Living My Life and Waiting for the Next Tide
Nantucket Sound Sunrise
The human body at peace with itself is more precious than the rarest gem.
Cherish your body; it is yours this one time only.
All the worldly things are brief like lightning in the sky.
This life, you must know, was the tiny splash of a raindrop,
a thing of beauty that passes away even as it comes into being.
Therefore, set your goal! And make every day a time to attain it.
~Lama Tsong Khapa~
Recently a friend of Carol’s and mine died after last year’s diagnosis of cancer. I can’t say she suffered from cancer since she did not believe in suffering or pain, admitting only to discomfort. Instead of fearing her cancer, she named it Cora, respecting its power and chronicling the struggle to control her body. I wanted to write about our friend Pete but couldn’t decide where to start. While I waited for inspiration, the above quote arrived by email, a favorite of Beth Allen’s mother who also recently died of cancer.
As I thought of Pete and Beth’s mother, images of many people close to me flashed through my mind. I never imagined them leaving this earth, but before I knew it, only their memory remained. In the vast scheme of things, our lives are indeed tiny splashes of rain, absorbed into the soil before we know it. Some of the people I knew as a child grew old and died. Others seemed old when I first met them. Those I have not seen for years still seem to me whatever age they were when I last saw them.
I still imagine myself as the child pulling on woolen mittens to play in the snow, the teenager ready for summer adventures on my bike or the recent graduate anxious for my first professional challenge. I never thought about dying when I was younger. I still don’t like the intrusion of mortality into my fantasies. Yet I don’t know whether I will wake up tomorrow morning or even finish today. I have plans, dreams and ideas I would like to pursue but have no way of knowing which ones I will see fulfilled.
My challenge is to accept whatever today brings and make the best of it. Sometimes I fritter away the hours and then wish I had done something more productive. Sometimes I wake up with fresh ideas I need to write down before even landing on my feet. Each day dispenses its own challenges, secrets and rewards. I can’t choose what will be in the mix. The best I can do is to meet each day with flexibility, ready for whatever it brings me. The little surprises make it getting out of bed worthwhile.
Life Lab Lessons
- Do you accept what life gives you or do you try to force life into your mold?
- Do you ever succeed in forcing your way on the world?
- Do you become frustrated when you fail?
- How much time do you have left to live?
- What would make today one to remember?
JOE: Good morning Calliope.
CALLIOPE: Good morning Joe. I wondered if you would disappear for a long time again.
JOE: No. I don’t plan to. This week disappeared with work.
CALLIOPE: What kind of work?
JOE: Following up on the Artist Road Show and preparing for next Saturday’s Gala. Most days I had events after work as well.
CALLIOPE: Any progress with your writing?
JOE: I did manage to write a newsletter on Death which I will share with you tomorrow.
CALLIOPE: What about other creative pursuits?
JOE: Just reading Eleven Secrets to Getting Published with quite a few valuable suggestions.
CALLIOPE: Anything else?
JOE: Reading some classical and newer fiction to stir up thoughts about my own writing. I also thought about getting back to critiquing and submitting work for critique on line. I am hoping to get back into the writing groove with some determination. See you tomorrow.
- Allegheny River Misty Sunrise
JOE: Good afternoon Calliope.
CALLIOPE: Joe! I haven’t heard from you in ages. I have been reading your columns but thought you forgot about me.
JOE: I haven’t forgotten. I have been writing my columns, but otherwise have put aside writing for quite a while now.
CALLIOPE: What became of your writing?
JOE: I became involved with AmeriCorps and have been working several days a week at GO ART!, the arts council for Genesee and Orleans counties.
CALLIOPE: I remember that. But why give up writing?
JOE: I am not sure I gave it up. I saw myself as putting it on the back burner while I worked in the background supporting others’ art endeavors.
CALLIOPE: Laudable, but you don’t need a muse to do that.
JOE: I know. That’s why I haven’t been in touch with you. Something stirred in me the past week or so. Maybe the onset of Fall with the changing weather. I have an urge to get back to writing and am ready to do so. I am not quite sure where to start but would like your help. Are you willing to share the adventure with me?
CALLIOPE: What is a muse for? Of course I will travel with you.
JOE: Thanks. Glad to know you are there. I will keep you posted.
When Life Does Not Meet Your Expectations
You May be disappointed if you fail, but your are doomed if you don’t try.
I wrote before about knowing who you are and who you are not. Sometimes you think you know who you are and set out merrily along your life path only to find yourself at a dead end. I have done this several times. While I stumbled around in confusion for a while each time, I finally picked myself up and searched for another path.
An accident or illness can take away some of your capabilities. A career for which you prepared might not still exist when you are ready to start it. Staying on your old path could require you to compromise your principles in a way which would mean giving up what is most important to you. There are many reasons people need to switch paths. Years ago when I studied careers and occupations, I learned that the average person has at least three careers during their lifetime.
You could stay stuck where you are, become angry about your disappointment or refuse to look for another path. I have met people who have handled life disappointments in each of these ways. Feeling sorry for yourself or giving up are options, but to my mind not very good ones. They also seem rather boring to me.
Of course it hurts to discover that your life dream is just that and accept that it will never amount to anything. Maybe you don’t have the skills you thought you did. Maybe the path you chose changes so much that it is no longer worth pursuing. Perhaps you find you have talents better than the ones you first relied on. None of this means your life is not worthwhile or that you have nothing to contribute. It just means you need to reevaluate your situation and reset your sights.
I know that is easier said than done. Having to give up who you thought you were can be very sad. It can be humiliating if you had many fans supporting your previous efforts. It can be disorienting to forget your old ways and beat a new path. You might lose confidence in yourself and start second guessing your ability to make good choices.
But maybe you can learn something about yourself in the process. You can learn perspective. Having to change paths is a chance to discover that disappointment is not the same as being devastated. You can discover skills you did not know you had. You have a chance to learn to be flexible rather than rigid about your goals. Maybe what you learned in your past life will help you in your new one.
Life Lab Lessons
Do you like the path your are on?
If not, what can you do about it?
What is most important in your life?
What path will help you find what is important?
Be courageous and choose that path.