When we were young, we were told to get a good education, get a good job, marry well, and buy a nice house in the right neighborhood. Most likely, there were other things you were told about how to effectively prepare yourself for life’s opportunities, as well as what you needed to do to avoid disasters. For those of us from lower-middle class or better backgrounds, our striving for upward mobility was almost a given. (And yes, there are some who have the disadvantage of not having the vaguest clue of how to act publicly, such as the attorney who came into my office to get his résumé done, burped without excusing himself, and couldn’t keep his fingers out of his nose. His father had confided to me that he didn’t know why his son couldn’t get a job.)
In my life, I took the knowledge I was given, and planted a lot of seeds. (Otherwise known as: someone who really couldn’t decide exactly what they wanted to do, so tried as much of it as possible.) I took voice lessons, piano, and guitar. I sang in coffee houses. I wrote music. I drew. I wrote poetry. I sewed clothing, including my own wedding dress (material and buttons came to around $25!)
In the late 1980s, I had top scholarship in Fine Arts at Indiana University. When I signed up for classes, I already knew the multiple sclerosis could take my sight. (It has once completely, but my vision came back. Other times, it is like looking through a blue filter on one side and yellow on the other, or like it is twilight, but only in one eye.) I thought long about it, and finally decided that regardless of a dire prognosis, I was still going to paint. I was winning awards for my painting until my divorce cras! hed through my life. My children, my parents, my brother, and my art were essential in getting me through that difficult time.
Today the M.S. has made my hand so spastic that it is very difficult for me to even hold a pencil. The fine pen and ink drawings I did, the silverpoint and watercolors, are all a thing of the past. I still carry the memory of being able to draw and hunger for the smell oil pigments and turpentine. The only reminder I have of that life is the watercolors and unframed oil paintings from so many years ago that hang all over my house and a few dusty ribbons tucked away in a closet.
I planted seeds and all I have left are beautiful, pressed flowers…but they are no longer alive.
This evening, I heard the young man bagging in the checkout lane at the grocery store joking about how his grandmother at 94 no longer remembered things too well. When I got to the front of the line, I asked him what he thought his grandchildren would say about him. He didn’t say anything, but followed me out of the store, almost to my car, as if somehow he had found a friend.
In the past I have worked in public relations, project management, and life insurance sales, things I may not have been successful at or no longer have the energy or desire to pursue. For now, I write. Today, I went to a writer’s conference, and recited poetry. I give motivational speeches to encourage others in exploring their lives. I am still planting seeds. In this season, what I sow and nurture is different than what I did in the past. Part of my personal growing is being willing to let go of a past I cannot influence, and to find a new future.
It is only when we stop planting seeds that we have nothing to reap.