What if you had just one year left?
(No, this is not about the Stephen Levine book, which I own but haven't yet read.)
The other night, in considerable pain and very despondent about the pace of recovery from a broken ankle, I started poking around the internet, reading comments and blog posts by others who've been in a similar situation. After awhile, I concluded: A year. It takes a full year to resume life as it was. (I am walking a mile outdoors most days now, but it takes me 45 minutes, requires an ankle brace and a walking stick, and it hurts. I'm grateful to be outdoors and moving, and I know there's nothing for it but to do it, but I'm still easily discouraged.)
Last night I relayed this information to my friend Michelle, and noted the utter frustration of losing a year of active life at this point, when you can hope for only about 15 fifteen more really good ones before your body starts to disintegrate rather dramatically. One out of fifteen ~ that's a lot.
At the same time, it's occurred to me recently that I am living much of a life that was mostly a dream only a few years ago. At some point toward the end of seminary, I wrote out something of a plan for the future. Parts of it remain completely unrealized, but the call and ministry portion is in good order. I do pastor a church, I do accompany people in spiritual direction and give retreats, and I do teach in a university about a semester a year.
Add to the ankle and to the ministry life a discussion with my daughter the other night about what I think I would do it I were diagnosed with advanced cancer ~ a conversation generated by the plight of yet another acquaintance who is going the chemo and radiation route, as most people do, but about which I am extremely skeptical.
"The Grand Canyon," I said. "I still haven't been to the Grand Canyon."
"Mom," she said, if that's at the top of your list, why aren't you going there?"
"It's a good thing it wasn't in the plan for this year," I said. "I could never have done the hiking I want to do there. But you're right -- maybe it's time to get organized for next year."
And so I've been thinking. I probably have more than a year left, but still: with what would I like to fill the next twelve months, and in what ways would I like to empty them?
With my family?
In my home?
In the church?
In the way of spiritual direction and retreat work?
And . . . the Grand Canyon?