I thought I'd die alone. In fact, I'd convinced myself that I didn't need a man to make me happy, and make me whole, because the love I had received from Mike from the day we'd met until the day he died was enough to fulfill me for a lifetime.
But then I met him and, slowly, my heart opened its doors again.
I don't know if he is THE ONE because these days I've been taking everyday living one day at a time. What I do know is that he doesn't match any of the items on this list of wished-for attributes I found stored in one of the drawers inside my head, next to the set of drawers where I've kept the pieces of me that I had to put away to fit in, be accepted and function well in worlds that were not my own.
I'm working on opening these drawers and rediscovering the parts of me that are in there, but I'm not sure if there's any use to the wished-for list of attributes, at least not the draft I've come upon. Because these attributes all feel so shallow. Does it matter that I dislike facial hair? Should it matter if he doesn't have a college degree or if he's not, as I am, a big consumer of books? I was surprised that "making me happy" wasn't at the top of the list, right above "making me feel valued for who I am" and not the idea of me or the public version of me — the one who writes, the one who teaches, the one who speaks to big audiences.
Raising a child, running a household and paying the bills alone is a big challenge, but one I'm getting really good at facing, to the point that it sometimes doesn't feel like a challenge at all, just part of this new life of mine. Is this man who doesn't have a college degree, isn't a big reader and, yes, does have facial hair a challenge worth taking, then? Should the fact that he makes me happy, values me for who I am (and really has gotten to know the version of myself that is not out there for public consumption), makes my daughter happy, brings a measure of calm and balance to our house be enough to justify the challenges that come with having him in my life — in our lives? Because he does have his challenges.
I know I'm being vague here, but answering these questions shouldn't require details. They are, of course, for me to answer, but I wonder if these are questions you've ever faced, whether it be in relation to a new person or any change you've been forced to confront.
Six years ago last Sunday, on June 30, 2013, nineteen firefighters died fighting an Arizona wildfire. They were all part of the same team, the Granite Mountain Hotshots, a cohesive unit of strong, well-trained and committed individuals whose stories I tell in my book, The Fire Line. They were men who taught me about the true meaning of loyalty and teamwork and, for that, I'm grateful. What I'm most grateful, though, is for the connections the book has allowed me to make. Some of these connections were made with folks like Geri, Ralph, Suzy and Rudi, readers I met at book events. Others were forged with the parents, siblings and spouses of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, who extended their hands and hearts to me after the death of my husband, Mike. They taught me that love transcends pain and that it is immortal and never-ending. Love is the glue that mends broken hearts. Love is what has kept me alive.
I'm counting on love to show me the way.
Last month, David K., one of the subscribers to my newsletter, emailed me a sheet listing 16 life lessons by Candy O'Terry, host of The Story Behind Her Success podcast. It's a simple and awesome list (most awesome things are simple, imho). I'm sharing it here, with my personal comments bolded.
#1 Wake up grateful and live in gratitude throughout your day. You're alive!
#2 Baby steps are better than no steps at all. And it's OK if sometimes you stumble and fall.
#3 It's not what happens in your life. It's how you handle it. AMEN!
#4 Obstacles are opportunities. CAN I GET ANOTHER AMEN?
#5 Trust your intuition. So hard sometimes ...
#6 Courage is when you leap; faith is when you believe you'll land on your feet. So you need both, right? Because you do need to leap.
#7 Adjust your compass, but don't quit. Well, we may need to quit to adjust our compass.
#8 There is great joy in striving toward your potential. And there's sweat too because that requires hard work.
#9 Don't just show up. Stand out. Hmmm ... Sometimes, showing up is already a big victory. We don't need to always be in the spotlight, or always be the spotlight.
#10 Success is a conscious decision: see it, feel it and believe you can achieve it. Most importantly, though, know what success means to YOU.
#11 Lead with purpose and compassion. At home, at work, wherever you go.
#12 Stay humble. YES!
#13 Good goes around, even if it takes a while. But never do anything expecting to get something back. Do it because you believe it's the right thing to do.
#14 Relationships are everything. Yes, especially those that don't require effort.
#15 Wisdom is recognizing a mistake before you make it again. But don't beat yourself up if you do make that mistake a second time. Be forgiving — with others and with yourself.
#16 At the end of the day, ask yourself: Is this a day I can sign my name to? I'd better get going and start living today, then.
With love and purpose, always.
WHY – AND HOW – I WRITE
The key to writing a good story is knowing what you don’t know and finding the right people and documents to help you learn it. You have a fundamental question that leads to a bunch of other questions that need to be answered so that your fundamental question makes sense. This is how I write.
Follow along with Fernanda and get occasional stories.