The Gift of Possibilities

I have been given a very special and unwelcome gift this year — the gift of possibilities.

Thirty-eight weeks ago my life mate — my soulmate — died. During the previous few years, the constraints of his illness bound our lives, and it felt as if we were doomed to an eternity of decreasing possibilities. Every day he became weaker, could do less, had fewer options. We could not plan for our future, knowing each day was all he might have. We could not even spend much time together — it took all his strength and concentration just to make it through another hour.

And so we lived. Waited.

His death brought enormous changes to my life, but during these months of grief, I have focused on the  impossibilities. It is impossible for him to come back to me and it’s impossible for me go home to him. It’s impossible for us ever to have another conversation, watch a movie, play a game, take a trip, start over in a new location as we so often did during our decades together. It’s impossible for me to stop missing him, impossible to conceive of living in a world from which he is absent. It’s been impossible, too, to concede that perhaps my life could be easier without him. What difference does that make when our being together was all that ever mattered to me?

And yet, and yet . . .

I am getting glimmers of myself now, myself alone. I no longer have the financial and emotional burden of his illness. I am no longer weighted down by my own grief, though it is still a part of me, and probably always will be.

I still feel as if I am waiting, but I’m beginning to feel as if I’m waiting for something rather than simply waiting, though I don’t know what I am waiting for. I do know that — slowly — the world of possibility is opening up to me again. I might not be able to do whatever I want — people are so wrong when they say anything is possible — but many things are probable when you’ve been given the gift of possibilities.

Sports As Story

The one thing that separates humans from other animals is not our ability to communicate; most (perhaps all) creatures possess that ability to some degree. What separates us from animals is how we communicate: by words, by stories.

We all have stories to tell. At work, we tell colleagues, “You’ll never guess what happened to me last night.” At home, we tell our families, “You know what Sally did today? She . . .” Out with friends, we top each other’s jokes.

Stories. That’s what we’re about.

We love to hear other people’s stories, we love to tell stories, and we love to read stories, both real and imagined. “I don’t like stories,” you might say; “I like sports.” Ah, but sports is all about story. The hero, the villain, the conflict, the passion, the suspense, the unexpected or the hoped-for ending. We identify with the characters; we empathize with their plight; we feel as if we have a stake in the outcome of the game. All elements of story. No wonder so many sports movies have been made, so many sports novels have been written. The story of a game within the story of a character. Heady stuff.

Conflict keeps us reading a story, conflict keeps us watching a game. When a character or a player with whom we identify runs up against an obstacle, we want to find out how things will turn out. That conflict forces us to pay attention. When a book is too slow or too predictable, we will toss it aside. When a clear winner of a game is indicated, we will leave the ballpark or turn off the television. When a game is desultorily played, neither team giving that fabled one hundred and ten percent, we lose interest.

We might try to avoid conflict in our lives, but when in comes to story, we need conflict. We need characters, we need to care, we need the contrast and the conflict between the hero and the villain, and we like to see characters change. We love when underdogs win, when they pull out the best in themselves and change from loser to champion. Doesn’t matter whether we hear an anecdote, tell a joke, read a book, or watch sports. It’s all the same.

We are human. We are story.