Two recent “events” have given me pause to consider how they are real and symbolic regarding what is the constant in our lives, and that is, of course, change. We are all about change of one kind or another, most of the time. Some are big changes, really big life changes and some are small changes, shifts in the way we do things, moving from place to place, and even the smallest kind of thing like a haircut.
The most recent change for us is a move from our home and six acres on the Chama River in northern New Mexico. We moved from a 2800 square foot house, chock a block full of furniture, art and personal effects into our motor home of 320 square feet of living space. If we were in a warmer climate, which we will be soon, we could add the outside patio, but right now, it’s 27 degrees out there. Never mind what we did with all the stuff. It went into storage until we feel like dealing with it, probably in the late Spring or Summer.
We also had a barn full of more stuff and several other buildings. They were used for storing equipment including a tractor and mowers, tools, garden supplies, chickens and donkeys, all requiring care and maintenance. We figured that after nine years there, enjoying the wonderful scenery and the rural, remote location, it was time to move on to other activities including our desire for more mobility. Less to take care of seemed appealing.
While that may seem like a big change, and in many respects it is, much of it is within our control. Some life changes appear outside of our control and those can seem overwhelming and demand that we respond in order to survive. When my wife was 37, she suffered an aneurysm followed by a stroke, life threatening and terribly difficult. However, she decided to make some big changes, survived, and developed her own radical theory of disease and healing and has lived on 29 years including a bout with cancer 5 years ago while we were in London. The treatment, along with her attitude, was effective and successful.
The more recent cancer story in our family is about a sister-in-law, diagnosed a little more than a year ago with kidney and uterine cancers, apparently separate and unrelated but that’s hard to reconcile. She had major surgery at a world-renown cancer center in Texas, and then suffered the treatments of chemo and radiation therapies. This past Christmas Eve while in Italy with some family members, a brain tumor, metastasized from the uterine cancer, was detected and needed immediate attention.
A quick flight back to Houston, more surgery to remove the newfound tumor and Voila she is on yet another road to recovery. These life interruptions are not only upsetting and annoying; they are painful, and debilitating. Changing one’s life to include treatment for cancer is an enormous adjustment to say the least. The support, care and love of family members are therapeutic in themselves and the personal adjustments required to adapt to this change include significant physical, mental, emotional and spiritual exercises, along with various drug protocols.
The highs and lows of the emotional roller-coaster represent more change than one would normally like to deal with. However, we need to understand and accept that this ebb and flow are the norm and weave these strands of irregularities into the tapestry of our lives. We can learn to expect the unexpected, anticipating that there will inevitably be these life-threatening, life-changing experiences at some time (or times) in our lives and build up a bank account of personal resources upon which we can draw when needed.
The real question is not why did this happen, although there are those who like to speculate and search for reasons, perhaps in order to put the blame on some genetic or environmental flaw. The better question is what will you make of it and how will you respond? How will you be an active participant in your treatment, not merely a passive recipient? Knowing that you are the major player in the ebb and flow of transition can make a big and positive difference in the outcome.