bay. In spite of it, she knew that if she had been able to be there, it would be easy for her to focus on the wedding. There would be so many events going on just for that week that it would allow Jenna to get her mind off herself and how she did not have a man for herself.
What also bothered Jenna was that she never seemed to be able to have fun when she wanted it. She knew that she dug this hole herself. She had had lots of personal and vacation days, all of which she used. Her job was so stressful. She would be the first one to admit that she let the stresses of the job control her and that she did not budget her vacation days well. She knew that if she had saved those vacation days for the week of Stephanie’s wedding, she would be there right now.
After over ten years of friendship, Jenna felt like she was not the friend that she wanted to be to her. Jenna had had a hard time making lasting friendships when growing up. This caused her to be very lonely to where she wanted to literally die. At a time when she was at the point of giving up, Stephanie came and rescued her by making her a best friend. After her not making the proper arrangements to go to the wedding, Jenna did not deserve Stephanie's friendship. She would not be surprised if she resented Jenna because of that.
The customers must have known about Jenna’s situation because they all seemed unforgiving to her when she was trying to solve their problems. The store also seemed to be in a constant state of disarray-merchandise was in the wrong department, hangers were all over the floor, and clothes were not on the proper racks. All of the associates seemed to be tired, edgy, and unwilling to put forth just a little bit more effort. She wanted to tell everyone that she did not want to be there any more than they did.
To add more insult to injury, a very livid woman came in. She spoke in a tone of voice that made everyone there, including management, seem beneath her. Dressed in such a black and white suit complete with a jacket, her hair cut very close and pulled back tightly, she reinforced her haughty attitude. After a few minutes of her venting about her situation, which was about a suitcase she had purchased whose zipper seemed to always break, and Jenna responding back to her, this customer said, “You’re inept. I would appreciate it if you did something to solve this problem.” She was getting nowhere in trying to appease this woman and at time very close to walking away from her.
“I’ll try to see what I can do,” Jenna said as professionally as she could, trying to hide her own emotions.
“How long will this take?” The woman’s voice maintained its rigidity.
“Approximately five minutes.”
“I had better be five minutes. I’m timing you!” She raised her voice a little bit, in the hopes of getting her point across and glanced at her wristwatch.
It was at this point that Jenna was so close to having a meltdown, right there on the sales floor and in front of all of the customers. She was not halfway through her workday, and she had already had enough.
Thinking that she was on a timed assignment for this customer, she tried her best to look for another suitcase that she knew would be right for her. She returned to the front of the store where the customer was waiting, the rigid look never leaving her face.
The woman took one look at the suitcase and said, “I have already tried that suitcase and it’s inept, like you and the rest of the people here.” She spent the next few minutes explaining how she travels a lot for her job and therefore needs a reliable suitcase. She thought she could get a good deal at T J Maxx and was disappointed that she felt she got the runaround about something like this.
If she had only five minutes, she sure wasted a lot of time complaining about something that if she did not talk down to everyone, she would be more cooperative and walk out of the store with a quality suitcase.
It did not seem to look any better in the afternoon. Two o’ clock had come, and all Jenna could think about was Stephanie. It was too late now to do anything about being there. All she could do now is imagine her walking down the aisle with her father and exchanging vows with John. She tried really hard to fight back tears and not lose her composure. She chose to remain distant and more reserved the rest of the day, and even doing that was hard.
As if on cue, Darren came by the store to see Tracy. As expected, they were unashamedly loving on each other. It was not considerate to watch couples kiss each other, but she could not stand for that to even be in her peripheral vision. Today, it was painful to see any couple.
Jenna wanted so badly to get together with Alyson tonight. However, she had to work late this evening. Jenna herself has had many nights like that, so she was able to understand that Alyson could not meet for dinner. It did not matter, because she could not get herself to eat. She also had to force herself to take a shower. Every small move required just a little bit more effort than what Jenna had. It might have taken longer than expected, but she did it. Once she was done taking a shower, she collapsed on the bed and after holding it in all day, released sobs from her pillow. It was hard for her to imagine that she had once felt lonelier than what she felt now.
It was stressful enough for Jenna that Larry broke up with her and she missed Stephanie’s wedding. Because of her now single status, Valentine’s Day was just another day for her, and it was going to be challenging this time. She did not have a man, let alone at least a date for this seemingly overrated romantic holiday.
