On my Friday commute to work I sometimes hear a tale of someone’s life as recorded through Story Corps. NPR plays these short, oral narratives in which an “average” person recounts some significant moments in his life, or reflects on what really mattered in her every day routine. They are short, pithy, genuine, and often inspiring. Among the laudable characteristics that make humans unique is our ability to tell stories. On this particular Friday I listened to a singularly moving piece, only about 2 minutes long. It was recorded by a woman named Lillie Love who unfortunately passed away two weeks ago at 53 years of age.
She talks about how she mapped out her life at age 13. At 52 she envisioned herself married, with children, perhaps even grandchildren. But the reality of her life unfolded differently- she went through several miscarriages, a divorce, and the implied health problems that may have led to her passing.
She compares this disconnect between our dreams and our actual stories to the folly of designing a dress while you are wearing it.
When Lillie realized she would not be “the wife” or “the mother” she picked up the pieces and determined she would be a terrific sister, friend, and aunt. She states: “The life that I have now is not the life I thought I would have, but is the life perfect for who I am.” Thereby she resists the temptation to project her life in to the future, but rather accepts what the universe brings her, and finds happiness in her present circumstance.
My life is not the one I envisioned when I was 12 either. I’m not much of an outdoorsman, I don’t have kids, and my family ties are different from those of twenty years ago. But I am happy, and I increasingly resolve to search for and create happiness within the stream of time and place that I cannot usually control.
May she rest in peace, and I thank her for the inspiration. Despite the terrible time pressures of practicing family medicine, I need to turn off the clock every once in a while and just listen to another person’s story as they speak it.