There are times when life just seems to get away from you. When the bad days outnumber the good, when you really, truly wonder – WHY? Why me, why this, why now? It takes discipline to step back, top living in the past, give thanks for all the blessings in your life and start looking to the future instead. A LOT of discipline. And it’s not a straight line, a lot of the time it’s two steps forward and one step back, but so long as you keep taking those steps forward it will, eventually, get better.
The last couple of months have definitely been of the “what the f#&% did I do to deserve this” variety. I had been riding a wave of happiness about 10 miles high for most of the last year. Deeply in love, career hitting on all cylinders, having more fun than anyone should. Then it all came to a crashing end in late July. I was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma and instead of an idyllic holiday, I was in hospital having major surgery. There was a lot to deal with and a lot of plans to undo on 3 days notice. The good news was a completely successful surgical outcome, although I have will have significant scars forever. And there have been more than a few days when it was hard to appreciate that outcome as the relationship I had thought was real and long-term imploded as a web of lies and deception came to light in the aftermath. And I have no idea why – you can’t make someone talk to you if they choose not to, so the why remains a complete mystery. At least Carrie Bradshaw got a Post-It note, all I got was a wall of silence and an endless stream of photos of him with other women of Facebook. From that I was left to surmise that our relationship was over. It was like having my life thrown into a blender, everything came whirling out the other end and I’ve been picking up the pieces ever since, not always successfully. There have been some very low days.
But I am done trying to figure out that unspeakable mess. I came to realize that there is no figuring it out and finally, one day, I reached the point where I was just wanted all that craziness out of my life. Gone, buried, forgotten. Fortunately there have been some really great things going on in the rest of my life, so time to mentally clean house and put the focus on those. I’ve been working on a long, complex project at work for the last 6 weeks. 12 hour days plus nights and weekends. Burying yourself in work is a great anodyne. I’ve been working with a great team, but we were all pushed to the limit. Then we got the news that the proposal was accepted in it’s entirely, as presented. The next 5 years have the potential to be the most exciting, interesting, hard-working and rewarding of my professional career. I thought that amazing news was enough, but there were a few more surprises waiting for me.
“One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time” Andre Gide
It’s just possible that I have the best boss in the world. He wanted to recognize the “beyond the call of duty” effort put in by the team and thought that since I had been working 24/7 and had not been out to the East Coast for a while, he would send me there for a long weekend. A wonderful thought, but . . . no longer an option. However, in a truly liberating gesture he asked me, “well, where would you like to go?” Really? Wow! I got to spend an all expenses weekend in Chicago, revisiting some old haunts and realizing that I would, eventually be OK again. But more importantly I remembered that I used to travel on my own all the time and that this would also be OK again. I had been grieving not only the loss of a relationship, but the lifestyle that went with it, and the life I had thought I would be living. One of the things I realized that weekend is that the two are not synonymous, that the loss of one did not have to mean the loss of the other. I could still do the same things, it would just look a little different, I just needed the courage to step out on my own again.
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage” Anais Nin
When I got home, this was in the mail.
Back when I had to cancel my vacation I wrote to American Airlines and explained the medical reasons. I never really expected to hear from them, but I received a travel voucher for the full amount of my fare, good for a year. Amazing! In the aftermath of the last few weeks one thing I simply could not bear was the thought of Christmas this year – it fell into the “what should have been but was no more” category. I also have a whole lot of unused vacation, so courage bolstered after my Chicago trip I rented myself a little apartment in my favourite city in the world – New Orleans. I will be a resident of the French Quarter for almost three weeks over Christmas and New Year. It will be a great place to rest, recuperate and heal in body and heart and in a wonderful piece of karmic destiny, my cancelled summer plans will pay for my flight there. I think that has a certain elegant balance.
I saved the best for last. I came home from work one night recently and found this from my kind, loving, wonderful daughter.
And I am so touched that she went to the trouble of finding such a unique gift. We have both developed a love of really good craft beers: over Labour Day weekend we went to Portland and had an amazing night at Deschutes Brewery and I recently did my best to explain to her the provenance of Trappist beers. I have no idea where or how she found these, but her thoughtfulness amazed me.
And so it is finally, after the shock and grief of the last few weeks, starting to feel like that light at the end of the tunnel is not another train coming down the tracks. There are so many good things going on in my life, I need to appreciate those and stop looking backwards. I took a big risk with my heart and this time I lost, but I’m determined not to lose the lesson as well. And it’s not a lesson of bitterness, but rather about the value of real, true friends, family and my own personal sense of self-worth. And that maybe not getting what you want, most passionately, is a wonderful stroke of luck. Or as someone else put it, perhaps less elegantly but no less succinctly “dodged a bullet there”! Amen to that. My horoscope today said “Protect your heart, your belongings and your reputation”. Damn, sure wish someone had tattooed THAT on my forehead a year ago!
I haven’t been able to listen to the music I love so much for some time. Too many memories. However a sure sign for me that I am starting to put the pieces back together is that I am listening to it again. And if it’s not exactly great yet, well it’s at least ok. I’m adjusting. And although I’m trying really hard to avoid those bitter break-up songs, a friend posted this video recently and it made me spit my coffee I laughed so hard – thanks Mark! I know EXACTLY what Kathleen was thinking!