« December 20, 2002 | Main | February 28, 2003 »

My Life - My Message

27 · Feb · 2003

Samuel Butler
All animals except man know that the ultimate point of life is to enjoy it.
Dear Friends,

It's been a long time since many of you have heard from me. Now that I've come up for oxygen in my never dull life, I wanted to give you an update.

Once I left Corporate America back in the beginning of 2002, I moved to Birmingham, Alabama and took on the challenge of raising funds for AIDS Alabama. This non-profit organization had been without a fundraiser for over a year and after four months of sleepless nights, my survival instinct drove me to the decision that I was not up to the challenge of restoring this million-dollar charity at that time in my life. In June I moved back to Nashville, head hung low, and allowed myself, for the first time, to think of myself as an artist, not so unlike all my musician friends who struggle hand to mouth while trying to satisfy a need to create.

Though I never did bring milk memo to the weekly, inspirational force I feel it should be, and I did not emerge as the great entertainment writer of Nashville, I did write far more in those seven months. I also made a conscious effort to be more compassionate of others and myself, to be true to the core of my heart, regardless of how my insecurities threatened to strangle me. Being true and compassionate takes time, I found out. So I took a job as a receptionist at a well known, laid back massage therapy spa and tried not to think about my bank account.

Even into the first weeks of 2003, I continued to irritate my rash of confusion. I think my memos at that time are an example of my experiment. I suppose I was wondering, “Who is this persona I’ve created? Which parts of me are worth holding onto and which parts are only bad habits that need to be smoked out?” A new approach I tried was asking for and honestly listening to the opinions other people have of me. (Let me stop here and tell you this isn’t something I recommend you do as often or as sensitively as I did in January. When you ask for honesty, make sure you‚re ready to handle it objectively.)

The reason I took survey of what people think of me is not because it is important for me to be liked by everyone. I did it because I want to be perceived correctly. See, if who you are and who everyone thinks you are don’t line up, it‚s not because no one cares about you. It‚s because you’ve been projecting a false image of yourself, maybe because you‚re not happy with your true self. At least, that’s how I see it.

By mid January I was more confused than ever. Had it all been a waste? After some pretty hard knocks to my already fragile ego, I needed a break. I needed fresh air and somebody who knew all my crap and liked my company.
My friend Candy, from Oklahoma rescued me by way of a road trip to South Carolina where her hubby was graduating from army basic training. Candy’s known me for almost 20 years and the best thing she does for me is participating in my grueling over analyzation of myself. We never tired of talking and after a few days it became clear to me that I had far too many options. What I needed was to determine what was most important to me. Then, laying in a hotel bed struggling for sleep, I discovered something that enabled me to do just that. In my right breast there was a distinct unnatural lump.

No one wants to hear the word “cancer”. Though I know some breast cancer survivors, cancer is largely synonymous with death, until there is a cure. Night after night leading up to my doctor visit, I reviewed the choices I’ve made and was forced to consider the strength of my friends and family in handling such a blow. I pictured who I would want by me during chemotherapy and who would love a woman with a large scar on her small breast. I thought about the possibility of death and where I wanted to spend last days. It’s gruesome, but it was something I needed to do. My biggest question I had for myself was “If this is it, are you happy with the results; are you done?”

There were a few answers that came to mind in that moment. First, what I’ve done with my life thus far isn’t the kind of legacy I want to leave with my family. I don't want to be the daughter / sister/ aunt who had talent for writing but didn’t try hard enough and left them with not even enough money to pay for a funeral. Second, I hadn’t yet made it to California like I’d been hoping since I was eight. Officially I have been land locked my whole life. And finally, I knew that no matter how many concerts, clubs or hysterical parties I went to; no matter how many countries I’d seen or exotic, interesting people I met; none of it would ever compare to the overwhelming thought of being part of a family of my own.

Then, somewhere in the middle of thinking I may not get to change any of those things before my life ended, it hit me. I said to God “I get it. It’s not a joke. This life gig; coming here and all the learning and the balancing the bad with the good, it’s not some job I was sent to do. It was a gift. A personal gift from You to me: life.

One week later, I was told I don't have cancer. In fact, I don't even need surgery.

It would be easy to toss all my worrying aside and scold myself for overreacting. Mark Twain said "There has been much tragedy in my life; at least half of it actually happened."
But I wasn't allowed off the rollercoaster yet.

The following day after “getting my life back” I was dressing and decided to wear a ring I inherited from my grandmother. I couldn’t find it in it’s usual place so I looked in my other jewelry box. Not there either. Then, I began opening al my individual jewelry cases and saw that everything was gone. Everything. Every piece of jewelry that I had been given to me from my mother as well as my own high school class ring, an old promise ring from an ex, a wedding band, watches, earrings, necklaces - anything that held significant sentiment and value had vanished.

I called the police, filed the report, investigated the situation, and the only results that matter is my realization that I would never get those precious things back and I also could no longer live in my apartment. I pictured God saying to me, "Here is your life back, but your dowry is gone".

It's the small moments that change a life forever. I now had fewer options and I knew what I would do.

This Sunday I leave Nashville. I‚m selling most of my belongings and putting the rest in storage. After a temporary stay in Georgia, I'll head back to Oklahoma for a while where I’ll stay with Candy, spend some quality time with my parents and brother, and raise money for a trip back to Romania. There, I plan to write that grant for Veritas that I keep talking about - the one that might enable them to pay for a full time fundraiser. When I return to the US, I will settle in California.

I want all of you to know that I love Nashville and my friends here. I will always keep the door open to return here because this has become my second home. It's not easy to walk away. But we are all aware that life is what you make it and I'm taking this opportunity to make mine different than it is now.

My life is my message. - Mahatma Gandhi

Penny Rene

Posted by Penny Rene at 02:32 PM | TrackBack