Adjusting Your Sails: What Elizabeth Edwards Taught Me
“I do know that when [my children are] older and telling their own children about their grandmother, they will be able to say that she stood in the storm…and when the wind did not blow her way – and it surely has not – she adjusted her sails.”
– Elizabeth Edwards
Two words, two prompts from Mama Kat’s Writing Workshop this week, and I can’t settle on just one because I think they both apply to this quote from Elizabeth Edwards.
Like so many others, I felt great sadness at the news of her death this week, even though I didn’t know her personally. Although we all knew she had incurable breast cancer, there was something about her – her strength, her resolve and, yes, her resilience in the face of unthinkable circumstances – that made her seem almost invincible. If anyone could outrun invasive cancer, surely she could.
When I saw that quote, I realized it was a great representation of how she lived her life, and also a reason why she has been such an inspiration and role model for me and countless others.
It may seem an odd choice of a quote for me in some ways. I’ll most likely never be a mother. Those were the cards I was dealt. It really wasn’t even something that was a big concern to me until the choice was taken away.
It’s certainly not on the level of losing your 16-year-old son or being diagnosed with incurable cancer or being betrayed by your husband and then dragged through the ensuing media circus his actions created.
But those of us in my situation know that it, too, represents a break, an ending, a separation from what you thought would be and suddenly isn’t. It forces you to change direction whether you want to or not. Your life is no longer going to head in the way you’d always assumed it would, and that’s that.
There’s no turning back. There’s no changing it.
You can drown in it – and some days I do – or you can adjust your sails. It’s a simple idea but bold at the same time.
Simple, but not obvious. It’s one of those “easier said than done” concepts, and that’s why it’s bold, too. It takes guts to refuse to let it consume you. And that’s what Elizabeth Edwards embodied.
She could have wallowed in her tragedies. Certainly if anyone had a right to feel sorry for themselves, she did.
But that wasn’t her. She decided that, even though she wasn’t dealt the hand she expected or wanted, she would adjust her strategy and play to the fullest.
It’s a lesson I try to take in. Remember.
We all face storms. Some are literally life changing, some are momentary blips. But a simple, bold decision to adjust the sails and even ride the waves to a new destination can mean a life well lived, whether it unfolds the way you planned or not.
I’m working on it.