I am knocking on the door of another birthday, my sixth one since I was first diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer. The fact that I'm writing this confirms the obvious: I'm still alive.
Six years ago, a couple of weeks after my birthday, I received what might have been a lethal diagnosis. My odds of survival weren't great, but neither were they nonexistent. At that time I didn't know what the future would hold (kind of like now, I guess), but the news brought the canvas of my life into sharp relief. Bright colors abounded, but there were gaps here and there and, of course, a few dark corners. Like an unfinished tapestry, my canvas was an incomplete picture of the person I would become. I had no idea at the time that the devastating news of my illness would bring so many changes.
So here we are six years later. I have retired from the practice of law and fully embraced my life's true calling. I write this blog, have published my first book, and have a second one in the works. Seems that a lot has happened in a very short time -- a lot that I never imagined or dreamed of six years ago.
Understanding there are a set number of pages to turn on the calendar has a way of bringing to the fore those things that are really, truly important. The shit falls away. You can see clearly. My face-to-face with mortality opened my mind to the humanity -- and lack of humanity -- around me every day. It made me grateful for the compassionate, spiritually generous, kind people, and allowed me to freely release my emotional investment in the spiteful and soul-dead. I weeded the garden of my life, leaving only those from whom I could learn and grow and with whom I could share a loving and mutually-respectful relationship. It felt like cleaning out the garage and getting rid of the crap you don't need. Only better. And it has been like that for the last six years. I have allowed myself to recognize where things in my life needed to change, and how to cultivate and grow those things I had long neglected or ignored.
Opportunity for introspection is a gift that comes in many forms. Sometimes it comes in the form of catastrophe or disaster, but slogging through the worst of it can bring bright and beautiful change. And, it gives us another chance to work on our painting.