I remember long ago (before grey hairs were visible in pictures) I had this spectacular plan for my life. I knew what was going to happen by what time and who I was going to be. There weren’t questions or doubts about anything on that list and I was absolutely certain of everything. I had my plan. Everything would work according to my plan. I would be happy and healthy and wildly successful and so many other things! Looking back I know everything there was innately good and positive, but I’ve learned a bit since then having earned a PhD from the College of Hard Knocks.
If all y’all only knew what my doctoral thesis was…! Someday maybe.
Having to slow down to heal from something as catastrophic and life changing as amputation was never on my list, and neither were any of the other things I’ve spent the last 6 years dealing with on a daily basis. Nothing that’s happened in recent years fit anywhere into my tidy plan for life. If anything, I’d wager that practically all of it would fit tidily onto the plan of things to avoid at all costs. Yet here I am smiling in the midst of a hurricane like the guy who thought shooting at Irma was a good idea because I’ve learned a valuable lesson:
It is the unexpected journeys that bring us the greatest pleasure, growth, and joy… if we let them.
My literary friends are pinging at the incredibly obvious Tolkien reference here. Yes, it’s intentional and I’m that nerdy; no, I won’t hold it against you if you’re not as widely read as I because, let’s face it, I just read a lot!
On the off chance you haven’t enjoyed Tolkien completely ripping off every theme and dozens of magical beings and literary mechanisms from ancient British literature to the present with a healthy dose of imagined history had certain events in British history gone the other way (such as the battle of Hastings, cause I’m that kind of nerd too, if you must know) along with is completely legitimately and profoundly designed languages that actually work and have rules of grammar and everything (High-elven is his Latin language), and on the off chance you either work too hard to have watched any Peter Jackson movies in the last 16 years or you just happen to live in a hole in the ground without Netflix or Hulu or On Demand, a hobbit (leprechaun) named Bilbo gets manipulated into an unexpected journey with a wizard and 13 dwarves where instead of living and dying in the same town he was born in having done exactly what everyone else expected him to do he encounters elves (fairies), a skin changer (pooka), and a dragon all while learning valuable lessons on judging of self and others, grit, and friendship having also found a very magical ring that is a central character in the 6 books of the Lord of the Rings.
Some of you are shaking your heads saying, “Gwen, its 3 books and 3 movies,” while I shake my head with knowing nerddom thinking, “A true fan would know because a true fan would read them all… Chronologically… starting with the Silmarillian.” *There must be some reason I simply haven’t discovered yet explaining why the literary references are so strong right now especially since everything living so strongly in my inner dialogue that becomes prose are things I haven’t read in at least 15 years.*
Anyway, Bilbo takes a step out his front door onto a path he could never have prepared for that would take him places he could never have predicted to do things he never would have known he could do had he not been faced with the opportunity to act or not.
I can trace my life’s journey to moments where I had the choice to take a step off the clear path before me onto something that seemed to be nothing interesting just different.
To cook for this event or not to cook?
To volunteer or not to volunteer?
To step out of my comfort zone or stay put?
To make that call or not?
To apply for that job or not?
To accept this job that is here now or to do the completely crazy thing and wait for the possibility of that other job happening?
To reach out to that person or not?
To stay or to go?
To forgive or hold bitterness?
To judge and be angry or to analyze and have compassion?
To be hotheaded and jump the gun or to hold patience and have faith that the right way will present itself in the right time?
I can see where some actions brought me to places I didn’t enjoy but that grew me in unexpected ways or how life events may or may not have happened the way they did had I chosen a different path only steps earlier. Every choice we make sets our feet on another leg of our journey in life. Sometimes the smallest of decisions have rippling effects which are seen and felt for decades, good or bad. I’ve seen so many people choose the route that seemed the safest in order to hedge their bets and have the greatest possibility of *success* in life but that don’t actually result in joy and fulfillment. I’ve also seen people who are willing to take leaps of faith when the unexpected comes their way to the chagrin of those who love them but with the result of having incredibly full lives with beautiful tales to tell that are truly worth measuring life by, I assure you.
I never would have expected to be happy and fulfilled in my situation as it is now had I known beforehand what was to happen. It’s not really reasonable to have the amount of joy I have on a daily basis, all things considered. If I told you the depth and breadth of the storm I’m in you’d understand why nothing about how I’m feeling is normal. This is the point at which I should be falling apart and broken but… I’m not.
My life has taken so many unexpected turns, but that doesn’t mean I have to choose to let the unexpected break me.
So I lost a leg, had some strokes and PEs, dealt with a bunch of clotting, lost a job, and so much more. And?
The unexpected has brought me to people and places that I would not have been to had I not landed on this path. The doors open before me at this moment wouldn’t be open had I not been in this place to open them. The true friendship of those who have been here through this difficult time wouldn’t have been discovered, nor would have the fair-weather friendships of those who couldn’t handle the journey. The friends from the past who popped back in to be voices of reason and encouragement wouldn’t have had the reason to speak such life and leave golden threads if I hadn’t been here. The lives that have been impacted by my words since beginning the writing only a few months ago would never have been touched.
Everything happens for a reason and we always have the choice to stubbornly stick with what is comfortable and be angry when the unexpected comes our way, or to take and relish the unexpected journey that falls into our laps.
Personally, I think dwarves are great company.