Sunday, October 25, 2015

Walking forward

Taking it all in
There are times in our lives when we have no idea what is ahead. I'm beginning to believe that these are the times that we are about to grow the most.

I have been feeling that pull of change as I pack up suitcases and boxes with 2 seasons worth of clothes and belongings and prepare to head out to NY. 

Like it or not, I am about to grow again, to relearn a way of life for a while. It's an adventure that my husband and I don't have a step-by-step road map for and that's okay. 

Ever feel like we begin to live less and less of our true potential when we write out the entire story before its lived? 

We can't count on everything being the way we envisioned it. Sometimes the way we envisioned it wasn't even as wonderful or colorful as the way it changed and rerouted.

I've been thinking a lot about this on my walks in the last few weeks, watching the emerald summer turn to the red and gold autumn. I love autumn walks the most. I imagine this as both a practical training and sentimental way to say goodbye for a while. Training for the walking ahead of me, living on the upper West side of Manhattan and a way to honor how much I love my charming and imperfect Rochester neighborhood. 

Last weekend I walked all the way to the top of Cobbs Hill and looked out on the view I've long gazed at, of the city I call home. Five years ago I trained on this hill for my first 5K, practicing running inclines. While I trained I was learning to strengthen the timid lungs weakened by cancer and thought of how my life could be different.

Following that loop up and around the highest point I knew in the neighborhood, I gained confidence. I watched the colors change around me each time I came back. My body changed too. I struggled less and began to breathe easier with each loop. 

Changing Colors
In a year's time I was at the top of Cobb's Hill again breathing in the air and admiring the changing colors.

This time it was the extension of a first date. 

He was in town for only another week. He had a kind smile and soft, loving eyes. Over pancakes and coffee we talked about who we were in that usual way strangers do. After the meal and the requisite hour or so of talking in between bites and sips, he took me by surprise.

Instead of the "well, this was fun, nice to meet you" thing, he asked if I had more time to just hang out. I was taken aback...where could we go...? I suggested we drive to the top of Cobbs Hill and go for a walk.

I showed him that spectacular view of the city and as we walked, he reached for my hand. This was unexpected - I guess I was so used to the awkward 'usual' way these first date things went.

In that moment I didn't see the future.

Four years later, this man is my husband and we have navigated so many other moments, decisions and plans. That won't change. We are following the road where it leads and if the road runs uphill along the way, we'll just learn to get up it the best we can.

I'm excited about this new chapter. 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

A time for adventure

Leah & The Machine

Nobody's life is easy.
Each life is put together with so many little unique pieces, assembled in a way that each piece becomes integral to the other. Without us even knowing, this intricate assembly of pieces ensures that, in general, our lives are complicated.
We don't know how complicated until one of the pieces falls out.  Then we have to rebuild things, fill in with different pieces and rework the whole set-up. Most times, or so I hear from conversations with many friends who have had major change to the 'set-up', our perspective can change radically. 

Though I left my job two months ago, nothing has changed in terms of my heart and my devotion to giving. Several friends and colleagues reached out and helped me reassemble inner pieces to fill a void. It's been a blessed time, rebuilding, relearning, reconnecting - and of course, making new connections and rekindling old connections.

I say 'blessed' because I truly believe sometimes we lose our sense of self in pursuit of keeping things "together" and keeping all the pieces in place. It's only when a piece falls out that we realize life is about change. Adapting to this change is the real key to understanding that our crucial or core pieces are strong enough to keep us going while we look for the other pieces. Sometimes we become better by rearranging the pieces - by force or by choice.

The last time I was rearranging like this I was not alone, I had family and good friends. Yet this time, I have a husband, a partner, a co-pilot. Wow, is this a new experience- rearranging the pieces together as a team. And again, all the more reason for it being a blessed time of learning and growth.

Rearrange, Relocate, Reconstruct

Patrick, you see laughs in the face of "rearranging". His career is constantly shifting and changing. And he teaches me every day about how he thrives by these little changes to the moving parts in the machine.

