"Thank you for a beautiful sunny day. Thank you for Candy's support. Thank you for a great interview. Thank you for the opportunity to see Child Help. Thank you for the invitations being well on their way." Shannon 4-17-1998
Remembering Shannon's excitement at finally finding a direction that made her heart sing, the expression on her face when she talked about the children that she had spent the day with, hoping that Child Help would recognize how lucky they would be to have her and call soon so that she could embrace her new direction... I love that day, that memory.
Looking forward with smiles and confidence, enthusiastically creating with Denise, the perfect wedding invitations, none of us could even imagine that in twenty three days, our lives would be unrecognizable.
Three years ago, almost to the day, I opted to retire from a thirty four year career with Verizon. The company was downsizing, the offer to leave early was good, and I believed I was finally ready to do something that felt fulfilling. I wanted a job that offered me a creative outlet, not just a job that paid the bills. Like Shannon, I didn't want just any job, I wanted a job that "made a difference".
The first year I got my Associates Degree and started classes at Mary Washington. I was finally going to write our book. I turned our dining room into a "Therapy" room so that I could finally practice Polarity Therapy. I stocked shelves with essential oils and flower essences and received certification to practice Flower Essence Therapy. I fantasized about offering 'charcoals from photographs as a continuation of my "Lingering Light" series, even entering several in the Women's Club Art Show and being awarded first place both times. The second year I graduated from the New York Institute of Photography, I was finally going to pursue photography as a profession. Web sites, business cards, several weddings, reunions, baby showers, family photo sessions, head shots and a wonderful summer of photo ops later, I realized that trying to turn a passion into a profession, discovering how difficult it is to please and how bruised my ego was getting, not to mention the accounting and paperwork, I moved into the third year floundering.
Writing with Shannon every day last year was such a blessing. Tenuously opening my heart, exposing all of my tenderest spots also had its challenges. Amidst all of the amazing kindnesses and encouragements that were expressed with regard to our journey, there were also those who "couldn't read the blog because it made them so sad". So I, once again, re thought my purpose. I wanted to write about my life with Shannon, and my subsequent life with an Angel. I wanted anyone who happened to read, to feel hopeful and uplifted, I wanted to talk about the people I love and the ways they kept me afloat, but even that had its challenges. Not everyone wants to be exposed, even in the most flattering of ways. So, for a while, I lost my authenticity. Tried to please.
Not working around a set schedule had definite advantages. I was available to help my Mom with yard work and spring cleaning and an abundance of doctor's visits. I had time to baby sit and mow grass and clean gutters. I house sat and learned to use a table saw and made curtains and comforters. I enjoyed all of it.
What I didn't do was de clutter, replace the sidewalk, move the pond, submit a manuscript, read the thousand or so books or find my purpose. I enjoyed the energy work. I enjoyed making flower essence "spritzers". I enjoyed the photography and the writing and the gardening but every time I had to consider charging for my time, anxiety replaced all enjoyment.
When I retired, I opted for a "lump sum buyout". All of my retirement rolled into a fund that I could not withdraw from until I hit fifty nine and a half, without a substantial penalty. That seemed fine the first year. But for someone who has worked for forty two years, suddenly having no income was excruciating. I started to worry about money and no amount of reassurance from Jules alleviated my concerns.
So.... I decided to self publish. I decided to submit proposals. I wrote query letters. I reread and wondered what I was thinking. I put the cameras away. I sat on the porch and raked last year's leaves and wondered if I had simply wasted the last three years.
Life is mysterious and oblivious. The fact that my one of my best friend's husband, one of my husband's best friends, my dear sweet mother in law and my brother's wife all returned to Heaven in that time frame, a dear friend began her battle with cancer and another was terribly wounded in an accident that left her broken in a million ways, feels surreal and life altering. Equally surreal in totally different ways, two of my nieces and my nephew got married, more of my best friends' children had babies with more on the way, my niece and nephew had babies...also with more on the way and my wounded friends continue to exhibit more courage and resilience than I imagined possible. The world has experienced wars, earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, droughts, blizzards and volcanoes, allowing us all to extend ourselves in selflessness and boundless compassion. In the midst of our despair, we also find ways to share indescribable beauty and seasonal wonder. We count our blessings with far more regularity than our mishaps and the joys in life buffer the pain of our sorrows.
Maybe I knew all of that, three years ago. Then again, maybe I needed time that wasn't enfused with the clatter of work nonsense to expand my perception of what really matters. I needed time to revisit my last year with Shannon and to go back to the first few years without her, to remember that time, when being held in God's hands, and embraced by precious friends and family, allowed me to be totally open, raw and aware, without the mask. I'm not sure.
Finally, several weeks ago, a dear friend suggested that I simply surrender. Trust that God really can dream bigger dreams for us than we can ever dream for ourselves (thanks Oprah) and stop trying to plan and control and second guess. Trust that I am not the center of the universe and that if I can just "let go and let God", it will be okay.
Shannon was featured in an article in Woman's World in that first year. It was written by a lovely young woman who had written a book of her own, "The Power of Flow ~ Practical ways to transform your life with meaningful coincidence." The last time I heard from her she was in or on the way to an ashram in India. She was "in the flow". I think maybe I need to revisit her book !
So, here I am. Surrendering, praying, pondering, wondering and you'll never guess the new direction ... Verizon called. Yep, tomorrow morning I report to the same location that I left almost exactly three years ago. This will be the first time I've even been on that drive in three years, and in this strange accordion way that time seems to have, it's as though I've never been away.
Of course I'm obsessing about pole climbing and ladder toting, I'm three years older and more than a few pounds heavier, but when I was splicing cable, I was competent and confident and I'm hoping that I'll get a taste of that again. I will be returning as a Temporary Working Retiree and that seems safe enough.
Life is strange. If we're willing to surrender, we have to be willing to accept, which reminds me.... Seven years ago, when I was planning Shannon's Heaven day celebration, I was in the bathtub, where I seem to do my best thinking, and a phrase popped into my thoughts... Surrender, Accept, Believe. You may notice that those are also Shannon Andrieu Broom's initials. So I had that printed on some shark gray ( the color of Shannon's bedroom ) bracelets for everyone attending her party. Tomorrow I'll be wearing one to the first day of this old new direction and she will be with me every step of the way.
"Surrender, Accept, Believe. It's about love. That's it. That's all."