By Alex Cohen
I watched a movie called “Life Itself.” The premise and the message of the movie are simple: Life is unpredictable and the chain of events you experience can change the whole course of your story. Below is my journey that led me to today.
I was born last in a family of three girls. I wasn’t the oldest who paved the way for the rest of us, which must have been painful for her, especially along with the trial and error of first-time parents. I also was not the middle who probably felt ignored and in limbo when I came along. I was the baby, the one who practically raised herself. I learned from my older siblings which mistakes not to make, and how to navigate the whole parent/child system. I was a fast learner.
As a student, I quickly learned to use my birth order in my favor. Not only did I know how to navigate my parents, but teachers were not very different. I quickly learned how to read people and situations very well. This came in handy then and in life in general. It continued to serve me well except for this one link in the chain that altered everything.
When I was very young, I met a man who captured my attention and my heart. He was a liar and emotionally abusive, but I became that young woman who blamed herself for his behavior and believed his apologies time after time. You imagine that if you love him enough, things will get better. You hold on to the good times, no matter how few and far in between they are. You see what you want: hope, where there is none. What broke me out of my trance was the birth of my son. He was the only man I needed to love and live for. He needed me and I needed him. So, a new journey began.
I went back to work and did what I had to do to make sure my little man had all he needed and more. As luck would have it (or fate, depending on what you believe), I landed a temporary job at a British brokerage house as a file clerk. Again, I assessed the situation and created a plan. I moved quickly, asking someone I had befriended to teach me how to use a computer (in the 80’s this was fairly new to most). I stayed late to learn all I could and quickly went from the filing room to the operations department, making twice what I earned when I started. There I met a man who rented space from the company and befriended him. Soon, I was running the operations department for his small group, making four times my starting pay! Soon after, my boss left and I moved away from the business world and took a job with a medical scientist. This gave me more stability, time with my son and time to date. What if I never landed at this British firm? What if that man never rented space there and noticed my potential? Another link in the chain that is my life.
As my life became more stable, I had more time and I decided to start dating. I joined the first dating service I read about and went on a few dates, but none I felt strongly about. One day, an invitation came to me from the service. Online dating was not as big of a thing yet, so I actually had to physically go to the office and check every potential date out in their library of clients. I had done this exercise often and no one really caught my eye like this one guy. He was so handsome…and those eyes! My first instinct was, he could be the one, but the only problem was that he was just recently divorced. That scared me a bit; I didn’t want to be his first experiment. I declined the invitation on a Wednesday. By Friday, I could not get this man out of my head. I called the service and told them I had changed my mind; I wanted them to send him my number.
He called, we met that Sunday, and the rest is history. 28 years and four more children later, those eyes still slay me. What would have happened if I went to another service or declined and ignored my first instinct? He was the one and the links grew.
Through my husband I met one of my best friends who happened to be his trainer – another link. At our first home in the country we met Madison, a yellow lab who kept escaping the gate around the corner and coming to our house for a playdate with my kids and some well-deserved pancakes. Madison’s two dads soon became our friends and one of them remains another one of my best friends today – another link.
Not all of these links were happy ones. Some were very painful. Some were good friends I am now estranged from, friends who died tragically, or a health crisis in my own life and those of my family. Life will never always be full of happy links, because how do we appreciate the good ones unless we have something painful to compare them to? We need to find gratitude in all the experiences, no matter how painful they may be as they complete the chain, maybe with a few kinks in the links.
Each one of my best friends came into my life by coincidence, happenstance, fate, accident whatever you want to call it. Either way, they have all affected each other’s lives in ways I could not have imagined once I brought them all together. In this case, I am the conduit to links in their own chains.
Where would I be without those lifelong friends? They supported me when I had nothing. While some are estranged now, I am forever grateful for their friendship and their support. Friends who passed tragically–as painful as the memory of their passing is, the memories we shared for so many years brings my heart joy. What if NBC TV journalist David Bloom didn’t die? I would have never met his friends and we would not have made all those amazing memories. Now I consider them a permanent link in my chain of life. What if I never contracted Lyme disease? I would have never started my initiative to cure this insidious disease that has wreaked havoc on so many lives. What if my parents stopped at two children, what if I stopped at one? What if…?
How many times do we question why things happen to us good or bad? The reality is we are not in control of very much. Sh*t happens. Be grateful and remember that these links, these chains of events will continue to occur so that in the end, your chain will be complete. Your life and your experiences–even your death–create a link in someone else’s life, so try to make them ones that you are proud of.
I wear my necklace proudly and I welcome the unexpected because it has gotten me this far. I hope when I am gone my links, when spread out, can reach across the country, kinks and all.