Jenna woke up to a rainy day. That and the holiday that did not apply to her anymore were two good reasons to not get out of bed and face the day.
As expected, there was nothing but red and pink all around the store. This was especially in the ladies’ and lingerie departments-negligees, socks, sweaters; there were endless racks and shelves of it.
Jenna tried to tell herself that this day was more than just for romance. It was about love-for her family, friends. But the void in her life was so big she couldn’t comprehend anything beyond it.
She felt the emptiness even more so when she walked into her cold and lonely apartment. She put a bowl of tomato soup in the microwave. Hopefully the warmth of it would comfort her and assuage her depression.
She sat down on the couch and tried to eat the food in front of her. But she felt weak just putting the spoon in her hand. After a few moments of trying to eat, she gave up. She placed the bowl of soup and the plate that held it on the end table, where she saw a framed picture of her and Larry. She remembers it being taken several months into the relationship, at a time when they seemed inseparable. They were on the back patio of his parents’ house, arm-in-arm and gazing into each other eyes, oblivious to anything else around them.
Jenna could not believe that picture was still there. She could not look at the picture any longer. It made her cringe. She took the picture frame, pulled the picture out of there, and tore it in as many pieces as possible and threw it in the trash can that was in the kitchen.
She knew that there were other pictures she still had, as well as love notes he had written, cards from various occasions, tickets from events they attended together. She rushed to her bedroom, got the shoebox from the shelf of her closet that had all of these things, sorted through everything, and tossed into the garbage everything that reminded her of Larry.
Two years’ worth of stuff really added up, especially when they had a lot of fun together. But it was not fun anymore. It was now considered a waste-of time, money, and energy. Jenna regretted being with Larry and staying with him as long as she did.
After throwing away everything that was about Larry, she sat on the edge of her bed and thought about many of the things that she and Larry had done together and shared. Everything she thought about haunted her as she thought about their relationship more and more. She regretted how much time she spent with Larry and not being the one to break off the relationship. On a night that she would love to go out on a date, she had to be reminded of Larry.
She thought about the last Valentine’s Day they spent together. They had both decided without any hesitation to go to the Main Street Diner. Located in downtown Winston-Salem, it was considered the most popular place in town to have a romantic dinner. Jenna was told that marriage proposals took place there. She was hoping she would get just that the night they went there, especially when she least expected it and when Tracy had told her about the great possibility of it happening. By this time, she and Larry had been together for a year and a half, an ideal amount of time in Jenna’s mind to take a dating relationship to the next level.
In anticipation of this, Jenna got dressed in her black miniskirt and black sweater that had sequined flowers on it, Larry in his ash gray three-piece suit with a white shirt and his best dress shoes.
But it didn’t turn out the way she had thought it would. In fact, it was worse. Even for this occasion, they went Dutch. Jenna felt like she got the short end of the stick that night. But she did not say anything or show any disappointment.
The ringing of the phone startled her. She hoped it would be Larry, calling her to tell her that he was wrong in what he did, that he was thinking about her tonight, and wanted to apologize for all that he did to her.
“Hello?” She said into the phone.
“Hi! It’s Mom.” Her parents lived a few hours away from Jenna. “I have not heard from you in quite some time. What’s going on?”
“Oh, I’ve just been busy with work.” Hearing herself say that, she sounded dull and boring. She wished that her whole life would not be nothing but work, but mentioning work was a quick way to start off a conversation and perhaps an alibi to not have time to call.
“So, do you have time to talk, because I have something to tell you?”
“Yeah. I just now got off from work. How is everything going with you?”
“Well, maybe I should have asked you that first.”
“The biggest piece of news is that Larry and I broke up about a week or two ago.”
“Oh, no! I cannot believe that. Are you okay?”
“I really am fine, Mom. Don’t you worry.” She was trying to blow it off and minimize the problem in an attempt to avoid the pesty questions that would likely follow about why she broke up with him, and why a beautiful young woman like her is still not married. Instead, she was surprised at what she heard on the other line.
“Jenna, do you remember Lydia Hall, that really stuck-up blonde you were in school with since the sixth grade?”
She had to think for a moment, but quickly recalled who she was. She had not thought about her in so long. “Yeah, I do. What is going on with her?”
