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It’s quiet. Sunday morning. Early. Damp, gray clouds settled in overnight smothering the sun’s scheduled appearance. Our part of the world remains dark even at 7:15. My husband and I drink our coffee nearly silently. We hold our mugs the same way. Lacing our fingers around the cup, enjoying the heat on our hands, keeping it close to our face and breathing in the steam and aroma. We only need a towel to cover our heads as if we’re nursing a head cold with java. For me, that first sip feels like a warm bath for my soul. A moment to savor and forget about the pressure of being a parent. The headache of being an adult.

We quietly discuss the day. Despite our heavy eyelids and between our yawns, we whisper ideas and plans to get us out of our messy problems. We’re not looking at each other. Both of us turning inward, trying to understand why so much has happened in the first month of the new year. On other days, we’ve encouraged one another by suggesting that we’re getting the tough stuff over with at the top of the year. Our bumps in the road are the gears getting cranked up for better months ahead. Not this morning. He shakes his head. He’s scratched an idea without even mentioning what it was. He sees past his reflection in the window against a dark sky. I stare into the cup, searching for signs in the creamer as if there were tea leaves.

We’ve faced some challenges. A few of them rather ordinary and the ones that most everyone faces. We take a swing at our problems and as the analogy goes, sometimes the bat meets the ball and we deflect the issue before it begins. Home run. We miss some, too, but we keep playing. Someday hoping to sprint around the bases, seeing the crowd out of their seats cheering for us. The overcomers. But then I remember, the crowd has their own problems. Their legs like pistons, hammering across their competitive field. Their eyes have years of practice watching the ball. Everyone playing their own game. Running their own race. Maybe I should cheer for them instead.

Our teenagers will not see the sun burning off the dismal fog on this gray morning. Their heads deep in covers and exhaustion, accepting the rest they need. We adults do not rest as we should. We sit across from one another wondering, without asking, how to get it all done. How to make it happen. How to see past the gray, dreary now and break free from the clouds into brilliant sunlight like airplanes do.

I decided that while he’s pouring my second cup, I can put in a load of towels. I walk into the laundry room, flip on the light and realize that the spring bar that holds the hangers has disappeared behind the washer and dryer and taken our entire collection of hangers with it. At first, I’m not sure what happened. Then I’m stunned that no one heard what was certainly a loud crash. When did it fall? I did three loads yesterday and everything was normal. Now as I lean over the lid, I stare at a tangle of wires, plastic and dust and lint between the wall and white appliances.

I hear my husband pass through the kitchen and approach me. As I turn to face him, he offers my replenished coffee mug. The man I’ve been married to for almost 18 years is unaware that I’ve just discovered chaos in the laundry room. I frown at him and the coffee he’s holding.

 “What?”

 “Did you hear anything last night? A loud, crashing sound? Yesterday afternoon maybe?”

 “You know I’ll sleep through anything. But your ears are the same as bats. What didn’t we hear?”

I turn to the side and allow him to pass. I sarcastically exaggerate the extension of my arm welcoming him to the small laundry room. My frown more defined as I bow. He steps closer and discovers the missing bar and hangers. He hands me the coffee cup and leans over the washer.

“When did this fall?”

See, this is what happens. We, adults, keep piling on so much stuff, then act surprised when it all comes down around us. We, like that spring bar, are not designed to carry that much load. Some load, yes. The amount we ordinary humans try to carry, no. We pile on the hangers, the problems of the day, month, year because it’s easy. In an attempt to be organized, we put the extra hangers where the extra hangers go. We sort the problems into family, life, and business and hang each one on a different bar. But how many hangers do we need? 

When do we stop adding hangers to our life because we already have too many?

We hang onto hangers because it’s easy. It’s a hang-up.

A few would argue that you don’t ask for more hangers. You just end up with them. True. But we have to know when to give them away. Set them down. Release them. Send them love and walk away.

*I’m not really talking about hangers.*

The universe. My precious God is telling me something and I want to share it with you.

Sometimes things have to fall apart in our life so we can rebuild, reorganize and prioritize what’s going back. A relationship? A responsibility? Maybe forgiveness?

We continue to face the same problems until we learn the lesson and move on. Our higher power cannot be bluffed. If we haven’t really learned it, it’ll give us an opportunity to teach us again. But here’s the great thing: I believe our angels give clues, warnings and heads-up whispers when we least expect it.

The other day, I was putting away clothes in the closet. I realized there were too many empty hangers because of all their wires were jutting out between the clothes. I started yanking them out. One by one I tossed them. Metal hitting a combination of metal and plastic, creating a tangled pile of mess on the floor of our bedroom closet. I straightened clothes and tugged empty hangers until there were only hangers with clothes on them. I felt a moment of satisfaction that the closet had been rid of useless, empty hangers.

I reorganized my mess. But it’s still a mess.

The message that I received (even now while I’m typing) is so clear that I’m not sure how I missed it when it happened. Sort of like the loud, crashing sound our family missed when the spring bar succumbed to the weight of too many hangers.

First, the image of the pile of hangers in the closet floor. A tangled mess of too much. Just like the ones between the wall and the washer this morning. Still too much. And, when I straightened the clothes in the closet, I noticed that the shelving was pulling out from the drywall. Barely noticeable, but thinking of it now, a clear warning.

I’m asking myself harder questions. Am I holding onto the wrong things afraid to let go of what I know in exchange for what may be? I’m still in the gray, dreary part of the morning. Worrying and planning and packing more and more stuff instead of taking the flight past the clouds into the brilliant sunlight.

Just like life. 

When your hangers fall.

“What happened?” they will ask. 

It was all just too much.

Originally published on the author’s blog

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Eleanor Howard

I've been married 18 years. I'm a mom of a 16-year-old son and a 15-year-old daughter. I am a writer and a bookkeeper. My brain is equally divided on right brain/left brain skills. I've worked in some form of Media & Communications almost my entire working career but Radio Broadcasting gave me roots. I write for Chattanooga Moms Blog and have done three book reviews for Southern Lit Alliance.

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