Jim Croce — and my gut — are telling me I should trust again

There is a new woman in my life. Who is she is and what she means to me is something I will not share here; not today, nor likely ever.

But the signs are saying I should trust again. I should trust her and move forward in the way I need to move forward to become whole again. I need to trust again and I need to trust that she is the one and that is not easy for me.

But there have been times in my life when I’ve been a big believer in signs. And earlier this afternoon I was sent one from space. I have to listen. I have to trust.

The first sign that always comes to mind is from my junior year in high school, traveling in a school bus through a Maine winter’s night, the passing street lights acting as the slow beat of the music of thoughts running through my mind.

I hadn’t played much in the game that evening and I was angry; angry at a coach I didn’t like and didn’t respect very much. I didn’t know why I hadn’t played much and he wasn’t the kind of coach who knew how to communicate very well. I didn’t know what to do. I could stew away the rest of the season or I could confront this man I had no respect for and possibly find myself riding the bench for the rest of my career.

From the back of the bus, I heard Heidi Gambino’s voice rise above all the other commotion. Her voice was clear as day — as though she was a bird chirping into the silence of a new morning. It was her voice and her voice alone rising above the din.

“Go for it, John!”

Heidi was a cheerleader and one of those girls everybody has had over the history of their lives. She was the short-term girlfriend.

It was a quick flash of a high school relationship, one that ended with both of us going our separate ways and not having much else to do with each other. It wasn’t a bad break-up; just an obvious-it’s-over ending that left us not friends, not really talking, just going our separate ways and co-existing in the drama-filled world of high school.

On this night, though, even though she wasn’t talking directly to me, she spoke to me.

“Go for it, John.”

I took it as a sign and I walked to the front of the bus and sat down with the coach for a heart-to-heart. What was going on? Why wasn’t I playing? What did I have to do to get back out on the court again?

The end of this story within a story is that I did start playing again — even if it was just playing junior varsity basketball for a small program in the middle of the state Maine. It was my world and it was important to me and a sign from one of the last people in the world I would have expected it to come from gave me the strength to move forward.

Instances like this have dotted my life. Sometimes I have listened. Other times I have not.

Not more than one hour ago I had another sign come to me, this one screaming in my ears. I recognized it right away and my first thought was, “It’s a sign and I need to listen.”

As this new woman in my life and I sat together today talking about life, love, trust and the absence of couches in our world, I told a funny story from my past; one I always have to share every time it comes surface.

Part of this story includes a line from the Jim Croce song, “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” — the one where Croce sings, “Yeah, he big and dumb as a man can come, But he stronger than a country hoss.”

The story was told. I laughed, she smiled, and we moved on to other things. It was both a crack in the shell and a dent in the wall, I suppose, but that is neither here nor there in the grand scheme of things when it comes to this blog.

It wasn’t long after saying our good-byes that I was driving home when my latest sign came down upon me from outer-space, courtesy of Sirius/XM satellite radio. I had been bouncing around stations, looking for something to listen to. Howard 100. Lithium. The 80s.

Nothing appealed to me.

I pressed the button to the 1970s station and there it was.

Jim Croce.

“Uptown got its hustlers,” he sang. “The Bowery got its bums.”

It was the same song from the story I had just told her.

To me, it was a sign — I could tell in the pit of my stomach — and I knew given the crux of our conversation today what it meant.

I need to trust again. I need to move forward. It’s not going to be easy and I know it’s going to take time.

But trust me, Mr. Croce, I heard you. And I also came to realize the very next song from that album is “Tomorrow’s Gonna Be A Brighter Day.”

I told you it was a sign.

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