Thursday, July 31, 2014

Life-long Learning

I know the world is going to hell in a handbag. I don't mean to be flip, not about Gaza, or Ukraine, not about the children at the border, not about the Ebola, no. I am sincere.

The news is grim regarding these situations I can't possibly understand or do anything to change. I wish I could do something. It's discouraging.

However, closer in, the news has been hopeful, also powerful - almost unbelievable.

First I had the waking dream of extreme old age. That was really great. The next day, I saw a few women clustered around one of the seats on the Metro. It was obviously a happy confluence with a lot of laughter and talking and exclaiming. I got in on it. The woman everyone was clustered around is 104! She's the woman on the first bench. A woman was with her, the woman on the left in the picture. The old lady seemed quite frail physically. She is carrying a blanket with her on the subway train. But she was sharp as a tack, funny, engaged and engaging. Her spirit was hearty. Talking to her was delightful. Look at the faces of the women on the right. I had that same look on my face. It was like encountering one of those impossibly old trees in Britain. Fabulous.

I know that her story of making it to 104 is hers alone, but the fact that she showed up in the movie of my life, that I got on that car at that time, even that I sat kitty-corner from her perch, well, you can not plan for timing like that. In the Reyaverse, that encounter was a blessing and an encouragement. Seeing and chatting with her for a few minutes made me wonder if I should toss out all of my assumptions about what it's like to get really, really old. The mind does not always go before the body. It was a revelation and she: impressive!

Even more impressive is my friend Julie's experience. She was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a hideous cancer of the lung's pleura. When I heard the news a few months ago, I prepared myself for the worst. It's a really bad cancer. She went to see a specialist at Duke - the best of the best. They thought she should do three rounds of chemo, then have her lung removed. This was, in their very wise opinions, her best chance to survive the disease. Yesterday was her surgery to have her lung removed.

I spent the morning walking around, thinking about her, sending her good wishes and hopes. I sat by the fountain at the American Indian Museum, a place I believe generates a tremendous amount of healing energy. Once upon a time I would have done a lot of magic, but these days I work hard to let go, knowing my hopes and opinions about what should happen are narrow. Best to leave these things up to a greater wisdom. My job is to try to remain curious and hopeful. I thought about the paradox of life - tenuous and yet so strong. I thought of the 104 year old woman who made it through God knows what to survive long enough to take the Silver Line out to Reston, Virginia. And here was my dear friend, who is my age, by the way, on the table in the operating theater, having her lung removed, fighting for her life.

It was hard. Though I tried, I did not feel hopeful. I've read about this disease. I was so worried. But then this morning I learned that once the surgeon got in there, he realized the chemo had worked and there was no sign of disease. Therefore, she did not have to have her lung removed! He told her daughter he has only seen that twice before.


Lately I've been shown in many almost unbelievable ways that the stories of life do not end at some predetermined age. No one knows what might happen, of course. However, it seems clear I must not assume the worst going forward into cronehood. I must hope for the best. Because the best can and does happen sometimes, it surely does!

Life is good, surprising, sometimes almost unbelievable - and I believe in almost everything. Still. I'm grateful for these marvelous glimpses at the mysteries. L'chaim!

This is a in a fabulous front yard garden, a little patch of Bali in the middle of Capitol Hill.

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