Who are you? How do you define yourself? Some people can combine what they love and what they do. Teachers, photographer, lawyers, or artists. Others are defined by what they have to do to make a living. Are you defined by what you do or love—or by what happens to you?
Me? I always wanted to be defined by my music since I’m a classical pianist, and by my writing—something I accomplished artistically.
But one spring Sunday in 1986, a new definition was suddenly written about me. I was the mother of a 5-year-old girl who was attacked and almost killed by a mountain lion in Orange County. In an instant, that became the narrative of my life. Praying she lived, caring for her through her long recovery, trying to hold our family together, suing the county for negligence, and ultimately, a long lawsuit and trial.
I prayed that Laura lived. I was a lifelong Catholic, and had been a nun for six years. But when I saw Laura in intensive care, close to death, I had the frightening thought that maybe there wasn’t a God. I never regained my faith, although it took eighteen years for me to embrace my atheism fully.
I was suddenly defined by this random and traumatic event—this thing that changed the course of our lives in less than five minutes. There was “before the attack” and “after the attack.” It’s how we measured time in our family—and still do.
Laura slowly recovered. My husband, son and I recovered too, in our own small ways, and we stayed together. I wrote my book, “Out of the Lion’s Den,” because I not only wanted to tell Laura’s story, but also my own. I wanted to define myself not as a victim of circumstances, but someone who could take situations and turn them into something better. It became my story as much as it was Laura’s.
I’d like to share one of my favorite quotes: “All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” (from Martin Buber.)
In my blog, I’d like to explore some of those destinations that I have discovered. I’ve met people from all around the world, a pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels, an African priest who continues to inspire my life-even though I’m an atheist! I’d also like to show that atheists can be good, moral people. I will write about gardening and patience, using money for our happiness, and how people change their belief systems. I’m fascinated with people’s stories of belief—or non-belief. I want to tell you about the members of my family including Walter and Ralph, two tuxedo cats who have their own stories to share. (There may even be pictures.)
Ultimately, I hope to show you some ways I’ve learned to overcome and grow from traumatic experiences—and I’ll be curious to know how you’ve changed your life from “what happens to you” to “what you make happen!”
Please join me in this new journey. And think about who you are, and how you are defined. Hopefully you are the one with the pen, writing your own life story.