I am perhaps the most fortunate person alive, I thought to myself this morning as I took an early morning walk through downtown Santa Fe. I get to live in a place I love, and I get to do this. I get to leave my house at 7:30 and walk four blocks up San Francisco Street toward the Plaza. There are a few dog walkers that I recognize, and we say hello, and sometimes I get to stop and pet their pooches and we exchange a few words about the amazing weather and is it going to rain and isn’t this a wonderful place to live?
Almost three years ago this month, I made the decision to move to Santa Fe, the city I had dreamed about living in since I was six years old. I didn’t have a job here, and I didn’t have much money, and I didn’t have any idea why I felt so compelled to make this move. Anyone with good sense would have steered clear of such a huge move with so few resources.
But I had suffered some recent heartbreak and I was feeling lonesome and old and 51 and tired of not doing exactly what I wanted with my life. I mostly wanted to live in a place that felt sort of like a city, but sort of small and safe, and sort of like home but sort of like something totally new. Mostly I wanted to take my life in my own hands and finally live it exactly the way I wanted.
My kids were grown, my parents were healthy, and it seemed like a good time to make a move.
So, in August 2012, I packed up everything in my pretty little house overlooking Ute Lake and loaded it in my Dad’s van and my cousin TJ’s red Dodge pickup and moved to a rent house on Don Felix Street in Santa Fe, just a few blocks from the Railyard. I still didn’t really have a job, or a real plan. Just a bit of home equity payoff in the bank and my blogging clients and a vague longing for a different life.
Fast forward to today. I have suffered and survived stage IV colon cancer, including surgery that left me with a colon that is about 10 or 12 inches smaller than it was in August 2012. I’m also missing some relatively small portion of my liver, since that’s where my cancer metastasized. Since June 2013, I have been “cancer free,” but every six months I go off to an oncologist for a scan with all my prayers said and my fingers crossed, hoping against hope that there is no recurrence.
About a thousand other people join me in my prayers. That’s my tribe out there, leaving nothing to chance.
In the interim between those visits, I get to live with a man who is all the things I wanted as a child – kind, smart, funny, decent, and yes, in fact, tall, dark and handsome. Who knew I could have exactly what I wanted? I get to spend every single day with people I admire and like at my job, and I get to show strangers around this city I love. I get to go to a church that fills my heart with great faith and grace. I get to love my kids and my grandson and my parents and the rest of my family, along with an embarrassing abundance of friends. I also get to work as an advocate with Fight Colorectal Cancer, an organization devoted to wiping colon cancer from the face of the earth. Mostly I get to be alive.
The past two weeks have been hard in cancer land. Two of my great friends finished their marathon battle with this heinous disease, and I’ve been overwhelmingly sad about that state of affairs. Why do I get to be the one who survived? Why didn’t Jerry and Chris get to have a life like mine? Why were their battles so long and drawn out and ugly and devastating to the people who love them? Why do Chris’s daughters no longer have their Mama? Why does Yvette have to go on without Jerry?
And those questions apply to dozens of others who are either embroiled in the battle or who have already finished their race with cancer. I’ll never get it, and I suffer some horrible survivor’s guilt (that’s a whole ‘nother blog post, truly), but mostly I just never understand why I was spared. Believe me, I’m grateful. But I don’t get it.
Why did I get exactly the life I wanted and dreamed about? What is my purpose here? I think about it and pray about it often, hoping that I don’t squander a single day of my life. Please don’t let me be meaningless in my activities, I pray, and then I say my favorite prayer – Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I don’t know the answer. What I do know is that my biggest job and privilege these days seems to be being grateful. I’ve very busy with my real estate job, but I’ve trained myself to spend a small piece of each morning saying thank you for what I have in my life. There was a time years ago when I learned to write down ten things for which I’m grateful every morning. Now the list is really too long to write down. Instead I recite the list to myself in the shower, or on my walk, or as I’m driving into the parking lot at the office. Here is the rule: If I’ve gotten on the elevator without reciting all the things for which I’m grateful, I have to go back to the car and sit still for a minute. I have to remember that my life is an incredible gift.
Like I said, I don’t know why I have been so fortunate. But I know this – gratitude is my lot in life, and it’s a pretty sweet task each day.
Today I’m grateful for a lot of things, including all these flowers I saw on my walk. Santa Fe is awash in color this June. What a gift to get to see it each morning.
What’s on your top ten gratitude list today? I’m pretty sure the ability to breathe in and out should always be in my top five. The rest is gravy. Every single day.