Sunday, August 16, 2009

Breathing Deep of Life

There is such a sense of change in the air. Everywhere I go, I hear sad tales of hardship and loss, anger and sadness, regret and reluctance to accept the world has been forever altered by this recession. A year ago, I almost reached my dream of becoming a full time artist. Just a breath away; a few lazy days when the world was bathed with the rosy glow of hope and anticipation.

Then, as many people have, I watched my savings plummet, my equity shrink, my art sales become almost non-existent, my class attendance shrink. I found my fulltime job, the one that pays the mortgage and provides health insurance, is no longer the secure civil service job I stuck with like glue for the security. Instead, I face possible demotion or layoff for want of a few more years’ seniority. And I found myself becoming angry at fates that would allow my hard work and dogged pursuit of the American dream to fail. “Why me”, I asked as if there would be a reasonable answer. Because the correct answer is “why not?”

And then, this week, I found a lump in my breast. About the size of a marble. It’s not the first time…it’s the fourth. And each time I feel like I am pushing the odds of being told its cancer. Usually I am scheduled for a mammogram, to be followed by an ultrasound to determine what’s up. Each time, I have not had the ultrasound, because the mammogram cleared me of any ominous diagnosis. That’s why I chose to go alone to my appointment. I really did not think anything would come of it.

But this time, the nurse came in after the mammogram and escorted me to the ultrasound room. And I was terrified. After the ultrasound, the technician left to have the doctor read the results of both tests, leaving me alone in the room by myself for fifteen minutes or so. Leaving me to think and worry and mull how I would cope with a disease whose name strikes terror in your soul. Leaving me in tears that I might face something I am ill prepared to deal with. But when she returned, she handed me a pink piece of paper that read – benign. A beautiful word. A humbling word.

I walked to my car with my mind spinning – thoughts and ideas tumbling around in confused amazement. Because I realized in that fifteen minutes I had to consider my fate, that it is not the size of my savings, or owning a house, or having climbed the career ladder that matters. It’s not the newest electronic device, the best label, the most, the expensive, the elite. It’s not outdoing the next person or standing on someone else’s shoulders to look better or being in the right group or using someone poorly to get a step ahead. It’s not chasing our tails until we are so sleep-deprived that we stumble through each day without seeing the beauty of life or working or living in toxic situations. It is not what other people think of us.

What we remember and keep in the fiber of our soul is our family and friends. It is the miracle of each moment we are blessed to live in this amazing world. It is the wonder of diversity and the rare moments we connect with those with whom we share this world. On my way home, I ran into a friend who asked if I wanted to sit in on an art class. I almost said “no”, that I had no time, that I was in a hurry to get back to work, that I had too much to do. That is what I would normally do. But not this time…not, I hope, in the future, either. I sat down and breathed deep of the company of friends and the blessed opportunity to treasure this good life.


Suzanne Reynolds said...

Excellent, Jan, and how true. The most precious thing we have is time with our family and friends, doing the things we love. Every once in a while we are reminded.

Tracie Lyn Huskamp said...

OMG!!! OK.. NOW you have me in tears...

Dear Friend... I wish I had known... if only I could have been there!!!

Mary lin Huskamp said...


My heart aches for your pain and my heart sings that it was benign! We, your friends, love you and wish we could have been there to hug and comfort you!
Bless you! xoxo