Recently, I was in the nail salon getting my weekly manicure. Having my nails done is more than a treat, it’s the hour I need to zone out and forget the world. Not so this time, however. Sitting behind me were two 40- something gals getting pedicures. My ears perked up when their conversation turned from the mundane to their long-range plans that included their spouses, kids and who knows who. They had it all down pat — bits_and_pieces_largeincluding building a room for the future grandchildren when they visit. Here’s the kicker: Their kids were probably teenagers.

I started to chuckle and found it hard to suppress a belly laugh. When tears of merriment sprang from my eyes, I tried to wipe them away. The nail technician looked puzzled then horrified. She said “No! No! Nail wet!”

I tried to explain but, honestly folks, she didn’t have a clue. She didn’t know enough English and probably thought I was just another crazy American woman. If we could have conversed, I would have said, “These gals haven’t inkling about life’s curve balls, yet.”

But wait. I shouldn’t be too judgmental. Back then, I really believed that my sons Greg and Jeff along with my then-husband George would live out our years in close proximity to each other or at least within driving distance. So much for planning. My sons settled on the West Coast and for sure it wasn’t George’s or my plan for him to die prematurely. Oh well, at least I can fly to the West Coast, but we know there are no express flights from earth to heaven — and, come to think of it, that’s not a trip I’m ready to take.

If someone told me I would be living on the North Fork of Long Island, in a place I call “Paradise Found” 30 years ago, I would have doubled up with laughter and blurted: “What are you crazy? I’m a city gal.” Going into New York City on a whim by myself, with my gal-pals or George, was a “let your hair down” time. The noise, confusion, traffic and hum of the city captivated me. I enjoyed Broadway shows (still do) and relished being where “all the action is.”

You know about those aforementioned curve balls? When George died, it hit me between the eyes and blinded me for ages. Black and blue, bruised from within out, I began to emerge from that pain. After a time I was willing to take a chance on life and love again.

I met my second husband Frank, who offered me another life here on the North Fork — and with some trepidation I accepted his offer. We were firmly planted and grew deep roots in the hamlet of Jamesport where we discovered a loving community and a wonderful church family. I enjoy the peace, solitude, walks on the beach, watching the magnificent sunrises and sunsets. Far cry from the “city” gal, huh? Frank and I planned to live out our days sitting on the porch sipping wine and watching the stars.

But, alas, another curve ball. What are the odds that two husbands would die prematurely? Ah, no, I am not the “black widow” although I sure felt like one. I was again experiencing the “worst of the worst” but you know the words: “I get by with a little help from my friends.” Because of my family, church family, friends and my wonderful SIL (sister –in-law) I once again emerged from the ashes of life, however, I was pretty much burned to a crisp.

I concocted a new plan called “never again:” I would not trust love or life. I told folks that I would stand my ground. I went back to work full-time and enjoy my job immensely, but something was missing. I was experiencing “heart loneliness.” I plodded along until one summer Sunday afternoon, I was introduced to gentlemen with a twinkle in his eye. (Little did I know the twinkle was for me.)

I reluctantly had dinner with him; then not so reluctantly. In the beginning, bat in hand I was ready for the curve ball. One day, it hit me (not the curve ball) that I would have to banish the fear of loss and learn to live again. I made a self-vow to seize the moment and live in the eternal now. And guess what? The eternal now is still a happening place and I love every moment of it.

This is my story, but how about yours?

Has life thrown you a curve ball or two? Did you plan on it? If you answered yes to the first question you are human and in the majority, if you answered no the latter question, again you are human and in the majority.

Should we plan or not plan, that’s the question of the day. Some folks fly by the seat of their pants and land in the mud. Some folks plan every detail and still land in the mud. Life gets tricky, don’t you think? Of course it is good to have a plan, but don’t make the plan the be all and end all of our existence. We should be enjoying the journey, but how can we if we are obsessively focused on our “plan?”

And plans have a way of running amuck. Then when a curve ball comes unbidden and hits us between the eyes, we have lost all the moments leading up to that shattering moment. We can plan to our heart’s content, but there are no guarantees. We cannot predict everything: engagements are broken, marriages go down the tubes, relationships are severed, meteorologists and political pundits get it wrong and folks die.

Last month a dear friend and confidant lost his life on a ski slope. His last photo was taken shortly before his death. He wrote on his Facebook page: “Day 1 great way to start.” Tragically his life ended soon after that post. Life is unpredictable, folks.

If you are like me we tend to be future-focused and why not? We want to have some certainty that things will go as planned. Sometimes it works out; sometimes it doesn’t. All we can bank on is the present. In fact, here and now is the only place that is alive. When we look for life in the past or future it is not there.

I’m a big fan of Eckhart Tolle, the great spiritual teacher. He teaches a practice of living in the “Now.” He writes: “Nothing has happened in the past; it happened in the Now. Nothing will ever happen in the future; it will happen in the Now.”

And I concur. Our lives are happening right this very moment—all we need to do is step into it. Sure go ahead and make those plans, I do. But I suggest having an eraser handy!

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Iannelli Celia 2014

Celia Iannelli is a native New Yorker enjoying a second career — in ‘retirement’ — as a freelance writer. She lives in Jamesport.







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Celia Iannelli is a native New Yorker enjoying a second career — in 'retirement' — as a freelance writer. She lives in Jamesport.