Today I’m thankful for these $5 flowers that brought beauty to my space all week.
Whether it’s the view from the kitchen,
from my desk, or navy chair,
they bring a softness,
a hint of grace,
that nothing can replace.
Looking up from my spot on the floor.
Resting my head on two tennis balls, just like every morning.
Creating space for spinal fluid to freely and naturally flow.
The plant caught my gaze. A delicate balance of shadow and light.
I know shadow, I know light.
And in the shadow there is peace, knowing there is light.
One morning last week I got out of bed to discover my Dino dog stretched out on the floor in front of the door, staring at it with great anticipation of getting to the other side. His chin rested on top of his furry paws so his cute little nose was so close to the door that there wasn’t space for it to open.
He didn’t move when I grabbed the door nob to open the door so I motioned to him and heard myself say, “you have to back up so I can get the door open for you.” The moment the words left my mouth I smiled, and almost laughed, at the clarity that so magically formed in my mind. And I went on smiling, muttering to myself, “you have to back up, sometimes you have to step back.”
Sometimes you must take a few steps back in order to get where you want to go.
Who would ever guess that such a silly, everyday moment of opening the bedroom door for my dog could create such a genuine epiphany! For that brief bit, life felt so beautiful and full of possibility as I pondered this idea that taking a step back doesn’t have to be something negative. It doesn’t mean you’re behind. It doesn’t mean you’re giving up. It doesn’t mean you’ve dropped out of the game. And it certainly doesn’t mean you won’t still get to go where you want to go or perhaps get to go somewhere even more incredible than you could have hoped or imagined.
As I thought about my time spent with this illness and the ways it may actually help me get where I want to go, I marveled at the deeper level of peace that I’ve only come to experience because of the way calm, quiet, and the ability to focus on one moment at a time have become necessary for my very survival.
The feeling of peace never seems to last forever, especially when new challenges get plopped down atop of the heaping pile of things that already felt hard enough, making the new challenges feel downright insurmountable.
But I love knowing that this feeling of possibility is always there for me to return to when I’m ready; the invitation to trust that this time spent hanging back, learning to live with pain, uncertainty, and limitations, and being steeped in peace and love, will create the space for a door to open…
A door that will be just the one I want to step through when the time is right.
(NOTE: I feel so happy today that I almost feel silly posting this intro. BUT I like that it is proof of the fact that sometimes you need to fully feel the icky stuff in order to get to the joy, the love, the hope, and the peace that are always waiting for you on the other side.)
As my birthday approached I started to feel sad, and I caught myself thinking, “That’s not normal. I shouldn’t be sad. You’re supposed to be happy on your birthday.”
Then the wise part of myself came forward to say that thinking this wasn’t going to help me. Recognizing that she was right, I called to the nurturing part of myself that usually only shows up for others. She supported me, saying it was okay for me to feel however I was feeling; that if I felt sad that meant I had reason to be sad and I could let it out. So I did.
I realized that the sadness was about more than just the fact that I wouldn’t be able to celebrate my birthday the way I want to because of my illness. I was sad that it would mark nearly a year of being sick with no definite end in sight, sad that it has been another year that my dad has not been here with us, sad that life as a whole has not turned out at all like I dreamed.
Before long, sadness gave way to anger. I was angry about the years I didn’t get to spend the way I felt I should have had the opportunity to, and angry that my innocence, the idealistic outlook that came so easily, had been taken from me before I was ready.
A new coach friend noticed that my anger had an energy to it. An energy of hope. I was shocked, “it does, doesn’t it?!”
It’s true. I have endured a lot of challenges that most people my age have not. But no matter the heartbreak or injustice, hope remains. Hope is the voice that called out from my anger to say, “Hey, you’re ahead of your time in all that you’ve learned, and that, no matter how painful, will serve you well.”