“She came into the office the other day.” When someone came into this office, the situation was anything but good; her mother worked as a legal secretary for a divorce lawyer. “It seems that she is getting a divorce after being married since shortly after high school.”
“Really?” Jenna asked, acting surprised.
“Yeah. Without going into a lot of detail, this divorce is a pretty bad one. Just by looking at her, it appears to have aged her quite considerably. I think that there was some form of abuse in this marriage, which is why she is seeking a divorce.” Her mother described this pending divorce in such a way as to let Jenna know that popular girls in high school are not that way for long, and that Jenna had it made.
Lydia was one of many girls whom she grew up with who thought they were better than everyone else in the school, primarily in looks. To Stacy and the rest of her clique of friends, no one else dressed properly for any occasion, and the clothes were never fancy enough. Why guys pursued her all the time, Jenna never understood. Her medium-sized blond hair that went down the middle of her back and her svelte frame were more than enough to make any guy want to ask her out, even if he had to be on a “waiting list”.
Jenna was certainly far from being like those girls in high school. She did have some crushes, all of them the wrong kinds of guys. She recalls having crushes on the guys that were losers or worse yet, drug addicts.
“Wow!” was all Jenna could say. She needed a moment to let that all sink in.
Her mom filled that silence by going on with her thoughts about the news. “All that I can say is that those who really think they have it all end up disappointed.”
“She might have thought that there would be an opening for a dancer right after high school.” Jenna and her mother both laughed out loud at that comment.
“So, I guess you’re glad you did not end up with Larry. You could have been like Lydia. I just want you to find someone, and stick with him for life. And the sooner you find one, the better. I’m chomping at the bit in wanting to be a mother-in-law, and even a grandmother.”
“Mom, a long-term relationship is not what I am wanting at this time.”
“I know, honey. I guess I am feeling peer pressure. I see a lot of people Dad’s and my ages who are grandparents of as many as three. And you are the daughter I want to pick on, because I just can’t get Eileen to even show the slightest interest in dating.” Her mother was confusing: at the same time she wanted her daughters to do whatever they wanted to do, she was fussing at her for not being married with a child or two. The thought of that made her uneasy, and her sister even more commitment-shy. Eileen was four years older than Jenna and living in Baltimore, Maryland, at a forensic science lab. Her work kept her very busy and on the road quite often. She also thought that men could not handle her because of her independence.
However, in spite of the breakup with Larry, Jenna still wanted that small glimmer of hope that there is someone out there for her, and that he would really love her for who she is. In fact, what she was all about and had to offer, would be the very things that would make a man love her. She wished that she had gotten at least some of that on this holiday.
Several weeks passed by with Jenna having days where she was so happy she was flying higher than a kite, and other days where she was so down she felt like she was back to square one. When she was having a good day, she had a big smile, showed enthusiasm in her tone of voice and in the job, and said and did all the right things at the right time. Everyone thought she had a new boyfriend. She did not know how to find a good way to tell them no, and have them believe it. She also went for walks around her apartment complex a few times, and got together with Alyson for ice cream or a movie. It was at the times that she was out with Alyson that she talked and laughed loudly.
On her bad days, everyone around her thought she was either tired or sick. Her walked continued to be a slow shuffle, and she did not make eye contact with anyone and talked just above a mumble. She wanted to find a place where she could be alone and cry and be away from the stresses of this job. The only place she found where she could be, which seemed to be a few minutes at a time, was the bathroom stall. She did this more times in a day than what she should have done. She tried to stifle her sobs so as not to make anyone around her see that she had been crying.
Whenever she was close to the front of the store, she would look out the window for long periods of time and just think. That she couldn’t leave yet made her want to take her fist and break the window. One day, one of the sales associates asked how she was doing. Jenna told her that she felt like she was in such a mood that made her want to throw something. This was the kind of answer that was bad enough for someone to call the police. But this associate told her that she would pray for her. Though Jenna took comfort in that, she wanted to have her in her shoes. There were so many opportunities in life that she felt like she was missing out on them just being stuck here in the four walls of the store.
If she was off from work, and if it was a bad day, she would be in her pajamas and lie in bed and cry all day, and sometimes doze off. The days off from work were spent crying in bed, forcing herself to even so much as brush her hair and teeth and, if she had it in her, do the laundry. The thought of eating seemed overwhelming and would likely go a few days without doing so. Before too long, it would be four in the afternoon. That she wasted the entire day in bed crying made her feel even more depressed.
