Recently I received an email from a very old friend whom I have not seen for over 35 years. We have not had a chat yet nor a long exchange of emails—just an exchange of “Hi, I just found you on the Net” and “Oh, my gosh, catch me up to date.” I looked forward to more news. But then I was smacked in the face by t he past.
My memory went into overdrive and images of those days came flooding back into my mind. Some were good, some not so good. It brought up memories of my marriage, the birth of my two boys, friends I thought I’d never lose track of and yet have. The years strutted before me like a parade of then and now— the years in nursing, the time in Washington, D.C. as a Congressman’s wife, the return to “normal” living in Arizona, watching my boys grow into men, my business venture, the divorce and starting again, the deaths of some I loved so dearly and another bout of starting over again. The search for meaning after trauma and disappointment and the challenge of doing better and being better that drove me on was a theme that ran throughout it all. It was an interesting review.
Looking back is like looking at the proverbial mountain and valley life—the good and the bad, the ups and downs, the highs and lows—all leading to the next chapter in this life drama that is mine. There were times when I thought I just couldn’t go on and times I thought nothing could stop me. I’m sure you have had those, too.
With retrospect I see that each peak was higher than the lowest low—it looks like a line on a growth chart that shows steady growth with its occasional dips that give you momentum. Up three spaces and back two, up four spaces and back three, up three spaces and back one – and so it went and so it goes.
My conclusion after the review? I have had a wonderful life. I still have one. I have met exciting and interesting people in the realms of power and I now meet people who are equally exciting and interesting in the grocery store and in my neighborhood. I have had opportunities to stretch, grow and learn and I am presented with those same opportunities on a daily basis. I learned to appreciate beauty in the National Gallery of Art and in the hearts and faces of the people I meet every day.
Suffering, and, yes, there was some suffering, brought out abilities and resilience I didn’t know I had and the challenge to continue was greater than the temptation to give up.
I realize I am a crazy, eternal, over-optimistic optimist and I wouldn’t have it any other way but, in reality, I am no different from you. You have had ups and downs, ins and outs, gains and losses etc. And you have made the best choices you could make while your roller coaster just kept speeding ahead. I believe that how I interpret and accept the lessons of the past sets the groundwork for what I experience in the future. I am looking forward to some great years and want to live up to the popular quote—h
ere it is, a paraphrase of something motorcycle racer Bill McKenna said:
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, totally worn out and proclaiming, ‘WOW, WHAT A RIDE!’”