Another source of inspiration to write this blog has lately been my support group: Goddesses of Endometriosis, which has just reached 1,000+ members. I regularly receive notes that tell me that I am a source of inspiration to people, that they admire my incredible strength and determination to get through even the most darkest places of my life.
The last inspiration for me to write this particular piece came to me as I was watching the Michael Jackson memorial yesterday. I got to thinking, if I pass on, what will people say about me? Will they recognize the contributions that I have tried to make in attempting to help people? What kind of legacy will I leave for my children? Will my children know of the difference that I have made in someone's life?
I find it difficult to respond to the letters I get that talk about my strength. I do not really recognize the strength I have within myself, especially when I struggle just to make it through each day. How can I be a source of strength when it takes everything within me just to get my feet onto the floor at times? I think that the strength that I draw upon is the determination to live each day well. To me living each day well means making a footprint or planting a seed somewhere along the way which is going to help people. After all, we each need seeds of hope that will one day blossom into beautiful flowers. If I can make a difference, however small, in someone's life, than I have lived well that day. I strive for this each and every day, to make a difference. Do I succeed? I'm often left wondering the answer to that question. Sometimes I know through personal contact with individuals that I have made a difference, other days it is just the hope that lives within me that my words have reached out to touch someone.
I'm going to talk about my sources of inspiration here. These are sources that I find to be incredibly touching and from where I draw my courage to face each day. For anyone who knows me well enough, they will know that I am a reader. I constantly have 4-5 books on the go.
My first source of inspiration comes from Mitch Albom's "Tuesdays with Morrie". For those who haven't read the book, essentially, it is about a special friendship that has developed between a terminally ill professor and his college student. Morrie teaches his student very important life lessons on a variety of topics like marriage, culture, family, emotions, etc. I'm going to share a quote from the book:
"Mitch, you asked about caring for people I don't even know. But can I tell you the thing I'm learning most with this disease?"
"The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love and let it come in".
What a beautiful passage. Even now typing it out I have tears misting in my eyes. But the words ring true. Each one of us has a gift inside of us, a gift that we can open up and give to others at any time we choose. It's a gift of gratitude, of hope, of friendship and most importantly of love. We need to feel love. It's one of Maslow's points on the hierarchy of human needs, each individual needs to have a sense of feeling loved. A quote from Moulin Rouge is "It is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all". - Originally said by Lord Alfred Tennyson. I like to think that in my work with my support group and with the people I randonly meet with chronic illness, that I give out the seeds of love. I may not say it as often as I should to the people I am close to, but I have love for each and every one of them in a certain way. Each person I have met has left a footprint and a seed in my heart.
The second source of inspiration for me comes from a book I know not many people have read. I stumbled upon it rather by "accident" one day, but I think it was more due to fate that it popped out at me as a book on sale at Chapters. It is called "We are all the Same" by Jim Wooten. For those of you who haven't read this tear-jerker, it is about a woman, Gail Johnson - founder of a hospice for AIDS patients in Africa, who becomes a mother to an infant child born into poverty and afflicted by AIDS. Obviously, the story touched me in several ways which I won't go into right now, but the main point I want to make about this beautiful and touching relationship between Nkosi and his newfound mother, is that she made a difference in the lives of many. She defied the race barriers and worked to defeat the myths of HIV/AIDS that is so prevalent in South Africa during a time when it was a very politically charged topic to bring true awareness about this disease. Gail never stopped trying to bring awareness despite the adversity she faced. Nkosi defied the odds of survival and lived for several wonderful years with his mother, and as I see it, her strength and courage to keep him alive and well is what encouraged him to live longer. Gail Johnson is a true super-hero in my books.
Last but not at all least, is a very well known gentleman who epitomizes the words strength and courage: Randy Pausch. Although he will never know it, Randy's words have left an unmistakable footprint in my life. Randy knew that he was facing a terminal illness, but used his remaining time to the fullest. Leaving a book, Last Lecture, as a legacy for his children. For those of you unfamiliar with this book, I either encourage you to read it, or you can watch the movie on youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ji5_MqicxSo. It is an amazing piece of work. Randy has left his children with all of the life lessons that he wanted them to know, but will never have the chance to teach them in person when the time comes. Some of you will know that I have written letters to Jacob while I was pregnant with him and throughout his young years. I have many things that I want to share with him. I figure that this is one of the greatest gifts that I can give to him should something happen. Not that I plan on my death as being imminent, but we never know when we shall pass on. Randy Pausch, you are one of my heroes and likely a guardian angel to us all, reminding us to live well each day.
These are my super-heroes. People who I believe embody the words strength and courage. I do not see myself in the same class as these people. One day I would hope to be remembered as such, but it still feels to me as though there is a lot of work to be done. I want to do more, I want to reach out to more people, in short I want to make a difference.
Will my children remember me with the same fondness as I have for these individuals? I sure hope so.