Soucheray: What a difference 20 years can makeSetting goals for the upcoming year is always something I enjoy because it focuses me on where I’m going, why I’m headed in that direction and the anticipated junctures along the way.
By: Kate Soucheray, columnist, Woodbury Bulletin
Setting goals for the upcoming year is always something I enjoy because it focuses me on where I’m going, why I’m headed in that direction and the anticipated junctures along the way. This year is particularly poignant for me, as it was 20 years ago on Jan. 4 that I survived emergency brain surgery and all the unexpected changes and challenges the experience would bring to my life.
First of all, when people say, “I need my head examined,” I politely respond, “Been there, done that.” My surgery was unusual and quite blessed, as the intruder in my brain was benign, meaning it was non-cancerous. Nearly every unwanted growth in the brain is cancer, so being blessed with the rare event of having mine be dangerous and life-threatening but not cancer, there was the hope and expectation that I would survive and return to some modicum of my old self. From where I stand now, 20 years later, I’m not sure that was remotely possible or desirable.
You see, I was 36, married a mere 10 years, with three children under our belt, and then to have this happen to me, it was without question a life-changing experience for us all. Within six months after the surgery, I found myself at the St. Paul Seminary at the University of St. Thomas, where I began classes in the fall of 1993 toward a master’s degree in theology. After completing that, thinking I was done with studies, I realized I needed to go back to school. I attended St. Mary’s University and earned a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy – the career in which I find myself today.
Prior to something so life-altering occurring, I heard some people say they would have never wanted to endure anything so scary or so painful, that they used to envy me, but not anymore. I thought to myself with disbelief, “That old self was nothing to envy. What I understand and conceive of now, this is really something!” For you see, nearly dying brought me to the doorstep of life itself.
Coming close to one’s death reminds a person that today is all we have, and to live this day well, is all we must do. We can worry about tomorrow if we want. We can fret about undone or unsaid words and feel badly. But we can’t change anything that is past. All we have is what we can do in the here and now and that which will impact and shape the future. In realizing that, there is so much freedom and so much potential. It is truly what life is about.
I used to tell people, “I was tripping through life like everyone else, thinking this was practice. When I realized that this is it, there is no dress rehearsal, I realized that I had better get to living the purpose for which I was sent to this earth to accomplish.”
Touching one’s death at an early age is a wake-up call that no one expects or wants, in fact, most of us fear it. And yet, when it presents itself to us, and we have no choice but to respond in as positive a way as possible, life begins to open up and assist us. We must take the first step, trust that the dreams we have dreamt are for now, and then do all we can to make them happen. It is amazing how many of us, and how often, we ask so little of life. If we knew that at any moment, life as we know it could change forever, it should give us a boost into a fuller realm of what to ask for from life.
Whatever you dream of doing, think about what needs to be done and begin it today. As we enter this new year, stretch your possibilities and do what you have wanted, but feared, to do. As the German author Goethe said, “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”
Soucheray is a Woodbury resident and a licensed family therapist