Whenever reflecting on how much I have changed over the years, I know I can’t ignore how illness has influenced many of those changes. And I do think the operative word is influenced. Does it really matter the role or bearing illness has had on the changes in myself, as well as in my life?
Perhaps it’s something most would say I shouldn’t give a second thought – after all, can’t I just embrace the changes, especially those in areas of my personality that were sorely needing it? Well, as those close to me would know – that’s just not the way I roll.
I want to know what is behind the growth because, well, I’d like to think it is something I would have striven for had I remained the healthy sap I was once-upon-a time.
A close friend recently asked me what I thought came first – did I think illness had been the catalyst behind the changes that make me the person I am today? Hmmm, what a great question. Our conversation stayed with me and I was left pondering which came first the chicken or the, oops, wrong conundrum.
Anyway, here I am, back to the original question of what came first, illness or inner growth? Does it matter? Why must I write about it now, and, uh, go ahead, ask … or, better yet, I will ask for you – who cares, right?
It seems I care.
I think part of why I have been using valuable mental energy on this issue goes back to when my mother was sick. She had so many V-8 moments during those six months and, when all was said and done, I remember thinking it was time to assess my life. Or, more to the point, it was time to assess how I was interacting with life.
During that time with my mother, I became acutely aware of the irony in the situation playing out before me. Mom was finally able to look at herself through the eyes of the girl she once was – the girl who knew what she wanted, the girl that was sure of her talents, interests, dreams, intelligence and couldn’t wait to see how she would use them in her life.
It was interesting listening while she shared a few epiphanies regarding her life. She had clarity on various issues that she had struggled with for years. I was now seeing my mother through her eyes – as strange as it may sound she was, finally, ready for life … and it was too late.
Yes, change was in the air.
But was it in me? Or would I, like mom, only attempt inner change or growth if facing a life crisis?
That is when I started wondering w-h-y, why is it we tolerate mediocrity in ourselves, and/or allow our life to stagnate from languor? Day in and day out, same old thing – sun comes up, open eyes and b.r.e.a.t.h.e followed by sun goes down, close eyes and b.r.e.a.t.h.e – on and on the cycle will go until BAM something knocks us for a loop and we are suddenly questioning the quality of our life.
Mom’s frustrations and regrets filled me with a sadness for her – it had me thinking about the woman she would have been if only … . Oh, I know, we all have some regrets in life, the things we wish we could undo or redo, among other things.
I’m talking about opportunities ignored, opened doors we closed, etc. Mostly, though, I’m talking about the fall-out that comes from muting our inner voice and ignoring the person we are inside. You know, I learned muting that inner voice isn’t permanent – after several years it goes into rewind and starts reminding us of long forgotten or purposely discarded dreams, goals, ideas, and hopes.
My inner voice started nudging me during those last few months we were caring for mom. It was telling me there was a lot I could change, if I had the strength, the determination … the courage.
It nudged me hard enough to where I started evaluating my life, however, I don’t think I had the courage needed to work on myself. Oh, who am I trying to kid, it was one thing for me to look at areas of life that needed changing, but, well, I just didn’t have the courage necessary to face myself – I didn’t have the courage to un-mute my inner voice and listen to what it would reveal about that girl inside.
And then I was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Suddenly things took on a different hue – only, adding to the irony is that, along with the stinking ALS diagnosis, I also developed breast cancer. It was almost as though everything was coming full circle and I was standing in the same emotional spot my mother had been in years before. And, like mom, I have been able to, finally, look at myself, to listen to the girl inside, and embrace life with a fresh spirit, a newfound confidence…
… but, unlike mom, it’s not too late – because she helped me to see the vital importance of assessing my life and making changes in areas that I feel or see a deficiency in. She taught me to embrace each day and cherish the simple things such as sitting and talking with those we love. Of course, I can’t omit the fact that my own illness has had a strong influence on this journey of personal growth.
So, what came first? Maybe it only matters when our answers are reached and it’s too late.