Wednesday, November 19, 2008

good news and a revealing story

to start, the excellent good news. i had my first post-cancer follow up mammogram this week and am thrilled to report the screening was all clear. free of cancer and free to go on with my life! my beat up little breast didn't enjoy being squished so hard and is tender now in response, but it's worth the pain to get such great news.

as a follow-up to my last post, i want to offer a few more reflections.

i can only assume life is long, that my life will be long and healthy and full. after the year i have had, it seems the only outlook that brings any daily peace. i can't live as if it will all end tomorrow, or next year, or i would not be able to make a plan for a future. seeing the future as long and wide, full of promise, that helps me be in the moment. being in the moment is a very good thing, as we all know.

all the dreams i have, the things i would like to do in this lifetime, i hope to have a chance to see even half of them come to fruition. yet, i am more realistic at 42 than i was at 22, as i should be. which isn't to say i've given up anything truly important to me with my recent decision in regards to career path. in fact, i feel i have embraced the very most important things of all.

in the past, i have made some choices that delivered more flash and drama to my story than substance and consideration for those vital basics in life; health, security, comfort. i regret very few choices i've made. after all, this winding path has made me the interesting, empathetic and experienced person i am today! hopefully those qualities make me employable too.

when i started my retreat in september, i had one strict agreement with myself: stay open. accept what comes without judgment. i wanted to see where my inner investigations would lead. i'll freely admit, this last chapter has surprised me too, on one level -the surface level. dig deeper down (my old friends can attest to this) and choosing to work with young people in transition, to enter a counseling field? it makes sense like ducks in water.

is my heart still tugged towards international development work, towards the entrepreneurial life? oh, yes. of course it is. i have always been drawn to helping people in far-flung places that haven't even reached the bottom rung of the economic ladder. i want to save every one of those dying in poverty every day. my heart is there. and i have always longed for adventure, for travel, for change. yet i know this: i tend towards the romantic view (that's my optimistic side), which isn't strongly rooted in reality. intellectually, i know that the grand gesture isn't as effective as slogging away in the field, making small steady steps forward.

what i have come to be at peace with is that "the field", my field, is right here in portland. and that when i can help young people form clear intentions for their lives and perhaps even inspire some into values-driven careers, that i am making a significant difference. what our western developed world needs most is upcoming generations of leaders and followers that are dedicated to service and sustainability.

i offer you a story from another pivotal crossroads in my life, one where i didn't stop and consider carefully the path i was taking.

first, the back story. at age 24, as i was nearing completion of my undergrad degree in fine art, i was clear and determined about my future. my art was flourishing, i was excited about making a career in the academic world and planning for grad school. i was surrounded by talented friends and supportive professors, my world was rich with interesting discussion, with art-making, with exhibitions and writing.

i was putting myself through school by waiting tables and scholarships. my minor was women's studies and i was planning on writing some grants (i had already been successful in getting other grants funded) and after graduation, going overseas to study and write a book. i was particularly pulled towards the isolated communities in the outer islands of the west coast of scotland. i wanted to live with and study the women working in ancient craft traditions that were dying out at that time. before me, i saw a bright future that included grad school, eventually earning a doctorate degree and hopefully heading a women's studies department at a university.

what a great plan, right?

i met a man at a party. he was a very handsome brit, genius level-intelligent and clearly a troubled soul. you guessed it, my dear readers, i fell for him.
hard. without a pause to see that i was turning onto another path entirely, i soon found my life revolved around him, his troubles, his potential for success. we were together for three years, we planned to marry, raise children, build the perfect alternative energy home. my strong urge to make a difference, to save someone kicked in and his broken psyche became my big project. i forgot about my whole career path, the plans i was so passionate about.

i lost my way. in the end, i lost myself.

i did find myself again, but i never found my way back to that path i was on. i had passed the crossroads and it was too distant to return to, too foggy to find again. i went forward in my life, driven most by my personal demons(the above wasn't the last unhealthy love relationship i found myself in) and my eventual quest for deep healing. there simply wasn't energy for forming a plan, finding a new career path.

here i am, 16 years after finishing my undergrad degree, finding my way. looking at a new path open wide.

in the far distance
i can see some hazy possibilities that do combine my drive to work in counseling, guiding teens and my desire to contribute overseas. i can volunteer on summer vacations. eventually i will retire and explore yet other options for making a difference. life will be long, there will be time for everything that matters.


V Kingsley said...

Hoooooooo - ray!! I am celebrating for you in my own way. Really thrilling. I am so glad. Congratulations!

Sondra said...

You sound very STRONG, Tay.
Your path seems to be the right one for now. Keep open to new possiblities on this path. There are always new ways of being.
Yay Yay Yay on the clean bill of health. You've done it right.

Laura said...

Ah, what a wonderful post. It really does fill me with joy to know how healthy you are. And as far as the other part of the post, I call it "Unhealthy Relationship Practice," and it has no parallel for lessons learned, and creating a quiet appreciation of a life free of drama.