I let my hunger get the best of me that day, tooling around town, five of us all packed into a Volkswagen Jetta like a tin of suburban sardines. I eyerolled my husband’s suggestion for lunch. I thought my eyeroll and I were safe, sitting in the backseat, staring at my feet, but Gigi must have spied it in the passenger side mirror. I saw that look! That was all I needed to hear to know I’d better get myself together and stop disrespecting her grandson. You don’t mess with Gigi’s grandson.
Gigi passed away recently. She was brash, but she loved everyone deeply and unconditionally. While it’s hard to think of life without her, it was time. She was 95, her body and mind slowly failing. Even still, her spark was evident in brief moments almost up until the end. She died in her sleep, surrounded by family that loved her, and I can’t think of a nicer way to go. Very fitting for a woman who loved so authentically to be so peacefully lifted from this mortal coil.
The day after I learned of Gigi’s passing I was listening online to the words of the Senior Minister at a local Unitarian Universalist Church. His sermon was on the Buddhist doctrine of impermanence, essentially everything changes all the time and that is both good and bad, but mostly it just is. Whether you accept it or not is up to you because it’s going to happen anyway. The question the minister had at the end of his sermon was simply, “What do you want to give yourself to?”
What do I want to give myself to?
Coming out of anesthesia after my surgery over four years ago my first thoughts were, the pain, the pain, the pain. After I was shot up with more drugs and the intensity of pain lessened, my mind ran to all the things I should have done before my leg was forever changed. In those moments, in those days, I wanted to give myself to the very simple task of being able to walk unaided. I gave my everything. It took me months, but I did it.
For all the suffering and agony I endured, that was a magical time. Every unnecessary desire is stripped away and what lay before you is the only thing that matters. I am alive. I want to walk. I will do whatever it takes. No pretense. No petty bullshit. Do what matters, leave the rest behind.
That fades, though, and before you know it every minuscule annoyance you thought you had risen above presents itself as that pebble in your shoe that is given the power to ruin your entire day. The death of a loved one is a gift that takes us back to earth. Everything changes all the time. What do you want to give yourself to?
It wasn’t shocking that Gigi died, but it was a reminder that we all will go someday and our time here is not promised to us. Neither is the quality of that life. As a healthy woman eagerly awaiting my fortieth birthday, I never could have imagined a tumor was growing inside the leg that carried me through so many miles of running.
But, it was, and it didn’t really give a damn that I had made other plans for my life.
Before learning of Gigi’s passing I had begun to be consumed again with daily worries. The change of this move has been eating me up. Our house still hasn’t sold, which means paying both rent here and mortgage there. Homesickness is brewing in the pit of my stomach, along with the fear that either I’ll never meet new friends or that I actually will. I still haven’t decided which is more scary. Will I ever be able to get home from Target without getting lost? That is what I’ve been giving myself to these days.
Now that the lesson is fresh in my mind after Gigi’s death, the reminder that none of this is promised to me, I have to ask myself again, what do I want to give myself to?
Back home if I wanted to dip my toes in the ocean all it took was a five minute car ride. That is my kind of nature. Can I tell you how very much I miss having salty skin after a long day at the beach? I’m surrounded by nature here, it’s just a different kind of nature. My running days are behind me, thanks to my surgery, but I’ve found a refuge in hiking. It can be argued that my new home is much more suited to hiking than my old one and I really need to embrace that more often than I am currently.
With my previous blog, I adopted a sheepish wait and see approach to my writing. I wrote, waited around, and hoped others would see it. I did get Freshly Pressed once. It was a pretty amazing experience to open up my stats page and see thousands of views instead of dozens. This time around I have stepped up the pace. I’ve joined a blogging group, which has not just helped get my writing out, it has made me a better blogger altogether. I’ve also submitted two different posts to two different websites. I’ve gotten as far as a request for and a return of an edit, but nothing has been published so far. It’s terrifying, but I’m going to keep on keeping on. If I want to call myself a writer I have to play the part.
While I’ll probably never make friends with my downstairs neighbors, I’ve got two potential coffee dates with local bloggers in the queue. Get off my back. I’m working on it! Plus, once we get established in a homeschool group I will be forced to socialize. I wish every person that has ever fretted about my son’s socialization could see how very much there is outside of a traditional school setting. My friends back home will always be my friends, but I need to widen the circle a bit and make room for more.
Many moons ago, way before the tumor, I fancied myself a potter. It’s an expensive hobby and, after my son was born, there wasn’t much time or money left to pursue it. I would love to go back to it, but my hands still ache from my time with chemo. Even coloring has become too painful an artistic pursuit for me. I’ve been venturing out into watercolor territory. It’s much easier on my hands and I have a long ways to go before I’m any good at it. Luckily for me, the upside of sucking at something is you won’t get bored with it too quickly.
I’ve made my list. How about you? What do you want to give yourself to?