As I strolled through the forest and along Englishman River today, it struck me how much life is like a forest.
Depending what storms have blown through our lives, where the light is shining, where we’re planted, who’s planted beside us, how solid our foundation is, how deeply our roots grow or what nutrients are in the soil, we will either flourish and grow strong or struggle to survive.
Like the forest, life is filled with twists and turns and unfamiliar pathways or paths that are blocked.
When we meet another soul, we don’t know what foundation they’re built upon, how sturdy their root and support system is, what storms they’ve walked through, what change has blown through their lives, what twists and turns they’ve had to endure or, what might be blocking their light or blocking their path.
Imagine if we were all be bit more understanding, patient, kind and gentle with each other, how much stronger we all could grow.
As a child, I grew up in a loud, hectic, sometimes frenzied Irish Catholic home, buzzing with family gatherings, birthday parties, activities related to my moms real estate business, the daily preparations required for my Dad’s restaurant, the screech of musical instruments being practiced, seven children running-playing-fighting, mom hollering out orders, lots of pets (including my sister Suzie’s pet rooster) cousins, aunts, uncles and friends constantly coming and going.
It was loud and it was busy.
Up until a few years ago, my adult life had also been a constant buzz of career busyness, multiple moves, volunteer work, my boys, their antics and extracurricular activities, house guests, exchange students, lots of pets and a busy social life.
For decades I craved alone time, it never arrived. Then, one day it did.
There I sat on the floor in my kitchen, living alone for the first time in over 40 years. And, I’d never felt so lost, so alone or so sad.
My children were grown, my eldest son had passed away, my marriage had ended, I was retired and had stepped away from community service to manage health issues.
Over the course of my life I had drawn my identity from the many hats, roles and responsibilities I had worn, and the busyness that kept my mind and life occupied.
After decades of being somebody’s sister, daughter, mother, wife, boss, employee, volunteer, now I was, well, I had no idea.
I was exhausted, probably depressed and didn’t feel emotionally able to reach out or connect with anyone, in fact, I didn’t want too.
My little spirit was spent, she needed to rest. She knew we had to turn inward, to feel the deepest sense of loneliness and loss before we could reimagine what our life should be. So, I surrendered. I listened, and let her guide me.
I cocooned myself for several month, slowing growing new wings and transforming the life I had lived over several decades, into something new, different and purposeful.
It was during my alone time that I learnt how to quiet the busyness in my mind and listen to the thoughts percolating in the deepest corners of my soul.
I was able to focus on my health, read a few books, took a lot of walks and did some amazing solo travel. I tapped into creative pursuits that had always been there, but hadn’t been exercised in along while.
Then, I began to remember who I was, I mean, who I really was. To my surprise I realized that I’m more of an introvert than I imagined. I came to recognize and appreciate some of the creative traits and habits I had inherited from my father. I understood what it must have been like for my mother when her career came to an end, her children had left the nest, her husband had passed away and she had to create new purpose and joy in her life. I developed a deeper sense of empathy and gratitude for both my parents.
Being alone taught me that my happiness and my joy is my job. We can not expect our partners or our children or anyone to be responsible for, or be, our only source of happiness. We must cultivate our own interests, hobbies and joy.
Being alone has power. Once we learn how to be alone and be happy, we can better recognize if our life choices are drawn from a place of happiness or loneliness.
My alone time is now something I look forward to. It’s during my alone time that I get to visit the best parts of myself and I remember what it is I’m here to do.
It is in this quiet space that I continue to lay down the stepping stones towards my own growth.
I’ve evolved my perception of loneliness over the past few years into an understanding that ~ Loneliness does not come from not having others around us, it comes from not knowing our purpose, our passions and ourselves.
Alone time, when we use it well, allows us time to think, to recharge, to be creative, to foster self reliance and helps us unearth our authentic selves. It also allows us to re-examine who we want in our lives and the types of relationships we want to cultivate.
