71: A Future to Step Into

71: A Future to Step Into

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Time to Thrive

A Future to Step Into

We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.

~Joseph Campbell

I had always envisioned the “Golden Years” as a time in our lives when my wife Lynn and I would have the free time to explore the country in our custom motorhome, going from place to place like two leaves in the wind. This was not a “bucket list fantasy.” This was a well thought out season-of-life game plan.

Lynn and I had met thirty years before and instantly became best friends, soul mates and later, husband and wife. Lynn was an artist and photographer. She was as wonderful as wonderful can be and allowed each day of her life to unfold as magic moments.

I was a young attorney at that time, building my practice in the Midwest. Lynn would come with me to the law library on weekends and was my cheerleader and confidante. About seventeen years into my law practice I was offered a once in a lifetime opportunity to become the CEO/President and General Counsel of a company that is America’s leader in the field of self-help and peak performance strategies. This opportunity required that we move to Southern California. This was such an exciting time for us both.

This new role brought us the opportunity to travel the world together and to experience a lifestyle we previously would not have imagined.

We found our dream home in a beach community, and with our six dogs and two parrots lived every day experiencing the joy and happiness of our life together.

And then Lynn was diagnosed with a medical condition that changed the course of our life. This disease had the ruthlessness of a home invasion robbery. The cancer had metastasized throughout her body. We approached it scientifically, medically, spiritually and with tenacious abandon. It was devastating for me to know that each day was one day closer to her end. For the entire year we were side by side during the ineffective yet hopeful regime of treatments.

On January 16, 2011, Lynn passed away with the same style and grace that she lived her life. On that day I joined 7,500 other Americans who also lost a loved one.

It was Friday, January 21, 2011 and the last of about twenty people were leaving our home. Father John, our parish priest, lingered behind and hugged me. He said: “Hang in there, this is God’s will, may her memory be eternal.”

As I watched his car pull away, I closed the door. I heard a new kind of silence and looked around. All of the dogs had circled me as if by design and we froze together in the moment.

This was going to be a time to thrive or a time to be smothered by the dark clouds of grief and despair.

We did not have children. We did, however, have a close community of friends who all stepped in and reached out to me in wonderful ways. Hospice introduced me to grief counseling and a counselor met with me weekly with assurances that the deep physical and mental pain of this journey would ease with time.

I realized that friends and associates were without words. Some disappeared from the radar. I was forgiving of that and was clear that this journey was mine alone.

Grief has a life of its own. We have all had our disappointments and loss of others. I was totally unprepared for this.

During the following year I went through the motions of work and life. I stayed close to home, and the dogs and parrots became my nuclear family. I did very little to our home other than find worthwhile places to donate Lynn’s things.

I decided to take up poker and began to commute back and forth to Las Vegas. Poker gave me an opportunity to keep my mind engaged and to socialize in a new way. Eight weeks after learning the game, I played in my first World Series of Poker. Little did I realize that my time to thrive was unfolding in front of me and the healing process that protects us was in full swing.

Without a design or conscious game plan, my life was changing. It was little steps and I barely noticed it myself. On the first anniversary of Lynn’s passing I was at the cemetery for my weekly visit. I can barely describe what occurred, which was a feeling of lightness and euphoria. I could hear the wisp of what I sensed was the dark cloud catching a wind and beginning to disburse. I felt guilty that I was feeling lighter.

The following week I was in Vegas. By chance and circumstance I met a woman who has become a great friend and companion. I got a stunning high-rise condo on the Las Vegas strip and began to split my time between Las Vegas and California. For the next two years I began to spend nearly all of my time in Vegas, experiencing a lifestyle change that I had never dared to dream.

Back in California there was unfinished business. The home I shared with Lynn remained untouched. I also still had a full-time high-pressure job to maintain. Somehow I made it all work. I had a house sitter and housekeeper take care of my home and my pets around the clock. This went on for three years. I would go back and forth for visits. The house was full of memories of Lynn and me and I would fast-track back to Vegas. My job could be supported virtually and I had a stellar team at the home office dealing with day-to-day matters. Where there is a will, there is a way.

I closed my eyes to the fact that something had to give. Of course what I was avoiding was letting go of my house and my pets and thirty-one years of the most wonderful memories. In my mind, that would somehow end my relationship with Lynn and I simply was not able to fathom that.

It was approaching the third anniversary of Lynn’s passing. My poker coach, Kenna James, put it on the line. He said, “Poker and life have many similarities. You can only lose what you are attached to and until you can give up those attachments the game will control you instead of you controlling the game.” Something deep inside me began to stir.

That month I returned to California. I got our home ready to list. With the help of Gale, a dear family friend, I found homes for all my pets. What a heartache that was. I realized that to thrive I needed to let go of it all. I made a decision to begin my life all over and to invent a new future.

I got rid of everything I owned. I sold six Harleys, my motorhome, all my cars, all my furniture, collectables — everything went.

The house was impeccable, and on the first day it was listed I had six full offers.

It closed on Lynn’s birthday. I went to the cemetery and there were no clouds. I knew Lynn was orchestrating things. It was all too smooth and effortless to be coincidence.

I bought a new Corvette Stingray and returned to Vegas with only my clothes and a box of photos.

I then met with the Chairman of the great company that had given me such opportunity for the past two decades and we agreed on and announced my formal retirement.

Yes, I gave it all up.

I am a private kind of guy. I decided to share this story because I want anyone who finds themselves in these circumstances to know that life is guided. You unfold the future — the future does not unfold you.

There is such a thing as a time to thrive.

~Sam Georges

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