Timing, I have been told, is everything.
I believe that’s mostly true, but, not, perhaps, in the way, I think, most people mean.
I spent most of my Tuesday this week with a dear friend who waited with me while I tried very hard not to think about a CT scan I was getting. I’m a cancer survivor. That seems a little ominous and, maybe, just a bit scary, too, at least to me. But, go ahead, read it again. Read it out loud.
It’s a title that, frankly, makes me uncomfortable. When people hear that, they seem to think that I did something, something special, to earn that title. They assume I was somehow braver or stronger or, well, or I don’t know what. They seem to think that being a survivor somehow has imbued me with some kind of special skill or insight into survivability, or worse, spirituality. But, mostly, it just means I didn’t die.
I did come close, though. Quite close, as it turns out.
I tried to pretend that my wracking cough was getting better, that I didn’t really need to see a doctor, until things had gotten so bad, that, by the time I got to see an oncologist, she checked me into the hospital instead of letting me go home. And, that, I think, was pretty damn good timing.
I was never actually told what “stage” I was, but I suspect that it was at least stage four, which is about like saying, “Well, he’s young, so maybe the treatment won’t kill him. If he survives that, he might, possibly, make it through.” I’m really rather glad no one told me what stage I was at, because I don’t think it would have helped me to know. In fact, I think it might have worked against me if I’d known that my life was hanging by a cancerous thread.
Instead, though, I got it in my head that God wasn’t done with me yet, that I had some purpose yet to fulfill. Based on that logic, I quite possibly will out-live my sibling’s children, because I certainly feel like I have so much to do and not nearly enough hours in the day to accomplish most of it.
One of the ways that cancer changed me is that I think about death more.
For a man my age, not quite forty-two at the time of this writing, it is, perhaps, a bit unusual to contemplate my own mortality quite so much. My judgment is that people find it off-putting to hear me contemplate hour and means of my own death. But, you see, doing that serves as a reminder that time is short. The end is always near!
The Writer’s Almanac for June 2, 2010, the day after I had my scan, the day after I was forced to again confront my own mortality, had an entry about Barbara Pym. Follow that link and read the section on Ms. Pym. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
I love reading about reversals of fortune like that. I love hearing that people have toiled in relative obscurity for years, simply doing what they love, only to have someone finally see them and recognize the quality of their work and finally steer success to their door. What I love most about this particular story is that she had a few of those very successful years and then she died, quite suddenly from the sound of things in the article. From cancer.
And, synchronicity with my own cancer scare aside, that sounds like perfect timing to me! I can only hope that I leave this world at the top of my game, with people who matter to me celebrating me and enjoying me and my work. In my mind, that’s precisely the time to punch life’s time-clock for the last time.
I’ll be honest, when I read that Writer’s Almanac thumbnail of Barbara Pym’s life, I teared up. I don’t think of myself as an overly sentimental person, though people who know me may disagree, but this got to me. Maybe it was the cancer connection and how recently I was forced to acknowledge its continuing presence in my life. I don’t know really and I suppose it doesn’t really matter, except that it frightened me a little.
It frightened me because I’m not at the top of my game, not at all.
I do try to live every day consciously, aware that we never really know when it will be our last. But, I have to be real about it, I really am not ready to shuffle off this mortal coil just yet. Not this week, not today.
So, what does that mean to me?
Well, it’s time. Time I owned up to the fact that if I want my life to be different, then I have to live it differently. I’ve been telling people that this week. Because it’s true, and because I want it to be true. I need it to be true.
I know, change only comes one, small step at a time, but I really, really need it to start happening.
There are rewards for change, of course, if we manage it correctly. Promises that God makes to us, not about what we’ll get, but how we’ll feel. I got those this week, too. In this case, it was in the form of wildlife in my very own backyard. Things that are difficult for me to capture in photographs, but that sat still for me while I got my gear and got set up and took the shot. An anole. A tree frog. A crane. Three different days. Three different creatures. Three messages from God telling me that the change is happening, even if I can’t always see it.
My timing was perfect, to capture those images, to survive cancer, to remember how precious all life is, even mine.
There are no coincidences and God’s timing is always perfect, even if I don’t always see it, at first.