Friday, April 29, 2011

On Longevity and Lives Too Short

As I've said before here and on my recent "passions" post for Relyn, I generally try to put a bright spin on most things, even when they're rather challenging. Cup half full. Chin up. Always look on the bright side of life. (And note that you'll have to read through the gloomy top of this to get to the rest...)

But there are times when it's tough to do that. This month has been one of them.

Over the past few weeks, I've come to see all too clearly that life sometimes offers its own timetable and it's not always to our liking. I wrote about several deaths earlier this month. Add to that another and some significant illnesses and it offers food for thought, among other things.

A friend younger than I, who has encountered enormous challenges in her life and met them with more grace and good humor than I think nearly anyone could muster, has surgery in one of the most delicate parts of her body, the head. (The results successful, the prognosis excellent, the recovery long but joyful because of the positive endgame.) Food for thought.

A neighbor dies on Good Friday, having battled ovarian cancer for eleven years -- a medical miracle, almost unheard of, but at the age of 62, a life cut short. Food for thought.

A friend I mentioned in an earlier post dies at 64 during what is the happiest time of her life, of a disease that in part, I share. Food for thought.

A visit to a former colleague who in her late sixties also fights cancer with great humor and good grace, yet unable to do any of the things she hoped for in her retirement. My visit with her on Easter was lovely, yet thought provoking.

I am older now than my mother was when she died 34 years ago last week. Food for thought? It's a banquet!

This week I had my 30th anniversary at the university. Thirty bloody years. They held a lovely reception for us and all who had worked 25, 30, 35 or more years, tromped across the stage, shook hands with the university president who gave us a "thank you very much" letter signed with an electronic signature. Then as we shook hands we turned to the camera, straightened our posture, tilted the head and smiled. Shake hands with another old guy -- he might be the one who signs our paychecks, but since mine is direct deposited, who knows? Exit the stage and watch a bunch of others, all older that the group before.

After, a nice appetizer buffet, lots of smiles and congratulations to people you never met, and then you picked up the present you selected (I picked a digital TV with a DVD player and the lapel pin, which will make a nice thumbtack for my inspiration board), and left. Free parking. Always a plus.

It was a lovely evening. Then I went home and cried till I went to bed, and then cried some more.

Sounds silly, doesn't it? Rick says, "Maybe this is the time to see the glass as half full where you are STILL there because you do something better than others and make a contribution that others cannot. They hang onto you with little trinkets like televisions and cameras. If others were so easy..... I think you have a lot more to be proud about than to be sad about."

And he's right. He also added, "But having said all that, I, too, can see the view you saw. Just look away."

It's not that I haven't loved what I do for work. A lot of people think it's exciting and sometimes I do, too. I even like most of the people I work with -- certainly all of the ones I see every day on my floor -- and even the few I don't, well, I don't have to play with them after school. Happy team, Happy Jeanie, Everybody get together and love one another, at least act like it. I wasn't a theatre major for nothing and it has served me well.

No, it' s not what I've done that brings me to tears. I've done a lot of good stuff I'm proud of for an organization that matters to me and I've met some fun "folk" over time. Stuffed and breathing, both.

And I've had a wonderful life, blessed with a wonderful partner who has shared his children with me.

A place to go in the summer and fall that moves my soul and inspires my art and my heart.

My personal Marmelade Gypsy whom I love with all my heart.

No, it's not what I have or have done. It's what I haven't done.

And some of those things -- well, I'm not going to be able to do them. I missed those opportunities, took the other fork in the road. The safe one. And that's life -- because I get to do a lot of other lovely things. And they aren't all in the office. And the wonderful folk I know make my life so very worthwhile. (You may count yourself among them.)

I wasn't going to post about this -- sounds too much like whining! But Shoreacres suggested I go ahead. Sometimes a rant is good for the soul. So, thank you for attending my therapy session! And -- if you have the chance to do the things you think might take you out on a limb, remember -- you have to do that to get to the fruit. (Although when you pick strawberries, you can get the fruit without going on the limb -- your back might hurt when you're done, but it's pretty tasty too.

I am SO mixing my metaphors... all my writing friends who read this? I can do better. Really!


Bella Rum said...

You definitely are a cup half full kind of gal. That's for sure, and one of the reasons I visit here is because I feel good when I leave, but you don't always have to keep the chin up... especially with us.

I believe loss is the most difficult part of getting older - losing friends, family and community. You've had more than your share recently. It takes a while to gain a little perspective, but writing about it will help. Writing always brings clarity for me.

And then there's that feeling that our options are drifting away with every year that passes, but every time I think that way, something new presents itself to me. I know the same will happen to you, and you'll seize the moment, because you're that kind of gal.

The entire time I've been writing this, that mask has been staring at me. Boy, those are some big teeth... not to mention the nostrils.

All the best.

Janet said...

