In class with Soaring Eagle Woman (aka momma Blue) many years ago this question was posed. Do you know what the secret to happiness is? We shook our heads no. She went on to explain, happiness is finding gratitude in the worst things that have ever happened to you. Think about that for a short bit. Hmmm?
I’ve shared this teaching with many people over the years. It has helped and it requires A LOT of practice. I have pondered whether ‘happiness’ is created or if it is simply a peace and freedom that allows space for joy and happiness to grow. Regardless, don’t we all want more happiness and less of the negative stuff?
There are many personal examples of how this lesson has served me. For instance, 1.5 months after my mother died, my step father took everything I owned, everything my mother left and kicked me out of the house. He gave me a bag of dirty clothes in an old yellow bag, took my car (the one my mother and I were paying for), called my employer and quit my job ‘for me’ and told me I was a horrible shit and he wanted nothing to do with me. I was 17 and in less than 2 months I had lost my entire life.
Revenge was my primary thought for a very long time. How could I get back at this man? My mother trusted him to take care of me and ensure the money she left would get me through college and setup in my own life. I thought about digging up all my mothers rose bushes and stealing them. Stalking him and finding ways to make his life miserable, so many fantasies of how to get back at him. She left a quarter of a million dollars in insurance money, a paid off house and cars. Now I was homeless, no job, no car, had to quit college and to stay in Arizona, my home, I had to rely on the kindness of my boyfriend’s parents for help. It took years of therapy and even more years of continued pondering of how I could ‘get back at him’ before I didn’t feel the seething pain of the situation and a deep hatred for the man. I knew carrying it around with me only hurt me. How do you not hurt and be angry about something like this? Then I was gifted with this wisdom, 20 years later. Here is what I learned when I reflected on that time…
Less than a month after my mother died, my stepfather had started to leave porn videos out around the house (back in the VHS tape days) and was talking to me about him and my mother’s sex life. He wanted me to quit college and stay home because he felt girls needed to take care of the house, not get an education. As this started, I got that sinking feeling in my gut again, this man wanted something from me that was not okay. He wanted me to step into my mother’s place, wait on him, cook food, do laundry and likely other things. I started to lock my room door at night and when he came to my room and found it locked, he got angry. I was scared and started spending less and less time at the house. It was hard to be there anyway since my mother died in my room. I share this perspective to get to the simple point that being kicked out of that house saved me from a far worse fate. It was a blessing and grace that I couldn’t be there anymore. I found gratitude in the worst thing that had happened to me and now when I look back at that time, I feel truly grateful. Is there annoyance or anger at the person my stepfather was/is. Sure, and I observe that feeling and then let it go. It was a lesson for me in more ways than I can explain here.
Why am I blathering on about gratitude?
Last night I made a sacred fire and settled into some soul work, listening for the wisdom and guidance to move me through these days and beyond. Leveraging the special energy of the cosmos on the Spring Equinox and full super moon. Before this occurred, my amazing friend and neighbor, asked if I wanted to go sit by the water and have a beverage and catch up. We are both walking through loss and grief, so it is a grace to have a friend to chill and chat with. We sat by the water and watched the sky changes colors while the moon rose over the horizon. It was magical and sacred, beyond perfect for the first day of spring. We found ourselves speaking of our appreciation and gratitude for the beauty around us. Sharing the reality that we truly need so little in life if we simply take time to be still, listen and look at the beauty that surrounds us. This was the prayer of gratitude in my heart that I held as I entered ceremony.
During this quiet time, the fire reminded me over and over again of the grace gifted to me. A weaving of memories, the calling in of our ancestors and feeling their presence, watching the dancing spirits in the flames, listening to the frogs, feeling the breeze and my sweet Zola standing close. To be loved and to love is a grace and gift all by itself. In my opinion the greatest gift of this life and beyond. It is the cord that connects us. When we care about something, hold a passion for it that feeds the depths of our being, that is a gift of grace. These are the awareness’s that lift me up and help me find gratitude in the hardest things.
