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Posts Tagged ‘mindfulness’

42-207336911A short “what if?” piece, purely fictional. Do you ever imagine how your life would change if you suddenly learned you were dying? I do. This is just part of what I imagine regretting.

“Carpe diem.” I know what it means but it’s made no difference. I’ve lived each day, each year on delay, as if I will exist forever. I’ve been Scarlet O’Hara, following the mantra. ‘Tomorrow is another day.” I’ve been a fool.

I’ve been a fool.

Denial is the panacea of the cowardly. Reality is a bitch and the truth hurts, or so says my son’s latest tattoo. Delusion, whether drug-induced or a natural inclination, is gentle. You tell yourself that people are rarely as cruel as they appear; that the dangers of global warming are exaggerated, that good always triumphs over evil; and as for death? It’s so distant that it doesn’t bear thinking about. That’s the way I’ve lived my life, until now.

Within a few short weeks, I will be dead, and I am suddenly overwhelmed with regret for the time I have wasted, for the work left undone. I will never accomplish all that I expected to. I will never know what it is to have my dreams fulfilled. I foolishly pushed them to the back of the shelf, waiting for just the right moment to speak them aloud and bring them to life. They will die with me.

I try to turn onto my side but tubes and sterile tape make it impossible. I moan in frustration, rage inwardly at this turn of fate. I want to say something brilliant, something so enlightened that it will make my creator stop and say “The world needs her. Let her stay.” Instead, foolish clichés fill my thoughts.. ‘My ducks aren’t all in a row. There are fences yet to be mended. Not enough bridges have been built. I still have fish left to fry.”

I am not ready to leave.

I lower my head and whisper my deepest truth: “There are stories I need to write.” A searing pain rises in my chest and it hurts to breathe. Is it the cancer that eats away at me, or is it the words that will be forever buried?

I have no one to blame but myself. For years I allowed everything and everyone else to come before my writing. When I put words to paper, I tore each sentence to shreds, rewrote, revised, recycled and picked at my writing until nothing remained of me. I was uninspired, overly critical, unable to find my focus amidst the distraction of my life. My muse fled, licking her wounds. I told her to be patient, to wait for my “someday.” How could I know that “someday” would never come and that my thoughts would die with me?

When I was still a teenager, I read “The Prophet,” until I could recite parts by heart. I loved its wisdom, the purity and simplicity of its language and truths. “Your children are not your children. You are the archer. They are the bow.” I dreamed of writing a book like that, one that would be passed from friend to friend, from parent to child, one that would live long after I was gone.

I wanted to touch children in a way that mattered. Like Barbara Parks, I would write a story that would make them laugh but teach them compassion. I think now of the first time I read Barbara Parks’ book, Skinnybones, to a group of nine year-olds. There were times I had to stop and regain my composure because I was choking with laughter. Such a gift, to be able to make children and grownups laugh, all the while teaching respect for our differences. I longed to write like her.

I wanted to write about unlikely heroes, unveil a perfect multi-dimensional character, my own “Holden Caulfield,” someone whose layers could be slowly peeled away, earning him or her a place in the hearts of my readers. I wanted to write a character that would make people cry with laughter and laugh through their sorrow. I wanted to write magic.

I waited too long.

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untitled-human-spirit1Last week,  our close friend passed away. For the better part of twenty years, Janet fought cancer and outlasted the dire predictions of the best oncologists. Despite her frail appearance, she seemed invincible. We regularly compared her to that bastion of commercial longevity, the Energizer Bunny.

What was it about her that kept her alive? Surely, she had to have advice for others. Once, when I asked her for her secret, she answered with one word: denial. As long as she couldn’t see the signs of the cancer in her body, it wasn’t there. She locked the prognosis away, as far from her everyday thoughts as possible, and threw away the key. She decided to live each day on its own merit, and she lived them well. No matter what she was going through, she never lost her passion for people,  for food, for laughter.

Few of us are that wise.  The fear of trouble ahead sometimes cripples us. It doesn’t matter whether it’s about our health or our loved ones or even our finances. Instead of using each day to enjoy what we have, we agonize over what we may lose.

It’s within each of us to find the same kind of strength Janet had.  No matter what we lose, we only need to remember to appreciate the abundance of blessings that still surround us.  If we can do that, then maybe our struggles won’t seem quite so insurmountable.

Thank you for teaching us that, Janet. Rest in peace, dear friend.

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