One artist's journey: Trying to live a creative life with grace, grit, gratitude...and a border collie.
(or perhaps I should say: greys, grit and gratitude)

31 December 2013

Gift Horses

by Lyn StClair

There are countless books written about "visualizing" the life you want…but visualization has never worked for me.  Oddly, the more I tried to visualize something…the less likely it seemed to happen.  To say that has been frustrating is an understatement…at times, it has been downright heartbreaking.  Yet, every time I was "denied" what I "wanted"…something better seemed to come along.

What I have learned along the way is that life is not about getting what you want…
    ...nor is it really about learning not to want.

Our dreams and desires have the power to move us forward…but sometimes we must be willing to let go of the originally hoped-for destination.

We should not only be aware of the doors that open along the way…but also appreciate the value of the ones that shut.

So many times I have looked back and marveled "who would have thought I would be HERE a year ago?".  In a society that seems to value security, it seems odd to say that I have come to LOVE the polar shifts that have marked new chapters in my life again and again over the years.

Having experienced the loss of a child, divorce, the death of a parent, cancer, the passing of friends, not to mention the infinite "minor" stumbles along the way...I have learned that gifts lie beneath the pain, if you are willing to look for them.  Every tear shed has been a drop of moisture to the soil of my soul…and the ever-present laughter is the sunshine.
Early last summer I joined a couple of friends to look at a home one of them was considering for purchase.  Before I'd even made it up the driveway, I realized it was the kind of house/studio/barn/location I'd dreamed of…and, for the first time, it hit me that I would likely never have that.

Several years ago I'd saved enough for a substantial down payment and was actively looking for a house to buy.  Then I was diagnosed with cancer.  Being uninsured meant that all the money I had saved for a downpayment on a house would disappear like a puff of smoke into stacks of hospital bills.  

With my friends, I looked over that perfect property until I couldn't hold back the tears.  After saying my goodbyes, I left the house and ran to the solace of my horses.

For the first time, I really cried over the cancer thing…and, as I did with the horses of my childhood and youth, I hugged my ponies until the tears stopped.

Then, with a deep breath or two, I let go of that dream house and remembered all I had to be grateful for (including the horses whose coats I'd just cried into).  

A few weeks later I was surfing craigslist and found a post advertising a little schoolhouse for rent.  Long story short:  my new home is better than anything I could have dreamed of…

Time and again I have had to learn to let go of what I "want".  Even when "letting go" has meant it had to be painfully, and involuntarily, ripped from my grasp.  When I finally let go, the reward was often a gift better than I imagined.

Many people believe that our mistakes and personal tragedies are something to bury, leave behind, forget…at best, we "should" learn from them and let them go.  Others hang on to their failings/injuries/losses and drag them along throughout life, continuing to carry the pain or anger or grief indefinitely.  Recently, I have come to believe that the most soulful approach lies in embracing the pain as much as the happiness.  What a marvelous gift to be alive to feel not only love, happiness, hope and joy…but also pain, failure, regret and loss.

My path has never gone where I imagined it would…yet here i am in the most marvelous place.  I would not be here had I been able to buy a house instead of having cancer.  My fabulous horses and a remarkable dog came into my life as a result of having cancer.  No one considers it a gift when they are diagnosed with cancer…but, in hindsight, maybe it was.
How do we learn to appreciate the gifts that may come wrapped within our tragedies and disappointments without having to find them in hindsight (if ever)?

How do we learn to appreciate the gift of every moment and every single breath we take?
Five years ago I woke from surgery less curvy, free of cancer and soon to be bereft of savings.  

Today my life is full of family and friends that I cherish, work that I love, pets that make me laugh, ponies that carry my dreams, a view that astonishes me every day, a home that I adore and life…precious life.  

The hopes/dreams/loves that have been left behind are as much a part of who I am as the ones realized and yet to be.  

No doubt, more heartbreak lies ahead….but I will never stop hoping/dreaming/loving.  

Rather than holding too tight to my dreams and desires, though…I hope I will have the courage to set them free and the wisdom to appreciate the gifts that come in unexpected packages.

As another season of giving winds down, let us appreciate the gifts we receive…
          whether it's what we wanted or not.