Last night when I heard the owl hoot, she gifted me with the vision to see the gifts. In these hardest of times, the worst thing that has ever happened to me (and I pray this one thing is the worst for the rest of my living days), I find my gratitude.
Grateful that the souls of both my children that chose me to be their mother.
Grateful for the almost 23 years I had with Mikaela.
Grateful for my kind heart, sweet young man of a son.
Grateful to have a partner that loves me.
Grateful to have Bob in our lives and close. His beautiful spirit always humbles me and I’m grateful he is part of my family.
Grateful for Tahan and Farah and their unwavering love and support in addition to their authentically beautiful way of being in this world.
Grateful for our Sunday meals.
Grateful to my community of friends and family who have been here for me and my family in all the varying ways they could during this past year.
Grateful to have a steady paycheck which allows me to live comfortably in a beautiful place that I love.
Grateful for my teachers and my soul sisters and brother who walk this spirit path with me, next to me, sometimes holding me, encouraging me, honoring and reflecting our hearts to each other as we journey and learn together.
…and grateful for so much more it is impossible to write it all here.
I’ll leave you with this last story about appreciating the gifts that are laid before us. This morning I had to drop Keenaan at school and needed to get a few more groceries. At first, I was going to head straight home after buying cream from a small bakery. I was feeling very sad and the idea of seeing people or trying to shop seemed overwhelming. Then decided to suck it up and just get it all done at once while I was in town, as quickly as possible. I didn’t need people to see me with puffy red eyes and wasn’t up to answering the question of ‘how are you?’ Knowing all this, I can tell you Spirit works in beautifully mysterious ways.
I walk into the grocery store, there is my chef buddy. As I’m talking to him, the beautifully splendid and amazing Raquel walks over with a big and beautiful smile on her face. She gives me a hug, a great big soul and love filled hug, she knows and understands. Nothing else needs to be said. We get to the beverage aisle and I run into another momma I know. One I can be real with. We chat for a few minutes, she shares that they have a new German Shepherd puppy. (Anyone who knows me will guess that at this juncture I’m no longer focused on my sadness…because PUPPY) We now have a tentative plan to get Zola together with Pasha the puppy. Oh, and she sent me pictures, which OMG, to adorable for words. I continue my journey…I run into one of Keenaan’s wonderful and lovely teachers from Hyla. She is always a bright light in a day, and this is no exception. More hugs and a little chat. Realizing I need something else from the produce area, I walk back. There is my beloved Teri from Sacred Groves. Hands down the BEST HUGGER in the entire universe. It is like mother earth has wrapped herself around you and given you pure love. We sink into a brief yet wonderful soul conversation and then continue on our way. Finally as I headed to check out, I ran into another wonderful woman from my gym class. We don’t know each other well but her daughter tutored Keenaan in Spanish and whenever I see her face it simply glows with love, kindness and joy. She can always make me smile. I felt bad as I was rushing to get out of the store, but this departing gift of her smile was like icing on the cake of hugs. In the span of less than an hour I received 5 hugs. I’m pretty sure that was no coincidence and feeling blessed that my girl had her hand in the mix.
Since Mikaela died, I knew that this new life journey would be filled with teachings and gifts. I don’t always feel like that, but I know the words are true despite not feeling it. Sometimes I must relax and look at things from a slightly different vantage point to see more clearly. I refuse to believe my daughter died for no reason. It feels empty and cruel so I tell myself this story (true or not) so that I may survive the thing that seems impossible to survive. For my son, the other half of my heart, because I know what it is like to lose a mother and my hope is, he doesn’t have to know until he is far into the depths of his life long from now. As it is, he should have never had to know what it was like to live without his sister and best friend, especially not this young.
I sit in gratitude, as much as I can, with a constant prayer to be shown and taught all that this new life is meant to teach me. I sit and look out the window at Phillip, her beloved boy. Knowing she is close, taking in the gift of spring in the ways she can in her new place.
We will do this together my girl. You will keep showing me all the things to be grateful for. I will keep watching and listening. As we walk this path, perhaps what we learn will be of service to others. Also, keep those hugs coming. They rock!