By Janice Kimball MFA
Our lives are filled with twists and bends, joys and tragedies; events happen that cannot be foretold on any roadmap. But every day is a new beginning, another opportunity for us to make an expression of who we are. I am a writer, so I guess it comes with the territory that I think of my life as a book. Every good book has a quest, and I guess mine is a search for love. Its theme, survival, was not my idea, or was it? Anyway, my book, laced with many life passages, consists of chapters. In the chapter I am in right now I feel I have reached the mountaintop. I am at peace with myself and I do feel loved, and I am no longer in survival mode. I like the age where I am at and enjoy most being among those who have learned who they are, what they believe and who are no longer struggling with self-identity.
Like many of you, this acceptance of self and circumstance did not come easy. As a matter of fact, no matter how much care I took in writing my chapters, some of them did not have a happy ending. In the wise place where I am now, I realize that too many happy endings lead to dull books.
It was not the happy times, but the pitfalls I fell into that I have learned the most. From them I have learned the value of simple gifts, the gift of friendship, a sunny day, the sunset, a smile, the wag of a tail, and the freedom to create. But they do not satisfy me completely. I still have a need to prove myself, prove that I am worthy, that I deserve my spot on this earth. More books, more articles, more designs, more weavings, the need to develop a blog.
My ambition sounds daunting, but it’s not. My goal is to take a step forward in living this life fully every day, no matter how small. Since there are 365 days in a year, those steps add up. In reality I deal with exhaustion, physical exhaustion, as my motor neurons are dying off, a condition many of us who had polio during America’s epidemic in the early 1950’s but were rehabilitated enough to lead a seemingly normal life. Like a battery I have just so many units of energy to spend each day and I have learned how to harvest and use them to my best advantage.
There are many of us at Lakeside that deal with handicaps. And deal with losses, terrible losses of loved ones, and losses of memory, and issues of pain management. When I was younger I had no idea that getting older was such a challenge. But it is. Sometimes, when we have taken a punch to the stomach we have to take time out to recover. Writing our book can be put on hold, but you know what? After that, we just have to deal with it and move on. Life is too short not to live it. What I find most healing is laughter. You might say I am a laughter junkie. I place a high value on it, and for me, life without fun would be not worth living. Yet there are times when I go too long without it. So it is good that I reflect back sometimes to realize that I need to put laughter at the top of my list of priorities.
But I am happier than I have ever been, how can you knock that? My handicap’s don’t interfere with or limit my creativity, my life expression, my ambition or my output. As I have always lived with handicaps I find adaptation to them easier than most people. I have been given my share of hard times. From them I have learned that hard times often have silver linings. As a matter of fact, I can thank some of my most difficult times for leading me to this period in my life where I live in paradise.
I believe that in every challenge we face, not matter how heart wrenching it may be at the time is a growing experience, one that adds to our understanding of life and other people, and one that if we take the effort, in which we can find a silver lining. I am blessed with my extended Mexican families, Unitarian family, writing family and friends and those who believe in our art and collect our work, our neighbors, the trash collectors, and Jesus at the corner store that gives us credit at the end of the month. OH, my god, how often I have sat like a lump and taken all of you for granted!
After twenty years here in paradise at times I had even forgotten to appreciate, or indeed hardly look at, the views of the mountains and the lakes from my verandas. I never want to take Francisco for granted. He is not only my weaver, he is my best friend and my right arm. But perhaps in my passion for writing, I was beginning to do that. So we went to the Blue Fin palapa restaurant in San Juan Cosala’s Riviera, a big splurge for us. I drank wine and Francisco Coke as we sat under a Palapa that hung over Lake Chapala. We ordered a Parrilla for two. We had no idea what it was. A platter with lamb, Arrecherra, chicken and shrimp with a variety of vegetables arrived. We watched the sky- scape change hue as the sun lowered over the soft blue violet of the mountaintops listening to the melodious sounds of Mexican diners in the restaurant next to us, young and the old, laughing together.
It is through expression of self, regardless of our circumstances or our handicaps, that we are, that we will be remembered, that we will one day leave our mark upon our loved ones, our community and the world. As humans we are given the gift of expressing all of who we are. We must stay in touch with all that makes us human, and above all, remember that each day is a possibility for a new beginning.