Charting Your Life

In Mind, Body & Spirit, Pushing Forward by Diane Standiford

I was diagnosed with Multiple Scleroses in 1990, but my symptoms began after a pick-up truck hit collided with me in 1967. Crossing the street on the way to the park, riding my red bike, looking both ways, next thing I saw was a painter’s truck slam to a stop in the next block while teenage boys perched on top a Goodwill dumpster nearby were yelling at the driver, “Hey! You hit her!”

The painter never saw me, the boys never saw the impact, and I never saw his truck approaching, in fact there were no other vehicles around at that spot in small town Indiana on that day. A moment in time that was meant to be.

When, in 1996, I had my second surgery for Ovarian Cancer, a local Cancer Research Institute contacted me to ask if they could gather information from me if I lived another year. They wanted my DNA. I agreed, and the next year a researcher arrived at my apartment.

She asked a few questions, including who they could contact in five years to find out if I had died. How very upbeat she was. Uh-huh. Then she unfurled a sheet of graph paper and told me to date it on the left with each year starting at my birthday, 1957, to the present. Next I was to note any significant events of those years, life altering events.

This is an exercise I recommend to anyone who might be a bit unsure of who they are, why they are, and where they want to go. I learned so much from my responses, and the amount of them-so few. Yet they all joined to form the person I am today.

Not surprisingly the first notation was my birth, “The day my father left my mother.”

Then at age 5, “Seeing the movie, The Miracle Worker, starring Patty Duke.” I left amazed with the acting performance of a girl I thought was my age and wanted to be an actress from then on. The wonder that is Helen Keller took second place.

And so it went, the truck hitting me, my first lover, my second and forever lover, my move from Indiana to Seattle, Washington; and so on. Looking at my chart I saw my life unfurl. Dreams held then lost, new dreams made.

People and places that rest in my soul.

By sorting them out, I was sorting out my life. This was not a chart that I made; it was a chart that made me.

There is so much in life that we can not control, but we can control how we react to significant events. After my chart was complete I evaluated why and how each event affected my next course of action.

Was I becoming a better, stronger, person? How might I handle the next significant event in a way to produce a happier outcome?

The researcher took my DNA, my chart, and left never to return. Ten years later I am still alive and I m still charting my life. Now, however; I chart yearly in January.

Charting my course for the year ahead, the Skipper of my own ship that I am now more confident will reach the right destination, gleaning from past experiences that which I can improve upon.

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