The EKG/line chart of my life. Created on 4/2/08.
At my first hospice training on Wednesday, one of the exercises they had us volunteers do is plot a “EKG” of our lives, showing the ups and downs and describing what we thought each of these were. We also had to predict how long we think we are going to live, which, as we all know, is just a happy estimate. Some people were brutally honest judging by the trends of other people in their families. I have always said, and used to tell my husband frequently, that it was my desire to live to be 100. Well, I used to say 115, but that’s pushing it. I think I was trying to break a record or something (you know me–gotta beat everyone).
But, truthfully, I do want to live as long as I can. I don’t even care if all the people I love are gone, as people always point out to me as the thing that sucks about being 100. I want to be around to see what’s going on in 2075. It might be interesting. I won’t have any children to support me or anything… hopefully, I’ll be in good health so that I don’t need anyone. Yeah, optimistic thinking, I suppose. I guess that’s why it’s important that I stay involved with my church (or a church if I’m not in Ohio). I’ve noted there’s a wonderful support network in a good church. My own takes care of its elderly in our pastoral care program (another volunteer activity I’ve chosen to become involved in). I figure if I give to my church now, it will hopefully give back to me when I’m old and childless. I guess that’s another thing that’s bad about not having children–no one to take care of you when you’re old. But that’s a lousy reason to have children. I figure I’ll only spend 2% of my life as incapable of taking care of myself. Hopefully. The chances are, realistically, I’ll probably die in my 80s, as this seems to be the trend within my family. I’m hoping I’ll beat the odds with years of cycling and skiing, assuming my knees don’t go bad.
Anyway, I’ve included the EKG of my life, as I plotted it, above. As you see, I feel I had a relatively pleasant childhood (I had good parents) but my happiness level dropped off in the teen years when I was unpopular. When I moved away to college, my life took off and felt better than it ever had in my entire life–I made friends, I was learning to be independent, I discovered myself. So I drew a level line, elevated at the new high of my life.
After graduating college, my life started to take a turn upwards for the better as I gained more independence. Though I still lived with my parents, I was more financially capable. I met Mike as I was ascending this new high, and it only got better. Our marriage and our time together held all the promise of getting better. For the first time in my life, I felt as though I could see the horizon of possibilities before me.
Of course, my upward climb took an abrupt end on April 14, 2001, which I marked on the graph. I plummeted downwards over the next two years where I resided for the next four in utter depression, anguish, anger, and sadness. I kind of marked it wrong on the chart–it should say age 32, not 33–but I woke up sometime last March and took a personal vow to change my thinking and leave this pit of despair I’d dug for myself.
I show 33+ as a continuous rise until I’m 102 (I gave myself the extra two years for good luck). It’s not to say that I won’t have anymore dips and climbs; it’s just that I believe my new way of approaching life won’t let me consider too deeply those declines. Losing Mike was the hardest thing I ever had to go through. In ways, it is the hardest loss I’ll ever have to deal with because it happened when I was so young and so naive; I didn’t know that death could happen to someone I was that close to so early in our life together. I’m more aware now. I’ve grown up. That makes all the difference about how these things impact me. I can’t be blind-sided.
I may, too, be wrong about my longevity. I may come down with a fatal disease. Something random may happen that takes me out of the game. However, by stating that I want to live to 102, I’m making a covenant with myself to improve my lifestyle such that I can live to 102, barring no unseen, outside forces out of my control.
Also, the general optimistic nature of my chart proves to me that I don’t let the little stuff bother me so much anymore. I’m mentally headed up a hill higher than I’ve ever experienced. Like climbing all hills, it’s not going to be easy. That’s the struggle I’ll have to face. Struggling, though, makes you stronger. When you surmount each struggle that comes your way, you learn something about yourself and you grow. This is what I did after Mike’s death: I grew. I grew a lot.
So while I’m fairly certain I’ve got a rough road ahead and lots of climbing left to do, I feel I’m better prepared to partake in the journey than I ever was. I’m not deluded into thinking that everything’s going to be easy from here out, I just believe that no matter how hard it gets, I can survive. I didn’t know I had this strength in myself. Mike did. He told me once, “We’re survivors, you and me. We can get through anything.”
I think he was right. I wouldn’t have said that a couple years ago. I hope somewhere out there in the vast, mystical universe, Mike is smiling. He would say, as he always did when I accomplished something that impressed him, “Way to go, Fritzy!”
Indeed. Way to go, Mars Girl.