Months ago he got passed over for a part. It was an oversight that really hurt (at the time). Yet, little did we know the universe did him an incredible favor. In the time span that would have encompassed the part he lost, something came up that proved far more incredible. 
So, now he is embarking on a new role...and out of that also came several other opportunities.

 For the time being New York, a city of 8 million is again calling his name and for once, his opportunity is aligned with my ability to join him.

The universe in its crazy way spoke to me. Here we are riding this wave together as husband and wife. I will be joining him in this crazy city in just 10 days. It's the same crazy city he picked up to leave to be with me.

An exciting possibility is rising to the horizon for me too. While I figure out my own shifts in the parts and pieces it's a time to realize discovery in itself is a blessing. Though nothing in my path is yet to be settled or solidified, it's a remarkable gift to know that my talents won't be wasted. Yes, I CAN reinvent. I just have to have the tiniest faith in reconstruction.

Changes and restructuring scare me. I'm not the person I was before cancer. Yet, I'm incredibly grateful I've gotten the chance to restructure. 

In Her Voice, 'Go Get it, Girl' 

At times like this, there's a deep echo of loneliness for my friends who have died. I really do think about them often. Maybe it's because I want to share little stories with them and hear theirs too. Maybe it's because they knew me before, when we were all finding our way and for a time we were uncertain together. 

I've learned so much from these friends, through a disease I've grown so intimately to resent. There is a difference between resenting the disease and resenting where it takes us. Resent the disease itself, not the path it leads us on. Without cancer, I would have never met Jen. She is one friend I have been thinking about a lot lately. We shared that same fun-loving and devilish spirit and the desire to have our fun by challenging the ordinary. 

Jen was the kind of friend to invite me out to dinner with her and her husband, knowing instinctively I wouldn't feel like a third wheel as the single girl.

She was the kind of friend who had no problem telling me 'girl, you need a new haircut.' This was convenient because as a salon manager she found a way for a really thrifty girl to get a really nice haircut for free. 

Jennifer embraced life and friends
She was the kind of friend that begged me to tell her about my adventures in detail even when her own life was limited by doctors appointments. She prodded for more when I held back...she loved hearing the stories.

 She was the kind of friend who called me up after four months of falling out of our chats to invite me to her house to visit her because she knew I would not be afraid of
 how she looked or the hospital bed or that she was dying. 

She was the kind of friend who when I asked if there was anything I could do for her, she answered honestly. With gratitude that she gave me a chore and with no 
hesitation I went out and got her the makings of a ginger ale float. 

She was the good friend I never really got to know as deeply as I would have liked. Yet, she was the friend I knew deeper perhaps than our time had allowed. She was the soul that I would have liked to have a lot more time with because we could laugh endlessly about the stupidest of things like old friends. That last crisp fall afternoon we spent together in her living room-turned-makeshift-bedroom was an absolute gift. She told me not to be sad for her because she had accepted her path, but she was excited about following mine. She was that generous of a human being. And then she said something which would have sounded crazy...crazy, if you didn't know Jen. 

 She told me she was feeling a little clairvoyant facing death. She chuckled. She was confident I was going to meet someone who was going to change my life, this guy would just make sense. I nodded. But she knew. She smiled with an almost playful rebellion. I didn't believe her and she knew it. She knew I doubted the whole "Mr. Right" bullshit. I'd seen proof of so many wrong fits.

She really underlined her statement by grabbing my hand and smiling right into my soul. "It's gonna happen and I can't wait to watch." It was kind of eerily the same message my own grandmother gave me a year before, on my sister's wedding day.

I have to admit delightful surprise both Jen and Grandma were right on that count and proved me wrong...Patrick was unexpected. :)

I don't know what's ahead. I really don't. Who does. I'm just gonna follow my heart again and work at things the best way I know how. 
Those dreams keep us living. The connections we have with those who inspire us...they keep them living too.

Crazy to think my next adventure is now an adventure for two. 
No, not running for president...

In my head, I still hear Jen telling me what she told me last time.
 "Go on and get it, girl."