That’s when you start

Isolated, or independent? Triumphant or terrified? You get to choose! Public domain photo by Julia Caesar, shared via Pexels

Isolated, or independent? Triumphant or terrified? You get to choose!
Public domain photo by Julia Caesar, shared via Pexels

“…when you realize that the story of your life could be told a thousand different ways, that you could tell it over and over as a tragedy, but you choose to call it an epic, that’s when you start to learn what celebration is.”Shauna Niequist

Let me guess: your life is fantastic, a journey you never expected and wouldn’t have chosen, but one you will never regret.

Or maybe your life is a boring slog through endless tasks you don’t love.  Maybe you spend a lot of time wishing things were different somehow.  Perhaps other people were blessed with gifts denied to you, and you feel trapped by circumstances that keep you from being all the things you once dreamed of being.

The really amazing thing is, most all the people I know well (including me) could point to certain facts about our lives that would support either viewpoint.  Some choose the first way of seeing life, and others choose the second, but most of us vacillate between the two. Depending on how our day has gone and how we are feeling and a thousand other tiny and seemingly irrelevant details, we could be tossed back and forth between conflicting perspectives, afraid to be happy but determined not to be sad.

In an epic, things don’t always go well for the protagonist.  In fact, things usually get downright dicey.  But that’s an inescapable part of the narrative.  A story about an endless vacation would get pretty boring, wouldn’t it?

When we celebrate something or someone, we honor the totality of what created that particular event or person.  We focus on the beauty that emerges from the complex details.  We feel not only gratitude, but a deep appreciation of the many layers of meaning underlying our observation.

Your life is an epic.  Really!  And you are its star.  I wish you the faith, strength and determination to navigate all the twists and turns, and celebrate a happy ending.


  1. blseibel

    Epic! I love that! I’ve had a tough 12 months and I have been discouraged but I think using this new label.. Epic…I will put better spin on it.

    • I find so much encouragement in looking at my life from a different angle when I’m feeling down. I hope that you are able to see your experiences in a new light. I’m a firm believer that God can work for our good through the worst of circumstances. Looking back, I learned so many important lessons from the toughest times in my past. I would never want to re-live them, but they changed me and gave me a foundation on which to lift myself up. I hope the coming year is full of bright promise and much joy for you! Thanks for being here and sharing with us.

  2. bobmielke

    Most people I know feel trapped in their life, doomed to endure sorrow and pain by a loved one with alzheimer’s, dementia or cancer. A short time after the loved one passes they are free and begin a whole new life free from stress and anguish. They are reborn.

    • Bob, I think those who are forced into the role of loving caregiver are sometimes rewarded with healing and happiness when that long, heart-wrenching goodbye is finally ended. Based on my own experience with 30+ years of care-giving, I think there would be a deep sorrow that never goes away, but the years of care come with unique gifts too, among which is a rare appreciation for just how much we tend to take for granted. Sometimes, of course, the caregiver is old or sick enough to almost be in need of care for him or herself. I am thinking of a dear couple, my good friend’s parents, who were like second parents to me. He cared for his wife at home in the early stages of dementia, then sat by her side ALL DAY, EVERY DAY for many years — I think about 8 or so — after she had to go into a nursing home. Though she often did not seem to know he was there, I believe she did feel his presence. He did this out of his great love for her, despite his own health problems from aging and disease. He simply preferred to be with her, no matter what. He was not unlike my own Daddy in that respect. His love and devotion were and are a shining light to me even now, though he left us a decade ago. He lived a few years after his beloved sweetheart died, but he missed her and was ready to join her. Regardless of how the story ends, I think it’s a mistake to see such situations as inevitably tragic. There are all sorts of heroes, and the everyday kind are some of the most inspirational.

      • bobmielke

        Death is often a positive transition for all parties involved.

        • One of my favorite Carly Simon songs says “Life is eternal, and love is immortal, and death is only a horizon…and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.” 🙂

          • Ann

            What a beautiful quote from Carly Simon.

            • Thanks Ann, I’m glad you like it. I have always loved her music.

      • Yes

  3. Julia, let’s bring our laughter and continue around these hills and valleys of life. Of course, we’ll mix in some tears or it wouldn’t be called an epic. We’re back in Garden City and I have another page to add, about laughter shared with family that opened their home and hearts to us. We had been out of touch for much too long. If you have cousins or even friends that you’ve lost touch with, I urge of anyone to take the time to call or write. I hope you’ll enjoy this week!

