Monday, January 11, 2010

The Epiphany 2010

As the "The Epiphany" officially passes on the Church calendar, I reflect on the personal epiphany I had over the holiday break. I had more than one, actually. I was off from a couple of days before Christmas until the Monday after New Years – which amounted to, my own (slightly shifted) 12 days of Christmas. Although I received terrific gifts from my true love through out the period – as I do on every other day that we are together – I also received the grace of God's wisdom.

As many folks do when turning the page on a new calendar year, I wanted to take stock of various aspects of my life during my downtime. For instance, I reviewed our family's finances for the year to figure out just where all that money went and how we might get by with less if we had or chose to. Amongst the many things that I hoped to get done over the break were some spiritual to-dos too. While related to the monetary aspects of life (as much is), these had more to do with how I spend my time. Not that I think that I waste or fritter much of it away, but being so precious, I am very conscious of where I direct it. I prayed over what I could do with my professional time (work life, time for pay, etc.) and where I might want to direct more of my volunteer (free) time. I (re)considered my opportunities on both of those fronts and evaluated my options. We all have alternatives- although we often don't allow ourselves to entertain the full suite of choices that are available to us. I like to periodically revisit the why not of this or that previously made decision. Our situations change in life over time. I know mine has. I am seeing that an illness rapidly ages not only one's body but one' soul. (A recent study that found that older people, if healthy, tend to be much happier than younger folks makes perfect sense to me.) I've grown up (and old) a lot in the past 14 months.

So, like the three wise men of scripture, I went on a journey. I never left the tri-state area but tried to consider the world of options. And, like the magi, my endpoint was very important to me. Still, I was trying to appreciate the seeking as much as the finding. Because ultimately, this is not exactly a new journey for me – though it feels like it sometimes. Every morning is another step on the journey we are all on, the so called life journey. The difference for me is that I am open to different sets of directions these days. Or maybe, more accurately, it's that I am more aware of needing directions; much of what I thought I knew is less certain now.

Given the global business climate and that my employer just merged with another company, I considered what my life after Merck might look like. It would probably mean less money and that translates into less of many other things. The trick is in anticipating whether such a change could offer a net increase in time (the more valuable currency) spent doing the things I most enjoy and/or with those I love. Many of us search for the sweet spot between the tug of work demands, monetary compensation, job satisfaction and the societal benefits of our work. I struggle with whether I currently have those balanced optimally. Getting sick has only made me question the equilibrium of those values more. I find myself talking to friends about variations of this topic constantly in a search for other perspectives. I pray to God to give me the faith, courage and imagination to best use the gifts He gave me.

Then there is that time away from work. Without question, my free time focus is on my babies, family and friends. Beyond that, I have been considering several different volunteer opportunities that center around ministering to the sick. Over the holiday break, I tried to delve into why I was looking at situations that might be (as my friend Linda called them) a little "raw" for me. I realized that getting sick threw me onto a completely unanticipated but distinct path. I believe that I am a cancer survivor (rather than victim) because it is not yet my time. God has some plan for me – as He does for all of us. The trajectory of my journey has forever changed and my tumor was a wake-up call. My challenge is to find out what that calling is and to act upon it. And yet, as time passes, I fear losing that understanding and urgency. Familiarity breeds complacency and soon that lightening in a bottle could dissipate. Working with other folks that are similarly challenged will keep me close to that edge and keep the gift of my cancer alive.

It turns out that my star is an abnormal growth on my pancreas. It was my sign that took me out of my comfortable space and onto a journey – ultimately, to find God in the people around me. Not coincidentally, the more that I opened myself up to others, the more that I found that God was walking the path with me. A way that seemed overgrown suddenly felt well-trod and expansive. This much I know. With God as my GPS, we are working out the directions as I keep stepping.