The Gift of Bold Living
“My Gutsy Story®” Nancy Sharp
The date, June 17, 2006, was a defining one: widowed and with five-year-old twins in tow, I headed west to Denver. Life in New York City after 18 years just wasn’t worth the fast, noisy, people-populated-like-ants, cash-depleting hassles-everywhere grind. Certainly, I was sad to leave behind family and friends, but the prospect of a different life, one that I could invent, was too fierce a pull to ignore. Moving to Colorado was more than the dawn of a new decade (I had just turned 40); it would be my Act II.
Much has changed these past eight years. My twins are 12, I met and married a native Coloradoan, and I became a stepmom to two boys, now 21 and 22. Today I worry about social connections, ample exercise, and too much video time for the tweens, and dating, organization, and career opportunities for the older boys. My new life has broadened my worldview: I can now grill and pull weeds and even, brace yourself, use a power drill.
By recasting my life, I proved to myself that when the unthinkable happens, we need not be in stasis. Hope and possibility exist, I think, even in the grimmest of times. I should know. My first husband died of a brain tumor at age 39, leaving me with two and half year old twins. Those were hard, hard times. Just when I thought I couldn’t see beyond the vortex of grief, I found a shred of hope.
My moment of transformation arrived with little fanfare. While driving with a friend to visit my family in Connecticut, I suddenly blurted out, “Why can’t I just move to Denver?” Lisa, my pretty and deeply spiritual friend who knew my longtime love of Colorado, answered, “You can. What’s stopping you?”
“Well,” I began dismissively, “there’s my parents and my mother-in-law. I’d have to buy a house, find new work, find a school for the kids, make new friends, blah, blah, blah.”
As the list of why-not-to-move-to-Colorado’s grew bigger, they also became more diffuse. Lisa was unfazed, like a mirror reflecting the longing of my heart. Suddenly, I understand that none of these perceived obstacles came close to what I had already conquered. Just like that, my decision was made. I’m not a runner and never will be, but the surge of energy I felt at that turnkey moment could have propelled me to run the New York City marathon (the real one).
That’s the upside of change: the adrenaline-pumping feeling of hope. Losing my husband to cancer changed my life forever, but moving to Colorado gave me hope that a new life was possible. What does this really mean? In my view, we can choose not to be defined by the past. We can sweeten our lives any moment, any time. That’s right.
You might be thinking, “Well, she had extreme circumstances.” Yes. Extreme events can lead to dramatic changes, but sometimes the opposite is true. It’s easier and safer to stay put when life mows you down, but is it wiser? Saner? I felt stuck for a full two years before making my move. I put on mascara and dragged myself to work, made Micky Mouse pancakes for my active toddlers, even dated a little. I tried to be positive about my future, but in reality, I was just getting through the days. I didn’t live my dreams. One day bled into the next and that is how I passed the time. It’s human nature to want to be fixed in time. But at what cost?
I had no grand plan when I moved to Colorado beyond the desire to claim breathing space for the twins and me. I knew that I was a skilled enough writer to be able to find consulting work when I was ready, just as I knew that I would branch out beyond my one friend in Denver (my college roommate). Since all expectations of the world I once envisioned for myself had already been crushed, I found a strange calm in starting anew. Everything felt fresh and exciting.
It was in this spirit of bold living that some seven months after arriving in Denver I came to reach out to a widowed TV news anchor who was selected as one of the city’s “Most Eligible Singles.”
What did I have to lose by writing him? Maybe we could be friends?
I had never even heard of Steve Saunders before reading about him in the newspaper, nor did I know about his equally well-known father, a veteran print journalist.
I fired off an e-mail and a photo to Steve letting him know that I was new to Denver and that I was also widowed with two children. I proposed that we meet for coffee.
Two weeks passed. No response.
Maybe he never received the e-mail?
In a burst of courage, I decided to resend it. This time Steve responded within the hour, apologizing for his slow response. He wanted to talk. He wanted to meet.
Dinner last four hours. At first we kept the conversation light (I really was curious to know what it was like to be a TV Anchor in Denver). But ultimately we began to trade “war stories” — the toughest moments for him during his wife’s illness, the worst times for me, the gray aftermath of living with loss, and of course, the way our losses had affected our children.
We had many dates in the months that followed. They were fun, light, and adventurous. And so began the process of blending two families. By then we knew we wanted to marry. The love we had found in one another was real and true. We understood how the past crept into the present, but in each other were able to discover peace and joy in living every day. Our story is still being written, still being lived, past and present and future at once. In the words of Joni Mitchell, “Well something’s lost but something’s gained.”
To bold living!
NANCY SHARP is the author of Both Sides Now: A True Story of Love, Loss, and Bold Living (Books & Books Press, February 2104). She frequently speaks to large groups about bold living, contributes to the Huffington Post, and authors the blog Vivid Living: Life in Full Bloom…Thorns and All. ™
Both Sides Now won a 2014 National Indie Excellence Award, and 2014 International Book Award.
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SONIA MARSH SAYS: I love your proactive approach to life and especially what you said:
“In my view, we can choose not to be defined by the past. We can sweeten our lives any moment, any time. That’s right.”
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