    • Sheila, I just love this latest chapter! What a gift, to re-discover our kin, whether we are bound by blood ties or shared memories. Thanks for encouraging us to “reach out and touch someone” as the old long distance telephone commercial used to say. I’m planning to write some long-overdue notes today. Hardly anything I do brings me as much joy as writing handwritten notes to people. It’s a great hobby for a military wife who has left pieces of her heart all over creation! And this blog has only given me more such ties to treasure. Needless to say, the SC coast will be a part of my heart for always, and now when I see a photo of a Sun Conure (as I just did earlier today) I smile and think of Walter. I’ll be on that journey every step of the way with you, laughing and crying and standing back in amazement at what a long, strange, fabulous trip it’s been so far. ❤ ❤ ❤

  4. raynard

    Julia, we dont travel as much but that doesnt stop me” from dreaming or sharing.. BYW, the autumn velet cake with salted caramel frosting came out great. I can send you a picture if you want. Hope all is with you and the family. Back to the V.A this week for a requested sample. I’m down to 233 now. Not ready for a new wardrobe yet lol. Be blessed

    • Reading about that autumn velvet salted caramel cake made me suddenly hungry! But as you say about travel, nothing can stop me from dreaming. 😀 The 233 must be a reference to your cholesterol because I know you didn’t weigh anywhere near that when I saw you. Now that Jeff is nearing retirement he is getting some good advice from other retirees about how to deal with the VA. It sounds as if it’s not always like the nightmare stories we see on TV. Hope y’all are getting some nice fall weather and maybe can get out for a quick day trip here and there. I am so thankful that it now appears Jeff and I will have at least some time to enjoy retirement together, though I imagine most of our trips will be short ones too. Those can be the best kind! No suitcase to pack. Hope you, Mary, Ms. Ella and your three furry friends have a great week.

  5. Right back at you, Julia!

  6. Well said, Julia. Regrets limit our view of life. For many years I agonized over the fact I had no college education. I felt it made me less than. It in someways stunted my self perception. Then one day I realized what I would have given up had I managed to get that education. My children would not have been here and that would have been a larger loss. So I realized I educated myself and my children on the same dime. No more regrets. My screen saver says “you have the power to say this is not how my story will end” I get to write it as I go. I get to choose if I see this day as happy or mundane. It’s all about my perception of it. You said it so much more concisely. All I can say about my life is that it was interesting and not ever boring. That’s a good thing. 🙂 Hugs.

    • Everything in life involves trade-offs, and this is certainly the case with formal education. College comes at a cost, and not just a monetary one. A college degree can be important for some people, and is required for certain careers, but I think it’s a mistake to hang everything up on it, as if it was some sort of litmus test for worthiness. Some of the most brilliant minds of every generation were people who never had the benefit of college, and many others only came to that milestone in later life. Add to that the fact that the most “successful” and well-educated person in the world depends daily on the abilities of many people who are less intelligent and far less influential. I think it’s safe to assume that no president or king or prime minister would know what to do with a clogged sewer line or a car engine that quit. We’d all be in a fine mess if there were nobody but highly-educated “professionals” to run things. I agree with you that learning along with one’s children is a fine way to educate oneself, and has arguably much more practical value. Kudos to you for seeing the value and blessing of your own unique and interesting life!

  7. Whew, actually I think I feel ‘all of the above’ when I look at that photo. That’s spectacular isn’t it? I’d probably be on my hands and knees to get out there and back, but I’d also enjoy the view while I was there. I’m really a contradiction of so many things, Ha!

    Like on my recent flight home from CA, I was on a rather smallish prop plane. The kind they park out on the runway and you walk over to the stairs and climb aboard, very 50’s. When I first realized the plane would be so small, I swallowed hard and thought, “oh geez”. Once in the air, I then thought, “hey, smooth flight actually”. Then we banked hard left and I saw the ground beneath me, “oh geez” I thought again, this time with a wee bit of panic. Then I forced myself to look out the window and thought, “actually that’s really beautiful”.

    This flight pretty much sums up my life. I worry, maybe even panic, then force myself to do something about it, then it turns out to be not that bad. I wonder if everyone else complicates things this way? 😀 ❤ wok

    • K, I would definitely be on my hands and knees out there, if I went out at all (which I probably wouldn’t). A couple of times when I hiked Diamond Head, I ventured out past the ropes designed to keep people from falling (you know, the ones marked “DANGER – Do not leave the path!”) because I wanted to get that perfect shot of Waikiki — but I surely never WALKED out that far — it was hands and knees for sure, and thrilling enough even at that.

