"When we walk to the edge of all the light we have, and take the step into the darkness of the unknown, we must believe that one of two things will happen. There will be something solid for us to stand on or we will be taught to fly."
Tonight I am celebrating a journey I have taken this past year. It was one year ago today that I lost something that was precious to me, something I thought gave my life purpose and meaning and deep, deep joy. A year ago today, my ties were severed with a place I cherished, a community of people whose company I enjoyed, and an assortment of animals that I deeply and passionately loved.
I won’t get into the reasons for that rift – that is the past and although we may learn from the past we must also put it behind us and move on. But I do want to mark the occasion and to celebrate my journey.
My devastation on that fateful day was profound. I felt I had lost my very soul. Slowly, with help, I unraveled the myriad of emotions and thoughts that threatened to choke me. And gradually I began to carve out a little world for myself which combined the two things that bring me the greatest pleasure, the greatest sense of fulfillment and serenity: my love of the outdoors and my love of animals.
As I began to identify my strengths and my limitations, the things that bring me joy and the things that cause me grief and stress, I also began to make peace with myself and my world. I began to write again, to see the intense natural beauty around me, to laugh with the animals in my care, to give of myself as before, to delight in the little things that happen each and every day……and to take care of myself again.
There is a fine balance needed to live a life of service to others, whatever their species, while maintaining one’s own sense of self. If we overextend ourselves, we not only shortchange those we have committed to help but we also do not leave time to feed ourselves healthy foods, to invest time in activities that restore our energy, to benefit from the love and laughter that comes from sharing good times with family and friends, or even to just reflect on all we are learning and how we might become better people and leave the world a better place.
And when we get too embedded in one place or one person (or group of people) or one activity, then we risk devastation if that person leaves, or if we are forbidden access to the place, or if the activity is changed through someone else’s decisions.
I still miss that place and those people and the critters I worked with. The fourteen months I spent there was a time of tremendous growth, a time when I was filled to the brim with the joy that comes from service to others and hard physical work and beauty and challenge and sorrow. It is a time I will never forget, and it changed the whole direction of my life.
But since that time, I have come to realize that my greatest satisfaction, my greatest sense of peace and serenity and selfhood comes not from a place but from a combination of factors that can be recreated virtually anywhere – animals to care for, nature to revere, solitude to treasure, friends with whom to celebrate, work that challenges both body and mind. I can have those things anywhere I choose to go. I am the creator of my own happiness.
I am, in many ways, more of a loner now, less social than I was before, but I am also more complete. I create my own bliss and none can change that. In many ways, the pleasure I find in life now is different from the pleasure I experienced during the time I spent at that special place; but the life I have now is satisfying, it is fun, it is fulfilling, and it is wholly mine. And there are none who can destroy it or take it from me.
I do believe I have learned to fly.