Slices of Life: Falling off the cliff

Jill Pertler

Life changes us. Sometimes in increments, like accidentally stepping off the curb. Sometimes in ways akin to falling off a cliff. It’s these cliff-changing moments that transform us in ways we could never have imagined – before. It’s like falling from one world into another – into a life so different that your old life can only be referenced as “before.”

This new life. The life you are living “after,” whatever that after may be for you: After a birth. After a death. After a divorce. After a marriage. After a major illness. After some life-changing event – truly life-changing in every aspect of every day and every minute.

An event was so sweeping that it encompasses you and every cell of your being. It changes the way you view the world.

And whether excruciatingly joyous or magnificently sad, you understand you will never be the same again. You can’t ever go back to the you that was before. That door has irrevocably and permanently shut, and the only way forward is forward.

It’s almost like the before never happened. It’s hard to remember what life was like – back then. Sometimes you want to remember – you long for it – but you just can’t go back. In reality or memory. Oh, sure, you can recall certain instances, certain experiences, but to actually remember – on the cellular or the heart level – what it felt like to live that “other” life? No. You can’t because you’ve changed, and you’re no longer the person who lived that life – before.

You can recall, but you can’t remember. Not really. And it wouldn’t be right if you did because every day – every moment – you are changing and evolving and becoming a new you. A you who is living in the now, not the before.

Perhaps not by choice, but by circumstance.

With that said, your life now is not always in the after. You try, but sometimes it hits you. It hits you so hard that you have to catch your breath and consciously will yourself to breathe in and out. One gulp of air at a time.

Your mind bends to the before – because you may want that badly – and it engulfs you just as surely as falling off the cliff engulfed you. Like a rockslide or avalanche.

But then, on the second, third, fifteenth, or eightieth breath, you find you are breathing normally again. Your heart is not thumping out of your chest but seems to be beating along with the air flowing in and out of your lungs.

And at that moment, you realize there really isn’t a before or after; there is only a now.

You may long for the before, and I often do.

You may long for a new after, which I also do.

But what you really have is now. Right now. Today.

And you can choose how to perceive this.

It can be constricting – Denying you both your past and the future. Keeping the memories at bay. Keeping hope just beyond reach.

Or, it can be liberating. Providing hope and strength to both your past and your future. Giving memories their space without letting them control you. Allowing the hope and joy and trust to surround you now and allow you to know it will be all right.

Because it is all right. Already.

It is. See that. Embrace that. It’s all going to be okay, which is a lovely thing. Worth smiling about, even.

Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, and author. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.