I caught myself again today referring to my life in decades. I use the word decade in almost all my conversations, and I use it frequently on this blog. One would think, even expect a woman of 50+ years to refer to the decades of her life. Normal, right? Well, It doesn’t seem normal to me..I remember, as a little kid, how captivated I felt when I figured out I would reach 2000 in my lifetime. How in the world can a little kid understand this — the turning of the centuries didn’t make much sense, but I was strongly affected by the number.
In my teens, I became interested in getting through each minute. Or not. For a while I dreaded that 2000 date, and all through my 20s, I lived for the moment, but in the wrong way — unwilling to acknowledge and prepare for my future. Yet, at this time, while I obsessed about surviving through the years, I mistreated my body, ignored my diabetes, behaved foolishly — a case could be made that I tried to kill myself by pursuing gratifications in every area of my life.
By the time I reached my mid-30s, I was living less for the disconnection alcohol could bring; I continued to smoke, both cigarettes and pot, right up until the day I was admitted to the hospital for a four-artery bypass. I was there a couple of months, and I had withdrawn from the tobacco habit without know that was happening, I was hospitalized for two months.
I moved to North Carolina, but I was only there for a little less than two years, during which I grew sicker by the month. Funny thing — I died while recovering from surgery to remove my gall bladder. I didn’t really make the connection until a few weeks later, when my landlady asked me, “So what do you do now that the death thing is over with?” I jumped like I’d been poked with a cattle prod. I hadn’t even made the connection. How weird is that?
I don’t remember exactly what I thought at the time; in hindsight, I think I felt lost without that old fear to lean on. I do remember feeling a vague sense of anger, as though the doctors who implanted my defibrillator removed a vital piece of my personality. My poor sick me identity was quite badly shaken. I wasn’t conscious of these feelings then, but I’ve since learned that I felt some powerful stuff during those years.
Skip forward to the present; I recently underwent immense an change of philosophy. My long-lived depression, a constant companion for years, suddenly seemed a fruitless, senseless load I’d carried far too long. The change was immediate and intoxicating. Months went by before I felt even a little dampening of the lift I got after I read that one sentence: No one can hurt you unless you let them.
I heard this from my sister S. many times over the years, but as she says, you can’t know until you know.
That change brought into focus one fact: I can think about the future, with hope; I can live the right way for each day, enjoying my life, forget about worrying, making the very most of every minute. And equally importantly, I find myself referring to my past in other ways than big health crises. That is how I came to speak so often of the decades of my life; I made myself a different person, one to whom decades were accomplishments, instead of the woman who lived by counting all of the calamities of her life. I love this woman. I am content.