Sometimes we like to take credit for the state of our lives. The career, the family, the house, the car(s) – the fact that we are satisfied, happy, achieving. Sometimes we conveniently don't accept responsibility and lament the things that happen to us. We may lose our job, find ourselves alone, in foreclosure, depressed or sick. Stuff happens to all of us in life and it is easy to feel slammed by seemingly random circumstances. Which parts of our lives are our own creations? How much of life gets handed to us, fairly or not? Does it matter?
I have been reflecting on my blessings, circumstances and happiness. I've struggled with many of the big decisions in my life. Even my best choices and creations have left many, many mis-starts and mis-steps in their wake. Even when the products are pretty, the process often isn't. Life isn't about the outcomes as we often make it out to be, but that messy process. The destinations may be somewhat unknown, even as we set out – and yet, we soldier on, in tune with some good feelings that drive us on from the inside.
A little more than six years ago, I acted beautifully in my own self-interest by committing to a lifelong relationship with Jacquelyn. We got married, symbolically creating a new entity on that day. The challenge for us, as for every couple, is to choose that relationship all the time every day. Now, I gratefully recognize that all the best things in my life flow from her.
A little more than four years ago began the adventure of a second, equally wonderful, blessing – the creation of Ana and Noah. Nothing brings me more joy in life and no one has taught me more about myself and God. They are constant reminders of what is important and matters most in life. Their whole existence is about learning to relate to the world around them. We sometimes forget that those relationships to others are the way that we understand ourselves.
I was pushed out from a complacent shore in a little boat on another odyssey a little over two years ago, on the day that my doctor confirmed that I have pancreatic cancer. I don't know what role I might have had in "creating" the cancer in me. Finding myself in the cancer boat, I am comfortable with the idea that it didn't "just happen" to me - without implying the judgment that comes with blame. I do readily concede that it is God's power and grace that has allowed me to keep babbling about it on this blog. I will be so bold as to take responsibility for the creation of my current reality as it relates to the cancer. I respect but don't fear it. It has helped me more than hurt me so far (thanks be to God). It has challenged me to make the most of every day. Once adrift, we row.
My friend Frankie taught me a lot about the world of responses to life's circumstances. Frankie passed away last month. He had been going for a while – spending all but a few weeks of the last 13 months either in a hospital or rehab facility. Frankie left this world graciously. He fought for his life joyfully and then decided to accept his death with the same smile – inspiring every one of us that saw him in those last days and weeks. In his death (as well as life), he taught us how to live. He took an inevitability – for him even more urgently than for the rest of us – and created it on his own loving and considerate terms. For better or worse, few of us will have that opportunity – to create our own passing. Or do we, in a sense, every day of our lives?
Life is defined by our responses to the things that happen to us. We never have to be victims. We can create our reality, regardless of the circumstances.
And so, given the biennial cycle that has brought lovely creations (and challenges) to my life – it seems like I am due.
May I have the courage to create more beautiful things in my life in 2011.
I pray the same for you.