Making Room to Grow

We decided to sell our home of 26 years. That means sifting through years of memories and boxes of stuff. It means discarding the old to make room for the new. I see a lot of similarities in this move and my preparing for life with an incurable cancer.

Apparently I’m not content to let life settle into a routine. Even though I’ve entered a very happy holding pattern with my disease and maintenance therapy, I’ve learned life is never that simple.

We’ve decided to sell our family home of 26 years and move. The move will be short in distance (only a few miles north), but far in change of life. The process has consumed a great deal of my time, energy, and attention.

We raised four wonderful children, now all adults, and welcomed our first grand­children to this home. We host nearly 30 family members here every Thanksgiving, a cherished tradition for everyone. A lifetime of happy memories was created within these walls and the hidden corners of the woods surrounding the home. The time has come, however, to move on.

Of course, moving means packing and sorting through years of trinkets, toys, children’s art projects, and photos. We’ve been so busy, I haven’t had much time to be sentimental. However, memories are thick. As I come across a special item, I smile, remember, and place it in the coveted position of being preserved and carried forward to our new home. Only a few special items get saved.

Not everything is a valued treasure. I can’t count the number of trips we’ve made to donate items to the local thrift store, or to the dump to simply dispose of junk.

What things go?

Souvenirs and memorabilia that were gathered, but hold no value today. Gifts received and gifts never given, that were never used or shared. The broken and bulky things that should have been thrown out the day they were put aside when we promised to “get to it one day.” The parts and pieces of things I thought I would need in the future, but now I can’t even identify. The old and used items that were replaced, but were saved in case they might be useful for someone some day. All of it, shoved in the back of a closet, placed high on a shelf, or in the attic; out of sight and out of mind, until we were forced to confront and deal with it.

The move to the new house is exciting. It will be a new adventure. We are already picking out colors for carpets and walls. We are thinking about minor remodels and improvements we can do right away to make the home ours. We are imagining ourselves in our new home, with our family and friends, entertaining again this coming Thanksgiving. This home provides us opportunities our old home didn’t, new views, and a fresh perspective.

I’m sure there is a metaphor lurking here.

My diagnosis two years ago made me reevaluate so much of my future life. What I thought might happen over the next twenty or more of my “golden years” shifted dramatically. Not that I’ve decided those years are lost, but I don’t want to sit idly today expecting those years to come. What I do today, how I live right now, has become increasingly important, and I want to be sure I’m doing the things that will make me and my family happy.

For instance, I assessed some of my work projects and dropped commitments I’d had for several years. I realized the time I was spending on the projects just wasn’t worth it to me. My continued effort on the projects was not necessary to the projects’ success and wasn’t something I enjoyed doing. Over the last two years, I’ve evaluated the projects I’m working on, or I was asked to contribute to, with a more critical eye.

Today, I savor every moment I spend with my grandkids. They make me smile. They make me happy. Very simple things, like watching them play with a toy by themselves, or using their imagination, warm my heart. I share in their wonder when they witness the simplest things for the first time. My four adult children all live within an hour, and I see them frequently. We all just shared another holiday meal together. The time I spend with family is the most precious gift I have.

I’m also looking at relationships with people past and present. I want to stay close to people who are im­por­tant to me, who know me and support me. While I don’t need to pare down my list of friends, it’s im­por­tant to spend time with the special people in my life and perhaps avoid confrontations with others who are less than fulfilling.

Multiple myeloma has focused my vision to see the clutter of my world. I can identify things I’ve just let hang around me that take my time and energy but bring me little joy. By sorting through and ending my attachment to the projects and commitments that are less important, I can devote more time to the more meaningful and joyful parts of my life.

Living with maintenance treatments is new and challenging. While I could choose to focus on the possible dangers of the toxicity of the drugs or the relapse of my disease, I choose to understand how my body reacts to a treatment cycle, adjust to that, and move forward.

I have a disease that needs to be treated and may ultimately shorten my time here. But it also gave me the opportunity to clean out my life, discard things I’ve been carrying with me for no good reason, and bring the people I love closer to me. A focused future is exciting, making every day more meaningful.

Perhaps most important, my life has never been “settled” or routine. There is no reason to begin now. Every day is an adventure and an opportunity.


Photo Credit: (c) 2014 Mark Pouley

The orchards are blooming again in Washington State. To keep the trees healthy and productive, farmers must constantly prune the trees back, removing old limbs. As the blooms turn to fruit, workers thin the fruit, removing some fruit from the tree so the remainder has more room to grow.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: