Friday, June 27, 2008

An antidote to worry

You know, when it comes to making changes in our lives, most of us are a bunch of chickens.

The chickens you see here live in one of the prettiest henhouses in the world, built by my good friends Brud and Carole after their old henhouse burned down a few years back. You think this is pretty? This is only the chickens' side yard!

I remember Brud was really discouraged when that old one burned down: he'd spent a lot of years perfecting its quirkiness, and he wasn't all that sure he wanted to invest that much all over again. But he did, and he completely outdid himself this time: it's magnificent.

I ran into Brud and Carole in the ferry line this week; I was heading up to their little island for an all-too-brief visit before my busy rehearsal schedule kicks in. I sauntered over to their car, and Carole rolled down her window, put her hand on my arm and gave me one of her incredibly dreamy smiles.

"How long are you up for?" she asked.

"Only a couple of days," I replied, "but we'd like to come to that girl party you're throwing on Thursday if you'll have us."

"Of COURSE!" she said, "We'll be thrilled to have you there!" ... and then she added, somewhat shyly, "you'll have to forgive me if I seem a little groggy; I just had this procedure done."

She was so light about it I decided it wasn't too important and didn't ask, just thanked her for the warm welcome and left to give her a chance to rest. Later I looked up at my rearview mirror from the book I was reading and sure enough, she was out cold in the passenger seat of their little van.

On the afternoon of the party we pulled in and parked next to her fence, pushed open the gate and wandered through their spectacular garden to the back deck, where Carole stood with a phone to her ear, tears streaming down her cheeks.

She welcomed us both with hugs and apologized for being a little distracted. "I just got some really good news," she said, wiping her eyes. "I'll be fine in a minute."

We busied ourselves putting out the food, drinks, and napkins we'd brought, and when we looked up she was on the phone again in the kitchen. We chatted with some old friends, and then she came out to tell us what was going on.

"For the last three weeks they thought I might have metastasized liver cancer," she said. "But that test they did on Tuesday? I wasn't supposed to get the results til tomorrow, but I decided to have the party anyway. And the doctor just called -- a day early -- to tell me it's not cancer at all; I don't even need any treatment for what it is."

We were all glad to be there to celebrate with her, and all shocked that she'd carried the scariness of it so quietly for so long.

And when, after driving all day and showing up at a friend's Post-Rotary- Auction-Preview party this evening, I was asked how my time in the islands went, I had to say that the best thing that happened was Carole's good news.

Later I was chatting with my friend Suzanne, describing conversations with both my daughters in which they were worried about life changes facing them, and Suzanne put her hand up.

"Stop!" she said. "I have discovered the perfect phrase for these situations! Listen carefully," she added. "This is really good. The phrase is this: 'It might not be that hard.'"

Wow. I thought of all the times I've sat on my duff, or avoided change, because I was worrying, afraid I might not have what it takes to pull it off. And then I thought of Brud, rebuilding his hen house, and Carole, throwing her party, playing through her anxiety. I thought of just putting one foot in front of the other, stepping out in faith, doing what you need to do to get where you might later decide you really didn't want to go after all.

And I thought, what the heck? You never know. It might not be that hard.

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