A Change of Pace – What If?
What if it all works out? Let’s Imagine that for an hour or so.
Sometimes things don’t go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.
A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.
Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
the sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you.
I happened upon this poem over a decade ago, during the time I was undergoing chemotherapy. The poem gave me a lift and I thought, “why not?” Why not enjoy the thought of beating the odds. A stoic by nature I think of myself as a realistic optimist. I’m aware of what can go wrong but, still, I know I can find a way to live with what is, and I am often surprised by the unexpected gifts from life.
So I took some time and pictured my treatment working, side effects under control, outliving my Mother, and going to Japan. I am not a proponent of “positive thinking;” rather, I used my imagination to picture realistic possibilities that would put me on the long tail of the median graph and included a trip for good measure. Of course, I went to work implementing the things I could do to up my chances. We aren’t in control of outcomes but there are many things we can do to help ourselves.
I was lucky. Those things I described did work out. And I call it luck or grace or some other mystery that I am still here, while others I know who did all that they could do, are not.
The Median Isn’t the Message
Do any of you remember the Harvard paleontologist, Stephen Jay Gould? “Gould was diagnosed with a terminal cancer, mesothelioma, a particularly nasty cancer that has a median survival time of only 8 months from the first diagnosis. After the first shock, Gould remembered that if the median survival time was 8 months, then while 50% of those diagnosed would die in 8 months or less, the other 50% could – with treatment – live for much longer.” (for those of you interested in statistics and longevity, read my favourite essay by Gould on statistics and his illness here.) Gould dove into the literature, to see what he needed to do to help himself end up on the long tail of the curve (survival) and went on to live for 20 more years.
We all know that things don’t consistently work out but every now and then they do so let’s not forget that. We might take stock and see what is working in our lives. I woke up today and so did you, if you are reading this. We already broke some odds. So let’s dream a little:
What if I:
Learn to play the keyboard?
Get to do work that I love?
Mend that old friendship?
Write a book?
Go to Italy?
What do I need to do to turn my “what if’s” into action? That’s worth sitting up straight for, and doing a little brainstorming. I actually did this today. You may want to give it a try too.
1:) A great Paul Simon song called Rewrite We so often want everything to turn out right the first time. That seldom happens. Simon knows rewrites are necessary.
2:) Lots of ice in Ottawa today. Looking forward to the thaw, and reining myself back to the here and now.
3:) May you have a few glorious end-of-February days, wherever you are. And know how much I appreciate you taking the time to read my weekly blog. Warmly, Trudy
PS the banner photo is from my friend’s yard on the Gulf Islands and the second photo is my Japanese friends in the Canadian Rockies. All of them are impacted by cancer, caregiving, and aging and they continue to explore, learn and make plans to stretch themselves beyond their comfort zone. And they have lots of fun. :-))