Have you ever had a day that transformed your life completely, when you least expected it?
Yesterday was one of those days for me.
It began in a natural way, as I found myself writing two posts, one for this blog and one for my new portfolio blog. Having struggled with blogging for the past few weeks, the ease of writing those posts felt like rediscovering my breath.
I browsed a few blogs as well, my eye drawn to a post over at Courage to Create called “10 Exercises To Help You Recognize The Blessings In Your Life” which led me to Ollin’s post earlier this week, where he challenges his readers to spend the week living in blessings. Blessings, in his words, differ from daily gratitude practice:
I’ve come to the conclusion that a gratitude practice is not as powerful as a blessings practice.
Gratitude is recognizing and understanding that you are gifted by life.
Blessing, however, is KNOWING deeply, and feeling it to your core, that you are gifted by life. Blessing is also LIVING the fact that you are gifted by life.
There is a huge difference between gratitude and blessing, but they are deeply interconnected.
In a way, you can see blessing as the deepest experience of gratitude, and gratitude as only the beginning of living your life in blessing.
I decided I would like to try to look for the blessings hidden in my world. In this way I hope to see the difficulties as new opportunities.
I began the drive to pick up my brother who currently lives with my parents (about 1 1/2 hours from me) and doesn’t drive. You will have to visit his blog to learn the background of that story. Steve had graciously agreed to come and help me out with Sarah for a couple of days so that I could attend a meeting of my local Smith Club last night (a meeting which plays an important role in my day of transformation). I truly appreciate his willingness to help, but I admit that sometimes I get frustrated that I have to do taxi service much of the time as my mother is unable to drive him out here (because my father can no longer take long car rides). Yesterday, however, I recognized the drive as a blessing. I turned off the political discussion on NPR and listened to music instead. Music from my childhood. Music from my life. I began singing, at the top of my lungs, and I found myself recognizing the value of time spent alone in the car. Time to reflect. Time to sing. Time to just be me without any expectations or duties other than to drive safely. Time like that is a blessing.
Of course, a transformative day does not always go smoothly. Perhaps it can’t run smoothly if you are going to really learn the lessons you need to learn. My mother and I got into a less-than-pleasant discussion about some difficulties Nathan and I are going through at the moment–difficulties that come from me feeling like I am just attached baggage along for the ride, especially during the summers. Nathan knows how I feel, and we have been trying to work through the problem. My mother decided she knew the solution, without realizing that her solution is something that I have ALREADY TRIED.
“You just need to tell them that you feel like you could contribute more and would like some sort of job to use your talents, especially if they want Nathan to keep returning” [These might not be her exact words, but something like it]
“I have tried that Mom. The situation is complicated.”
“You just have to tell them.”
The conversation continued in a circular fashion, until it was simply time to drop it as we would not get any further.
While that conversation brought knots to my stomach and tears to my eyes, I recognize that I have a mother who wants the best for me even if she doesn’t necessarily see that she is pushing my buttons at the same time–stabbing at a wound that already exists, but that is up to Nathan and I to heal, not her.
In other words, the discussion made me look at the situation from a new perspective. Only time will tell where that leads.
The biggest event of transformation was yet to come. The annual meeting of my local Smith Club consisted of dinner, a meeting, and a presentation by Jennifer Walters, Dean of Religious Life and the Co-Director of the Women’s Narrative Project which,
” . . . brings women together to engage in new thinking about the meaning of success. Our educational programs draw on research and personal experience to promote reflection on work, friendship, family and values. We aim to advance the national discussion on women and work-life balance, offer new models and encourage women at all stages of life to rewrite their own narratives.”
My regular readers will know that I often struggle with perceiving my own successes in life, and with explaining who or what I am, especially when I enter a room full of incredible women–a room full of Smithies. Despite my recent declaration in a doctor’s office and on this blog that I am, indeed, a writer, I was unable to say it yesterday, and found myself fumbling around in my life story as people wanted to learn what I do. I was back in the hole of self-doubt.
But then, a blessing happened. Dean Walters discussed this powerful program at Smith that includes:
“In its selective January-term course, the Women’s Narratives Project takes juniors and seniors on a grant-funded retreat to talk and write about themes inherent in making life decisions, including perfectionism, risk-taking, tolerating failure and family narratives of success.”
I’ve written about all of those things on this blog.
They have also offered a workshop like this to a group of alumnae, and are looking to expand their ability to offer workshops to interested alumnae. I recognized the value of what they had created to helping students cope with life at a challenging college but also life beyond. I also realized the value of the workshops, similar in some ways to the my experience in Slovakia, with the writing and archetype workshops we had along the way. The work they are doing at Smith is the type of project I love and want to do–creative workshops that help people improve their lives in some way.
Now I simply need to make that happen.
You never know when life is going to shift in a new direction but, as I learned yesterday, if you look through gentler eyes you might see magic.