Wednesday, January 30, 2013


All the things we carry with us from past experience has been called "baggage." I got reflecting on this the other day. It's not baggage in the negative sense to me, not necessarily. It's our experiences that have shaped us and, in full, create the lens through which we see the world. And if it is "baggage," then it's our carryon baggage that we take with us wherever we go. It's our past. There's no checking it. There's no escaping it.

Sometimes our experiences can't prepare us for what's next though. Sometimes the road to life doesn't keep winding or take a detour but, rather, plants us firmly at a T in the road. Each choice distinctively leading us--and our life and potentially the lives of our loved ones--down very different paths with entirely different futures. Yes, we can wax on about Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken" but that's easier said than done; that's a romanticized notion that I've always loved but it's a scary one. And when all options are the road not yet taken, we're fraught with anxiety.

Within this past week I've talked to one friend who just recently started an IVF cycle, desperate to have a child, to start a family, but never contemplating this is how it would happen or something she would consider and the glimmer of hope is marred by a history of miscarriage. I have another friend whose father is dying and who just this week added DNR (do not resuscitate) to his medical record, something that's forced to be right there prominently out in the open for all medical staff to see. Daily injections, daily postings, both daily reminders of which path they've taken and all the risks associated with it.

I don't think we know what we're capable of or what we're willing to do until we're there. Right there in that moment. And I believe that too. It's not only a point that I think is so applicable in fiction--keep the reader guessing of the MC's next move, but it's one that's applicable for life. My grandma loves to say that God only gives us what we're strong enough to take on. But there's certainly been times in my life that I thought, God must think I'm a lot stronger than I do--or than I am--because this is too much. 

When I've come out at the other end of things, discovered that next T in the road to reflect upon the last, I do surprise myself--as do my friends and family. Somehow we were strong enough after all, not only to ever move from that T and take a risk in one direction or the next but sometimes along the road we have moments of reprieve--the Gatorade stops to our marathons, giving us just enough to get those next few miles. 

As I'm sure you know, I enjoy YA fiction. My favorite all-time book as a teen was The Power of One by Bryce Courtnay. Something about the unlikely friendship of a young white boy and his black boxing teacher intrigued me. It all did, from their meeting in a prison in apartheid South Africa to the empowerment they both found through boxing and through each other. The backdrop of their lives is one of chaos and yet they find each other and somehow that's just enough of what they needed to make it through. I've wondered recently if I read the book again whether I would love it just as much. I've been worried to re-read it because I want it to mean everything it did to me as it did at age 16. Perhaps it would still be fabulous but simply mean something else because I have nearly twice the years of "baggage" now with which to reflect. 

One thing I'll never deny about this book is it's underscoring the need for support networks. They're our roadmaps that help us navigate the way regardless of which road we take. They're our lifelines, though only we can make the decisions of which way our lives will go.

So tell me, what keeps you going when things get tough?

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