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Martha's big adventure -- A blank slate

There is a phenomenon in life I call "the blank-slate moment," and I've hit this rare place once again.

Ever since I was told there was even a possibility that cancer could take me earlier than I'd planned, I've found myself struck dumb whenever someone asks me how I'm doing. It's not that I'm unwilling to say, I just don't know what to call this vast, peaceful feeling.

Yes, peaceful and so big I can't feel the edges of it, and I really don't have the words for getting that across quickly. I've valiantly made a few attempts, but each and every time the listener has, at first, looked puzzled, then bored and, occasionally, annoyed.

I'm trying to come up with a shorter, more understandable answer, but I haven't been able to bring myself to just say, "fine" because that feels like a lie.

I'm better than fine and off in some new realm, but I'm new there, so get back to me in a few months. That's my best answer, but without the entire back story that sounds a little off-center of sane. This is all part of a new blank slate.

A blank-slate moment happens when something so enormous happens it causes all of our old emotional responses to be wiped away and we are left not knowing exactly how we feel anymore, about anything. In those moments, we have to start over from scratch.

Some of them are wondrous moments, such as getting married or having a baby, and we know for months leading up to the event that it's brand new territory that will take some adjustments.

We approach the event with an open heart and ask for assistance or guidance from others who've already walked the path ahead of us.

Sure, a few of us may get married more than once, and many of us have a few children and the wisdom we gain from each one is that it's an emotional blank slate every time.

However, human beings love patterns, especially during times we've judged as difficult, because finding one that works at all gives us some sense of control.

The loss of control is the first big gift of a blank-slate moment.

Once I became aware that my control settings were wiped clean, I still found myself trying a few more times to create a pattern out of how cancer would be handled.

But then, I got the second, unrelated diagnosis of melanoma only one month later, and none of my little plan worked. I had to settle in to what was happening and just roll as part of the whole process, rather than the grand designer.

Control over the events in our life is an illusion anyway. Ask anyone who saved for thirty years in a pension that disappeared last year along with their job. But, and here's the blessing, if we can give into that idea with a notion that something bigger loves us and has our back, then we can finally relax.

We're not in charge and that's the good news.

Here's the other big blessing that can come out of a blank-slate moment. We get to choose with a little more clarity, some humility and a bit of wisdom just who we are and what we want to do with all of it.

None of the old controls are there to lean on when I feel frustrated and would like to fall back into a rut of a routine if only I could find it. I have to start over, and this time I know it's a lot easier, if I just ask for help from family and friends.

Even better, I know that the new definitions come from the inside out and not from what the world may think at any given moment.

The process of rejoining the world takes awhile, so I'll let you know what the answer was to "how are you," when I get it. Till then, I'm going to stop wondering and just be in the moment. More adventures to follow.

Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. Ask Martha how to get to your dream and receive a free gift of Martha's new Big Adventure book, "The 3 x 5 Game" -- www.marthasbigadventure.com. E-mail her at: Martha@caglecartoons.com.