As 2014 comes to a close I wanted to reflect on my year and on my "50 on 50" challenge that I set out to accomplish. Upon turning 50 a year ago, I listed 50 challenges that I wanted to attempt in my 50th year. The list ranged in adventurous travels and events to everyday activities that would inspire me and lead to my overall well-being. I began this challenge with great enthusiasm knowing that taking on 50 challenges was indeed going to require some planning and focus as there are only 52 weeks in which to accomplish these challenges. Knowing my adventurous spirit and love for travel would inspire me to accomplish many of the travel tasks I started penciling in my calendar. I went down my list, checking off the challenges as I scheduled them. I knew that in my travels would provide plenty of random events that would help me check off more of my challenges, and they did. The importance of this list of challenges for me was not to create a "to do" list that felt like an obligation. My goal was to create a list of activities that would make me feel alive, inspire me to do more, and to make my world a happier place. I was ready to embark on my year long journey of celebration. I struck out on this journey to define what the next chapters of my life would look like.
"As much as we want to plan our life, it has a way of surprising you with the unexpected. It's called God's will"
My Dad had been sick for a while and we knew that his life expectancy was going to be shortened, but we were hopeful he would recover from the health complications he was having and be with us a while longer. Then just as last year was winding down, he suffered a stroke. We knew with his other health issues that it would be difficult for him to recover. The doctors confirmed that he would not recover and the decision was made by the family to take him off life support. This is a decision that no one ever wants to have to make, but we knew that given my Dad's prognosis this is what he would want. So we took turns saying our good-byes.
In A Life Interrupted, Priscilla Shirer talks about traveling along your "to do" list for life (In my case this was my 50 on 50 list) and having tragedy strike. I was making my way down my list and suddenly everything seemed to be shot to pieces. I couldn't focus on my daily routine let alone my plans for my 50th year. Life has a funny way of giving us a dose of reality when we make plans. You can set out on a grand adventure and life can change permanently along the way. My life forever changed.
How do we respond when we experience a life interrupted? We are distracted, we don't remember who we are. Some days it is hard to find our way. Tragedy hurts and that is normal and to be expected. It is acceptable and expected to mourn. It’s okay to not be yourself for a while, and even more okay to be vulnerable and ask for help (note that vulnerability was on my list). Being the independent person that I am being vulnerable and asking for help are two very difficult things for me to do (in hindsight perhaps I should have included asking others for help on my list).
Life interruptions define us, they change us. How we handle these interruptions speaks loudly of who we are. If we seek to understand the life interruption it can bring clarity. This does not happen quickly or easily. In my journey of grieving the loss of my Dad, and opening myself up to examine the loss, in accepting help and being vulnerable, clarity is present. It hasn't arrived in a nice tidy package, finding clarity has been and will continue to be a journey. I have had to pause along my 50 on 50 journey and take time for healing. The healing has come through a great deal of reflection and prayer and reaching out to spiritual mentors in my life. It has been said if you want to make God laugh just tell him your plans. I certainly don't think that God threw this life interruption my way so that he could laugh at my plans, but I do think He challenged me with lessons of perspective and patience. It's okay if we have to set our plans aside for a while to deal with the death of a loved one. Healing has come in taking time to honor the life lessons and memories my Dad left me with. Life is a series of interruptions and challenges. We need to take time to reflect and grow from them. Overcoming life's interruptions makes life meaningful.
"We don't grow when things are easy, we grow when we face challenges"
What should we do when we are faced with life interruptions?
1. Learn from the experience. What are the lessons to be taken from the life interruption? Change is a great teacher if we give ourselves permission to learn from it.
2. Recognize we are growing stronger. The ability to continuously accept change gives us opportunity to grow stronger.
3. Embrace the wisdom. As difficult as it can be to embrace the changes from life interruptions, when we accept the changes we will find calmness and courage. Our strength will lead to inner peace.
So, what about my 50 on 50 list? I was able to check most of the items off. The highlights were traveling to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and spending time on the Puget Sound in Washington State. Snowshoeing is a new favorite hobby. I'm making time to play and relax more and here I am writing and blogging! As for the things I didn't get to, the way I see it that will make a great start to 2015! "So Wake Me Up when it's all over, when I'm wiser and I'm older. All this time I was finding myself and I didn't know I was lost."
Here's to a fresh start and new adventures in 2015! Happy New Year!!!