Thursday, May 31, 2007

Quick Conversations

Why does a burning platform need to emerge before we adopt change? I wish it didn’t take life altering events to help me get my priorities in order. I wish I could always find what Alec Horniman, one of my professors, calls “a clearly perceived better way.”

I am always amazed how the shortest conversations have the most incredible impacts. I spoke to my mother recently and the conversation went something like this:
“Well, I’m glad everything’s going well.”
“Thanks, Mom. I’m going to run into Mellow Mushroom to play trivia and eat some pizza.”
“Okay. I just wanted to tell you one more thing…..They found some abnormal cells in my mammogram.”
“Are they going to test them to find out what is abnormal about them?”
“They already know what “It” is.”
(Long pause)
“Are you telling me you have breast cancer?”
“That’s what “It” is.”

I capitalize “It” here for a reason – I have a lot of respect for cancer, for its power to change how we look at the world. I can’t think of a six letter word that has ever had a more immediate effect on me. There have only been a handful of situations that have truly altered the way I perceive my future – 3 to be exact. This one tops the list.

I blinked, and my life was different. In that moment, I had no words despite my usual gift of gab. My only thought was, “I want my life to go back to the way it was less than a minute ago.” I know now that it never will.

Yes, I will worry more. Though I idolize mother for her strength and courage, I am forced to recognize that she is not immortal. However, I have found that there are many more good things than bad that come from this situation. I will be more grateful for time with my mother. I will criticize less and praise more. I will forgive and forget in a way that I have never been able to before. I will be even more conscious of how short life is, of how important it is to do what I love everyday – in both my personal and professional life.

I have set a record for the number of times I have apologized to friends and family for not returning their calls or emails more quickly. My excuse is always, “I just don’t have time.” In actuality, I do have time. We all have time; we just make choices about on what and on whom to spend it.

It is as if my life has permanently found a home under a magnifying glass – everything, the good and the bad, are amplified. The highs higher and the lows lower. Maybe this is better than simply existing in a world that is even-keeled. Those highs and lows do make the game more interesting.

My friends have been incredibly supportive, and I am very grateful for them. Their obvious first question is always, “Is your mom going to be okay?” Usually I answer, “I hope so.” The other answer, the one that’s almost always impossible to articulate is, “I don’t know.” Truthfully, we never know. From one moment to the next, life twists and turns in ways we never expect, and often does so at break-neck speed. I blinked, and my life was different. And that’s not always bad. Things that don’t scare you to death will scare you to life.

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