Walking along the beach at sunset, under a brilliant sky of melon and pink, the gentle breeze cools my sun-drenched skin. As I walk along the surf, I hear the melodious sound of the doves and smell the scent of the lovely Plumeria from the nearby trees. I am experiencing my favorite indulgence: walking along the surf foam on the white sand beach as the ocean meets the shore.
As the foam covers my feet, bright pink toenail polish brings me back to the present and to my life. It has been 25 years since I healed from a life-threatening illness – one that left me afraid, uncertain and overwhelmed. I had allowed fear to rule my life, uncertainty and doubt to prevail and feelings of guilt and shame to mold my every thought and shape my mood, my behavior and my self respect. Clearly I needed help. Sadly there was none.
Thirty years ago in small town, Illinois, no one spoke of eating disorders and working with a therapist of any sort meant ‘something was wrong’, the individual was not able to be ‘normal’ and the family was to blame. I felt stuck, anxious and hopeless.
Fortunately, I was able to begin my healing journey by experiencing a personal effectiveness seminar (PES) with Wings Innovative Learning Seminars, Eugene, Oregon (wings-seminars.com). The five days and nights dedicated to personal growth and learning was the jumpstart I needed. I explored deep issues, found my authentic voice and defined my values. Since that time, I have continued to seek learning experiences and to be open to my lessons in every aspect of my life. From Mindfulness conferences, dialogue work, yoga trainings, leadership workshops and silent retreats to living in India, biking in France and teaching wellness in the Yucatan, I am learning to live a life of deep meaning and spiritual richness.
Has all of this been easy or simply happened overnight? No! And that’s the good news. For me, the journey has been my greatest gift. With a heart full of gratitude, I have learned to welcome every day ~ its ups and downs, its challenges and its opportunities. I choose openness and expansion over being shut down and afraid. I am honest and show who I am and live what I believe. I laugh a lot (mostly at myself). I honor all of creation. I bring mindfulness to each relationship I have and each choice I make (at least, as best I can). Accountability, acceptance and integrity guide my way. My most significant learning? I am at choice ~ always. Though outside events are most often beyond my influence, I can always choose my response.
When the going gets tough, as it does every day at some point, I ask myself the following questions:
- Am I using my voice authentically and courageously?
- Am I walking my talk?
- Am I being the person I was meant to be or am I looking outside of myself for validation and, if so, can I self-correct?
- Am I using my creativity to renew myself, re-invigorate my relationships, re-imagine my community and be productive and innovative?
- Am I bold enough to consider new possibilities?
- Is the voice of my self worth as strong as the voice of my self-critic?
- Am I living in gratitude moment to moment?
The end of a life-changing experience is the beginning of a journey in gratitude and new opportunities. As the Greek poet C.D. Cavafy says in his poem Ithaca: “When you start your journey, pray that the road is long, full of adventure, full of knowledge…” So fellow travelers, as the soft waves return again and again to the shore, I am reminded of each moment being a new beginning. As I walk along the sand, I make fresh footprints.