Recently Lotta Joy at Witness Relocation Program left the following comment on my blog. I decided to write a post in response...
"It sounds as if your life is one of peace and a laid back atmosphere of relaxation. Is it? I want to know. The both of you look SO serene. "What is your secret?"
When I first read this comment on one of my blog posts I had to chuckle, thinking to myself "If only she could see me after a harried day at work!" The truth is that both Papa Bear and I have demanding, labor intensive jobs... him on he feet all day, and me at the desk dealing with clients through countless phone calls and office appointments, in addition to staying on top of many deadlines and coordinating with a handful of great, but also over-worked and weary coworkers. Most days I am doing well to remember my own name by quitting time, and my old worn-out knees are complaining loudly about the one hundred times I had to leave my chair to scan, or fax, or go down the hallway to one of the other offices, or get the mail, or make a bank deposit downstairs... you get the idea. Thus, at the surface level serenity looks more like exhaustion, and the minor (and major) irritations of the day can lead to grumbling. In view of that, I can't say that our lives are laid-back, though we certainly wish they were, and most definitely when on vacation we take advantage of the downtime to relax and unwind. I should also note that a nightly soak in our hot tub underneath the stars does wonders to relax achy bodies and soothe weary souls. It is one of the few luxuries we have, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.
So that's what my life looks like on a daily basis... run, run, run, work, work, work, and try to beat the clock with enough time and energy left at night to do a bit of reading, writing, and commenting. Emails fall behind, folks wonder if I've forgotten all about them, and dust bunnies grow into dust buffaloes! However, beneath the never-ending hustle and bustle, there is something far better that I think Lotta Joy and hopefully more of my readers have picked up on, a strong sense of self-awareness, and inner peace.
If you have known me for more than six years, you will also smile in remembering how my life used to be, before I left my ex, and in the stressful year that followed. It had been a hellish ride of thirteen years and I was a mess. It wasn't easy to pick up the pieces and put my life back together, I really didn't even know who I was, what I liked or didn't like, or what I wanted out of life anymore. I just wanted serenity... more than anything I craved peace and quiet in my home, in my heart and in my life. It didn't happen overnight, but purely by the grace of God, I am there now.
What I've learned in the last five years is that love makes all the difference... knowing that God loves me beyond all measure and has a path laid out for my life journey, knowing that Papa Bear loves me truly and unconditionally, and learning to love myself without measuring me constantly against some unattainable standard of perfection. I have learned that life isn't about what you have, but who you have. Serenity is not about never having any struggles (does anyone really have a life like that?). It is about knowing deep down, that no matter what live brings you can find your way through it -- maybe not gracefully, maybe stumbling along the way, but you will survive. I am a survivor, and I am proud of that!
Despite all that I have experienced, much of which is the result of poor choices along the way, I remain a believer in the goodness of life. I believe that our one and only true purpose here is to help each other on the journey, to lighten their load in any way we can. If you have done one small act of kindness for someone else, you will know that nothing feels better, even if it was just helping them find their smile or a tiny reason to hope. Hope is essential to life, faith is essential to hope.
What I have with Papa Bear that I did not have in the first 54 years of my life is something very hard to put into words... it's a sense of complete trust, deep understanding, shared values, a love of laughter and play, strong faith, and a deep sense of love and commitment that says I am safe here, I am cared for, and I am of value. I truly believe that we are soulmates and were destined to spend this chapter of our lives together. He believes that too. Our meeting was no coincidence, it was always meant to be.
As I have gotten older I have learned many truths about life, sometimes I may come off as preachy because of it, but that is not my intent. I know that everyone has to find their own truth and their own way. Many people encouraged me to make positive changes in my life long before I did. Some of us really do have to hit the wall (sometimes more than once) before we realize that it's painful and not very smart, and it's time to do something different. My purpose, my goal, is to be as kind as I can, as compassionate as I can, and as honest as I can with each person I meet, to encourage and uplift them in any way possible. Everyone has a story, and I believe that everyone has a spark of spirit just waiting to be ignited into a flame. We all crave love and understanding, and those are gifts we can give each other; it starts with something as simple as a smile.
Papa Bear and I do not fuss and fight, we choose not to live that way. We've done that in past relationships, and it didn't feel good then. If we have cross words, we are quick to apologize and set things straight. Being right is never as important as is being kind. We never go to bed angry, we don't hold grudges, we don't point out each other's faults or bring up past mistakes. We realize that in loving each other we have such an amazing gift that it is foolish to waste even one day being unhappy. We aren't young anymore, Papa Bear is sixty and I will be too in just a few more months. Life is short and love is precious. We realize that at any moment one of us could be gone. That is true of anyone at any time. So we choose to spend our time together, and we spend it making good memories - we laugh, we tease, we talk, we listen, we share; we say "I love you" often and show it every day.
The last five years of my life have been blessed beyond measure, though I do not regret all that came before, because it has made me who I am. I work hard to focus on what is positive - I believe in the laws of attraction, and I am so very thankful for all that I have. I take time to count my blessings - if you think you don't have any in your life, you aren't looking very hard! I do not live my life to please others, I do not allow other people's drama to overrun my life. I am able to draw lines and set limits in order to maintain a sense of inner peace in line with what I believe is right and comfortable for me.
I am not perfect, far from it! I am a work in progress and will always be, but I truly love my life now... I love my life as one of God's servants, I love my life as the mother of two amazing children and three furry felines, I love my life as Papa Bear's wife, and most importantly, I have learned to love myself. If we feel love and live our lives in the spirit of love, it cannot help but show. That's the "secret" pure and simple... open your heart and allow yourself to be loved, and give love in return. If you live your life in love, peace is always within reach, and happiness takes on a depth of meaning that you've never known before.