After a woman in the movie, Hostiles, lost her husband and children she said she envied death, its finality, its certainty. In comparison, her life would still continue, but now full of uncertainty, now empty of all those she had in it, wondering which is better. I had a plan for my life, one that included my husband until we reached really old, an acceptable time to go. We planned our retirement, moving to the Adirondacks, and experiencing more great adventures. I knew these things wouldn’t happen exactly as we imagined, but close enough, and why shouldn’t we believe we’d do these things together. I did do all these things, many years before I expected, accomplishing them in spite of much uncertainty. I considered the empty part, and in a sense it’s still true, no one new in my life, but realizing I’ve added more of me as I continue filling me back into the now available other half of my space. I still live with uncertainty and I don’t have a plan for my life. It’s not that I don’t care or believe, why bother since I could die tomorrow, but finding joy each day is enough for now.
It’s amazing how many times I do things I say I can’t, and can’t do things I say I can. I said, with confidence, that I would be just fine living on my own. Nope. All claims of having plenty to keep me busy and being self-sufficient were lies! I said, with conviction, that I’d never go on a white water rafting trip because of my fear of combining water with speed. To this day I can’t figure out what possessed me to go, especially after finding out the runs were closed temporarily shortly after because of exceptionally high water! I had fun despite my fears, but I hope I never get the opportunity to do it again! I can, I’ll always, I will – declarations of certainty in a world where “nothing is certain except death and taxes”, but also statements of hope, faith, or determination. I can’t, I’ll never, I won’t – declarations of fear when “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”, but also statements of hopelessness, doubt, or uncertainty. Absolutes are fine, but I don’t need them when the willingness to try is sufficient enough to declare what I believe about myself.
“Stories don’t end. They only go their separate ways. We take leave of them, not knowing what comes after.” (Tulip Fever) As people enter and leave my life, my story changes; the leaving being the greater impact, whether it was a good leaving or not. I know other people’s stories; my children’s extensively until they left home, then somewhat as they kept themselves sprinkled into my life, and then not so much as they moved away or had families of their own. I know somewhat the stories of friend’s, being part of some first hand or after the fact, letting me catch up. I know long stories, and short ones because we headed separately towards whatever came next. But don’t stories end when people die? My first response, yes, was too easy, so I made the question more personal. Didn’t my husband’s story end? No, it didn’t. His story continues in his children and grandchildren. Our children have their Dad’s tremendous love for the outdoors, and they can’t help but work hard, endure, overcome, and succeed. He rubbed off on me, re-shaping my life, as he did to every life he touched. His story, not copyrighted, free to plagiarize!
One of this year’s birthday cards said “A birthday is such a wonderful way to begin another trip around the sun. Enjoy the journey.” I started having an aversion to birthdays once my 40th arrived. No parties for me. What was there to celebrate? I now have my answer. Birthdays aren’t about the end of another year, but the beginning of a new one. I’ll never consider them as just another year older ever again. It’s not about getting closer to the end of life but the fact that I get to keep going, something definitely worth celebrating. I get to start another journey, letting life give me more; more experiences, choices, memories, success, joy, and chances to love and be loved. Life will give me challenges and hardships too, but they’re not insurmountable. Lessons can be learned from both good and bad experiences and decisions. Amazing memories can’t dissolve the sad ones, just dilute them, but that’s good enough for me. The odds are I’ll have failures along the way but the possibility of success far outweighs the chance of failure. And who wouldn’t want more opportunities to find joy and love? Here’s to another trip around the sun!
“If I were her I would have . . . “. If I were her – herein lies the problem. I’m not her, I’m me. What I would do has no bearing, although I think often that it should. I have an opinion on how things should be done and what’s NOT appropriate. I’m a thinker so I put some thought into most things I do. I believe in being polite and kind in word and deed. I’m willing to share with anyone, but not regarding all things extremely personal. Nobody wants my germs or to see more skin than they need to! Some people don’t think much about their actions. I just hope their thoughtlessness doesn’t cause me harm. I’ve met people who think the world revolves around them, so they rarely recognize how others feel, or appreciate what others do for them. It hurts to be disregarded, but it’s worse for those who disregard because they end up missing all the benefits that come from personal interactions. I can’t control what others say and do, but I can learn from them, emulating the good, avoiding the bad. So I’ll continue to be thoughtful, kind, considerate, polite. Who knows? It might catch on!
During our trip to Alaska, my grandson gave me a hug and said, “you’re mine” and then later “no matter what you do, I’ll always love you.” I don’t remember getting into trouble or saying anything mean, but I appreciated his recognition of unconditional love! I know he loves his little sister because he missed her the most during our trip. My daughter said she made an ear-piercing scream when she saw her brother step off the plane and later they held hands as they walked through the airport – precious! I’m thankful that love has the ability to survive dislike, disappointments, disagreements, and even death. I wish it was better at overcoming lies and broken trust. It’s amazing how it grows in times of crisis, and unfortunate that it becomes dormant when all is well and good. It’s a shame it’s taken for granted in misguided beliefs that who and what I love will always be with me. It should be a crime to give love as a reward or withhold it as a punishment. It doesn’t always win but never fails to make itself highly available to those willing to give it a try. Love – quite something, isn’t it?
Life offers many paths. To say one is better than the other requires judgement, but who am I to decide what’s best for anyone else? Decisions are made to have children or not, earn a college degree or learn a trade, marry or remain single, take risks or play it safe. Each choice means either taking on some amount of responsibility or keeping oneself unattached. To include others means finding someone like-minded because choices can be significantly different. I don’t smoke cigars, but my husband did. Deal breaker? Nope. I wanted to have children, but what if he didn’t. Deal breaker? Absolutely. Since I didn’t come equipped with instincts, I must choose my path, not caring about choosing the best path, but the best one for me.
Instincts/Choices (Shoup Bay, Valdez, Alaska)
- A pair of Oyster Catchers fly in unison near our cabin.
- As if in a dance, in unison, like synchronized swimmers. Freedom.
- Kittiwakes fly straight out and back across the bay.
- As if on their own “marine highway”, driven to provide. Responsible.
- One free to dance, the other dedicated to the next generation.
- Which way is better? Neither.
- Both equally important in this thing called life.