And In A Moment, Everything Changes
The phone rings. It’s my sister, Charla, with news from her mammogram and other tests. Cancer.
Suddenly nothing is the same.
A new life story for us both as we walk this new path. I want to be with her (at least in spirit) and support her as much as possible. How can I be most helpful? What can I do? I can’t do what I most want to do: to take this illness from her.
She’s handling this better than I am, going through the consultations and tests, preparing for surgery, building a team of specialists around her. Her determination, optimism, and gratitude inspire me. We’ve talked about “wake-up calls.” She said the word “immediately” came to her early in this process: that her life will change immediately, that she wanted to do some things differently—immediately.
So her situation is a wake-up call for me, too. An unexpected new life story begins. This was not how things were “supposed” to happen. I’m four years older, so I should go through experiences before she does. But life often doesn’t happen as it “should.”
I had become complacent in this new life story in the woods. Beautiful and affectionate stray dogs have adopted Frank and me. I have found a way to work on my own, at my own pace. We’ve enjoyed the peace and quiet of country living. We’re happy, content, grateful. We’ve had a routine, a sense of having achieved a nearly perfect life, if there is such a thing. We’ve achieved so many goals, and my fondest wish has been for this story to continue in this vein for as long as possible. We worked and planned and visualized our current new life story.
I have also known and experienced the fact that life can change in a moment. A serious rear-end collision in 1989 changed my life forever, a chance encounter put Frank and me together, and a phone call from a colleague brought me a whole new way of working.
What is now? My now has changed. The old definition of new: since we moved from the city to the country. The new now: since Charla’s diagnosis.
The future is strange and unknown. Who knows what changes will result from these latest events? The future reveals itself in a moment-by-moment process. I’m not a leaf drifting in the wind, so I have some say in what constitutes this new life.
Everything is up for re-evaluation. Among several decisions I’m wrestling with is a renewed dedication and a change for this blog. I want to devote more time to it, and I want to include more immediately useful information for my readers. I’m now in the process of uploading previous newsletters to the archives, and I want to get those new newsletters out as soon as possible, as soon as some issues with servers and technical details are resolved.
I want to put my years and years of experience to work in a wider way. This month, my blog readers have come from 57 different countries. I love the idea of being a citizen of the world. I’ve been helping people write (or metaphorically write) their own new life stories for many years.
If not now, when? If not here, where?
Let us see how this blog will evolve into a more immediately useful form. Aren’t we all on a path, an open road in one sense or another? Walt Whitman wrote about the open road, and his words remind me that none of us is free until all of us are free:
“Afoot and light-hearted, I take to the open road,
healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me, leading wherever I choose.
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune—I myself am good fortune;
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Strong and content, I travel the open road.
The earth—that is sufficient;
I do not want the constellations any nearer;
I know they are very well where they are;
I know they suffice for those who belong to them.
(Still here I carry my old delicious burdens;
I carry them, men and women—I carry them with me wherever I go;
I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them;
I am fill’d with them, and I will fill them in return.)
You road I enter upon and look around. I believe you are not all that is here;
I believe that much unseen is also here.”
So the way opens before me and before us all. Let us “greet the unseen with a cheer.”