Today, I am going to tell you a story.
Love, Loss, and Leaning In
At a recent physical therapy appointment, my therapist began to tell me the story of how she grew up in our community, like me, and feels fortunate to have made her life and living here. I heard about the background of her parents—where they were from, how they met, and what brought them to this once sleepy valley in 1949. She proceeded to tell me about starting her practice, having her only son, and losing his father, her husband, after 25 years together. At age 50, he died of colon cancer, leaving her and their 12-year-old boy to do life without him.
My eyes were as wide as saucers above my mask. She told me it was a very difficult time and she was grateful to have family close by to help her through. In 25 years, they had “so much fun together”. They only had four arguments in their whole relationship, and three of them were about cancer, near the end. The dates of his diagnoses, decline, and death, were concreted into her mind. She recalled them with ease and matter-of-fact fluency in her voice.
After he died, her patients would set her up with people of all kinds. Anyone between the ages of 25 and 70. She was 44 when her husband passed. When she went on a date with the 25-year-old, and asked him what his goals were, he told her “to get a really big truck with a great stereo system”. Naturally, it didn’t take long before she didn’t want to date anymore.
Twist of Fate
Six years passed while she remained committed to minding her business as a mother and physical therapist. In the meantime, friends had encouraged her to sign up for eHarmony, and she had, but didn’t really pay attention to it. One day upon receiving an email from the site, she decided she needed to cancel the service. But, when she pulled up her profile, she saw the face of a man that piqued her interest.
Shortly into correspondence within the dating platform, he asked for her phone number so they could speak on the phone. Their first verbal conversation lasted two and a half hours and “that was it”. Two years ago, she married him at the top of a mountain peak that looks over our valley. The ring she wears was his mother’s, and resembles the mountain itself.
A Cup of Enlightenment
Her new husband has two daughters from his previous marriage, and through those women, my therapist told me she has grandchildren, which is fun for her. His ex-wife is a bit of a “nut”, she said, but she gets along with her okay. The ex was tough to deal with for the kids and him, she told me, because she didn’t really know how to have fun. “At age 55 she is finally starting to learn how to have fun”. My therapist noted that reality was sad.
“You often feel tired, not because you’ve done too much, but because you’ve done too little of what sparks a light in you”Alexander Den Heijer
The reason I’m telling you all of this? Because In a span of 20 minutes, by listening to stories from one woman, I was enlightened. Her perspectives and the way in which she described these pivotal events from her human experience fascinated me and challenged me. In particular, her assessment of her husband’s ex-wife “finally starting to learn how to have fun” at age 55 held an especially important message for me. It was almost like she was casually holding up a mirror and asking me to take a good, long look.
Minding the Buzz in my Brain
Most days, my brain is buzzing with what needs to be done. The laundry needs to be folded and put away. The bathrooms need to be cleaned again; it’s been a week already. The closets are a mess, I have to reorganize them. The floors need to be mopped, the bills need to be paid, the thank you notes still haven’t been sent. I have an appointment tomorrow. That meeting tonight. And for lord’s sake, WHAT am I making for dinner? I am tired. Tired of making dinner. Tired of doing the laundry, the bathrooms, the floors, the bills, the closets. Just tired. of. it. all.
I am reminded of this quote by Alexander Den Heijer: “You often feel tired, not because you’ve done too much, but because you’ve done too little of what sparks a light in you”. Like the lamps that folks in the south hang on the front porch to zap pesky bugs who fly too close, I have allowed the buzz in my brain to burn up what sparks a light in me.
Captivated by Resiliency
After my therapist finished her story, she set me up with electrodes on my back and disappeared. When she returned, she was no longer in her scrubs, but dressed and bidding me adieu. It was 1:00 and she was headed out to ski with her nieces. I told her to have a great time, and as she left, I laid there and smiled beneath my mask. Her resiliency captivated me, and I admired her commitment to enjoying her life, to knowing how to have fun. Clearly, nothing can keep that woman down. I want to be like her.
Being injured is lame. But, it has also been a gift. Without my injury, I would never have been on my therapist’s table, listening to her tell me the stories that stopped me in my mental tracks. I cannot imagine losing my husband, as my therapist lost hers. And yet, grief begets resilience.
Unfortunately, tragedy can hit at any moment, without warning. We live only once, and living well is a choice. Our minds chatter at us relentlessly, unless commanded to hush. The doldrums darken all of our doorsteps every now and then. Chances are, when they come knocking, it’s time to take inventory of how we are spending our time. Perhaps it is not doing enough of what sparks a light in us. Perhaps, we have forgotten to have FUN. Well, I think it’s about time we remember.