Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Once the Storm Is Over...

Today is Monday, March 24, 2014.

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in.  That’s what this storm’s all about."  ~Haruki Murakami

There have been several storms in my life, but Murakami's words are true of each and every one of my storms.  When I was 29 years old, I divorced my Japanese husband while I was living in Japan and moved to a different city to live all by myself.  When I was 39, I was in a horrible teaching situation from which I had to get away very suddenly during the schohol year.  When I was 41, I had a benign tumor that ended any chance I might have to bear a child of my own.  When I was 55, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. 

In each case, I managed to get through the storm, although – when I think about it – I have no idea how I did it.  All I can remember was that I got through each situation from day to day without any kind of Big Plan.  It was a daily grind, and a lot of times, I just tried not to think too hard about the whole thing. 

It's true that I wasn't always aware of when the storm was officially "over," just as Murakami says.  The divorce itself was one thing, but learning to live by myself was an ongoing experience that continues to this day. I no longer feel that I am living in a storm, however.  

Leaving the teaching job was hard, too, and it took a few months to get back on my feet, but I managed to get hired by a school district in the middle of the school year and keep that job until I retired.  Once I began to get settled in that job, I no longer felt that I was in a storm, but I can't remember any particular day when I was aware of this.

The tumor generated a storm for a long time, after the surgery, as I came to terms with the reality of not being able to have a child, even though I was not married and couldn't have afforded to raise a child on my own, even if I had been able to conceive.  At some point, I accepted the situation, but I can't pinpoint a day on the calendar when I noticed the sun had come out.  

It's been over five years since the cancer diagnosis, and although I no longer feel like a "cancer patient," I still carry some of the burden of the treatment: disfigurement, osteoporosis, hearing loss, vascular problems and blood clotting issues, not to mention a touch of "chemo brain" that dogs me every so often.  Still, I have realized that I've left the storm behind, and it's just the effects of the storm I am still feeling  I'm fine, and I need to move on from that stormy scenario. 

I definitely feel that I became a different person each time I weathered a major storm.  From my divorce, I learned what it meant to stand on my own two feet and face my own  problems.  I also learned to ask for help when I needed it.  From the job situation, I learned that there are some situations that are just not worth staying in, karmically speaking.  No matter how good a teacher I was, I couldn't possibly have made the situation better because the school district itself was rotten.  (That's not just my opinion.  This particular district was handed over to a judge to rule - that's how bad it was! Unfortunately, the judge made a mess of things, too.)  I did the right thing by walking away.  (The same goes for my failed marriage.) 

From the tumor situation, I learned that it was not in my life plan to have children, and I learned that I had agreed to this restriction when I entered this life, for karmic reasons.  From the cancer journey, I learned many things.  I learned that I had to take better care of my body or I would lose the right to finish out my allotted lifespan and complete my purpose in this lifetime.  I learned the value of true friends.  I learned that people are not very good at facing death, and that it is not something you can reasonably expect of people.  I learned to accept what people can give and not expect what they are unable or unwilling to give.  In that sense, I learned to forgive myself and others. 

One always hopes that there won't be any more storms, but I guess that's not something I can control.  Like tempered steel, made stronger by the fire, I am now a much stronger individual because of my storms.  I know I can get through whatever comes next.  :-)

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