The other day, when my husband and I took a walk, we stopped in the bookstore on the corner. I saw a book there called “ME: FIVE YEARS FROM NOW –The Life-Planning Book You Write Yourself.” It was put together by Sheree Bykofsky. Inside it asks the reader to really think about what IS right now and where you want to go next. It has a place for writing in the steps, identifying obstacles, things to do now, then later, to move your goals forward. I LOVE these kinds of books.
The funny thing is, I know from having a brush with cancer, that we really don’t have control over our lives, especially five years out. Or five weeks out. But it does feel good to at least think about the direction in which you want to go.
A week or two ago, TIME Magazine had Dr. Mehmet Oz on the cover and he discussed his
brush with cancer. (His colonoscopy showed a precancerous polyp.) Because of this, he will have to be screened more frequently than most people. In the article, Dr. Oz talked about the free fall feeling one has when given a diagnosis that is not an “all clear.” Do we take our health for granted? Yes. Do we take our time for granted, assuming that we will, not only be alive but, healthy enough to live out our dreams? Maybe we also assume that our partners will be there too? Assuming good health is kind of risky, the further out you plan.
For those of you who have had a brush with some disaster, how has it changed you? For me, I don’t assume I’ll get an “all clear” every time I have a test done. And I ALWAYS assume the dentist will find yet another cavity, despite my commitment to good oral hygiene. But what about people who have been a victim of crime, gotten fired from a job or been in an accident, and so on? Do you still feel safe and secure or has it changed you?
Many of us live in our safety bubble until something comes along and bursts it. When I was going through my cancer ordeal, I used to say that “disaster is just a phone call away.” That’s how I got much of the bad news from my doctor. That sounds so negative but it is
absolutely true. If you happened to read Joan Didion‘s wonderful book, “The Year of Magical Thinking,” in which she describes how her life changed on a dime when her husband literally dropped dead sitting at the dining room table while she was cooking and they were talking. There is no way to prepare yourself for something like this. And yet, time doesn’t really stand still, you keep moving forward–or at least time does, while you catch up.
For awhile, I viewed this new take on life as very scary. The uncertainty was hard to bear. The lesson I took away from it is kind of small, and yet it comforts me. We do not really have control over our lives; control is an illusion. The force of our will, no matter how mighty, cannot change what is. But the parallel to that insight is that we are not responsible for everything that happens to us and those we love. That has been the harder lesson for me to learn. As someone who really believed that I was responsible for the happiness of my children and loved ones, it is hard to think otherwise. Letting go of the control you never really had in the first place helps me feel lighter because everything is not really on my shoulders. For example, I cannot make my children feel happy, no matter what I do because happiness is a choice only that individual can make. We can’t choose it for other people.
So, nevertheless, I bought the book and I will fill it in. I may not really have control over what will happen in my life over the next five years, but perhaps it will help me to distill my choices, my dreams and my goals. My husband often says that if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there. At least I can start walking in the direction I want to go and watch for the detour signs along the way.