      Your airplane experience is a great parable for life. Takeoff is scary, but also exhilarating. Then once we are in the air, we have a false sense of security as we are lulled into forgetting just how many things could go wrong. The clouds that can cause so much queasiness and turbulence look positively breathtaking from a safe distance once we break through them into the sunlight. Then at landing time we watch anxiously for those runway lights below us as we start to get uncomfortably close to the ground. But you’re right, the astounding beauty of it all is a great distraction. When we drove up Pikes Peak I was so terrified that I sought (unsuccessfully) for some way, ANY OTHER WAY to get back down besides driving. But then it was so beautiful I forgot to be afraid.

      It seems to me that humans are hard-wired to complicate things on an emotional level, even as we solve technological and logistical problems of great magnitude. We’ll never outpace our own insecurity. I guess that makes it an interesting ride!

      • We really are alike in so many ways J, Except I follow the rules. HA, NOT! 😀 But I’m no daredevil, I’d probably be begging you to come back where it was safe. Was Jeff freaking out? I could see you climbing over that barrier, feeling unsure but wanting the best possible photo.

        Your story of coming back down made me laugh too.That’s DEFINITELY me. Once, our friends were taking us up a mountain to a lake on this ‘kinda, sorta, road’. in their 4 x 4. Roy missed the entrance by about a 1/4 mile an preceded to back down the mountain because it was too narrow to turn around. Mountain face on one side of the truck, shear drop out the other window. I’ve never been so scared and asked to get out a dozen times. Begged is more like it. Roy said, “Kelly, there’s no place to step out, it’s too narrow”…..”Geez Louise” my life passed before my eyes.I just had to close my eyes and come what may. I don’t remember the views, it was so traumatic, my mind has blogged out any feelings of euphorea as a coping mechanism. But the lake and boat ride made up for it. Love and hugs, one *giant* scaredy cat xo K

        • K, if memory serves me correctly, Jeff was not with me either time I ventured out onto the cliff…the boys were always with us, and I would NEVER want Matt (or any other kid) to observe me doing something like that, for fear they would get ideas (more of that “do as I say, not as I do”). I do think Jeff would have scolded me if he saw me attempting such a thing.

          Your mountain adventure sounds like a nightmare to me, too. I might have threatened a bathroom accident if I wasn’t able to get the driver to stop. In any case, you are still here in one piece and in your right mind, so I suppose all’s well that ends well. Just don’t ever let Alys take you motoring down Marin Headlands if you go north across the Golden Gate Bridge. There are some pretty terrifying roads in that area, too. Though you can get some great views without the terror if you stop just on the other side of the bridge for a photo op. That’s one place where you can get the view from the top without having to drive back down to the bottom — just pop back over the bridge (or into Sausalito or Tiburon) and skip the thrill ride.

          • Not the, “do as I say, not as I do” scenario! LOL…you’re naughty, but fun. Marin Headlands hey? Well, I take that off the list. Jim and I went across that crazy bridge 1/2 dozen times, hoping for photo’s without fog but I don’t remember signage for this place. I must have been looking up. I think Bugs Bunny used to come up in Sausalito sometimes, ha! What’s up doc? xox

            • I think the view from Marin Headlands (just to the left as soon as you get over the bridge, though I think the exit for it is off to the right and curves around, but I don’t remember for sure) is one of the best-kept secrets of San Francisco. This post featured a photo I took from there. That Bugs Bunny is always popping up everywhere, and never looks tired from the travel. That’s one thing I love about him!

              • Eeeeeh, what’s up doc? Yah, Bugs never had to worry about missing his flight, ha! But he often took a lot of wrong turns and in that, we’re *totally* alike 😀

                LOL, Thanks for the link sweet-cheeks, I’ve book marked it for a go back later today. I hope you’re not too tired from staying up too late last night. I wish I could pull a Bugs and pop up in DC today. Then we’d cruise to visit LB ! Could Matt come with, what’s he up too today? Is it too cold to stop at a beach? OMGosh, we’d have a fun day. Well, just phooey-pa-tooie on the election hey? I hope our little dynamo will give it another try. x K

                • K, as you know after our mad dash around DC, I’m the queen of going the wrong direction! But as you say, it tends to be a self-correcting phenomenon, at least in the literal, physical sense, and sometimes we make some serendipitous discoveries along the way. I sure wish you could pop up here, Bugs-style, and we could have a Loony Tunes road trip to LB’s – we could even let Matt play hooky from his day program (they are going out to lunch today) and maybe even head to the beach, which is fun even in the cold. BUT, since none of that is possible, we can enjoy just pretending for now. As for the election, it’s a letdown, no question. But I’ve grown used to seeing worthy candidates lose, and over time I’ve come to see when that can work for good too. LB truly is a dynamo and a force of nature, and maybe she’s too good for elected office, but whatever she decides to do, she will continue to shine and enliven her world and wake people up from complacency.

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