It sounds as if you've had more than your share of bad news this month and dealing with death is not an easy thing. Grieving is very personal. If you need to "rant" a little bit you deserve it. Go ahead. Get it out. Those of us who care about you will still be here.

I sometimes think about life passing me by but then I will get an email from one of my blog buddies from around the world and it always makes me stop and think how lucky I am.

Anonymous said...

you make the world more beautiful just being you ♥ sounds corny, but i really mean it, you are a rare bird... full of kindness, generosity & joy. i'm glad you ranted, i'm glad you are my friend :)

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

This post is definitely not whiney - not by any stretch of the imagination. I think you verbalize what many of us feel, even if we are in different stages of life... For me, it's not so much looking back at forks in the road, it's more so worrying that forks in the road of life won't even present themselves to me. And then I fret about that and wonder if I can truly be happy w/my life if certain things don't happen for me (marriage, kids, etc).

But then i remember the things that i have done that others wish they had. Like traveled to Paris alone. And i think - you know, life's not so bad...

April has been a tough month for you... Here's hoping that May is much kinder to you - and that we get a lot more sunshine!!

Anonymous said...

Oh, Jeanie, a most difficult and sad month. I am so, so sorry to hear about all your friends and loved ones. But of course you should rant and cry on the shoulders of pals. They will return the favor some day!!

As far as looking over your shoulder at the road not traveled - well, you only have one pair of legs! I am sure we all have our regrets, but they don't do us any good thinking about them. You do count your blessings, which is most important. And I count you as one of my blessings!

And just think, if you had taken another road, you might not have met Rick, you might not have a bit of a pension waiting for you, you might not have met Gyps....

So keep living in the moment, inch a bit out on that limb when you can just to keep the adrenalin pumping, and take good care of your sweet self!!

I can't wait to meet in June :-)

Joanne Huffman said...

It's always good to remember that you have no idea where those other paths might have led to and that you're in a very good place now. I think looking back and wondering and realizing you're out of time for some of those adventures is a step towards understanding (and sometimes appreciating) where we are now. You've had a lot of sad and worrisome events recently, you've accepted them and dealt with them. It's impossible not to worry about them, that doesn't mean life isn't good; it means life is real.

Becca said...

Jeanie, thank you for sharing those thoughts with us. We ALL have dark, sad moments, and there's no use trying to pretend all the time that we don't. I love the sunshine you shed on my world with your posts everyday, but there's no place in the world that's sunny all the time.

As Bella said, one of the most difficult things about getting older are the losses - of family, friends, and opportunities. I've certainly had my share of those in the last years, and this winter has been a hard one for me too. But I've decided it's never too late to dream, so I'm coming up with some new ones to follow :)

Hoping you're feeling better today, and looking forward to all life has to offer in the future for you!

Love and hugs...

shoreacres said...

I have to really watch myself these day, because there are moments when I could make what you've written read like the burblings of the world's sweetest Pollyanna!

You know that my issue isn't illness or loss just now, but constriction. There are times when I nearly panic, feeling as though life is going to pass me by entirely. I sit and calculate: let's see, when Mom is 100, I'll be..... 71... and still taking care of her?

Lord have mercy, I may hit the nursing home before she does!

But the situation highlights something we all have to deal with - a gain in one area (for me, more freedom, more time) will mean loss in another. It's just the way of the world.

Sometimes I think about that great phrase: we can have it all. We just can't have it all at the same time. When I start to hyperventilate, I make myself stop and think - what is it that I can have now, at this time? The answers aren't always easy to find, but I've never failed to find an answer eventually.

That "eventually" can be a killer, though!

Pat K. said...

Oh, Jeanie - I can certainly empathize with the feelings you expressed (so very well, as usual) in this post, because I've had similar (although not prompted by all of the recent losses and whack-you-in-the-head kind of moments you've had in the past month or so). And I agree with others' comments above - we'll never know where the other roads might have taken us. But that doesn't mean we don't wonder now and again if we made the right choices (or in some cases, what might feel like a lack of a choice). I hope you know - and value - what a wonderful, positive difference you have made to so many, many people (family, friends, co-workers, community near and far). Chances are, had you taken a different path, you would have still found a way to positively impact people's lives, because that is the essence of you. And that's what really counts.

Privet and Holly said...

The road not taken.
Believe me, I think
about it. A lot.
But as my mom has always
said, you do the best
you can do and then you
have to forget the
rest. I think you've
made a bigger impact
then you can ever imagine
and are still touching
hearts every day. And
in the end, isn't that
what counts the most?
But I'm here to predict
that YOUR end is nowhere
in sight. So chin up,
carry on and shrug off
those heavy thoughts!
xx Suzanne

Terry said...

This was a beautiful post and I'm so glad to have come upon your blog by chance. It wasn't whiny in the least but very true.

Lately I often find myself wondering about the roads not taken and about times and friends gone by...

At any rate, before I become sentimental, I'll leave it at that was a lovely post

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