Challenges bring opportunities to learn and grow. I've learned a lot about myself, about life and others in the past year. I hoped to reflect on those three linked aspects of my experience for a couple of paragraphs.
I expected to be able to make a list of what I learned about myself, but couldn't very readily. I can say that from a very small circle/me sense, I am now willing to sacrifice much of what I once valued to live longer. All else about me these days ultimately relates to that.
What I learned is that, "life" for me boils down to the space between me and others. Via the abrupt revaluation of what's important that a serious illness offers, I developed my very own theory of relativity. It's actually beyond a theory, having been proven repeatedly. The fact is that it is all relative for me. I am part of an intricate and beautiful web. The same principle applies to my priorities in life – they exist in relation to those I love most.
In the spirit of connectedness, one huge discovery I made is that if you put things out there, they will come. Most of us have been taught to (and thus so often) keep our struggles to ourselves. I know that that's how I was raised, and it's what I did. We keep our failures under wraps, our misfortunes secret and tragedies hushed. Unfortunately, that leaves us very alone exactly when we most need the support of others. What worked best for me was exactly the opposite of what I'd been led to believe. It turns out that one person's painful experiences can become the shared concern of a much larger caring circle. The concern of others, in turn, taught me about strengths that I never knew I had. All those that responded to me in their compassion helped me to develop further and made me stronger.
Then there is a whole other level of spiritual support available to us. Given that we are all God's children, he is there in our pain. First, he accompanies us through the challenges – never leaving our side, whether we welcome him or not. To recognize that opportunity for grace and strength is an amazing blessing. Also, we find him in the struggles of others – if we are willing to look and others are willing to let us see him. This is why it is so important to put it out there. It is an invitation to each other and so, to God, to travel our most difficult roads with us.
The greatest lesson of all has been what I learned about you, those around me. My friends and family have shared their faith and fears with me. I am more intimately familiar with people's triumphs and trials. I know my friends better and have more one-time acquaintances I can now call friends. As a lovely complement, I also have more friends with whom I can share. Some of you have experienced both ends of that firsthand. [This entry was prompted, in fact, by a recent conversation with someone I am sharing more with now than I have in 25 years.]
I've found that the compartments I had set up when beginning to write this were false. The me/life/others construct represents an old, flawed approach. They are all intertwined and keeping them separate is both laborious and fruitless. My ultimate learned lesson about me, others and the space in between is that I am loved by God and his children in so many ways. We all are – in all of our tragic and hopeful brokenness.