We are often reminded how quickly life can change after something awful happens. Like the time my parents pulled my brothers and I out of elementary school early, took us to a park to share the news our two-month-old baby brother Benjamin hadn’t woken up that day. The sun had been shining before the news sunk in. The birds had been chattering in the trees. Or the moment my family realized my 15-year-old brother Shawn wouldn’t ever wake up, no matter the pleas for him to do so, or the tears that fell at his hospital bedside. A day before—hours before—none of us knew he had decided he never wanted to be awake again. The questions of what we could have done never end. They fade over time, but the haunting remains. And the image remains clear, although I never saw him hanging in our home, scratch marks signaling a desperate attempt after possibly changing his mind and wanting to stay after all. Or the barely intelligible call from my little brother that our 25-year-old brother Robbie had collapsed at his feet. Robbie wouldn’t ever wake up again either, the doctors said, as my mom gently stroked the gash on his forehead. A weakened vessel had burst in his head, quickly drowning his brain in blood.
Those moments scrub us down to our bones, strip us bare and dry and rigid—for any number of months or years—much like the deciduous trees through the winter. You can feel frozen in the moment—in between bouts of heaving crying—as the world continues to buzz right on by without a glitch. And you know you won’t ever be the same again, life won’t ever be the same.
There are good moments that turn our life, as we knew it, on a dime, too. And our view is never the same again. Like the time I was limping along financially after a divorce—more broke than I ever thought possible, terrified I wouldn’t be able to provide the basics for my children and using every ounce of my energy to protect them from that reality—and I received the call from the president of the board of the nonprofit I had applied to. I had been in the top five, my college incomplete running against their Phds. “We would love to offer you the job, Stephanie,” are words I will never get out of my mind. I felt the sunshine that day. And I couldn’t take my eyes off the heavens as tears of relief and gratitude rushed out of my eyes. Or like the news my young daughter was going to make me a young glamma to the most precious creature on earth. I felt the world tilt then, too, but I had no idea at the time how glorious a shift that would be. Or the person you happen to meet at a conference who wants to publish the book project you’ve had your heart wrapped around and been working on for years. As swiftly as life—or dreams—can end, new ones can rise up and take in a big breath of fresh air again, changing so much of what you knew the truth of your existence to be.
As those lifeless gnarly trees begin to bud—and flowers emerge back up through the cold, hard earth—beckoned by the warmth of spring sunshine, we gain the sense that we made it through … and are actually going to be okay, in spite of speculation it wasn’t going happen this time. Through this awakening, rises the realization that we can create change in our lives, too. In little moments such as questioning the lingering wonder from a delightful five minute conversation seven months ago and then watching it turn into a love story that presses you back on your heels. “On a dime,” your solo path view of grand life adventures and explorations suddenly includes plane tickets for two, a hand to hold through ups and downs, and the mass infill of all that comes from the gift of having someone to love. And in big moments where you look in the mirror and make a promise to yourself you are going to protect your health and wellbeing as fiercely as you protect everyone’s around you. As though your worth—and the notion that you matter—ride equally alongside every one you put ahead of you. Now that is a massive shift, and the best gift you could give to yourself and every human who surrounds you.
I love what Ashley Stahl says about moments of change in our lives: “What they all have in common is that they smack you awake and call you forward. They ask you to reach inside and pull even more of yourself out … and in that, you meet your higher self, a better you. They make you question your purpose in life, and inspire you to stop making plans just for the sake of having them. But best of all, they crack you open in a way you never knew possible. And in your tenderness, you become more raw, more real and more connected. This heartache is the great equalizer in life, because no one is spared.”
We are Spokane Coeur d’Alene Living magazine, and we are Spokane and Coeur d’Alene. Please find me on Facebook or Twitter—and hop over to “like” the Spokane Coeur d’Alene Living magazine page—to stay connected between press dates, and to share your thoughts, stories and life in real time. May we all understand, no matter the shiny changes in life, we all suffer the heartaches, too—“no one is spared.” Be tender to—and celebratory toward—one another.