I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Highs and lows of life

Beautiful Florida bougainvillea
It's Sunday morning again, and I'm back home in my normal place, before dawn with my partner sleeping beside me as I begin my Sunday task. It's good to be back home, but I miss my sister and feel a bit sad that I probably won't see her again in person for awhile.
The word happiness would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.   ~Carl Jung
I ran across this quote from Jung sometime this week, and I pondered its meaning in terms not only of happiness and sadness, but of health and sickness, gain and loss: all the highs and lows of life that we all experience. You cannot be fully alive without having a first-hand understanding of the fragility of our existence in its present state. In the twinkling of an eye, things change.

The last two days of my visit in Florida were marred by suddenly being unable to hear anything out of my left ear. It seems to be a small thing, but my head felt like it was wrapped in cotton, and it was the focus of my days, trying to find some way to remedy the situation. Nothing worked. I'm going to the doctor's office tomorrow morning to have my ears flushed of wax and I will most likely return to my normal state. I've gotten used to it now, and I'm able to think of other things, but at first it was all-encompassing.

As I read about the lives my fellow bloggers are living, and as I sympathize with their trials and tribulations, my own seem small in comparison. Having your knees give out on you, without much hope of relief; dealing with surgeries you and your loved ones must endure; meager financial means and no way to change a bad situation — the list could go on and on.

But there are also the highs: the birth of a beloved grandchild, children growing up and successfully heading out into the world, sharing the beauty of a sunrise, or finding relief from pain and suffering. It's all part of being fully alive. We rejoice together when times are good, and we grieve together when things get rough.

My own friends and family have expanded to encompass the universality of the world of the virtual acquaintance. There are dozens of people scattered throughout the world whose lives mean as much to me as my birth family, and I share their highs and lows. In the old days, before blogging, my world of people whose lives matter to me was constrained by distance or by the lack of a shared activity. That has all changed, and I am grateful for the ability to reach Down Under in an instant and send a message of love to a dear friend, someone whose real name I don't even know. But I share the vicissitudes of life with her in a very real way. We care about each other.

And things change in an instant. As I was writing the opening paragraph of this post, thinking about having left my sister's world in Florida, I realized how quickly we might end up being together again, if something were to happen to one of our family members and we needed to gather for a life event (or death). As I grow older, these things are inevitably going to occur more frequently. We weren't made to last, were we? At my time of life, a decade passes more quickly than I thought possible when I was younger.

Inevitably, major life events mark the passage of time. The death of my son Chris is one of those markers. The birth of my grandniece Lexie is another. My world is divided into the time before and after I began skydiving. Major illnesses and accidents are events that change our lives. When I met my husband, when we got married, and when we moved to the Pacific Northwest: these are all events that cleave my days and years into Before and After.

In the meantime, as my life resumes its regular trajectory for the moment, I think if I can just remember that everybody has highs and lows, that stopping to smell the roses, sending and receiving messages of encouragement and commiseration as we move through life, these are some the best things any of us can do for one another.


Anonymous said...

We don't even have to blog or join a club to feel this way. Simply by reading the online news from various sources, we can commisserate with those who have been suffering from storms, tsunamis, civil wars, and crime. The list goes on. I shudder when I read about gang rapes in New Delhi, where David and I stayed during our trip to India. On the other hand, I rejoice at the number of Indian weddings being celebrated in Hawaii. Life is indeed a coin with two sides.

June said...

It is the mountain that makes the valley low. Another quote (mangled by memory) from an unremembered ancient Asian.
It's all true.
I second all the ideas in this post.

Linda Reeder said...

Contrasts create beauty, in art and in life. (I just made that up, no famous quote) :)
You are like family to me too, DJan, like a sister or a cousin living just out of my reach. Thank you for sharing in my life and in sharing your life with me.

Linda Myers said...

This post is a good reminder for me. In pursuit of the highs of life, I forget the lows are normal - and enriching, if I allow them to be.

CiCi said...

Things can indeed change in the twinkling of an eye. We have to be flexible in life, able to make adjustments and maintain a positive outlook. I used to dislike that phrase, positive outlook. In my younger years that seemed like being phony to me, not being your true self. Now I see that for me a positive outlook just means keeping an open mind and not getting stuck in a depressed rut.

Staying in touch with people, whether we know them in person or not, is healing and encouraging for all of us. You have been a dear friend to me in my low times of life and I know you are encouraging others constantly.

Beth said...

We all have highs and lows. I think of my fellow bloggers as family and I hurt when they hurt and I love to share their happiness.

Rian said...

DJan, I too wrote about the highs and lows of life a few years back and how I handled them. It isn't always easy, but 'handle them you must' (sounds like something Yoda would say...)You seem to be doing it well.

Arkansas Patti said...

