LOOK FOR THE GIFTS. . .!
In the year of 2004, I woke up one morning to find that my vision was lost. Bewildered and confused, I had no idea what happened to cause my eye sight to dramatically disappear. Needless to say, my middle name was changed to fear. Like a thief in the night, it happened suddenly and with no warning at all. In a matter of days I’d become legally blind, and no one could tell me why. Not even the best of six specialists could restore my vision or give me peace of mind. It was early September, which is not a good time for a public school teacher to suddenly become blind. Ironically after a career of twenty-five years of teaching the disabled, now I was one of them. By then I was beginning to feel as if my life had been cursed by some unknown force. I was right, but since I could never see that the force was me, I blamed the cursed things that happened to me on other things. The best way I know to explain is to take you back in time down the road of what seemed to be my cursed life.
Only four years before, I’d been diagnosed with an incurable cancer. I’d never heard of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, but I soon learned that cancer won’t spare the ignorant. The doctors said that I was in stage four, but I had no idea what that meant either. In the way that doctors tend to do, his explanation only left me more confused. In a futile effort to self educate myself, I went to the internet. I learned that statistically I could expect to live anywhere from seven to ten years, but only if treatment was successful. That’s when I learned that incurable means that my disease won’t go away, and remission means that you are living on borrowed time. The facts and statistics, documented in print, were hard to ignore. My ignorance of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma became an educated fear. While I lived on borrowed time, I wore the label of, “a cancer victim,” with the face of acceptance. After all, I was accustomed to being victimized. This came on the heels of becoming a victim of the financial devastation that came after my bitter divorce. All of this was preceded by twenty-three years of a toxic relationship, where I became the victim of a broken heart. Since my children were grown and on their own, my empty nest made me feel like a victim of loneliness. Now can you see why that by the year of 2004, when I became suddenly blind, I believed that some invisible force had cursed my life?
I was lost and alone in the Twilight Zone, in a time and space where nothing made sense to me. An ordinary woman, extraordinarily bad things kept happening to me. Dwelling on this, I could never figure out why. I’d followed the rules in my life. I tried to be a good mother and wife. I’d chosen a career which I believed was destined for me. I’d sacrificed many late nights to create methods to teach children with disabilities, only to find that I had become disabled as well. I’d given up my self esteem and dignity for twenty-three years, only to become the victim of a horrible divorce. I’d released the prime years of my life to raise my children, only to wake up one day with an empty nest and alone. I’d scraped by on pennies and dimes, only to become financially bankrupt. The icing on this bitter cake was that chemotherapy had thrown me into an instantaneous menopause, even though I wasn’t nearly old enough.
Can you imagine how I felt about life by the time I became legally blind? “This isn’t fair,” I repeated in my mind, so many times that self pity became my best friend. Of course, I tried to hide it. Stoically, I smiled at those people who pitied me as much as I pitied myself. Isolated on a deserted island where no one wanted to come for a visit with me, it seemed to me that I was cursed with bad luck and misery. I had no idea of what to do with my borrowed time, so I began to write a book. That’s when I found a tiny bit of good luck. Much to my surprise, I found that my computer had a program for the visually impaired. This oddly ironic gift helped me to see my words in big and bold print. By the time I’d written three hundred pages of my victimized life stories, I became even more bleary-eyed and exhausted. The last chapter, I realized, would be my carefully planned funeral, along with my self written eulogy.
It might have been read this way: A devoted wife of twenty-three years, she was abandoned by love. The victim of divorce, she struggled to survive on pennies and dimes, only to become bankrupt. In spite of all this, she bravely accepted the cruelties of life. She sold everything she owned to pay her medical bills, and wisely simplified her life, so that her family would not be burdened after she died. Cancer is a cruel disease, so death did not come easily or peacefully. Instead, she was forced to suffer through her borrowed time, while everyone that she’d sacrificed her life to please, went on with their normal lives. The day she passed on, as blind as she’d become, she was unable to see that her family was standing by. Still, somewhere in the distance, she could hear them cry. At the final moment, she bravely whispered the words,”Good bye.” As she entered heaven’s gate, a saintly martyr, she was finally at peace.
Of course, these were not the exact words that I used for my eulogy, but they might as well have been. Every single chapter of my life story was filled with anger and bitterness. At the time, I believed that my fearful words, where anger always derives, were justified. After all, when it came to life, I tried. With this in mind and no one to blame, I blamed everyone and everything else, but me. When that didn’t seem to make sense of my cursed life, I blamed God as well. “Why have you done this to me,” I asked? When he didn’t answer me, I asked him why bad things kept happening to me, if he wasn’t punishing me. When the book was complete, justice was written in the faded view of my dramatically lost vision. My funeral was carefully planned, complete with my eulogy. Sitting there, in the light of my computer screen, my story was said and done, but I was a bit surprised to find that I was still alive. What would I do with the rest of my borrowed time, while legally blind, as I waited to die?
By then, my educated fear taught me how to speak and comprehend the language of disease. Cancer began to define me. The treatment of chemotherapy became a part of my normal routine. As I stumbled around in the dark, blind as a bat, living in fear with an incurable disease, I waited patiently. Biding my limited time, I didn’t have a plan for what would come between the story of my cursed life and the funeral I’d planned for myself. Instead of listening to the message that God was desperately trying to help me see, I proofread and edited my book until my eyes became bleary again. The book would be published once I was gone, and I was sure of it. My family and friends, if not the world, would finally see how unfair life had been for me. I’d leave behind the sad story of my life, and then I’d die.