Jenna’s bad days soon outnumbered the good ones, and one night, she reached the end of her rope. No-she felt like she lost her grip on the rope and quickly hit rock bottom. The deep, dark depression she had felt after being rejected so many times, turned into anger and rage that she had kept inside her long enough. Jenna wanted someone-just one person-to give her a chance. How hard was that for anyone to see?
She felt like getting in her car and driving away to anywhere the road would take her. She wanted to run away and move somewhere else. She knew that when she got to where she wanted to be, she knew she would find a job that paid better and a man-and not some grown-up boy-who would really appreciate her for who she is.
She knew she had to find another job before quitting TJ Maxx and that she would have to find another place to live if she were to move out of her apartment. So what? She did not even care anymore. She would explain everything later.
Since running away did not seem like an option, she felt like throwing something fragile and hearing the sound of the broken glass. Maybe some chairs and overthrowing some tables as well. She did have some fragile objects in her apartment, but if she broke them, she knew she would have to clean up the mess.
She felt like she had missed out on something in life, or had an opportunity but did not seize it and would never get another chance. There seemed to be no hope for her; she felt that her life was over. There was no chance of getting a break in a career-everyone else had already taken them. No chance of getting married-she was almost 30 and may as well forget any chances of finding a male prospect, especially what she wanted in the man she wanted to marry. No chance of living in a better place-she always had just enough money to pay her bills, and it looked like it would stay that way for a long time.
Violent and loud sobs came out of Jenna. She was crying so hard her whole body hurt. Tears were flowing from her eyes so quickly she could have swum in them. The emotions were so strong she had to lie down on the bed and cling to the sheets she was crying into. She was breathing so hard almost to the point of hyperventilation. The sobs turned into loud screams and shouts. As she continued this for quite some time, she realized that she was crying out to God.
She was hoping she was not imagining this, but she heard a knock on her door. She dried her eyes and took a few deep breaths. She looked through the peephole and saw that it was Alyson!
Jenna started crying again as she opened the door, her face buried in her hands. Her pain got to be so bad she could not make eye contact with her friend. Alyson quickly stepped inside and embraced Jenna. “I just felt like I needed to come by and see you.”
“Oh…thanks.” Jenna said as she was doing what she had longed for, to cry on Alyson’s shoulder. Alyson guided Jenna to the living room, where Jenna fell to the floor by the couch. Alyson was there beside her holding her. “Please…tell me I’m going to be okay.” Jenna’s face was buried in her hands. Although her sobs were so strong, she could still be heard.
Alyson voice was soft and gentle. She softly touched her friends check and dried the tears away with her hand, then reached behind her to get the box of tissues that were on the end table. “Yes, Jenna, you will be fine.”
“Yes, Jenna, you will,” Alyson repeated with more emphasis.
“Am I really going to make it?”
“I know you will. I believe in you, Jenna. I know you’re going through a hard time right now. How hard it is for you, I will probably never know. But I just felt like I had to come by here to let you know that I love you and I am thankful that you’re my best friend. No matter what happens to you, I’ll always be here for you. And whoever rejects you is missing out on what you have to offer.” Jenna continued to cry, and Alyson wiped the tears with a tissue.
“Oh…thanks, Alyson.,” Jenna managed to say and hugged Alyson. “I know that if I did not have you in my life right now, I probably would have done something to hurt myself.” She felt like she was honest in saying what she just said. She could not hold back her hurt feeling any longer.
“Now, Jenna, you can’t do that. Can’t you see that we need each other. My world is a better place because of you.” Both women laughed, hugged each other, and took each other’s hands.
“I’m getting tired now. I need to go to bed.” Alyson got up first and extended her hand to help Jenna up off the floor and wrapped her arms around Jenna to support her all the way to her bed. She stayed with her for a few more moments and then left.
Exhausted from all of the strong emotions, Jenna quickly fell asleep.
"No, despite allthese things,overwhelming victory is ours through Christ Jesus. " Romans 8:37, NLT
Jenna could not quite place her finger on it, but the next morning, she woke up smiling and with a spring in her step. The tears that she had cried the last night seemed to have been cleansing. Cleansed of what, she did not know. But what she did know was that the gigantic burden that she had once had on her seemed to be gone. For the first time in what seemed like a year, she found it easy to get out of bed.
