Shoulda, woulda, coulda.
If…someday…one day…when I get around to it.
If there’s one thing death teaches us, it’s that there’s not enough time. And yet, we let the opportunities pass us by because we think we’re immortal. Even when we’re staring at a corpse lying in a coffin proving otherwise. The lucky ones are those who realize that anything can happen at any moment and decide to not let their fears stop them.
Today, it’s personal.
Two years ago, I lost my father to pancreatic cancer, the one that by the time the symptoms appear, it’s too late. He lived for three months before he succumbed to it. I had three months to prepare, but it still hit like driving 60 mph and hitting a brick wall. I knew, if I let it, it would drive me straight into a black hole of depression. So, why didn’t I? I had every right to grieve. I lost my dad, one of the only two reasons for my existence on earth, my second true love. (My mom is my first.) How do you NOT let yourself fall into a pit when you lose one of the most important people in your life?
Well, to begin with, I turned to poetry. The musical lines and words were a balm. They kept me from going under. I don’t know how many times I listened to John Hannah’s reading of Funeral Blues from Four Weddings and A Funeral, or read it myself. Desiderata also played an important part in keeping me from losing it. Two lines stood out from that one:
“Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.”
“You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.”
I can’t tell you the number of times I repeated those lines to myself. Especially the part “you have a right to be here.”
With that line, something began vibrating inside me. I felt as if someone had begun to tighten my strings, oil my gears, and bring me back into the light of the world. I have a right to be here. And so began my second life.
I took a good hard look at myself and I realized, I was unhappy. I hadn’t accomplished anything, or so I felt. What had I done other than produce offspring? What contribution to society, what impact, had I made? What legacy would I be leaving behind, and is that the one I wanted to be known by?
(I have a right to be here.)
I can be one determined woman when pushed. And so, I pushed. That’s right. I pushed myself. I became my own personal trainer/life coach/cheerleading squad. I forced myself to lose over 40 pounds because I deserved to feel good about myself again, which I hadn’t for a very long time. I began thinking positively and trying to eliminate as much negativity as possible. And I began writing again. Yeah, I stopped writing. For three years. The “why” isn’t important. It was life taking a reckoning and making a point, I suppose. But, now, I began writing in earnest. I knew this was my calling. So, I listened, and let the Muse take control. Do you know what happened then?
Things began changing and rearranging, and Opportunity began throwing doors in my path. All I had to do was open them. And I did.
(I have a right to be here.)
One of those opportunities came in a form I least expected. A friend who I hadn’t seen in months asked me to go to a writing group meeting at a local library, and I said I’d go with her. I joined, she didn’t. She was more of an artist, not a writer. To be honest, I’m not really sure why she had wanted to go in the first place. But, ours is not to reason why. If I hadn’t gone with her, you wouldn’t be reading this. (There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio.)
Writing saved me. I turned to it when I had nowhere else to go. When I was angry, I wrote, and it showed me how to deal constructively with that anger. When I was sad, I would write, and I could leave people with tears in their eyes and saying how good it was. Writing has been my salvation. But let’s be honest here. I was the one who made the choice to write. I saved myself. I have a right to be here.
I want you to pretend you are waiting on a bus. It’s taking forever to get to your stop and you’re already late. You check the time. The clouds look like they might open up any minute and drop buckets of rain on you, and of course, there’s no cover and you forgot your umbrella. You tap your foot. You pace. You check your cell phone. Finally, you realize the bus isn’t coming, so you call someone to come help. Just when your ride arrives, the bus shows up, too. Of course it does. What do you do? Do you get on the bus, or do you take the ride you called? The choice is completely yours.
By the way, did you catch a glimpse of the destination sign on the bus? It reads: One Day (and it’s totally being driven by AJ which is why it’s late.)
Here’s the thing. Every time I turn around I hear “I need to do that. One day I will.” One day. One day. I hate those two words. Guess what…one day never comes if you don’t take action. So you want to be a writer? Begin writing. Oh! You want to be a PUBLISHED writer. Do it. Stop sitting on your laurels (oh, how that’s not a strong enough word but I’m trying to keep it PG) and just. do. it. You will never get there by waiting and saying “one day.”
I know it’s hard. I know it’s scary. I know words are easy to say and actions hard to perform. But you regret those opportunities you let pass you by. And who am I to tell you these things? I’m you. I used to say the same exact things. I used to think exactly the same way. But, I am doing it. I will be a published writer. I had to make the decision to ignore my fears. Oh, they’re still there, believe me, but I am not going to let them rule me.
You have a right to be here. You have to save yourself.
So, do it.
P.S. This post was inspired by two people: our very own AJ Prince and my ex Sister-in-Heart who passed away last week. She was doing it. I don’t think she regretted it.
(Also, thanks to our Joe who drew the bus for me. It’s awesome, and I love it!)
The Road Not Taken
By Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.