I had lunch with a friend the other day; she just had a lumpectomy for breast cancer and is awaiting her results. She looked great and she maintains a positive and hopeful attitude and because she’s a bit older (71) says that she doesn’t feel she can complain. She is confident that things will be OK but she says, she has lived a good life. She says it is different for somebody younger like me, and she hopes that I have tons of years ahead of me, and of course, I do too. But I gently remind her that just because of her age, she can still feel angry or sad or scared or maybe some other word that I can’t even think of. She seems to generally be in a good place mentally and emotionally, but her ability to “take the hits” no matter what also reminded me that no matter our life circumstances, we’re all allowed to feel whatever comes up. The key is to face it, feel it, and then get busy living. (This doesn’t mean that those hard days won’t pop up. We’re all living proof of that. They don’t go away entirely, but I’ve learned the hard way that if you suppress them, they fester and grow and bleed, and can turn diabolical). So… Get mad. Have a good cry (hey I did it in the grocery store the other day). Punch something (thanks CG for the mini punching bag that I now keep on my desk). And then…. Breathe.
This lovely new friend gave me a copy of a book that her friend’s daughter-in-law wrote, a mystery. She relayed an interesting conversation that had taken place between herself and the author not long ago, posing the question of how this woman even comes up with these ideas for her books (this is her 4th!). Her answer is fascinating. She says, “I come up with the ending first, and then work my way backwards from there.”
I thought about that all the way home from lunch, wondering how I would draw my own life if I already knew the ending. I think there is a reason why none of us have a crystal ball– with it could come good yes and excitement at what’s to come, but also maybe dread and ways that we would try to alter our every day life decisions and in the end maybe we wouldn’t work as hard for our lives, be as grateful, or wouldn’t be out best selves.
And isn’t half the fun of life the twists and turns of getting there? (As I write this I gulp hard thinking at the stuff that life throws at you and how the turns are sometimes more fun than the twists).
But still, the thought of it kind of rocked my world. Off the top of my head I thought of my life like a Norman Rockwell painting straight out of the Saturday Evening Post in the 1920’s. I have no idea why, but I painted the end of my life in an outdoor scene where I’m about 100 years old sitting on a porch with my (97 year-old) husband who is smoking a pipe and the mailman has just walked up with a bundle tied with red ribbon in his hands and our dog nipping at his heels. A porch, a mailman, a dog? So what that SHL wouldn’t smoke a pipe or that we have a mailbox?
Perhaps this is just my brain fantasizing about having a “normal” life.
But what if we started from the end, and worked our way backwards?
I imagine the strokes I would paint; the light I would shine, unafraid of anything.
What would you want to feel, at the end?
For me, I’d want no regrets. Adventure. I’d want love. Tons and tons of endless sappy rose gold colored love. The kind that makes your heart weep with happiness. Less work, unless it wasn’t stressful, and more fun. Social connections– dinners, parties, conversations about the world, good food, good music, travel. A sense of purpose, like I had helped people and made a difference in the world. That I given SHL anything and everything that he ever could have wanted in a partner to share his life with.
What if we could infuse our lives with that passion and spirit for life RIGHT NOW that we would have if we knew the ending was going to be written tomorrow?
Regrets? I have some, but most are from b.c. (before cancer) and I’ve grown from them and know that if I had the chance, I would do things differently (most of the things that I regret entailing me saying no to cool opportunities because I didn’t think that I was smart enough/thin enough/coordinated enough/talented enough to do whatever I was being asked to do).
When it comes to marriage or relationships in general, I think that most of us can work just a little bit harder to make sure that our partner feels fulfilled (after they fulfill themselves, of course). We can pick and choose our battles with them, we can raise them up instead of putting them down, we can show them love in their own “love language” (SHL makes me energy bites when I’m too tired and even toasts the coconut, and I fold his laundry).
And lastly: Have I made a difference, have I helped? Did I carry out my purpose to make the world a better place, to love with abandon, to be myself?
Was I free? Impulsive? Did I throw my head back with laughter whenever I could?
Did I say YES?
I take the colors of the ending but leave the details for later, as it should be. But as I go along I write my own story, my own chapters, my own meaning. I will let nobody else write this for me.
I stand in the bright light of now, and all that life has to offer.
From beginning to end.