Shaping Your Life

Until very recently, I thought of my life as being linear. Birth, growth, death… aren’t we all on that inevitable path? But that makes life sound way too much like a treadmill. (All you’d have to do is look at me once and you’d know that I hate treadmills.)

Now I think of life as being three dimensional. That allows room for a lot more options. It more accurately reflects the diversity of the thousands of lives being lived on this planet. We each shape our lives. We are architects. We are sculptors.

We can be smooth and calm and uniform. We can be rigid and boxy and rough. We can zig and zag and branch off in wild directions. We can embrace. We can repel. We can circle back upon ourselves, or we can shoot forward like an arrow. We can take inspiration from others, or we can set out on our own. We can be steady and solid, or we can wobble unpredictably.

Don’t restrict yourself to a linear life, unless that’s what you truly want in your heart of hearts. Create something beautiful. Only allow others to influence that creation if you can look upon them and see the beauty within. (And don’t forget to thank those who help you shape your life in a positive way.)

When all is said and done, your life will be what you make of it. So make it special.

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Facing Forward

I’m on the brink of amazing change, and it all stemmed from a giraffe. You just never know when a figurative cue ball will send your eight ball careening off in an entirely different direction. That’s what makes life so exciting.

I have been watching April the Giraffe’s live feed on Youtube since February. I watched her pregnant belly as the baby kicked. I watched any number of contractions. She kept me company at least 8 hours a day. She became a big part of my life. So when I woke up on April 15th to discover that the birth was in progress, I got really, really excited.

Unfortunately, I still had to go to work. I broke all land speed records getting there, believe you me! And then I immediately logged back on again. Fortunately, the front hooves and the head where the only things that had made it into the world up to that point, so I got to watch the rest of the birth, live.

I’m not ashamed to say I cried some ugly, joyful tears when her calf finally made his entrance, and even more when he stood up an hour later. Life, man. Life! You know? What a miracle it is.

And just like that, I realized I hadn’t been living, not really, for quite some time. It occurred to me that life is like a flowing river, and we float downstream with it. As we go, we see things come toward us and we experience them and then they recede into the past.

But that’s only if you’re facing forward. Many things can cause you to face backwards. Trauma. Grief. Fear. Depression. They all cause you to focus on the past. And if you’re like me, you get stuck there, and try to recreate the past in your present. You want to get back to where you were before everything went so wrong.

The problem with that is you’re still floating down the river. Life goes on. But now you’re not seeing it. Because you’re facing backwards, by the time current events flash past your peripheral vision, they’re already a thing of the past. That’s no way to live.

Time to face forward again. Live in the present. Plan for the future. And don’t do so as half a person, presenting yourself to the world as a broken shadow of your former self.

For example, if you’re grieving, don’t avoid music or experiences that you shared with the person you lost. Why are you narrowing your horizons like that? Would the person you lost want you to only be half of yourself? No. You’re still alive, and to have healthy relationships moving forward, you need to be able to give the next person ALL of you. Yes, grief changes you, and that’s okay. But it shouldn’t limit you, and you shouldn’t feel guilty for continuing down the stream.

So I’m making a conscious effort to face forward again. I’m house hunting, and I’m exercising, and I’m eating right. I’m trying really hard to live in the now. Because life is happening right now, and it’s a precious and limited commodity. I plan to make the most of it, rather than putting it on hold.

And I got all that from a giraffe. Imagine that.

As my friend Carole likes to say, “Onward and upward, into the future!”

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Anniversaries

It was my boyfriend’s 61st birthday this past week. Or it would have been, if he had lived to see it. Needless to say, this caused me to think about him quite a bit. I wonder what my life would be like now if he were still in it. Without a doubt it would have been quite different. But I have no idea whether it would have been better or worse.

Chuck was the most amazing person I ever met in my life. And when he was at his best, I’d be speechless with admiration for him. I loved his generosity, his humor, his integrity, his determination, and the quirky way he looked at the world. But no doubt we’d have fought over this recent election, and his extreme health issues took a lot out of both of us. Would I have made it to Seattle? This climate would have been awful for his asthma.

Would we even still be together? Our relationship was a passionate one, which was great in many ways, and not so great in others. We tended to wash over each other like waves on a beach, unstoppable, and yet advancing and receding with the phases of the moon.

Why even speculate? Why do I mark my calendar with the date of his birth, the date of our first kiss, the date he moved in with me, the date of his death? Am I simply torturing myself? Maybe I should stop keeping track of these things. Maybe I should only remember them if I don’t have to be reminded.

But I’m not ready for that. Not yet. I have not yet reached that level of letting go.

My friend Carole recently told me, “Sweet memories are hugs we give ourselves when we are alone.”

I like that.

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The Lost Art of Communication

I got three Christmas cards this year. I miss them. We used to get so many that we’d string them up and hang them on our bannister. They became part of the holiday decorations. It was a great way to catch up with friends and relatives far removed.

Granted, in this digital age it’s much easier to keep in touch. It might be tedious to read a long Christmas letter when you’ve been hearing the news, bit by bit, on Facebook all year long. But there are limits.

Recently a friend of mine heard of the death of her grandmother on a Facebook post. I was stunned. I can’t even imagine receiving such horrible news in such an impersonal way. How hard would it have been to pick up the phone?

I think we’ve lost something as a species when monumental life changing moments such as death, birth, weddings, and divorces become tweets and posts. I actually think it’s kind of disrespectful. Close friends and family deserve the personal touch at times like these. If you can’t be bothered, it shows an utter lack of consideration.

But I have to admit that this societal deterioration has worn me down as well. I’ve stopped sending out cards in recent years because I discovered my time, effort and expense wasn’t being reciprocated or even acknowledged. I suppose that means I’m part of the problem. But I guarantee you I’ll never sink so low as to announce someone’s death on Facebook until I’m sure that all loved ones have been PROPERLY notified.

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[Image credit: projectdonelifestyle.com]