Each day was no longer a struggle when Ann, my roommate, gave up fighting her disability. As Ann accepted who she is, limitations and warts, she began to live differently, seeing life as life is, not what she wanted. People began to look different, more interesting, more varied, and not like Ann’s ideas which did not grow or change readily.
Ann told me her secret to life one day. “Susan,” she began slowly, before she had completely swallowed her first bite of toast, “I no longer raise my fist to the new day, begging for “it/this/me/you” to be different. I changed one day when, instead of my usual complaints and self absorption, I saw the green grass, heard the traffic below me and the children laughing on the playground behind me, felt the breeze, and the ground under my feet, all at the same time, vividly. I felt life in me, around me and through me. It was exhilarating, although as fleeting as a snowflake on an open palm.”
“The next morning,” Ann continued, no longer interested in her toast, “I woke with my usual black mood, then stopped, remembering all the life I had experienced in that one moment. I looked out the window to the clouds and the blue openness, and whispered, “thank you.” I did not think or care what the “you” pointed to. Thank you, blue. Thank you, cloud. Thank you, new day. Thank you, Life. That morning was the beginning of the best day I had ever had.”
Ann, with her black hair still and shiny resting on her shoulders, sat motionless, gazing into the garden, into its summer lushness, out our kitchen window. She was so relaxed that she, her chair and her coffee cup all were one seamless picture. Her peace and joy were contagious, and I felt myself merging with the morning sun.
Weeks and months went by as I watched Ann grow and change, becoming more Ann, more alive. It was as if an Ann light had turned on inside of her, shining everywhere. I was honored to be a witness to her transformation, inspired to reach, to stretch, to find my own light. I found myself worrying less, holding on a little longer to a real moment, free from floating fear of bills due or mistakes I predicted or remorse at that remark that escaped last night, free from fear of everything. Ann taught me how to enjoy a piece of toast.
Then I moved to N. Idaho and began missing fresh avocados and friends and familiar streets, and more variety of ages, colors, clothing, and attitudes. I struggled to fit in, to find a friend, to remember which way to turn to get to the grocery store. It’s the struggle and the beginning of self pity that reminded me of Ann. Because of Ann, I looked up and saw the blue sky, remembering to be grateful for the colors around me. I noticed the green, reds, oranges, purples, grays and nameless shades in the trees and mountains. If I looked, I saw beauty in every direction.
Ann’s story of transformation led to changes in me and my life, as stories always do, in minor or major ways. I gave up the struggle, and breathed in some lovely clean air. I began to walk and talk and act as if I belonged, instead of missing fresh avocados. I discovered, instead, some tasty food at a quality grocery store that catered to all kinds of stomachs and needs. One day I tried a brand new dish made with N. Idaho wild cilantro. I fell in love. I never knew such a plant existed or such a taste. I’ve decided to stay in N. Idaho as long as possible, hoping to feast on wild cilantro as many days as I can. Good- bye, avocados. I love you, Cilantro.