|Peace wears many disguises. It is often easier to find without using the word “NEVER.”|
Recent tumult in my life has taught me innumerable lessons. In fact, I have pages and pages of them that I have written down with the firm aspiration of sharing them with other life-travelers at some point. They need to be shuffled and straightened and edited and culled until we are left with the very best. My hope is that these life lessons, should you have the good fortune of learning them before experiencing them, will leave you with a little less pain and a lot less sorrow. However, I am so absolutely,
R E S O L U T E L Y confident of this one that I offer it in advance of all the others.
Avoid saying NEVER. Never is a judgment that once uttered, almost without exception, goes about proving you wrong
After four miscarriages in three years, I was told I would NEVER have children. I did not believe or accept this pronouncement. After science, patience and the hand of God, I was ultimately blessed with three of my own children. A clear demonstration that NEVER does not – necessarily – dictate destiny.
For some reason, I have found that when I make an emphatic statement that includes the word NEVER, I often find myself in the situation doing exactly what I thought I would never do. Lets start with my children when they were in elementary school. Early one October morning, I was standing in a tight circle with other mothers talking about our kids’ Halloween costumes. I was saying how long it took to sew just one of my three children’s costumes. One of the mothers, with her youngest of her four on her hip turned to me and said, with close to a sneer on her face, “Don’t tell me you are one of those!”
“One of what’s?” I asked.
She said, “One of those mothers who make the rest of us look bad.”
I was taken aback, but laughed it off. However, I felt like I had just been boxed on the ears. She had no clue that the words I used before I had children were already silently echoing in my head. Fortunately, none of the women gathered that morning could possibly know that I once said,
“I’ll NEVER turn into one of those mothers who feels like she has to make her kids their Halloween costumes.”
When I uttered those words, before having children, I had absolutely no sense of what fun and joy and satisfaction was tied up in choosing the pattern and the fabric with my each of my children. I couldn’t have imagined how uplifted I would feel (and still feel the residual ripples now) that I was part of something that was important to my child. “Never” reliably trips me up.
Until I was 38 years old, I was pretty athletic. I loved to run 3-5 miles daily. I played tennis whenever I could find a court and a partner. I took exercise classes as well as weight training classes. I studied yoga and signed up for both modern and ballet through continuing ed. . I strapped on my cross-country skis at the first coating of snow. I swam daily through two of my pregnancies. I was active and loved to be outside. I am not boasting. Rather, I am setting the stage to better illustrate a point. I recall an idle locker room conversation with a friend after a Step Aerobics Class. We were talking about how great exercise felt and what a great balance it was to motherhood. My words haunt me still, “I could NEVER imagine life without being able be outdoors and be physically active.” Less than a year later, when I was 39, I saw one orthopedic surgeon, then another. Their recommendations did not waver. The second doctor summed it up, “You need to make major life changes, your life will NEVER be the same.” I sat in his office holding myself unnaturally still. Stunned, I could barely hear the rest of what he told me about the premature aging of my joints. Stop running, biking, skiing, dancing. Tennis was out. I could swim, until my shoulders started to dislocate, then I would have to stop doing that. Finally, as I remember it, I interrupted him and said, “I see. Thank you.” I shook his hand and then drove home shaking my head the entire way.
I rationalized that I was not going to let those doctor’s NEVERs stand in my way. What I didn’t count on was that no matter how hard I pushed myself physically, I seemed to do more harm than good. At that time in my life, my husband was my most ardent fan. He cheered me on.
“You will get stronger. We will find a way to heal you, “ he said.
He was as eager as I to find answers and solutions. We chased those answers for ten years. When the diagnosis was clear – Ehler’s Danlos Sydnrome, it was not as much of a relief that either of us expected. Regardless, I did discover that I could still find ways to exercise. Instead of trainers, I use physical therapists. Instead of yoga, I found pilates. When swimming became problematic, I started pool (and even ocean) walking. My life has evolved as my abilities have changed. When I uttered that careless locker room NEVER so many years ago, I had yet to learn what seems to be an inviolate truth. We can curse the world when it does not deliver the life we want and had, perhaps, planned, or we can try to rise to meet the road on which we find ourselves. To my mind, there is only one path to happiness.
In the past fifteen years, two of my dearest friends released me. Another one dismissed me from her life entirely. These were people to whom I had surrendered my heart and trust entirely. Many people would say I am too loyal for my own good, and that I am far too empathetic. The fact that I moved eleven times in my first thirteen years taught me the value of abiding friendships. I hold more fast to my friends than most. My closest friends have been in my life for twenty to fifty years. It takes an act of Congress or God or, as I found out, direct rejection, for me to give up on those deep friendships. I had the attitude that I would NEVER give up. The idea of giving up lifetime ties seemed impossible to me from where I once sat. Today, it seems yet one more new direction that life may take me. It would be easy to say that I would NEVER let go of someone whom I love and with whom I have soul-deep ties. The newer, wiser Dawn knows better. With time and circumstance, anything is possible.
NEVER is the negative form of FOREVER. How realistic would it be to say that I will forever be polite, that I will always be a good listener, that I will be forthright and truthful in all things, that I will be kind, suspend judgments of others and, oh, that I will exercise only the best fashion sense? There is a real possibility that I will fail to do one or a combination of these things over the days ahead. I might make mistakes, I might be cruel, I might – on occasion - let slip my inherent belief that life is wonderful, that people are good and that I am surrounded by blessings. My point being…..how can there be a NEVER if there is no FOREVER? The universe is expanding; our world is constantly changing. We are compelled to adapt in order to survive. What’s more? If we adapt readily to change, studies show that we have a much better chance at lifelong happiness. For all these reasons, I skirt the use of the word NEVER. I have come to believe I have a much better chance at a happy, peaceful life if I relinquish the word Never, and it’s mate, Forever, from my vocabulary.