What is Your Life Telling You?
Last summer, I started writing a book about living with intention so that I didn’t die with regrets. The book was my motivation for going to MEA, as well as my motivation for getting up each day. My working title: Not Dead Yet.
The writing was going well. I was exchanging pages regularly with another memoir coach. I was starting to believe that maybe, just maybe, I might see this book to the end, unlike the last two or three I tried.
Then in January, my husband was diagnosed with lymphoma. At first, we were told it was a non-aggressive, non-Hodgkins type that he was more likely to die with than from.
Just to be sure, a PET scan was scheduled during which his pelvis unexpectedly lit up with abnormal cells. A subsequent biopsy confirmed our worst, most terrifying fear: that his non-aggressive cancer had transformed into a beast. Stunned, we could do nothing more than silently stare at one another. And cry.
Our priorities at that moment became unmistakably clear: Bruce’s health, and time with our family and friends. All optional these-would-be-good-to-do activities were abolished from our schedule.
Suddenly, my little Not Dead Yet project seemed laughable. My underlying—if not acknowledged—assumption in writing the book was that I was going to happily live another thirty years in full health. My intent was to fill those years with meaning and purpose and ongoing growth. But now, it seemed both presumptuous and preposterous to be writing a book about living with intention when my husband might be dying from cancer.
I stopped writing, hid the book’s Scrivener file deep inside my computer, and turned what little attention span I had left on getting through each day the best I could.
Then, on a sunny Monday afternoon about two months after all this began, Bruce and I met with a second-opinion doctor, someone who had just reviewed additional testing done by the Mayo Clinic. In a dry and scientific voice, the doctor explained that Bruce’s cancer might not be the aggressive type at all, but instead the more indolent variety that had first been diagnosed two months earlier.
We were confused because the doctor didn’t appear at all animated. “So,” we said, “is this good news?”
“Oh yeah,” he replied. “You don’t need chemo right now, and maybe not ever. We’ll have to wait and see.”
We felt like we’d just been granted clemency and released back to freedom. A week later, we were on a plane to Mexico where we planned to process what the hell just happened.
While there and staring at the flat blue ocean, my book project slowly started to re-emerge. I realized I’d just been given a huge and undeniable lesson in intentional living. It was as if the universe had said, “You want to understand how to live with intention… here, try cancer on for size.”
My life had shown me, in a painfully clear way, what living with intention really looked like so that I could write with a stronger sense of urgency, and perhaps a bit more authority.
Over the years, I’ve seen dozens if not hundreds of clients get similar messages from life about their own projects. It doesn’t matter what they are writing about—resilience or forgiveness or letting go of shame. It seems that once they really get going life will throw them a curve-ball challenge to make sure they know what they are talking about.
Now, my question for you is this: What is your life telling you right now about the project you are working on—be it a book or something else? What challenge are you facing that might actually be a gift in disguise?
Please feel free to email me. I’d love to hear your story and perhaps use it as background for my book, which is now fully underway again.
Shari Caudron is grateful for the kick in the pants she received at MEA last summer. In addition to writing a book and coaching other writers, Shari offers midlife coaching and you can learn more about that here.