Thursday, September 9, 2010

Roadside: Breakin' Down & Soulful Rejuvenation

Sometimes life's journey isn't always a smooth ride. Everyone else is on the freeway moving and grooving along while you're off on the side of the road with a break down. Whether major or minor, physical, spiritual, or mental, your body refuses to keep going and you find yourself broken down. Roadside.

I know about this part of the journey well since it's where I found myself almost eight years ago.  I watched other people continue their daily routines while I waited  to hear my latest test results or when my next surgery would be.

I was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer March 6, 2003.  I was 39 at the time and honestly, didn't have a clue what it meant.  It seemed it would be a fairly easy, uncomplicated surgery and treatment. But my life's road-map lead me a down a different path -- really to an under-used dirt farm road!  It all got a little complicated and the end result has been four rounds of chemo and  eight surgeries to date. Good riddance cancer!

But this isn't about the cancer or how my life was on hold for a couple of years. This is about how that experience led me to an even more incredible journey I never expected. An opportunity to slow down and discover a whole new world and in the process, a whole lot about myself. Abundant blessings in disguise.

You see, on the verge of mid-life, turning 40, I was blessed with the realization that life is short and I'd better get on with all those goals, dreams, and travels I'd been putting off. What was I waiting for?

My protagonist, Jimmie Rae Murphy, was conceived and born as I recuperated from the umpteenth reconstructive surgery.  At first she was shy and venerable -- and yeah, plenty boring.  I began to write and study and rewrite.  I joined writers' groups including Writers' League of Texas and (the amazing) Sisters in Crime Guppy Chapter. I entered writing contests, exchanged manuscripts with critique partners, and read incessantly both other novels and books on writing. 

Before I knew it, Jimmie Rae emerged as a strong, independent, boot-wearing, butt- kickin', karma believin' Texas woman that wasn't going to take any garbage from anyone.
In the process of creating Jimmie Rae and plotting FIRST MONDAY MURDER I made a personal journey and discovered my seventh generation Texas roots run deep. 

I discovered a complete fascination and thrill with wearing cowboy boots, embroidered jeans, and sassy t-shirts. I fell in love with old time Texas swing bands like Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys and Asleep at the Wheel.  I listened more intently to my grandparents' stories of how they grew up in southeast Texas and managed to make a life together for more than 60 years despite all the obstacles in their journey together.

Music filled our Victorian house as I wrote and revised and wrote some more. Not the music of my pre-cancer life, but the raw, deep tones of Texas blues musicians like Lightnin' Hopkins, Leadbelly, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and Susan Tedeschi. 

I also found out I really like Thai food while I was undergoing chemo treatment. Its spicy and exotic flavor combinations beat out the other toxic tastes the treatment left behind. 

My point is that if it hadn't been for this roadside break down seven years ago, I might never have had the courage to try anything daring like writing a mystery novel, wearing cowboy boots, or eating Thai food.  Having cancer somehow gave me permission and the brutal push I needed to try.  I figured at this point in my life's journey what do I have to lose?

Today, I'm stronger, healthier, and much more creative than I was in my thirties.  As I race toward 50, I look forward to meeting more new friends, writing more stories, buying and selling more antiques, and traveling down that always exciting blacktop road of life.

I'll never forget not what cancer took from me, but what it gave me.  I'm very thankful.

Have you had a roadside difficulty in your life's journey that pushed you to try something new? If so, what was it?  If not, don't  wait for one! What's keeping you from reaching for your dreams?

Peace, love, and all the good stuff y'all.

1. Cowboy Boots
2. Toasted Croissants with Nutella
3. Patty Griffin's "Heavenly Day"
4. Amateur Bluebonnet Paintings
5. Sitting at the dinner table with my family

What's YOUR good life stuff?


  1. Wonderful blog, Lisa, and a good kick in the butt! Thanks!

  2. Thanks, Susan! Funny about the kick in the butt thing -- since YOU inspire me! :-)