Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Life's dirty tricks and its perverse gifts

Source: MatchbookMag
Every few years, life presents us with the opportunity to redefine who we are.  When we set off to college, move to a new city, get married, or have children life pauses ever so briefly.  We encounter opportunities to explore slight divergences from the paths we've taken, and we can decide if we'd like to continue walking the current one or alter the course.

Once my high school friend, Catherine, came home from camp, where she'd established her name as "Cath."  Her mother was horrified when she picked up her daughter, who suddenly had a short, monosyllabic, and thus very informal, name.  Where was her dignified, straight-laced daughter?  Much to her mother's chagrin, she never quite returned:  Catherine permanently became Cath, sometimes Cathy, nicknames that better suited the friendly, "dare me to try anything" vigor with which she lived her life.  

Seizing an opportunity to redefine oneself can be a happy turning point in life, but there are times when life presents us with dark , seemingly insurmountable, challenges that force redefinition.  Death, chronic illness, tragic accidents, loss of income, and divorce are life events that press change upon us.  They are unwelcome events that force a pause we have not asked for and do not want.

We can respond in two ways.  1) We can resist, become angry, scream, and mourn our past, or 2) We can seize the challenge.  We can struggle, persevere, try on new ideas and emerge more compassionate, reflective, fulfilled.

When the financial crisis plunged through my living room, leaving the life my husband and I built in pieces that could not be put back together, it was not pretty.  It forced a crushing pause that could not be ignored, and I responded with full force, pulling from responses 1 & 2.  This mammoth crisis forced me to question what I wanted to do, who I wanted to be, and how I wanted to live my life on this earth.  It forced many questions I'd never asked myself before, because I was too busy living.

Today I continue to explore these questions.  I've come to see my life as one that must be constantly revised, constantly questioned, because I don't want to roar down a path on auto-pilot.  Life is simply too short, too precious to disregard its direction.  It's the gift I've gleaned from nearly losing everything.


What's yours?

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