So later that night I was inspired to type out a list of things I’ve learned throughout the last year. I typed them out rapid-fire on my phone as they came to mind, counting as I went. I decided to stop at 27 and now I have a list of 27 lessons I learned in my 27th year of life on this planet. So without further ado, here are the first 27 things that came to mind. The lessons that will get added to my cherished, hard-won collection that will carry me boldly into the future.
1. Being content with your own company and only your own company is a skill worth developing.
2. It is possible to be resilient and feel completely depleted and fed up with life at the same time.
3. Sometimes your body desperately needs rest, so allow it to have some.
4. Embrace your emotions, even the ones that you fear might suck you up or eat you alive, because they always seem to lead to something valuable.
5. Be honest with yourself and don’t cover your wounds with “positive statement bandaids” that don’t feel true.
6. Make decisions based on what feels right for your soul.
7. Keep a detailed record of all dealings with medical, insurance company, and school district personnel…even the ones you think you can trust.
8. Life coaching rocks.
9. In the medical system you can only get as far as you are determined to push and advocate for yourself, so stick with it.
10. There are times when you need help so much that you aren’t embarrassed to accept it because you’re already filled to the brim with thankfulness that someone is there to provide it.
11. Even when you don’t hear from others as often as you’d like, it doesn’t mean that they don’t think of you and care for you. And there will always be people who will stay by your side no matter how dark things get.
12. There are few things in life so wonderful as talking with someone who meets you with genuine compassion and sits with you in the experience of wherever you are and whatever you’re feeling in that moment.
13. People aren’t ever going to understand what it’s like to be you, and that’s okay.
14. The world is full of exceedingly beautiful and unbelievably horrible things. Whatever comes, you’ll take it one thing at a time, and you will be okay.
15. Meditation helps you let go of judgment and creates the space that makes it possible to experience the peace that’s already within you.
16. There is nothing like the loyal and joyful companionship of a special little dog (named Dino).
17. Try to be as supportive to yourself as you would be to a friend, family member, or anyone you love.
18. Your soul is more stunning than words can describe, and more precious than you can imagine.
19. You don’t need to allow yourself to be limited by the patterns and experiences of your past. There’s always an opportunity to let go of something that doesn’t serve you in order to make room for something new.
20. Life is filled with choices, choices you get to be the one to make.
21. Just because your mind thinks something doesn’t mean you have to believe it.
22. Good health really is one of the most treasured forms of wealth. Fight for it, protect it, and delight in it.
23. Letting go does not mean giving up, it just means you’re making space for the next miraculous thing is yet to be.
24. People are like books; they shouldn’t be judged by the cover. It’s likely that whatever struggle is going on inside can’t be seen on the outside.
25. Even when the list is short, it is always more empowering to focus on what you can do, instead of what you can’t.
26. Love and laughter help make everything feel a little bit better and help make the world a little bit brighter.
27. Keep an eye out for the small, ordinary things that may just turn out to be extraordinary.
I can be stuck in my apartment with a debilitating illness AND I can connect with people.
I can have my own struggles AND I can support others in theirs.
I can be sick AND I can coach.
Today I am overwhelmingly thankful for the fact that the parts of each of these statements can coexist and live together in harmony.
I’m thankful for this revelation and for the incredible people who helped me realize that it doesn’t always have to be one or the other…sometimes, even when you least suspect it, it can be both!
And perhaps most of all, I’m thankful for the fact that it is giving me the courage to make this formal declaration that I am sick AND I am training to become a life coach.
I’ve been shy about announcing it to the world, fearing people would respond in accordance with the old saying shared with kids who are home from school with a cold or the flu, “If you’re too sick to go to school, you’re too sick to ___.”
They might think, “If she’s too sick to be able to drive, be out in the world, be independent, be at work, then she shouldn’t be taking an 8 month training program.” Or worse, “If she can participate in life coach training over the phone, then she must not really be that sick.”
But I am here to say that I don’t have to be one or the other, I can be and do BOTH.