I so agree that with out contrast, we would never appreciate the pleasures in life. We would just expect them and not be delighted when they appeared.
So sorry about your ear. Did it bother you on the flight? It might just be a minor infection that migrated from you sinuses but glad you are getting it checked.It must be annoying.
How true about blog buddies. My friend/family has also grown so much thanks to blogging. We gain so many new friends that we care about, worry about and rejoice with. Like you said, we often don't even know their real names. I feel so much richer.

Jackie said...

Love the fragrances of the roses that you reminded me to smell, my friend.
I hope that your ear is better soon; sending you warm regards and hoping that your week is a beautiful one.

CrazyCris said...

That quote is very true! Happiness, health, holidays, nice weather etc... we appreciate it all much more once we've felt their absence (or even the threat of it).

Thankfully you'll be able to see Norma Jean on Skype so it won't be as bad as it would have been pre-fabulous internet connections!

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

A very pensive post this morning, DJan, and it rings true for me as well. I'm "sick and tired of being sick and tired," but I just need to be patient while I get my energy back. So it feels like a low, and yet I see others with far more serious issues. So I, too, am reminding myself to appreciate the beauty around me. (We just got a rather lovely, sticky snow...going now to take a good look.) I'm sure your partner and your friends are glad to have you back among them.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Ah..I like you too! I enjoy hearing about your life in the PNW..I truly enjoy many bloggers..they feel just like friends. Perhaps I know more about them than some of my friends..we all get so busy..but it is easy to catch up with blog friends..day or night..and I wouldn't have friends very long if I called them up in the middle of the night. :)

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, You are a very good writer. I especially enjoyed this post because you hit on some points that we should all focus on more closely. Balance really is key, isn't it? And a challenge too. As I get older I find myself questioning assumptions I've had since childhood. Often I'm discovering this makes happiness easier to find. Thank you for stopping by John's Island and your kind comment. Best regards, John

Sally Wessely said...

You said this all so well. The highs and lows of life are marked on our souls. The before and after of events that changed us are so apparent to ourselves. We wonder if other see us as we once were before ____(Fill in the blank) happened to us.

You speak so beautifully of the connections we all have made. Connections made deeper because of the highs and lows of life that we have shared. You are my dear friend. Thank you for continuing to share your voice of wisdom.

Red said...

I like the quote you found and how you based your post on it. I think we also have to work on the highs, lows and inbetweens. We have to think about the good and the bad and put it into the proper perspective. It's sad to see someone who tries to blot out some of the more unpleasant things in life.

troutbirder said...

Well said. The ups and downs have been smoothed for us by the knowledge that life can hold nothing worse than has already happened. We lost our eldest son some fifteen years ago now to the effect (depression) of bi-polar disease.....

My Maine Blog said...

I love your writing and I have just signed up to be a follower. What you have written here today is so good for me to read, so eloquent, so real and oh how it hits home. I guess that is the only thing we can count on in this life is change. Whether it's good changes or bad changes or sad changes they will all eventually touch us in some way or another. Yes we will get through the changes and it's a never ending circle of life. It really helps to relate to others...that's when you know you're not alone and there are people who are going through the same thing you are. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Have a wonderful day.

Glenda Beall said...

I was without Internet on my recent trip to Florida, and I missed reading your blog, DJan. Your writing is outstanding and a joy to read. Like you, I have learned to balance the bad with the good and not dwell on the negative any more than I have to. On my trip I visited with my 98 year old cousin, sharp and interesting, and I thought about all the sadness she has endured in her life, but she greets each day as a new gift.
And I could remember this trip as the time I lost my windshield wipers on the interstate in pouring rain, struggled to keep from being hit by traffic as I made my way to an exit.
But the good parts of my vacation balance the stressful and frightening experience on the highway. I always said I would not grow old as one who complained and whined about life.I hope I can stick to that.

Pamela Kieffer said...

Thank you again for your uplifting words

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

It seems you are sad.And you are also glad to have your loved one close by. Yes we all have all the highs and lows you describe but the freedom of choice on dealing with each moment is what makes everything so interesting.
I have a fondness for the way you choose to be so active and with so many.
I live in a sharp contrast to that but still love that I can reach out in the blogging world to feel a moment of kinship. Thank you for that.

Dee said...

Dear DJan, I so agree with what you have written here. Three of my Minnesota friends are having physical problems. Two are now in nursing homes and one has been given only a short time to live because cancer is riddling his body. And in the midst of all this, I, like all of humankind, search for meaning to the great questions that philosophers and theologians and thoughtful as well as despairing people have explored through the ages. And I think that your posting captures these questions and the response to them that brings wholeness out of fragility. Thank you. Peace.

The Furry Gnome said...

Dear DJan, I've been reading your 2nd blog from the beginning and getting to know you better! I'm amazed at your sky-diving history, and your success in overcoming tragedy. I can relate to so many things you say, but these days I'm thinking of the aches and pins and the struggle to stay active and healthy, while supporting a spouse who has similar challenges. I've also been pleasantly surprised by the 'friends' you develop intheblogging world so fast. Thanks for sharing so personally; you've helped me think about how my blog (s?) might evolve. Merry Christmas.