She also found it easy to eat breakfast again. She was hungry and went to the kitchen, took a bowl from the cabinet, poured some cereal in it, and sat down to eat it.
She needed to get out of the house some, go out and walk and get some fresh air. Spring had rolled around, and the sun was shining. She thought a trip to the mall doing some window shopping would be the thing for her to do. Or better yet, buy something for herself. Since she had to be at work later that day, she decided to wear her work clothes. Today, it was not going to be the usual elastic pants. It was going to be the pants that she liked that had the zipper in the side. The red sweater that she had always went well with it, so she wore that too. Jenna completed the outfit with her black flats, put on some burgundy lipstick, and got in her car and headed for the mall.
She forgot how crowded it was at mall on Saturday mornings. In some ways, it felt stimulating and piqued an interest in people watching. She walked the mall and took samples of a few body lotions and perfumes. She saw a few things on sale, one of which was a bottle of lotion and shower gel from Bath and Body Works. She decided to buy it and to treat herself to that after a hard day of work tonight.
In the height of her renewed happiness, she happened to see Larry.
“Jenna! It’s great to see you!” He noticed her. She was trapped; she had no choice but to talk to him.
“Larry…it’s…uh…a…uh…surprise to see you.” Jenna was at a loss for words. Seeing him like this, she just did not know what to say. She amused herself at how she thought he was there to get a new video game. She also noticed that he had grown a goatee and was a few pounds heavier.
“The feeling is mutual.” Larry’s voice maintained that friendliness in it.
“How are things going with you?” Jenna asked him, surprising herself that the tone of voice did not intimate any harboring of bitterness she still felt toward him.
“Fine. I’m doing well at Toys-r-Us.”
“Good for you.”
“Also, Melinda is going to have another baby.”
Larry’s expression on his face turned to seriousness. “Jenna, can we talk?” He asked her tentatively and motioned to a bench for them to sit on.
Jenna looked away for a long moment, took several deep breaths, looked down then up at Larry and reluctantly said, “Oh, ok.” She followed him to the bench and sat down with him. He stared at her for a long time as if studying her.
“Jenna, I almost did not recognize you when I saw you. You look beautiful.”
“Thank you,” she said with a slight smile and a discrete tone in her voice that indicated that she did appreciate the compliment but was starting to feel awkward. After all, the last time she sat next to him, he was breaking up with her in the worst way.
“I’ve been thinking about some things.” Uh-oh, Jenna thought.
“Like what?” Jenna maintained the same tone of voice. She knew what was coming.
Larry took a big sigh then said, “I realize what I did was wrong. We had a great thing going on. I know that you were going through some hard times with your job. But that is not a good reason for me to break up with you.”
Jenna remained silent and let Larry do the talking. She would wait until he was done with what he had to say before she answered him.
“Again, Jenna, you look great!” Larry was stalling. Jenna shifted on the bench to silently show some impatience. Then he said what Jenna knew was coming. “I’d just like for you to take me back. And if you do, I’ll do whatever it takes to have you stay with me.”
This was a big test for Jenna, and she could not blow it. “No.” She said it so calmly and continued, “I am doing fine now, feeling great as a matter of fact. Going through all of this wasn’t easy, but I’m getting to where I want to be, slowly but eventually. If you think I’ll take you back now, you’re wrong. If you really loved me, you would not have made the mistake of breaking up with me in the first place. Instead, you decided to break up with me. It’s too late. You missed out!”
Larry hung his head and asked Jenna to reconsider, with a more desperate tone in his voice, and promised her he would never leave her again. Jenna told him no one more time, stood up, said good-bye to Larry, turned on her heel, and with her head held high and eyes looking straight ahead, confidently strode forward. She didn’t dare look back at Larry. If he was upset with her for not taking him back, he would have some idea of what she went through when he dumped her when she really needed him.
She could hardly believe what she had just done. There was that chance to go back to him, and she did not give in. If she did it would be just for the sake of having a boyfriend. She was so proud of herself for doing what she did. Her stride soon had a spring in it as she approached the threshold of the door to go out from the mall into the
She maintained the same confident stride and beaming smile when she walked into work. Jenna felt so good about herself she could not wait to get to work later that day, just so she can tell Tracy. Other than that, there were no other reasons. It was strange how beforehand, she didn’t want to be there because she was too depressed to focus on her job. Now, she was feeling so good, and working there inhibited her.
