As many of you know, seven months ago, my dear friend Molly lost her teenage son. Prior to that, she fought and won a battle against skin cancer. Molly is the most amazing woman I have ever personally known. She has always been an inspiration to those whose lives she touches, and when I read this recent email from her, I knew I had to post it. (She gave her blessing.) She wrote it to another friend but copied me in, since it explained so much about where she is at today on her journey. (In case you don't already know, she is currently in the hospital, where doctors are trying to figure out why her right lung won't stay inflated. She will be going home on Tuesday. She wrote this email from her hospital bed.)
Subject: I'm Still Standing (well, really laying, but that's okay)
I've had a lot of time to think, while in the hospital, and I've had some profound insights into myself. Who I am, where I am, where I'm going. For the first time in seven months, I am looking forward to the future, excited once again about the adventure of life.
I'm not sure what caused the change. Maybe it was getting through the school year, Brandon's wedding, I don't know. I had been saying for a long time now how "I hate that this is my story." "I don't want this story." Matt asked me why I always phrased it that way, and I pondered that.
I guess I have always seen my life as a story unfolding. And I have also believed that I was doing most of the writing (still do believe that, I guess). I have always felt that we are in charge of our own destinies, our own happiness.
Three years ago, when I was sitting at the University of Chicago, interviewing for my authorship, I had such a great experience. I was so grateful to be sitting in the company of those elite academic minds, in awe of the fact that they were actually interested in ME. But I really had no vested interest in the job, didn't really care if I got it or not, so I was relaxed, and it was fun.
They asked me to tell them about myself. Not having been in an interview for many years, I hadn't had to recap my life in a long time. I spent about 10 minutes talking about what I had done since my high school graduation. On the cab ride back to my hotel, still euphoric from the whole experience, I felt proud of myself. I was proud that I had a lot to say when they asked me that question. I had made significant accomplishments academically, professionally, and personally.
The story of my life had unfolded well: my "book" was coming along nicely:)
I have reflected on that day many times, recently. I kept asking myself why I was so reluctant to move on with my future; why I secretly didn't want to buy that condo, why I was secretly sad about moving, why I was secretly afraid to start a life with another man, and I realized that it wasn't the future I was afraid of, it was the letting go of the past.
I know how cliche that sounds, but it was so true. I liked my old story and absolutely hated my current one. In fact, I realized that I saw my life as two completely-separate books. The second one I didn't write. It had only a front and back cover and contained only one page. On that page, there were only three words...My son died. That's it.
For the last seven months, I have felt as though my whole story was just that; My son died. And therefore, I died.
It was so monumental that it obscured everything else in my life. It trumped everything I had ever done, was doing, or would ever do. He was so significant to me that ALL the people I still had could not add up to Ryan and never would.
I knew I had to get out of that mindset, but I just didn't know how. I was desperately trying, but nothing was working. I know now that I just needed time; it is the greatest healer. But in addition, I needed to discard the notion that to move forward meant I had to throw away that first book. But I see now that it just means I have to close it. It is finished. It is written. But I can open it and read it any time I want, I need not let it go. That second book will always be there, too. And it will always be a part of who I am.
I am no less sad than I was; I still cry all the time, but the loss of my beloved son does not have to dictate the rest of my life.
I feel ready to start my third book. And I know they don't write themselves. Not good ones anyway:) I want to put myself back out there and fully experience life and see what great adventures are on the horizon for me. I still have all the main characters, only one is in a different form now, and I look forward to new characters that may show up.
Its a long explanation and more than you probably want to hear. Suffice it to say that my life is not in danger (anymore) and they are confident that they can fix me for good.
I was so excited to have returned to work full time and to be able to spend the last few weeks of school with those kids to whom I have grown so close. But I didn't get to say goodbye, didn't even get to their graduation. That really bummed me out.
But things could be worse. It has served me well to constantly remind myself that there are literally millions of people out there so much worse off than me. I am blessed beyond words.
My family moved me into my new condo last weekend as a surprise for me (they're so awesome). I got to see it on my one day of freedom (not in the hospital) and I am excited to get out of here and get in there. Summer is here and I'll be living on the river and on a beautiful trail with lots of sticks to throw for my dog and the farmers market every Saturday and pomegranate martinis on my deck and the start of my new life...
Man, she's incredible...