In the face of so many things that I physically cannot do, it feels good to celebrate the ANDs, the things I CAN do in spite of the challenges and in some cases, dare I say, because of them.
Where are you? Here.
What time is it? Now.
What’s the most important thing? This moment.
These are the three simple, yet profound questions my dad asked and answered for himself often. It’s funny how simple some of the most profound things in life tend to be.
After reading Eckhart Tolle’s book, The Power of Now, my dad became obsessed with “staying in the now,” as he called it. It was equal parts illuminating and frustrating.
Yes, frustrating! Imagine trying to make plans for dinner and instead of receiving suggestions, all you hear is, “I don’t know, I’m enjoying right now.”
Food doesn’t just appear. Plans have to be made. Action must be taken.
I watched as this focus on living in the moment wrapped him gently in an invincible sense of peace throughout the most difficult circumstances I’ve ever seen anyone put through. And it is only now, amidst my current challenges, that I’ve experienced this kind of peace and have a more concrete understanding of this lesson to carry with me on my life’s journey.
Illness has a way of making us realize that we can only do one thing at a time, and that the present moment is the only place where our attention can dwell in peace.
This year, for the first 4th of July in many years, I fully appreciated were I was and what I was doing. I allowed myself to experience the day just as it was. Not wishing I could be somewhere else. Not thinking it should be some other way. Not imagining what would make it better. Not dreaming up some pie in the sky notion of how it should be.
Not to say that I didn’t think of some other possibilities at all. I mean, let’s be realistic…
I’m sick which made it impossible to participate in any of the traditional festivities, and I’m human (as my wise mom reminded me one day as I was fretting about not being able to stay in the moment as much as I’d like) which means I can’t do anything perfectly just like anyone else.
But as my mind wandered, the thoughts of things I wished I could do didn’t linger, and I didn’t dwell on them. That’s the difference, I think. It’s not about needing battle the thoughts or try to avoid them, but about simply acknowledging them when they appear and not allowing ourselves to get stuck in the sticky web they work so diligently to create.
Noticing the thoughts and kindly turning in a new direction, the direction of the present moment and the wonder it holds, created space for me to enjoy everything that made that 4th of July day feel special: my brother’s company and the way he made me laugh, the delicious food he grilled with care, and the experiments we concocted for the only kind of childish fireworks (if you can even call them fireworks) that my sensory overloaded brain could stand.
We’re all physically in the moment, every minute of every day, whether we realize it or not. And whether or not we do so consciously, we all get to answer these three simple questions for ourselves each day. So why not ask and answer them today on purpose?
Where are you? What time is it? What’s the most important thing?
Head down, paws out – I’m a downward facing dog. Neck glides forward, back legs out. Now I’m energized for the day.
Stretch because it makes you feel strong.
Stretch because it feels expansive.
Stretch because it’s the reset button that welcomes a fresh beginning.
The story begins with resentment.
Doesn’t sound like a very positive place to start, does it? Just give me a minute, and you’ll see where it leads.
I watched with envy as people walked out of the store, while I sat in the passenger seat of the car, waiting for my mom to return.
I felt terrible for resenting these people, these strangers. But I did. I resented their ability to enter the store. I resented their good health. I resented the way they moved with ease.
“They can move so freely and they don’t even know how lucky they are,” I bitterly thought to myself.
And with that, something shifted.
Good health feels like freedom.
I’ve known that I want to be healthy. Getting well has been the goal all along, the treasured prize that I long for.
But that day I realized my desire for good health runs even deeper.
You see, it’s not just about health. It’s about the space and endless possibilities that good health creates: opportunity, ease, and freedom.
So while I’m thankful for what my body is able to do (even when I wish it could do more) and for the healthy future I have faith lies ahead…
Today I am thankful for the unexpected messenger, that resentment, which led me to discover some of my soul’s truest desires: feelings of ease and freedom.