My best friend/sister brought her little baby girl over yesterday and we spent the afternoon talking, laughing and enjoying her little one. Tracing the shape of her cheek, feeling her tiny fingers between yours is almost surreal. Earlier last month we were scared that we might lose her- now here she is happily burbling in my arms. She really drives home the gift of life.
In the last year, I’ve been becoming more aware of the transitions that we flow through in our lives. A dear friend of mine recently had a massive stroke and has spent her year regaining the ability to speak, walk, and remember. She lost parts of her memory. Some of her personality traits have shifted, as new neurons attempt to take up the function of damaged cells of her left brain. Spending time with her you can feel her reaching out, and deciding how to shape anew just who and how she will be. Sitting with her I marvel- She is my old friend, but also someone new; someone who this time around has chosen to let got of some of her baggage and travel a different road.
Another close friend retired and shifted his family into a new state to take care of a brother with lung cancer. As his brother goes through a journey he may not survive, he and his family have redefined their idea of what it means to be family- and of themselves. They could have just as easily stayed at home and sent him their best wishes, but their decision shapes the flow of their lives.
These points of decision can be times when we finally become truly conscious of our ability to choose our identities. It is how we deal with these rites of passage that define us in our own (and other’s) eyes. They help us to define how we see ourselves, who we believe we really are. True, in our small daily moments we get to decide our reactions, but it is these major points of transition that push our assumed identies in front of our face- and also allow us to change and reshape our identity if we see the need.
Life is a blessing, but then, even the sad points and the things we view as tragedies are also points of transitions, critical points at which we can begin anew and shape a new point of view, a new future. We are more likely to make needed changes in our lives when confronted with these rites of passage than at any other point. We are more likely to choose step forward, to turn consciously towards or away from something when we are confronted with a sharp point of decision. Both joy and sorrow are gifts- times in which we can become conscious of our own lives and choose to set our own course instead of reacting on autopilot.