I love the quote;
“Not all those who wander are lost”
~ from J.R.R. Tolkien’s poem “The Riddle of Strider”, this quote echoes my own belief that ~ When we wander alone ~ we find ourselves.
When embraced, being alone can be peaceful, healing and healthy. It’s an opportunity to find ourselves without the commentary and expectations of anyone else and, just BE.
Waiting in line, waiting for the right time, the right person, the right place.
Waiting for winter, for spring, for summer and then waiting for fall.
Waiting for days to be warmer, then to be colder.
Waiting for the sun to rise, for the sun to set.
Waiting until we loose weight.
Waiting for our children to arrive, to walk, to talk, to go to school, to leave and then, waiting and hoping they’ll come back home.
Waiting to find a job, waiting to find a better job, then counting the days to retirement.
Waiting until we have money, waiting until we have more money.
Waiting to do the things we’ve always wanted to do.
Waiting for somethings to begin and others to end.
Waiting to find “the one” then, to find the next “one”. Waiting for the heartache and pain to go away.
Waiting to find ourselves and understand our purpose.
We barely remember the things we’ve been waiting for because the moment they arrive we start waiting for the next thing to show up.
As children we could hardly wait to grow up. Then as we get older things change. We want to slow it all down. We want to hold on to the few precious moments we get with those we love.
We become aware of how fast it’s all gone by. We try so hard to slow it down, to be present, but it keeps moving, even faster now.
Stop waiting and just BE. Appreciate where you’re at; even if it’s painful. Be grateful for this moment, this time, this lesson, the joy, the sorrow, whatever it is, BE with it. Be in awe of it and the learning that comes with it.
The day will arrive when you miss where you’re at today. You will look back on the most difficult times of your life and realize these were the most important and transformational moments of your life. They set the stage for the good things that followed.
You will also look back on all those special small moments and wished you had lingered in them longer. So linger in them now.
We learn more during life’s painful moments and challenges, than we learn in our moments of glory.
Each stabbing ache, each crushing disappointment, each heartbreak, every loss or painful fall from grace, allows us an opportunity to grow and become stronger.
Whether it’s emotional or physical; pain forces us to slow down, rest and take the time we need to heal.
Getting knocked down isn’t always a bad thing. Pain can leave us humbled, wiser and more patient. It allows us to lower our veil, be vulnerable, more tolerant and compassionate towards the pain we see or even cause, in others.
Sometimes pain itself is the cure for the things in life that hurt us; as it slows us down long enough to evaluate what and who is important.
When pain knocks on your door, let it in, sit with it. Let it show you what it wants you to see, to learn or to grow into.
Pain always, ALWAYS, brings with it opportunities for transformation. Opportunities to wrap yourself in your cocoon, and when you’re ready, to emerge with greater clarity about who you are, what’s important, why you’re here and how you want to live, love, play and BE.
Pain can be a beautiful teacher. Don’t waste your pain on “the pain” use this opportunity as a stepping stone to chart the next chapter of your journey.
Your pain will hurt you, it will also help, heal and lead you.
The human mind has keen observational ability. However, our busy, modern lives are filled with chaotic, dizzy, conflicting thoughts, ideas, desires, opinions, images and demands; making it almost impossible to focus on just one thing and observe it deeply, so, most often we don’t.
The majority of us don’t listen to understand. We listen to react. Or, we listen to find the space to jump in and prove we’re right. I’ve found this to be the case in both my personal and professional relationships (and yes, I’ve played my dysfunctional part in both 😊)
It’s when we listen with our eyes and our hearts wide open that we observe the emotions, reactions, over-reactions (even our own), the body language and non-verbal cues, along with words and tone of voice, that we’re able to understand the state of a fellow human being and more importantly our own state and intentions.
When I was in a concert band years ago, I recall our conductor bringing stillness to the band before every performance or competition. One at a time, each musician tuned up, and the others were silent. Then, the conductor would tune us by section, flutes, clarinets, trumpets, saxophones, etc until we were “in tune” with each other. Then, our collective focus became the piece we were performing. We each had to thoughtfully listen and observe the conductor and the rest of the musicians to determine when it was time to play our part. We didn’t listen to react, we listened to create harmony.
