I’m not much of a swimmer, but for most of my life I’ve been treading water. My childhood sped by as I was thrown into the deep end and told to swim on my own. As a young adult, my own life was put on pause as the roles of wife and mother consumed me; I lost my own identity as my life revolved around family activities. When I divorced, I felt like the beautiful puzzle that I was constructing had been dumped onto the floor. I had to pick up the broken pieces and begin to rearrange the puzzle into another picture, but this time I didn’t have the picture on the box to guide me. My children were grown and going off to build their lives in different directions, leaving me with an empty nest. I felt like I had been made redundant because I saw my value as a human being closely identified to my roles of wife and mother. I was lost; I continued to tread water.
It was at this time that a dear friend gave me a new picture to focus on when she equated me to an exquisite needlework of gold and silky threads. I remember we were sitting in a grassy area by a small lake with the sounds of birds overhead, children laughing, and traffic passing nearby. She patiently listened to me as I tried to clarify my thoughts and verbalize my feelings. It was during this conversation that she said, “You are a beautiful needlework embroidery. I see you like this because you are a beautiful, creative, and talented woman with many gifts, especially with your talents in sewing and quilting. I see the colorful threads that make up a landscape garden of sweet flowers.” I listened carefully trying to follow the correlation as she elaborated. Then she put her hand on my arm, “The picture is only the topside of the embroidery, underneath the threads are an elaborate system of crossed and loose threads; there are many knots. These are all necessary in the construction of the beautiful topside.” We sat in silence and looked out at the lake. I adopted her image and have often thought back to this conversation, particularly in times of self-doubt, conflict, or confusion. I was grateful and recognized her as my blessing; she is still a blessing to me even though we live miles away and our “chin wags” are prearranged visits over the telephone.
A new metaphor developed for me when I took my first hike on the Camino de Santiago in 2012. Here the message of “life is a journey not a destination” became my mantra. I made a final decision to change my life by moving across country. I wanted to slow life down, spend more time in nature, and enjoy the people, places, and things in my life. I appreciated the blessings of my new life, and even though the picture of the new puzzle I was building wasn’t quite looking like the one I imagined, I was still moving forward and building. Then, In October 2015 it was discovered that I had bilateral pulmonary emboli and an unidentified mass in my right atrium. The pulmonologist agreed with the thoracic surgeon that it was a tumor, while the cardiovascular disease specialist believed it to be a clot. It was decided that I would have open-heart surgery to remove the mass. Everything was happening so quickly…the medical diagnosis, needing to take leave from work, handling the responsibilities of the house and the dog; this inconvenience was disrupting my puzzle building! Besides, this was a busy time as my son and daughter-in-law were expecting their first baby. I told my kids not to worry, and I sent my son back to work; I didn’t want them to worry. However, it was a frightening experience, so I relied on my faith, positive thoughts, and prayers that all was well. I meditated on the lovely song by Daniel Nahmod called “Water” in which he describes releasing the struggle and conflicts of life and going with the flow. I was the water; I was going with the flow. As the river, I found inspiration from Ilan Shimir’s “Advice from a River”: Go with the flow/ Immerse yourself in nature/ Slow down and meander/ Go around obstacles/ Be thoughtful of those downstream/ Stay current/ The beauty is in the journey. Instead of treading water, I am the water.
I have spent a great deal of time in meditation, prayer, and reflection throughout the years and my embroidery image is readily available to me; it describes my life and comforts me that the tangles, knots, and loose threads are responsible for the beautiful image on the topside. And…as the water, I will simply continue to flow around the rocks that line the riverbed of my journey. Life is beautiful.