My niece recently posted this to my Facebook page: “She was an adventurer at heart; but oh how she loved drinking this tea from this mug in this chair. Oh how she loved home.”
My niece knows me well.
Walking into my sweet little guest house rental, after being out of town for a week, I experienced the pleasant sensation of being home. Even though it’s not my place, and it’s not furnished with my furniture, this is where I belong. For this season.
What a lovely word. Home.
And yet, there is the call to venture out and get back into speaking. I’ve been hesitant (read: fearful) because it would be different — harder, not as much fun — without Hubby.
And then three unsought-for speaking invitations. And Yes to all three.
Venturing out and settling in. These terms may seem contradictory, but from our experience with cancer, here are 7 reasons for enjoying the best of both worlds:
- Finding meaning and purpose. Hubby and I set about establishing a non-profit and sharing our story. I contacted other survivors and caregivers from across the country and asked if I could write their inspiring stories; we published a book. I started blogging — mainly to let family and friends know how Gary was doing, but also to poke fun of him. These were some of the things we did with the intent of supporting others in their cancer journeys. Hubby used to say that being able to offer encouragement gave him a big boost.
- Taking charge over fear. As most of you know, Hubby was the type who would pay to not have to speak in front of crowds. Me? My stomach ties up in knots before a speaking engagement. Once we warmed up to the crowd, though, we thoroughly enjoyed the encouraging aspect of what we were doing. The most challenging piece was the facing-down-of-our-fears. Which we did. Because we were compelled to find purpose and meaning.
- Battling mediocrity. Cancer says, You knew you weren’t going to live forever — but I’m here to say, “No, really. You’re not going to live forever.”Gary and I had discussions around what we wanted to do based on the physician’s two-year projection. We didn’t know those two years would extend to three, to five, to ten. We looked for service-full things that would fit our skill sets and interests. We served through speaking and writing, through volunteer work, through offering one-on-one peer support. Because people matter more than things. And because we didn’t want the remaining days together to be mediocre.
- Creating adventure. The by-product of establishing the non-profit and sharing hope was the opportunity for adventure. We’d book speaking engagements say, in Connecticut, Vermont and Massachusetts so we could explore along the New England back roads. We looked for speaking opportunities in Jackson, Wyoming, so we could hike the Tetons. We spoke in Arizona so we could visit the Grand Canyon. You’ll never be sorry for the adventures you take with the people you love. The memories, the smiles and gladness of heart when I look back over photos — no one can take these from me.
- Expanding friendships. In nearly every place, we met gracious people and have kept in touch. In a Vermont location, we stayed in a lovely studio apartment over a garage, lined with bookshelves, falling asleep to the flicker of wood stove flame. An early-morning hike with our host through the surrounding wooded properties and hopping split rail fences looped us back by the chicken coop and — while we chatted at the kitchen island — our host whipped up a breakfast of fresh eggs. On account of Hubby’s cancer and stepping out of comfortable spaces, my world is richer with all these people.
- Paying attention. Whether on the road or coming home, cancer taught us to take note of what was going on around us in that moment. Mountain blooms above the tree line framed by a blur of cascading waters. A buffalo leading a slow parade of RVs down a Yellowstone highway. The sweetness of returning home, of throwing in a load of laundry, choosing a book from the piles of books, sipping honey-laced tea. Simple things. To which we learned to pay attention.
- Practicing appreciation. Part of paying attention is speaking or writing gratitude for those simple pleasures and experiences and people. I’ve mentioned before starting a list of one thousand things I’m grateful for:
#114 – This perch above a green river; Alps across the way; prosciutto on seeded bun, apple, Swiss chocolate and writing pad
#238 – Four generations around this Thanksgiving table
#378 – Courage to continue book submissions — setting myself up for rejection
#439 – Hiking a new stretch of the river trail
#453 – Fresh spring flowers in painted glass pitcher
On my way to counting to 1000.
The best of both worlds includes venturing out and creating a space called home, a place to settle in and kick off your shoes and put your feet up on the furniture and nurse a steaming mug of tea.
I wish you many adventures — taking risks and trying new things and cultivating new friendships. I wish you an inviting place called home. I wish you the best of both worlds.
What about you? What adventure would you like to add to your life? What’s the first step to getting there? What can you do to make your home a more inviting place for you and the ones you love?
Marlys was the care giver of her husband Gary who lived ten years after being diagnosed with late stage prostate cancer. After his diagnosis, together they founded a non-profit called Cancer Adventures, sharing their story with groups across the country. After Gary’s death in 2014, Marlys has continued to share the underlying theme of her and her husband’s story: How challenges are a part of life but you have choices. She has a passion for helping people navigate life’s challenges, having negotiated a few herself.