I was flipping through the internet, attempting to get ideas for a few good blog entries. I came across The Daily Post at WordPress.com. There were a few great suggestions but nothing I really wanted to write about. Let’s face it – if all bloggers out there in cyberland chose this method of planning a topic idea, the blogs would be pretty much the same. But then I came across one that said “Do we live life forward, but examine it backwards?”. Every person out there with a terminal illness will tell you the same thing – you look at life very differently when it becomes precious to you. When there is a risk of letting it slip between your fingers, one thing that will never cease to be reflected upon time and time again is our past; those years of sweet ignorance of what lies ahead.
We steadily live life forward, day in and day out. We surround ourselves with the familiar; our loved ones, a great career, or maybe even a dismal job but one that holds great benefits or salary. We have “stuff”, whether it has been passed down to us from past generations or a collection of something that we hold near and dear. Some of us may participate in recreational activities, such as camping or horseback riding. These are all things that make us feel safe and give us a sense of stability. We live life, every day, and we try and get a sense of satisfaction and a large percentage of us indeed achieve that feeling of fulfillment. Stable. Safe. We live life forward. But tell me something – if you were to die tomorrow, next month, or next year, would you live your life differently? Would you still feel the same satisfaction? Would you quit your job that brings in a paycheck but does not fulfill you? Would you remember that painting hanging in your parents living room from decades past? The sense of nostalgia running through your veins? Would it matter? When you live life forward, you think that these things are what are going to cocoon you, to keep you free of suffering, to keep you close to your roots. They don’t.
I love to write and I have always been a writer. I have helped friends with university assignments when I have never been to one of their classes. I have written long emails to close friends helping them stay afloat when a relationship dies, only to send another one later on that cheers them on when they are feeling triumphant in achieving a goal or a dream. I’ve written short stories, contributed to a blog about nutrition and other healthy therapies in combating cancer. I’ve been told that I’m good and that I can pour out my emotions onto a computer screen. I’ve thought of doing it more, but the thought of doing that was always pushed forward to another time when I might have less stress or life just might be easier. I examine this backwards; I don’t feel like I’ve let go of a dream. Even with Stage 4 cancer, and even “terminal” as the oncologist seems to like to call it, I could very well still have time.
I was thinking today about a painting that hung in my old childhood house in a suburb of Toronto, Ontario. It was an oil painting, one purchased from a gallery that my mother used to work in. My mother is now suffering from Parkinson’s disease and dementia. My father has been gone for ten years. I remember that painting, a snowy picture of a couple of cabins nestled in very frigid woods, but with a light glowing inside one of the cabins. A promise of warmth from a fire that greets the visitor walking up the crisp pathway. My Dad used to say that it reminded him of where he grew up in Quebec. He would tell me why he found the picture so peaceful and soothing, and I would catch him gazing at it many times. After going through my mother’s things, the picture is one of the last things to go. To ship it somewhere to a relative would cost an absolute fortune, and it would not blend in with the decor in my home, or at least that’s what I’ve told myself. In fact, I find myself hanging by a thread, swaying in the breeze that surrounds me, and I find myself wanting to move forward, not backward and never allowing life to get stagnant. That beautiful picture, the one that promised the person visiting the cabin on that freezing night a reprieve from the bitter cold was just a picture. It exuded a stable atmosphere but it did not offer me any such stability. I found solace in that picture when I was young, but now that I’m fighting cancer and literally fighting for my life, that picture does not belong in my home. It represents a different perspective than the one that I now know. Life moves on.
So am I living life differently, now knowing that my life is fragile, and not really knowing exactly how long I’ll be around for? I’m living life now to make up for the 43 years of a life that I played safe – but wasn’t overly happy in. I’m writing and I’m trying to get my articles published. I want to succeed at this and I know I still might have time. But the very best part of my writing? I love it. I have never had so much passion for anything else in my life. It brings me peace; it may even be keeping me alive. I see the beauty in everything, even the bad. I’ve learned that every day is an absolute miracle. I’m living life forward but when I examine it backwards, I hold no regrets. It’s just that I’m living differently now and absolutely loving life.