If You Had A Year To Live…

February 15, 2008 at 8:58 pm 5 comments

What would you do? This question comes not from me, but from an amazing woman I’ve “met” through the blogging world. Her name is Jen Ballantyne, and she is a 39-year-old Australian “mum” of two who is in the hellish depths of a losing battle with colon cancer, which she documents on her blog, The Comfy Place.

The depths meaning it is awesome that she carries her ravaged, exhausted body through each day. But, she does. Awesome that she stays emotionally connected to her friends, and pours love onto her beautiful little boys even as she is in constant pain. But, she does. Awesome that she can express on the page what it is like to deal with death so young, to experience her body turning on her, to leave behind her beloved children. But, she does. Awesome. Heartbreaking and awesome.

Reading Jen’s blog makes me ache, humbles me, and teaches me. It reminds me that as I strive to live in a “having enough” way, I still have much to learn and a long way to go.

So, Jen, as requested, my answer to your question — If you had a year to live, what would you do? — is this:

I would not change what I have, who I share my life with, what I do for work, or where I go. I have had enough accomplishments, travels, and possessions to last many lifetimes. I would not change that I spend all of my days and nights with my precious child.

What I would change, though, is how I deal with the everyday challenges and questions.

  • I would learn to let go — of what this person did or said, or how that person chooses to see the world. I would learn to just embrace them, forgive them, or release them, and let them be.
  • I would learn to meditate — find that quiet space and connection with things beyond that I think so much about, but don’t actually experience with my whole being.
  • I would stop getting testy with my loved ones, or anyone, when I am stressed or anxious. I would learn to stop, breathe, and always be kind.
  • I would not sweat the small stuff, but always remember the big picture.

Of course, these are the lessons I am constantly striving to learn. And, in a more tangible sense, there are things I would do for my daughter in terms of writings, videos and art that I would make for her to have always. But, really, what I would change is not so tangible, just a deeper way of seeing each and every moment and dealing with each situation.

Motivated by Jen, I’ve been working even harder on these lessons now. I’ve let go of several things this week that I struggled with. My DD and I just came home from the library with a meditation/mindfulness CD set for me (and a bag full of books for her!). Small steps, but steps.

If this amazing mom can keep calm and collected (and fall apart, too, as she deserves to!), but most importantly, keep full of love when it seems she has been given the unfairest of lots, then I certainly must be able to do the same without such struggles.

Thank you, Jen, for your question, your candor, and your inspiration. You are the epitome of “having enough” in your outlook, although in this case I will say that you could rightly argue that you have not been given enough time with your dear children. Still, they will know you through the loving words and memories you have created and are creating for them.

If only all of us could live these lessons in Jen’s honor. What a beautiful world it would be.

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Entry filed under: Health, Inspiring People, Life.

To Our Health What the World Eats

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jennifer Ballantyne  |  February 16, 2008 at 8:29 am

    Thank you my dear, just a beautiful post, I am touched by your words and I am so thrilled that you are taking baby steps. I don’t feel as though my death is such a waste if people take something from it and change their lives for the better. Thanks again for writing it, take good care Jen B. xx

    Reply
  • 2. Cate  |  February 18, 2008 at 11:24 am

    Great blog, Megan! I found you via JenB’s great site – amazing woman that she is!
    I live in Marin County, and boy, this is the stuff that keeps me up at night. I have twin girls that are almost 2 and I regularly vacillate between going back to work to afford our lifestyle here or moving to somewhere less costly but without the amazing perspectives and access to culture and diversity that SF has to offer. Still don’t know the answer but I’m thinking I’ll have some new clarity after spending some time here – so thank you!
    Cheers,
    Cate

    Reply
  • 3. Julianne  |  February 18, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    Great post. It reminded me of all of the things that I am grateful. Thanks.

    Reply
  • 4. Shawn  |  February 21, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    Go figure, Megan! My list is the same as yours, exactly. I struggle with these very things every day.

    Do you ever want to go on a talking-strike with people? I do. All the time.

    I hope your CD set was good, and if you recommend it, email me the title.

    You know, though, Peace is Every Step was one of the best books for me to read to become less anxious and more awake. Have you read it? I want to read another one or two of his, too.

    Reply
  • 5. Megan  |  February 21, 2008 at 10:56 pm

    Too funny, Shawn, but that is one of my all-time favorite standby books, on a special shelf next to my bed, so I can grab it any time I need a “peace fix” to wind down the day. The best!

    Yes on the strike, and I’ll let you know on the CD! (Haven’t quite found those quiet moments yet — but I will!)

    Hope you are well!

    Reply

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You are visiting "Having Enough (In a Have-It-All World)"...

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To spark conversation about redefining success (as individuals, families and institutions) and to counter "never enough" messages currently circulating in our culture.

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Megan Pincus Kajitani: Writer, Editor, Former Academic Overachiever and Career Counselor, Mom, Wife, Feminist, Gen Xer, Californian who believes that change is possible View Megan Pincus Kajitani's profile on LinkedIn

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