Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Learning to Fly

"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."
Patrick Overton

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.


Anonymous said...

Hello Jean,
As usual your writing touched my heart. A little over a decade ago, I had to learn "to fly again" after the death of my first born child. Yes,life has some sorrowfull times, and yet so many wonderful moments.
I am glad you were able to re-start your life again. We blog readers wouldn't have been able to enjoy the information on animals, the critter care, the farming, and the insightful messages you provide. Thanks Jean for being who you are!


Anonymous said...


I am a lurker around these parts ;o) and I too gave myself heart, soul & spirit to one group and SO agree with the sentiments you have expressed here. If you don't take care of yourself, no one else will...and if you don't know who you are outside of your connections to those groups, no one will define that for you either...

Thank you for the beautiful blog entry and I celebrate in your journey too, and see in it lessons that echo in my own, which is what great writing does!


Anne said...

Hi Jean,
Thank you for your wonderful testimonial to your journey to new Life and Light amongst real pain and loss. It is so moving and really captures your resilience, grit, and beautiful Self! I celebrate your anniversary of new possibilities with you and am so excited to read your amazing sharings -- you are giving so much to the world Jean; we are indeed richer because of who you are.
May I share this testimonial with others I work with who are processing loss and change?
I wish you everything wonderful in your new experience of life now and send you a warm congratulatory hug for your deep personal renewal!

Jean said...

Anne, by all means share it with others. Our sessions together this past year played a huge role in helping me find myself - I am honoured that my journey may encourage others. Thank you for your kind words.

Anonymous said...

Your wings are well earned, Jean.

Thank you for sharing with us a time of your life that wasn't pleasant for you -- but not in a way to hurt anyone, but just to help and encourage the rest of us on a more positive path.

I appreciate that, and I do learn from you.

Thank you.