A whole lot has happened in our lives over the past year, and in the last 6 months in particular. It is impossible to imagine the day you get a phone call from your vacationing father telling you that your mother has been hit by a car while cycling. Nothing can prepare you. The journey has been long and difficult with relentless complexity. Our lives have become exponentially more full…we now have more to do than we ever thought possible. But our expansion has also filled us with a deep appreciation of every moment we have together. My mother’s view of life from her electric wheelchair is certainly different than before her accident, but she continues to inspire us all with her determination and positive attitude.
To complicate our lives further, a couple of months ago I was offered an increase in my teaching contract to a full time position. Out of necessity, I now teach other people’s children all day. My husband left his job at the beginning of September, which was set in motion before my mother’s accident in May. He is now the official homeschooler. We are making it work, although I miss educating my own children. In fact, I just plain miss time with them. I feel amiss in prioritizing my commitment to our family.
Somehow when you need to, you expand. Every time I have felt that growth was not possible, it became possible. When I question my path, the reasons for me to ‘show up’ appear in abundance. Sometimes we just don’t have a choice but to be present for what we’re being called to do. Instead of being able to opt in or out, I get to choose how to navigate my circumstances. How to be within the throws of a nightmare.
“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
I had a vision for how our life would be when we moved to the farm. How we would grow in spaciousness and increase our resiliency. What I didn’t want to believe was that my vision was fantasy. This year has brought me the growth in resiliency I sought, but definitely not in the pleasant spacious way I had planned it in my visioning. Growth has been a byproduct of difficulty and suffering.
When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
For all that has happened, I am now changed. Goals for the farm remain nearly untouched. My work and home life balance needs to be addressed. Connection with my children is an ongoing challenge. My health hasn’t been great as a result of lifelong autoimmune issues. Supporting my parents through the development of a new way of life can’t always get first billing either, leaving guilt to fill the rest of that page. There just doesn’t seem to be enough time. So I have found myself calculating the costs and benefits of what takes up the hours of my day. What can I let go of so that I have space to rekindle the parts of my life that I desire? How to I carve out enough space to feel alive…to thrive.
During this past season of my life I have been forced through a very narrow passageway. The reality is that many of the things that fill my life space are obligations – some of which I love, but obligatory none the less. I have hope that soon I will emerge from the constriction of this birth canal, changed, new, and ready for a period of rapid growth. I still hold my vision for a beautiful future, but I also hold the reality that the future is now. Hoping that someday life will straighten out and become easier, more blissful, spacious and in line with my idealized visions is the fallacy. Because my life can be that now. I get to breathe ease, bliss and space into the tiniest cracks of my life. I have the opportunity to make my idealized visions a reality in each moment.
There are no guarantees that I can ‘build’ anything for my future or that even if I did that it would match my plans. But joy is not a destination. It is built one moment at a time. It is in the smallest spaces where glimmers of abundance can be found. I feel like I’m finally getting the point of life…to define oneself within ever-changing sets of external circumstances. The pieces of reality that create our lives cannot be changed and the future cannot be predicted. What I can change is how to hold my present reality in balance with the past and the future. Holding present, past and future simultaneously with detachment from specific outcomes is what allows me to grow and move forward.
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature-the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”
– Rachel Carson
So I welcome 2018. I welcome this chance to remind myself of the turning of the wheel. To release the burdens of 2017. To reel in my line and cast it again. To remember that life can once again be approached with resolve, hope and vision. The past cannot be changed, but my future continues to be defined. Moment by moment I have the opportunity to choose how to live within it. Indeed it is this, the gritty hard work of living, that creates a life. I get to decide how I will shape and define the raw materials life hands me into a work of art. I am the sculptor. And so I sculpt.