Monday, 29 July 2013

Life's Highs and Lows

The last few weeks, I've been looking back over my life and remembering memories from my childhood as well as some of the major events that have shaped my outlook on life.

I'm part of Facebook and I recently joined a group of people that reminisce about growing up in my hometown.  It's been interesting reading and it has jogged some memories from my childhood and teenage years.  Recently there was a post about a local street that was not a throughway when I was about 10 or so.  I do remember when the city decided to make it a through street and they started construction.  What used to be a field with long grass became a dirt area with big hills of dirt as they started making the road.  The children in the area used to ride their bikes up over these hills in an effort to become airborne.  This was before there were bicycle helmets.  This was when children spent all day in the summer outdoors and creating their own fun.  I remember trying to ride my bike up over these hills.  I was in shorts and a t-shirt and about 10 years old.  I remember pedalling hard as my legs pumped in order to gain speed up the hill and then try to fly over the top of the hill.  This was with a standard bike in those days without any special gears.  There was only one speed and that was what you could attain with your own energy.  I remember that as I got to the top of the one hill I was attempting, the soft ground gave way and I went tumbling down with my bike.  I didn't get any airlift.  My bike and I didn't become one and a poetry in motion.  Nope.  I was definitely not poetry in motion.  I was in motion but I was going over the top of the handle bars and the bike was coming down on top of me.  By the time I got to the bottom of the pile of dirt, stones and rocks, my elbow was deeply scraped and bloody along with my bloody knees.  I managed not to have a head injury.  I had no broken bones.  So I painfully got up, picked my bike up and started the walk home.  I couldn't ride my bike home because it was bent.  What was a short bike ride from my house and should have been a short walk home, is in my memory a very long and painful walk as I limped trying to force my bike along.  It didn't want to roll very well because it was bent.  I also knew I was going to be in big "doo doo".  I had been forbidden from riding my bike in the construction area even though all the other kids did.  What seemed like such a great idea for an afternoon of fun, was becoming a really bad idea for which I was going to pay dearly.  I remember I got home and I was in immediate trouble.  I was dirty and bloody and my bike was definitely bent.  My mom helped me clean up but I remember the sharpness of her words of disappointment in me.  I was grounded from the use of my bike for a week.  In the summer at the age of 10, that is a very, very long time to be without the use of your bike.  On top of that, it took my dad another week to fix up the bike and bend some things back into shape.  I had forgotten about this memory even though the scar on my elbow is still there.  That facebook group helped jog my memory and relive a simpler time in our lives.

As I relived this memory, I started to think about other events in my life that have given me an inner strength to meet head on life's steep mountains and deep valleys.  As I was travelling through Vermont and New Hampshire in this year's holiday, I couldn't help but remember when my husband took me to Lake Placid, New York for my birthday in the Spring of 2011.  While we enjoyed that trip, little did we know that I would be facing my own personal steep climb to the top of a mountain like Whiteface Mountain later in the year.  This year as we drove through the mountains on our way to Prince Edward Island, I saw rugged rock cliffs and steep, twisting climbs up to the top of the mountains.  As we would come around a curve, the scenery would open up in front of us and we would see low valleys off in the distance.  This drive in our vacation really resonated deeply within me.  My personal journey from 2011 to 2013 has been full of mountain peaks and deep valleys.  As I contemplated this, I realized that just as these various views are all beautiful and peaceful, our own life journeys and trials can also bring positive moments of beauty and peace.  While I was going through the chemotherapy in 2012, I was blessed even in my darkest moments with the love and support of friends and family.  My husband, children and I live in an area where our closest extended family is about 2 hours away.  Some live 4 hours away and some live on the other side of the continent.  While I was battling my way through the chemo through to renewed health, I had positive moments of love, fellowship and friendship from friends who were near, family from farther away and friends as far away as other countries.  I was truly blessed.  I also learned that when negative emotions and events start to overwhelm me, I just need to focus on the positive blessings in my life.  This helps bring the beauty of the lushness of the deep, dark valleys into my view.

I remember while I was in the midst of one of the deep valleys of chemo, all I could do was breathe one breath at a time as I laid in bed and tried to keep the nausea and immense exhaustion from burying me alive.  My mantra at that time was "one breath at a time".  The full mantra is "one breath at a time, one moment at a time, one step at a time".  From something that was unpleasant (that may be an understatement), I gained the ability to explore and live fully in the moment.  That meant embracing the pain at times and breathing through it one breath at a time.  I learned to rest, accept and feel the love of friends and family from afar.  I learned what it was like to experience peace at the same time as I was experiencing something very negative.  As one of my friends told me at the time "If the chemo is making you feel bad, then you know it is working and doing its job."  I was able to have a little bit of peace.  At times, I was able to just think and explore my thoughts, feelings and views on life.

So as I look back on my life and more recently my journey through lymphoma and its treatment, I realize that like all vacations and journeys, there's always positive moments that can come from all of it.  I am still a being that is in the process of transforming myself into someone even better.  I truly believe we can all make improvements to ourselves.  As I've been weeding my flowerbeds this week, I have recognized how I'm also in the process of pulling the weeds from my personality and life.  I am embracing life fully with a deep joy of being alive and surviving it all.  My friends in Prince Edward Island showed me what it is like to laugh again.  Life will always be full of mountains and valleys and everything in between.  The lesson I've learned and I am still trying to apply to my daily life is that there is always a positive to offset a negative.  We just need to look deep within ourselves to find the calm, refreshing pool of water that is always in the valley.

1 comment:

  1. A beautiful post, Cathy, and so well said. Life is certainly like nature's landscapes, and there are journeys we take regularly - some good, some bad, but always a lesson to be learned, and room for growth.