You Have to Start From Where You Are

📅 October 10, 2020

Janie opened her eyes and looked at the clock. 6:15. She had overslept…again.

Throwing back the covers, she raced to the bathroom and hopped in the shower. Then, bathrobe-clad, and wet hair wrapped in a towel, she skittered down the hall on her way to the coffee pot. When she stubbed her toe on the corner of a chair—she had left the lights off so she did not wake her guest sleeping on the sofa—she clamped one hand over her mouth to stifle a cry, and leaning against the wall, grabbed onto her sore toe. The towel came undone and hung down limp and damp over her right shoulder.

What a way to start the day.   

She made a cup of coffee, adding three sugars to give her a little jolt, and returned to the bathroom to dry her hair and put on her makeup.

Maybe a little caffeine would chase away the headache already pestering her when she opened her eyes.

Placing her hands on the bathroom counter, she slowly lifted her head and peeked in the mirror. Dark circles under bloodshot eyes.

More questions when she got to work.

“Are you okay?”

“You’ve been a little distracted lately.”

She heard her guest rustle on the sofa and held her breath. She was desperate not to wake him up, so she would not have to talk to him again this morning, answer his questions, explain herself.

He settled down. She breathed in, relieved, and easing the bathroom door closed, went back to getting ready for the difficult day ahead.

The coffee did the trick. If only she could go to the trouble of at least boiling an egg or having a bowl of corn flakes, she would feel so much better, but getting out of the house without waking him up was so appealing, she ordered herself to stop being ridiculous.

Head tilted left, she applied mascara. If she left a tad early, she could stop by the gas station and grab some yogurt, eat it with a plastic spoon in the car.

She gazed at the finished product in the mirror. Not bad. She pasted on a half-smile.

“Now,” she said, whispering to the image in the mirror, “go get your purse and get in the car and get to work.”

Opening the bathroom door, she listened. Not a sound. Maybe she could slip past him, leave him here. Even better…maybe today when she got home, he would be gone.

How long she had been a prisoner in her own home?  She couldn’t even remember.

Why…why…had she let him in? She saw him through the window before she opened the door. Knew who he was…what he was going to say. She let him in anyway. Listened to him. Believed him.  

Leaving her coffee cup on the sink, she tiptoed back to her bedroom, got dressed, picked up her purse, and started down the hall. When she got to the living room, she stopped.

The sofa was empty, blanket shoved aside.  

Her heart fluttered. It’s over. He’s gone.

She hurried through the kitchen, grabbed the keys from the pegboard by the door, and nearly skipped to the car. She opened her door.

“Good morning,” he said from the passenger seat. “Why didn’t you wake me? We could have had breakfast together. Gone over a few things before the day began.”

“I didn’t want to disturb you,” she said.

She sank into the seat, started the engine, and backed out of the garage and onto her street.

He opened the black notebook on his lap and leaned over, brushing against her arm as he peered at the gas gauge.

“You’re on ‘empty’ again,” he said.

“I know,” Janie said. “I’m going to stop at the gas station on the way to work.”

“And get some breakfast?” he asked, turning his attention back to the notebook.


“All right. Well,” he said, flipping a page, “we can go ahead and get started. Now, where did we leave off? Yes, here it is. November 6, 1982. You lost your temper…which caused you to…if that hadn’t happened, then…and as a result…”  

He droned on, his grating voice buzzing in her ears like a lazy fly.

Janie gripped the steering wheel with both hands and fixed blurry eyes on the rain-soaked road ahead.

She was facing another impossible day ahead, pestered, bothered, burdened by this intruder, her constant companion, who had no right to say the things he did.

But she would listen anyway, believe what he said, give in to his demand for an explanation, explain, only to have to do it all over again when he brought up something else.

How much longer could she go on like this?

Living with this odious intruder.

Named Regret.   

How many of us live with regret, refusing to forgive ourselves for mistakes, poor decisions, taking a wrong turn at a crucial juncture, flaws in our personality, sin in our nature?

If today, you are living like Janie, forever dogged by a bad decision, an error in judgment, even an outright sin, remember this:

You have to start from where you are.

All your wishing and second guessing yourself won’t turn back the clock.

There is forgiveness for you at the cross.

There is a “great high priest who is touched with the feeling of your infirmities.” Hebrews 4:15

There is a Heavenly Father who pities you like a father pities his children. Psalm 103:13.

There is a Savior who bids you to come to Him and find rest. Matthew 11:29

Forgetting those things which are behind, reach forth. Philippians 3:13

If confession needs to be made, make it.

If forgiveness needs to be asked, ask it.

But remember: you are human, not perfect.

Not one of us is.

But do not live with Regret.

He is a hungry intruder, who robs and injures you every time you allow him through the door.

You have to start from where you are.


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Holly Bebernitz

Native Texan Holly Bebernitz moved to Jacksonville, Florida in 1967. After thirty years of teaching speech, English, and history on the secondary and college levels, she retired from classroom teaching to become a full-time grandmother. The change in schedule allowed the time needed to complete the novel she had begun writing in 1998. When Trevorode the Defender was published in March 2013, the author realized the story of the Magnolia Arms was not yet complete.


Semi-Finalist - 2021 Royal Palm Literary Award Competition - Florida Writer's Association