Tracy was astounded when she saw her, her mouth wide open. No words were needed; she just gave Jenna a warm smile. She secretly hoped that she was not already seeing someone else. She was, though, very curious about what it was now that made Jenna so happy almost overnight, and she eventually asked her.
“I saw Larry at the mall yesterday,” Jenna said when Tracy finally asked her.
“Really?” Tracy said, raising her eyebrows.
“Yeah, and he asked me to take him back.”
“Tracy, you need not worry. I sure didn’t. He eyed me up and down several times and told me how great I look. Then he asked me to take him back. Without any hesitation, I told him no, that he missed out. I guess because I am slowly getting back on my feet, he wants me back.”
Tracy shook her head. “That jerk! I cannot believe, first of all, that he would pretty much desert you when you needed him the most. Then, for him ask you to take him back, and tell you that he will never to that again!”
“I woke up this morning feeling good. I don’t know what it was that had me feel this way. I just needed to get out of the house, and the first place I could think of was the mall.” Jenna’s tone of voice almost sounded wistful, then changed to some aggravation when she continued. “Then to see Larry, of all people, at the mall.”
“Jenna, there comes a time when you’re so depressed you can’t stand it anymore. That might have been what you’re feeling right now. As for you not taking Larry back, you go, girl.” Tracy had a way of complimenting people in a youthful way, which made Jenna laugh.
She had to admit that she really was proud of herself for what she did. If she could not experience the elation from breaking up with Larry, at least she could feel that same way when asked to take him back.
The next day was Sunday, and Jenna was off. Before she could change her mind, she got out of bed and got dressed. She was going to church. She did not know where she would go this time, but if she got up now, she knew she would be at one in enough time.
She chose to wear her favorite black straight skirt with a purple pullover knit shirt. For the first time in what seemed like forever, she wanted to wash, brush and style her hair. Getting dressed today seemed effortless. In fact, Jenna felt good in doing so.
When she got in the car, she simply trusted God to lead her to the church for her to attend today. After a few miles’ worth of a drive, the road led to the parking lot entrance of Harvest Time Church, which was a big church. She had had some bad experiences with churches to the point where she wanted to avoid them. She almost turned her car around to look for a smaller one. But there was something different about this one.
She noticed that the church members, complete strangers to her, greeted and waved at her as if they had known her for a long time. She kindly waved back. She almost did not know what to make of that. Someday, she was going to have to tell herself that when people act that way, they usually are genuinely friendly. When she made her way into the church lobby, some of them hugged her and welcomed her to the church.
She had more than enough time to observe the people in the sanctuary and how they acted. She wondered what their stories were, what circumstances brought them there, and what made them decide to come to this church.
After a few minutes of trying to find a seat, a middle-aged lady noticed her and told her that she could sit next to her.
“Hi there. You must be new.” She nearly shouted the greeting.
“Yes, I am.” Jenna was usually reserved when she first met people, which was why she sounded very matter-of-fact when she responded.
“My name is Angie. What’s yours?”
“Very nice name. Where do you work?” Jenna enjoyed the fact that someone at as big of a church not only said hello to her but also offered to sit next to her, but she was trying not to cringe when asked this question. This was the reason why she avoided meeting new people. She hated telling others what she did for a living, knowing that everyone else would have a more fulfilling job.
“I’m an assistant manager at TJ Maxx,” Jenna said, showing some shame.
“That is one of my favorite stores. I’m sure you like it there.”
“Well…it’s a job. I was hoping I’d find something more meaningful right now, but I haven't.” Although Jenna did make some eye contact, she was still ashamed to say where she worked.
“Jenna, you know what? I spent many years working as a clinical social worker until a few years ago, when I decided I wanted to go into nursing. And I'm in my forties.” Jenna found this hard to believe. This woman was forty years of age before she knew what she wanted to do with her life! She now felt awful for wasting all of this time striving for something that may take years before it happens.
A few minutes later, the service started. There was a young man leading the singing. He said something about how without God, we can do nothing.
Unlike all of the other churches she had been to, this one seemed to have a lot of energy in the atmosphere during the service. This was evident the moment the service started with the music. Jenna seemed to naturally sing along with everyone else. Between the people being very friendly to her and the music and the message, she was overwhelmed with joy.
