So you know those moments that are lives are marked by- sort of like a little tic mark in time? The ones where you think “Wow, there was life before “x” and now there’s life after “x””. They’ll be different for all of us, but we all have them. They could be really big or really small. They could be events that would mark ANYONE’s time, or they could be tiny little things that no one else on the planet would ever even think about. I suspect having a child would be one for most people. Probably also losing one- through abortion, miscarriage, death or other means. Maybe getting a diploma or a job or a raise…although sometimes I think things like that aren’t always as monumental in the moment of the actual “getting” b/c there’s so much that usually leads up to it. The moments I’m thinking of usually have a small element of unexpectedness- either in the “thing” itself or in the realization of how the “it” feels a little different than you thought it would. The act of getting married could be one for some people, although I’m thinking again more of that minute when you realize you are GOING to marry someone- or that you know you don’t ever want to be without them again. I could list a thousand and might cover all of yours, or might not even touch on a single one. I suspect these moments come every minute in hospitals across the world…”I’m so sorry to tell you that “x” (fill in the “x”), OR “I’m so happy to tell you “x” (fill in the “x”). If I know you well, I could probably guess some of them, although you’d probably still have a few known only to you.
In the past several years I’ve had a few of those moments. In the last week- I’ve had two- hence the urge to write. Some of them are experiences marked by the passage of time that seemed to go on forever; some of them were brief flashes- instances in time that changed my life forever. What they all have in common is that moment when you realize, you can’t go back to that time before “this”. Sometimes you don’t want to; sometimes you wonder just what you would or wouldn’t do to be given the chance to go back.
So I’ve been thinking a lot about these “life after this” moments this week and wondering how we fit them into the stories of our lives. How do we take those moments- the good ones and the not so good ones and make sure that they make us stronger, happier- BETTER people for having experienced them? It’s probably easier with the “good” ones although I think there are ways those could be hard too, but it’s the bad ones that probably have more possibility to cripple us. As I’ve thought about it and talked to other people about it, I think what I’ve realized is that the most important thing is just to live them. To really experience them. To close our eyes and say a little thanks and celebrate the good ones- and vow to remember that feeling as the actual moment moves farther away in time. (Does it help when you don’t think you can handle your screaming 2 yo one more minute to remember that moment when you knew your life was forever changed- your eyes full of tears of joy?). But with the not so good ones too I think we have to decide to really experience them. The temptation to ignore them or go into denial mode might be overwhelming, but in the end we have to accept things to move on. And then I think we have to decide how it is that we ARE going to move on. Are we going to trudge through, or pitch a fit and then get over it? Are we going to do it alone, or are we going to let the ones who care about us help? Are we going to live in denial and give ourself excuses to make bad decisions, or are we going to face the situation and move forward slowly and deliberately?
I don’t think there’s necessarily a right or wrong answer here sometimes. For each of us and for each situation, the answer will be different. For me, because I’m a “thinker” I usually need some time to decide how I’m going to let the “thing” change me. I’ve found over time that finding a way to use what happened- whatever it was, good or bad- to help someone else is usually the way I can best mark the thing to add purpose and meaning to my life. No matter who we are, feeling like we aren’t alone or like our experiences matter is important and being that person to make someone else feel like that is pretty amazing.
So- I’m interested in thoughts from others…your “life after THIS” moments, how they’ve changed you, what you’ve learned from them….maybe you’ll be helping someone else learn how to celebrate their moment.