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How many lives do you have?

by SHOLEH PATRICK
| August 2, 2022 1:00 AM

We don’t really have one life.

We have many lives. I don’t mean reincarnation or gradations of heaven or anything else spiritual or metaphorical. I mean within this one cycle of birth and death, life is mentally measured in phases.

Infancy. Childhood, adulthood. Dying, which is an important and major phase, however short or long. But I don’t mean these either.

As I pondered my wedding anniversary today (don’t worry; this isn’t about me), I wasn’t sure how to look upon it. It’s natural on birthdays and anniversaries — be they of marriage, death, sobriety, remission of illness, or any other important event — to look back. This marriage marked a radical change in both our lives. We tend to see it as the transformative end of the first half of our lives, and the heart-opening beginning of the last.

Life before us, and life after. Two lives.

Yet this summer’s anniversary also marks the start of another huge change. Where we live, how we live, how we work. Even how we measure each day. Pleasure has changed. Planning has drastically changed. Our relationship is adjusting to fit.

So, three lives. Life before us. Life after. Life in this odd new duck we call “semi-retirement.”

Or for me, five: Life in one country. Life in another. Becoming a mother. A grandparent. Learning to fly; I saw myself differently after that. Our son’s death certainly changed everything. I’m losing count or counting too many.

Certain intense experiences mark time by changing the way we perceive, the way we live, the way we relate to others, even if we may not become conscious of how until later.

Each “life” expanded my experience of the world, both internal and external.

These life-altering moments are different for everyone. The events which change the shape, color and direction of our inner lives to a point of growth, or some kind of marked shift which changes how we look at living, at others, is unique for each individual.

I might have nine lives. You might have four or 14. Whatever the number, becoming fully cognizant of each — how it changed the way we think and the colors it paints on what we perceive — is perhaps the best potential for mindfulness and wisdom. And certainly worth a ponder, not just on anniversaries.

Whatever your number of lives, may each expand your happiness.

• • •

Sholeh Patrick is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network whose “life after” is when it felt complete. Alligators and all, I’d swim with you there, Mr. Patrick.

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