There were people of various ages in the congregation. There were even some people younger than she. She was sure that there were various walks of life everyone had. Everyone there seemed to have an implied reassurance for her that where she is in life right now was okay. No one there seemed to think that life had an expiration date.
About an hour later, the service was dismissed.
“That was a great service, wasn’t it?” Angie asked, her eyes having a glow that Jenna had not seen on anyone and was brighter than before. Just being in this one service made her feel better than when she walked in the door.
“It sure was,” Jenna said, fighting back the tears that were starting to well up in her eyes.
“And you have such a wonderful voice and so much energy. You should consider joining the praise band.”
This was a little too much for Jenna to handle for a first time at a church. Angie did not know that Jenna had not been to church in quite a while, and she almost felt like she had to say that. “I’ll think about it,” was her response.
As Jenna was walking out, the tears freely streamed down her face, and she was soon quietly weeping. She had needed this for so long and regretted that she had neglected this crucial part of her life. She was so hungry to attend church regularly now and could not wait to come back here. And if she continued to go to this church, she knew that she would grow by serving and meeting a lot of people who would help her with that.
What Angie told her kept going through her mind as she drove home and for the rest of the afternoon. While seeing and listening to the band play at church, she remembered how she loved to sing and perform music. She did do some things from time to time in performing arts in her early twenties when facing a transition in her life that was tougher than expected to get through. Taking up music and some acting helped. Before too long, she considered it a large consumption of her time; work and school commitments had to take priority. Right now, there were no more excuses. If it meant that much to her, if it meant being happy again and getting rid of this continual empty feeling, she was going to have to make it a priority.
She needed a way to persuade herself that this was the right thing for her to do and she needed someone very close to her to help her with it. She called Alyson later that afternoon.
“Aly! Hey, it’s Jen!”
“Hey, what’s up?” Alyson was blown away at the joy had come back in her friend’s voice. She must have said or done something to her the other night that made a difference, because she sure did not sound down right now.
“Are you up for some karaoke tonight?” For a long time, Alyson had not counted on Jenna to take the initiative on going out together.
It took a while for Alyson to respond. “Yeah.”
“Great! I’m on my way to pick you up.” Before Alyson could say anything else, Jenna hung up the phone, got dressed, and dashed out the door. She wasn’t quite ready to tell Alyson what was on her mind, but she knew that she needed to tell her about seeing Larry at the mall. She could not wait to see the reaction on her face.
Jenna picked Alyson up at her apartment twenty minutes later. Alyson’s jaw fell wide open when she saw Jenna. She not only sounded better, but she looked better! The black jeans, dark blue shirt, and open-heeled shoes she wore, the light in her eyes, and the newfound spring in her step gave it away. After a few moments of complete awe, Alyson managed to say, “I don’t know what to say.”
“About what?” Jenna did well in acting like she did not know what was going on.
“Jenna, you look great! It seems like you changed your mood as quickly as I could flip a light switch.”
“I just decided that I was done with being down on myself.” She looked Alyson in the eye while saying it, and she believed what she said about herself. “By the way, thank you so much for being there for me the other night.”
“So, you’re up for karaoke tonight?”
“Yeah. I was thinking we could go to the Wammy Zammy.”
“Cool. Let’s go.”
They had approached Jenna’s car by this time. Jenna was anxious to tell Alyson about seeing Larry. “I went the mall yesterday. I needed to get away from the four walls of my apartment.”
“That’s a good thing to do when you’ve been feeling down.” Alyson complimented, not knowing what Jenna needed to tell her.
Jenna continued. “Just when I was feeling good about myself and enjoying myself, I literally bumped into Larry.”
“Way!” Jenna counteracted. This was one of Jenna’s and Alyson’s favorite
exchanges of dialogue.
“Did he even recognize you?” Alyson joked, assuming she dressed in a similar way at the mall.
“Hardly. But when he saw that it was me, and we made some small talk, he asked me if I could take him back?”
Alyson could only laugh at what had happened. “So the kid thought you would take him back?” She had a talent in calling all of Jenna’s old boyfriends what they really were. Her favorite was loser. She could have called Larry a loser, but kid seemed more appropriate.
“I said no without any hesitation. He asked me again, promised me he’d never leave me again, and said that he was wrong in what he did. I said no again, turned around and left.”
