Another side to her story

In an odd, falling-dominoes way I discovered that a woman I liked very much died last week. Cancer.

God knows others have much richer memories of her than I do. I only knew her during a single, condensed phase of her life–a time when she was throwing monstrous amounts of time and a not-insignificant amount of money into broadening her creative capabilities.

The testimonials I’ve seen all speak to her loving, devoted ways as a wife, mother, and friend. She earned every word, no doubt. But when I met her 10 years ago, outside of her usual roles, she was just herself: a kind, deliberate person in an oft-unlikable and chaotic setting.

At the time, she’d just taken her fairly conventional life in what she thought would be a slightly different direction. The alteration wasn’t meant to disrupt the lives of her husband, children, or clients, but even a 5-degree change in course can plunge one into the rapids. And like the rest of us who’d picked the same path, away she went.

Despite paddling madly, she found she was unable to meet her own high standards. And with so many new expectations added to her pile, she couldn’t test her limits without reducing what she was able to offer others. So reduce she did (though from my perspective it sure looked like she continued to give a lot without asking for much in return).

Back then I wasn’t sure if her loved ones supported her choice to throw herself into something foreign and challenging and draining. If they didn’t, I hope they eventually understood why she risked making her life, and by extension their lives, a little less perfect and predictable. Because despite the exhaustion, she seemed to thrive. Despite being surrounded by love–because of being surrounded by love?–she wasn’t afraid to desire something more, to give herself permission to explore new ideas and old fascinations.

She was soft-spoken, humble, and in her 40s–an easy type to overlook or ignore in our particular environment. But if you were smart enough to pay attention, she’d make you think. She was a methodical pragmatist who wasn’t afraid to dream, and I’m sure many of her friends and family will remember her that way.

But just in case they don’t, I will.

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