Friday, June 28, 2019

Insight: Living like salmon

By Lorraine Glowczak

The living room was in disarray as we were moving old furniture out and new furniture in. Once my husband and I returned order to the room, I noticed a small, delicate folded piece of paper with various shades of purple laying haphazardly on the coffee table. The thin paper, made of a cotton-like material, had a vague familiarity. I picked it up to unfold it – and as I did – memories fell out.

Image from Institute of Creative Research
That small piece of artwork was a homemade note from a friend. It simply said in silver ink, “Happy Valentine’s Day,” followed by her signature. Somehow, that note had slipped deep into the creases of the old sofa – and just as mysteriously, slipped out and back into my life. As it did, I remembered my promise to her. This December will mark 14 years that ALS took my friend’s life at the age of 36.

The promise occurred on a cold December evening at a Christmas party. She was two years into her ALS diagnosis and had just published her book. There were many things we had in common, and writing was among them. One conversation that evening centered around all things writing. We first talked about her new book, but she quickly shifted the conversation to me.

“How is your writing going,” she asked. I wasn’t doing much to reach my own publishing goals at the time and I don’t remember the answer I gave her. Through my response, I suspect she saw the truth in my lack of dedication and said: “I want you to promise me something.” I leaned forward to capture her words as ALS was beginning to rob her of her speech. It had already taken away her ability to type with her hands – she used her eyes through technological advances to finish the final edits of her book. “I want you to write in my place when I can no longer do so.” I promised her I would.

And that is the reason why I’m here as a managing editor and writer for The Windham Eagle newspaper as a step along that promised journey.

I have mentioned in previous Insights that it is my goal to also publish in mainstream media. But some days it feels like swimming upstream. For every instance I try, a hurdle is placed in my way. I jump over that successfully, only to be met with another, taller hurdle.

“Are these challenges suggesting that I go in another direction or is reaching my goal like salmon swimming upstream and I need to continue, despite it all,” I recently asked a new friend. Her response: “One way to help you determine the answer to that,” the wise beyond her years 30-year-old advised, “is to ask yourself whether or not you’d regret it if you didn’t proceed.” I had my answer. I will continue jumping the hurdles to published writing on a national level until I can no longer do so.

What I have discovered is that sometimes living like salmon is a part of life. Author Julia James had this to say about the subject: “When we think of salmon swimming upstream back to their place of birth or the thousands of miles birds travel to migrate, we see them as enormous undertakings. 

However, I wonder if it is even possible for healthy salmon to choose not to return to the river that is their spawning grounds? Could a healthy migratory bird think ‘hmmm, maybe I’ll just stay put this winter here in Canada, rather than flying all the way to Mexico’? It is natural for the salmon to swim upstream. Yes, it takes a lot of energy, but this energy is expended in a manner that maximizes life fulfillment.”

In addition to living the life of my dreams – for me, swimming upstream is keeping a promise. In this particular circumstance, I will live like salmon.

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