When I was involved in community theater, before each production, the cast and crew would take a moment to rally and focus in on the performance ahead of us and the audience we were performing to. During a performance we had to listen, watch for our entry points and work together to guide each other through the performance, sometimes improvising when lines were forgotten or stage cues missed.
Many athletic teams do something similar before a game. They rally, get focused and tune in to their team members. During play, they have to be keen observers of what’s going on around them. They must listen with their eyes.
I know some of my healthcare colleagues do the same thing before they begin a surgery. They stop, become still and assemble their collective focus on the needs of the patient. During the procedure they must observe, listen and cooperate as a team.
As a community of 7.3 billion people, we can no longer pretend we are on different teams. We have to live, listen and play as if we are a part of the same symphony, the same stage production, the same athletic or surgical team.
We don’t have to look the same, sound the same, act the same, or BE the same. In fact, it’s our differences that create the harmony, the success, the wins, the applause, and our mutual respect and compassion for one another.
When we’re busy making noise, trying to be heard, being angry or offended or trying to be right, we’re not learning or growing or getting closer to solutions. When we’re loud, we can’t hear the exhausted whispers of truth flowing from each other’s tired souls, desperately trying to play our parts and create the harmony we all seek.
The most powerful messages are received when we’re silent and listen with our eyes and, our hearts wide open.
A tranquil pathway and quiet shoreline stretching towards infinite beauty, lead me to a peaceful retreat, a hidden refuge of cozy spaces and burrows nestled between the sand, the sky, the ocean and fallen logs.
Unencumbered by humanity, I see the world as it should be. Peaceful. I’m the only intruder, but I’m not alone.
Burrows along the trail to the beach are home to dozens of rabbits hopping between logs, rose-hip and hawthorn shrubs growing along the edge of the shoreline trail.
I move slowly, so I don’t disturb a mother seal and her pup resting in the tall seagrass near the water.
Eagles circling above, the calls of seagulls, sandpipers and other birds, echo across the sky and add to the magic of this place and fill me with light.
I find my spot and rest on the sand with my back supported against a well weathered log. With my little companion Bo’ nestled in my lap, I close my eyes, release all worries, surrender to this space, and melt into a state of stillness. Then, I listen.
It’s in silence and stillness that wisdom is received and peace is born. It’s in this state that the answers come. They always do.
I’m grateful for these quiet spaces and the peace, serenity, wisdom and healing they bring.
If you feel overwhelmed, challenged to meet the struggles in your life, or just exhausted from the noise in your head. Stop everything, step outside and find your quiet space.
Life became easier when I surrendered my own tenacity and began to live with an open heart and an open mind.
There are things I’ve discovered and learned along the way, which I might never have unearthed if I had remained locked in my own stubbornness.
Our struggles often result from our inability to see the possibilities beyond our own thinking and the doctrines imposed on us.
Living with an open heart and mind means considering alternatives, actively listening to opinions different from our own, being kind before jumping to judgment and being aware of signs along the way pointing you in new directions.
Open minds and open hearts, have created more music, magic, poetry, peace, love and light in the world, then closed minds and cold hearts.
You know you’re evolving when you stop believing you’re broken, and believe you’re healing and growing. And, you know your growing when; ~ You can comfortably walk away from anything or anyone that does not bring you joy. ~ You can look back on your journey and own your part in the things that didn’t go according to plan. ~ You feel genuine remorse for the things you did that caused others pain. ~ You forgive and feel compassion for those that caused you pain. ~ You no longer seek revenge, or have a need to tell “your side” of the story. ~ You no longer feel like you are competing with anyone, because you realize each of us is walking our own path. ~ You recognize you still have lessons to learn. ~ You value your health, your learning and personal growth over material possessions. ~ You’re grateful for your journey and those that have joined you along the way.