Did you choose this? Or did it choose you?

 

The circumstances we face in life are not always of our choosing.  A turning point, though, almost always involves some kind of choice.  For every action that impacts us, there is an equal and opposite reaction that we put out into the world.  This is where choice comes in.

You may be thinking, “Wait a minute. I did not choose what happened to me.  My turning point was forced on me by someone else’s decisions. Or maybe it just was one of those things that can happen in life that you pray never does, and I just happened to win the dumb luck lottery. But I sure as hell didn’t choose this. Who in their right mind would?”

I used to joke that I don’t recommend a brain tumor as a path to enlightenment. Although my own journey through the medical system  was certainly enlightening and transformative, I don’t wish the experience on anyone.

If I could have chosen my ideal path to understanding the nature of life and death, it would have been a 30-day silent retreat in the Santa Cruz mountains, with day trips to the beach to stare out at the ocean and meditate on the ebb and flow.  Maybe a night hike or two, and some really good soup and bread — made from simple ingredients, nothing fancy, but prepared with love.  Solitude. Silence. The solace of the forest. Now that would have been a much more pleasant, less expensive, and faster route to go, and frankly, I wish I’d done that instead.  But no, I had to learn life’s lessons the hard way.

A transformative experience, by its nature, is a an lonely one. Even if multiple people are involved in the same event, no two will experience it in quite the same way.  Grief is like that: its logic and timetable unfolds in patterns unique to each of us.

Yet it’s also true that, in those moments when we feel most alone and lost, we are actually more capable of true connection with other people.  As human beings we instinctively seek out others who can understand what we are going through.

Seeking answers to the questions that confronted me — about my own mortality, the closing of doors and the end of certain dreams, the direction I was supposed to go with my life — I looked for stories from people who had been through what I was going through, who (preferably) had come out on the other side stronger, healthier, happier, wiser, etc.

To my relief, and delight, I did find stories like that. Tons of them. Stories of people who had overcome the most unimaginable circumstances, who had been confronted with wrenching choices, who somehow found the strength to use a turning point as an opportunity to completely change their lives. I read those kinds of stories voraciously, looking for guideposts, signs, insights…anything that could shine a light in the tunnel I was in. Those stories inspired me to keep going.

If you’re in the middle of your own turning point, you’re probably feeling more than a little disoriented. Maybe your life has already turned upside down. Maybe you see a storm brewing on the horizon; your turning point is approaching you. Or maybe you simply have the sense that things are not quite the way they were before; something is different. Something has shifted and you just can’t put your finger on what it is.

For many of us, the circumstances that led to our turning points were not of our own choosing. But we can choose what to do with the tremendous opportunity that a turning point represents. This is a place to share those stories, of people who have not just survived their turning point experiences, but have transformed their lives as as result.

My mission is to offer a beacon to those who find themselves at one of those crossroads. By sharing the stories that inspire me, I hope to illuminate the dark, painful, difficult passageways we sometimes have to navigate in life. Hopefully I can make the one you’re in a little less scary.

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