You might be saying, ‘Ok Ruth, that’s all well and good, but I had plans, good plans, and I’ve put aside time to follow them, and I’m going fine down the road and I’ve just hit a massive road block. What now?’
What happens when life says no to you? When you’ve done all the right things, followed all the steps for success, held on until the season seemed right, gone for it, and then…BAM. When the amount of flexibility you need to deal with what life throws at you is about the same as a roller-skater going under the limbo pole that’s 10 cm off the ground?
I haven’t really gone through this myself, but you might be able to take some tips from what my mother has gone through.
My mother is a concert pianist. As kids we took it for granted. Didn’t everyone go and watch their mother perform? Hadn’t everyone’s mother been recorded and played on ABC radio? No, of course not, we knew that, but it takes a while for kids to appreciate how special their own mother’s talent is, I think. I found out recently that at 15 years of age my mum won a concerto contest and played a movement of Beethoven’s first piano concerto with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. That’s pretty impressive if you ask me, and there were many more triumphs to follow.
Mum’s playing sometimes took a front seat, like when she and Dad moved to the USA for ten years to work with the Christian Performing Arts Fellowship, and sometimes it took more of a back seat, like when she was raising us kids. It was always a joint decision between Mum and Dad as to which direction they took their lives.
But some years ago now, when Mum and Dad were in the USA, they noticed an increased stiffness and weakness in Mum’s right arm and hand. It didn’t go away so they came back to Australia to start looking into medical options. Mum was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.
It was really frustrating for her. She could still play beautifully and better than most people, but she couldn’t play to the standard that she wanted to. The concerts and recordings were taken away from her and it definitely wasn’t her choice.
Sometimes seasons change for us and we don’t want them to at all. But we still have a choice as to how we deal with that situation.
Don’t get me wrong. You need to grieve when you have something like that ripped away from you. It’s not fair, and it’s definitely not fun.
But, well, I’ll show you what Mum did.
She changed her focus. She still played piano but she chose to use this moment to focus on another part of music that was very close to her heart – choral work.
At the moment Mum leads two choral groups and is part of a third. One choir leads the singing at the church where she is music minister, one choir performs in old people’s homes and regional festivals and all sorts of places, one choir does more semi-professional oratorio works. Mum is still surrounded by music and still giving so much to the people around her.
Sometimes life says no to you. The trick seems to be finding the new thing in the new season that can give you life and fulfilment. Being grateful for what you still have (no matter how small) and being able to reach out to others through that.
I have another friend Mandy who has been crippled with chronic fatigue. She is unable to work, unable to do anything most days but sit in the garden and occasionally walk to the end of her driveway. But somehow she still manages to post little tidbits and photos on Facebook that enrich the lives of those of us who read them.
Nobody wants these seasons. They are no fun. They are not what we planned and not what we’d do if we were in charge. If you are going through something like this I am so sorry.
I hope that you can find a spark to help you through it, maybe a change of plan, maybe a little joy that you can give to others, or maybe there’s another way of coping that I don’t know about – feel free to post in the comments if you have wisdom to share. I hope that I can remember some of this (or that someone will gently remind me) if I become the one stuck in the roadblock.
We have a special treat today – Mandy has given me two of her poems about this roadblock stage in her life to share with you.
So This – Lot’s Wife.
By Mandy Langlois
Like Lot’s wife I stand
For an eternity
Looking back at the destruction
Wondering at the enormity of the loss
Caught between what was what is and what might have been…
So this is what it feels like to be
Turned to a pillar of salt.
The sharp sting of it.
The cruel toxic cut
searing the soul’s tongue with acid intent.
Crammed in, rammed in
Mortified, fossilised, immortalised…
A moment becomes a day,
Becomes a year
by Mandy Langlois
Give me night vision,
let me sing in the dark.
When my eyes are closed,
let me sense light beyond my own limitations.
Let hope lead me and be my guide,
even when fear is my companion.
Let me know there is a path leading to a place of peace.
Let me find my way to believe again.
The night bird is singing alone in the dark,
her song is a melody of life,
and of beauty.
If you want to read more of Mandy’s work, her Facebook page is called Mandy’s Book Nook. As always, I encourage you to sign up on WordPress to get this blog delivered to your email inbox, or to drop me a line on firstname.lastname@example.org to get my regular writerly email. And again, the wonderful artwork for these posts is from @deteor42 on instagram.