“Oh, poor baby. He just can't even breathe without you now," Alyson said in a mocking tone of voice and playing an air fiddle. "But seriously, that's awful. I’m proud of you, Jenna.”
“Thanks. I’m proud of myself, too, for the way I handled it.”
The karaoke bar was very close to being packed when they got there. But Jenna did not care. She felt she was here for a certain reason, and she was glad to have Alyson with her. When she approached the notebook that had the selection of songs available, she wasted no time in finding the very song she wanted to sing. It was available-Bonnie Raitt’s “Something to Talk About.” She liked the song so much; something about the music and the lyrics made her feel rather daring and maybe even seductive. Every time she heard it, she envisioned herself singing it in front of a crowd. Tonight, it was going to become a reality.
Tonight, she was celebrating! She had survived quite a bit of heartaches that brought a lot of pain and discouragement.
Tonight was the start of moving on with her life and getting rid of the self-doubt she had brought on herself. She did not know what the future held for her, but she knew that she could overcome anything else that came her way and that she could soar as high as an eagle to heights she had never known before.
About thirty minutes later it was her time to go up to the platform. While others had been singing off key or just could not project their voices well, and they were certainly entitled as there was no pressure to do so, Jenna chose to take this moment seriously. She wanted this to be right to her-she needed to sing the right keys, the right notes, and to project her voice.
When she got up on the platform, she detached the microphone from its stand. She needed to feel the connection with the audience and the music and make sure that she made generous eye contact. Just for these few minutes’ worth of the song, she wanted to invite everyone in the room into her life and somehow indirectly share what was in her heart. Being surrounded by the music and the crowd of people made excitement well up inside her, but she was determined to not allow that to lose her focus.
When the music started, She closed her eyes and took a silent deep breath. She felt an immediate oneness with the song.
“Let’s give them something to talk about,
a little mystery to figure out,
let’s give them something to talk about
How about love, love, love…”
Singing it made her feel like she was in another world. There was something about her singing that seemed to have revived her. Jenna tried to tell herself that this is part of what makes her beautiful, what makes her who she is.
She nailed every note. When the song ended and she stepped off the platform, she felt like something had been released from her. She was giddy with excitement and was giggling, to the point of sounding hysterical and unintelligible. It was almost as if she were walking on air. Alyson was equally excited for her and hugged and high-fived her when Jenna walked back to the table where they were sitting. Jenna could not seem to calm down nor be able to focus on what Alyson was saying to her. She eventually suggested they both go outside so they could hear each other talk.
Alyson was the first one to initiate the conversation. “Jenna, you did great tonight. What brought on this idea to come here tonight? I know you have something up your sleeve.” She knew Jenna was up to something and was anxious to find out.
“I went to church this morning.” She was stalling, and she knew it.
“And?” Alyson probed her, wanting to know what going to church this morning had to do with her wanting to do karaoke.
“It made me think about something.”
“What is it?” Alyson nudged her. Jenna was hesitant because she still was not entirely sure she was thinking the right thing.
“I went to such a great church this morning, it made me want to join their praise band.”
Alyson’s eyes were wide with excitement. “Well, go ahead and do it.” That her best friend had a renewed happiness in her life that seemed to have brought her back to life, made her the same way, too.
“I needed you here with me tonight because I wanted to make sure that this was what I should do. There was something about singing that song tonight that made me know for sure that I want to do this.”
“Jenna, if there is anything you need right now, it’s something fun that will allow you to grow. And if being in this band is it, don’t waste any time in joining. If you do nothing but work, eat and sleep, you’ll be pretty boring quckly. You were starting to get that way before too long.”
“Then I’ll do it.”
Jenna and Alyson hugged each other.
Jenna lay in bed basking in all of the wonderful moments she had today. She thought it was impossible to have this many great things happen in one day. Then to take a big step in going back to church and receiving encouragement from someone there to do something out of the ordinary.
It felt surreal ro her that she finally got the chance to sing the one song she had always dreamed of doing. Not only that but she performed it flawlessly, and that alone was what rekindled the fire of a passion she had but kept selling herself short of.
Nothing was the same anymore. Everything seemed so colorful now, from the dark and gray that she once felt.
This was full circle from the way her life seemed like just a few days ago. She needed to allow herself time to let this sink in. She hated the thought of having to go back to work the next morning.