I know how insanely silly that sounds, but don’t judge me please. After all, can you blame me? I was simply too blind to see anything but darkness and pain. With fear, I had no idea where my spirit would end up, once my funeral was done and I was dead and gone. Not only had I lost my vision, but my spirit was lost as well. It was lost somewhere out there in the Twilight Zone. It had been transformed to a time and space where nothing made sense. It became removed from the truth, in a world where my friends and family lived without me. The chapters of my life, documented in print, seemed to be proof of this. Diligently, I proofread and edited.
It was during one of those proofreading days, as I typed away about anger, bitterness and fear, when I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder, and a whisper in my ear. I don’t mean this in a literal sense, but once again, it might as well have been. God never spoke to me verbally, although it would have been more dramatic to say and write. Still, it was nothing short of a miracle that I understood God’s words at all. It came to me from a holy intuition that had been given to me just as suddenly and dramatically as my vision had been lost. “Your story is not about death. It’s about life,” God said. Surprised by this sudden awakening, I asked God, “What do you mean by that?” He never explained it specifically, but he seemed to say to throw the book away and start all over again. “But I’m finished,” I argued with him. “Besides, there isn’t time,” I explained. That’s when God seemed to chuckle, and I could almost hear his reply. “Oh no, you’re not done,” God said. “You’ve only just begun.” Promising me that I’d find my missing spirit hidden between the lines of the badly written first draft, he said to go back again and rewrite the story of my life.
Sitting before an empty computer screen with a horrible case of writers’ block, I had no idea of what he wanted me to see that I hadn’t already written, so he explained. “If you’ll begin with the spirit of love that I gave to you, you’ll see what you missed the first time,” God advised. When I still didn’t understand, he took the fingers of my hands and began to type. The words he left for me to see in bold print became the first clue of where to begin. God’s words gave me the ability to see where my spirit lives. “Look for the gifts,” God typed on my otherwise empty screen. With nothing else to do, I did.
What I found was an amazing thing, far beyond anything that I’d ever imagined my life to be. That day I began to write and before I knew it, two years had gone by. Statistically, I should have been dead and gone, but page by page, the gifts of my life gave me the gift of time. Sometimes I wondered why a certain story was one God told me to write, until I took a moment to ponder it. It seemed to me that he wanted me to stop dwelling on the facts and statistics, documented in print. “They’re only words,” God said. “They only make sense, when you take a moment to ponder them. That’s where the gifts have been,” he said. God revealed to me those things that I’d never thought of before. With his help, I began to see why each story led me to the truth that I had missed along the way. As if I was on a treasure hunt, the gifts of my life became vividly real. That’s when I began to see the truth. The gifts were there, and they were everywhere. The truth is that they had always been there. I simply had to go back to look for them, with the new vision that God had given to me.
I’d thought for so long that my spirit was missing somewhere, and I looked for it everywhere. I looked in the anger, the fear and the dread I felt. I looked for it in the label of, “Cancer victim,” and then in the label of, “cancer survivor.” I searched through the chapters of victimization, and I looked in the issues I had with others. I also looked in the shame I felt for my failures. God showed me that my spirit was never in those places. “Who you are and the purpose I have for you is always in the gifts,” God said. I wish I could say that I always remember this, but now and then I still forget. When I do, God always finds a way to remind me that anything and everything can be a gift. “It’s all in the way you look at it,” God says. Although my eye sight is faded and unclear, my vision is better than it’s ever been. I was never miraculously cured of disease, but my life suddenly and dramatically changed from the darkness of death to the light of life. Ironic things happen to me all of the time, but I no longer see those things as a curse. God gave me a very bright light that only shines on the gifts as I rewrote the story of my life. Today, I see them everywhere, no matter what comes up in life.
A moment to ponder . . .
I’ve discovered, much to my surprise, that life is always about what you ponder the most about. When I focused on fear and dread, life was a burden and hard to bear. The very things I dwelled upon, became my reality. With the free will that God gave to me, the choice was mine all along. Do I want to live, or do I want to die? Do I accept disease willingly, or do I choose to live joyfully and abundantly? It is, and has always been, up to me. God never forces anything. Instead, he sat quietly by, waiting patiently for me to finally ask to see the truth. You might say that I wasted a lot of time being blind to the gifts of life, but on the other hand, I had the good sense to finally ask for God to explain. “Why do bad things happen to me,” I asked? God always answers our prayers, and from there, he commands the universe to work for us. Since we have free will, the universe must grant whatever we ask of it. Our thoughts and those things we ponder about, become a request. The universe then says to us, as commanded by God, “Your wish is my command.” With this in mind, I began to realize that I’d been sending out all the wrong requests.
In the story of Where My Spirit Lives, you’ll see that the very thing that created disease, became the same thing that released it from me. The same thing that brought fear to my life, became the same thing that gave me peace of mind. Once I finally asked God to help me understand, everything changed for me. Years of fear created disease, leaving me too blind to see, until I changed those moments of pondering. It’s taking a long time to heal, but in spite of those bad things that happened to me, or maybe because of them, you will see that I finally found where my spirit lives. Ironically, it doesn’t end with my funeral plans. Instead I found that my spirit lives and breathes, abundantly blessed. For someone like me to see these things is amazing, isn’t it?