I knew this was coming, though I never could've guessed that it would be in the form of cancer.
It was five years ago when I became an empty-nester and I turned 50. It was a year to celebrate having raised my three kids alone for the previous fifteen years, and time to celebrate venturing off into a new career.
I felt ecstatic, hopeful, and empowered to begin life anew, this time on my terms since I no longer had anyone to be responsible to. I'd raised my family and they were all off to promising futures of their own.
It was my turn.
After two decades single-handedly raising a family in a conventional way, I was branching out into my more unconventional nature.
I'd already quit my high-paying job because I couldn't see spending the rest of my nursing career behind a cubicle, and I wasn't willing to comply with a large company whose managerial practices were less than stellar. It was time to jump ship and I was ready.
That's when I sensed it.
It wasn't the first time I'd been informed by my intuition that something was up.
I have even heard a Voice that has spoken to me directly. In fact, when my life caved two decades ago, the Voice was loud, clear, and consistent. I knew I was being spoken to and guided by God as I navigated my way through unending grief, while trying to make sense of how the life I'd known had just exploded.
I often had to look over my shoulder to see if anyone was there. The Voice was so close, so present, and so...real.
So when I sensed during the summer of my 50th birthday that death was circling nearby, I took it as a warning. I didn't know how, and I didn't know when, but I was under the impression that I would be dying before my 51st birthday.
Oddly, it held no fear, just understanding. Like I'd been notified that the pizza would be delivered in an hour.
But, still, I didn't change anything.
I had already decided to take more chances in my life, so after taking the summer off, I enrolled in a program for life coaching. When I graduated the next spring, I had lofty plans to make my nursing salary that first year, so when that didn't pan out as quickly as I'd anticipated, I panicked.
My savings had sprung a serious leak after leaving my job, so I had to swallow my pride and find work again. I did, but because my heart was no longer in nursing, I eventually left that job, too. For another half year I hobbled along between coaching clients and savings, but still managed to pay my bills and keep up with my house.
I was growing more impatient and frustrated with how my plans from a few years earlier were not working out. Empty-nesting was panning out to be more challenging than I'd expected it to be.
My 51st, 52nd, and 53rd birthdays came and went, and each time I was surprised that I was still alive.
But by the time my 54th birthday rolled around last summer, I realized that perhaps I was wrong. Either I misunderstood my intuition, or the Big Guy Upstairs had changed his mind. I thought I'd been let off the hook.
So I finally dropped the idea of death happening.
Then just eight weeks before my 55th birthday this past July, cancer arrived, bringing with it a momentary shock that the Grim Reaper had finally arrived.
It was finally my time, and I'd been warned.
The irony is that when the diagnosis finally settled in to my consciousness, I knew for certain that my death was not at all imminent.
For five years I'd been expecting the final countdown, but when it finally arrived in the form of cancer, I realized that it wasn't my death that was predicted.
It was my dying that had been.
I was already, in some respects, dying a slow death. Or rather, my life was slowly dying.
The fun and adventurous woman who had taken her kids on countless road trips to places far and near for the past two decades was no longer traveling as much as she'd wanted; the woman who had taken every opportunity to explore felt too timid to venture far without an ally, and her friends were usually too busy to accompany her; and the woman who encouraged her kids to try new experiences felt too fearful of trying anything new by herself.
She was withering--the exact opposite of what she'd expected when each of the kids flew the coop.
Did she know how to be a fully-engaged woman in the world after tending solely and fully to the needs of her family for so long? Had she been hiding behind her children all these years so she could no longer be in the world alone?
I had looked forward to this moment for decades, and suddenly I was too leery about branching out very far beyond my comfort zone.
Don't get me wrong--my life continued to be fulfilling and adventurous upon each of my kids' departures. But once I began taking risks with my career, and those didn't work out as I'd hoped, my usual optimism turned to cynicism, and my excitement turned to fear.
The new life that I was trying to create on my own had been feeling too hard and exhausting, and little seemed to be working out. I was putting forth so much effort with little in return.
So I turned to binge-watching TV, snacking on too much junk food, and feeling complacent. All of my efforts seemed fruitless so I adopted the attitude of "why bother?"
Like I'd mentioned in a previous blog, I was feeling like my old, dysfunctional self from decades ago again, and that was unsettling. I'd already molded her into someone different years ago, but she was leaking out again, messing with my Mojo. I didn't really know how to tame her anymore, because believe me, I'd tried.
In a very strange way, it seemed easier to passively allow death to find me than to continue fighting against my life.
Until death had momentarily arrived.
Then I wasn't at all ready, because I have no desire to leave this planet, not yet.
Perhaps I'd been informed way back when that cancer was on its way, and if I didn't pay attention, it could very well be my demise.
But instead, I'd been slapped upside the head, maybe just in the nick of time.
Somehow, this life coach needed another wake-up call. And I've been listening with rapt attention ever since.