An epiphany doesn’t come along every day. For many, it’s rare or never identified. Without recognition, acceptance, and action, it is merely a passing thought – like a dream or wish – set aside or forgotten.
I have had brief unexpected epiphanies when designing scenery for plays, sometimes in time to implement them, sometimes not until I saw them under stage lights and realized a lost potential, relegating them to dream-wishes.
Perhaps the most meaningful epiphany occurred this fall, long after retirement from teaching, as I sat with my daughter Jessica on a park bench outside the cancer clinic, awaiting my scheduled blood-work and chemo-infusion.
We were talking about family, and I began a story about her father which had been painful and destructive to my self-image. It was not intended to make him look bad in her eyes, but rather was an attempt to understand his choices and life changes that had ultimately led to our divorce but also made him a better person and gave me the opportunity to do the same. That was when the epiphany occurred.
All at once I realized that none of those old tapes were important enough to hold on to, no matter how painful or disruptive they might have been at the time, even if that pain became an excuse for my own self-destructive detours. And it wasn’t just about the divorce or limited to my adult life and relationships. It was all the disappointments, bad choices, and slights perpetrated on me or by me in the past. I suddenly understood that those events were merely paths on a circuitous route that led me to where I am today, to the flawed but blessed person I’ve become. And “poof!” they were gone.
I sat there with my daughter and tried to share this revelation. For her, it spoke of the concept of letting go of things you cannot change.
I later shared this with two of my women friends. They each wanted to know what had replaced those erased experiences from the past, which was not a blank slate after the negatives were removed. I thought about this for several weeks. There are many positives: family; friends; students and colleagues; and Chico, our fifteen-year-old pup who died this year, survived by our dear Annie, who lies beside me while I write. The final gift is my belief in a higher being to whom I can pray my thanks for all these blessings.
There are funny or touching moments that I focus on from each of the above, not necessarily epic events, but day-to-day life and laughter that speak of our weird family humor and sensitivity.
My only remaining negative feelings concern the present and future: the pandemic, the growing political conflict between Americans, the struggles for basic necessities so many families face, and the ugly reality of racism. They have made made me hope for more time to see some of it resolved in the coming years so we can be a better people – tolerant and united. Wish I could have an epiphany about that.
Strength and energy-challenged now, there is little I can do to help make change except perhaps through words. Almost three years ago I was told I had months to live due to metastatic breast cancer (MBC) which has now been joined by leukemia (CML). With two chemotherapies and a great oncologist, I have certainly outlived the first prognosis. This unexpected extension of life has been a blessing because it has allowed time to work on a bucket-list and say my good-byes, even finish and publish two books. It has given me the opportunity for introspection and to write down thoughts that may benefit someone someday.
It has also meant less time that Jim will have to be alone. He’s nine years older, and it’s still a toss-up as to who will survive who. He is stronger and healthier (in spite of his 87 years) but he spends too much time on ladders and roofs, daring calamity. Nevertheless, my money and hopes are on him.
Wishing you all well in 2021 and hoping you will support our new President – regardless of your political affiliation. He will inherit an unbelievable situation, both foreign and domestic. I have not been one who marches or demonstrates, choosing instead to live my beliefs rather than make noises about them. But the noisemakers are all we hear, so I hope you will make some good noise and, in the words of John Lewis, “good trouble” in the effort to ultimately bring pride, tolerance, and non-partisan truths – not just to this country, but to this lovely old world of ours.
Happy New Year, happy epiphanies, and already looking forward to spring.