My first kiss happened the summer of my 15th year. His name was Jordi and he was an exchange student from Austria. It’s sounds super romantic, but the reality was that it was super awkward and pretty sloppy (turns out it was his first kiss too). And yet, 30 some odd years later, I remember all the details of that first kiss; I remember the grassy hill in the park where we were sitting. I remember my big wave bangs and his spikey hair and cute dimples. I remember the sun shining and the butterflies that danced in my stomach. That moment made Jordi a permanent part of my story of growing up. Fifteen. Later that year, I would meet the man that I would eventually marry and ultimately divorce. There are so many things I wish I knew then that I know now. Don’t we all? So on this Soul Care Sunday, which happens to coincide with my daughter’s 15th birthday, I thought I’d write a letter to my younger self (let’s call her Nora) and this is what I’d tell her.
Ah, my sweet girl. Life is just getting started for you and it’s thrilling to witness all that you’re starting to piece together. Love, friendships, school, thoughts of all the places your want to travel to and all the dreams you want to pursue. The journey ahead of you is going to be so beautiful, but you need to know that it won’t be without pain. If there’s one thing I wish I knew when I was fifteen it was that life is an incredible paradox. You are ultimately in control of everything and nothing at the same time. There is a “bothness” in life and the sooner you can understand that paradox, the more joyful life will be for you. Before you get too confused, roll your eyes and throw this letter away, allow me to explain what I mean.
You have dreams. Beautiful thoughts about what you’d like your future to look like. You know where you’re headed in school, what you want to study, the profession you’d like to pursue, and what you’d like your family life to look like when you “arrive”. You must absolutely pursue those goals and you must get clear on what success means to YOU (not to the world or social media or even to your parents). Those dreams wouldn’t be placed in your heart if the Universe didn’t intend for you to do something about them. It’s so important to visualize your dreams then fiercely go after creating the reality that you want for yourself.
But what happens when there’s an unexpected detour on the path to your dreams? What happens when something arises that you didn’t anticipate, hope for or visualize? If there’s one thing I can guarantee in life, it’s that there will be twists and turns in your road. When that first curve takes you by surprise, you may feel like it’s there to spite you or to crush your dream. But the reality is, those twists and turns are there to grow you, to expand your capacity to learn and your belief in yourself. And this is where you have the chance to realize life’s paradox: you may not be in control of the events that are taking place, but you ARE in control of your mindset towards those events. As soon as you realize that your mindset is the ultimate force in the direction of your life (for better of for worse, shall we say), the better off you will be. No control and yet absolute control, bothness.
You see, when we moved to Idaho, I thought I had everything in life that I could ever ask for. Yet just as I thought life couldn’t get any better, it got a whole lot worse. You know the story, so I’ll spare you those details. The point is that for the first time in my life, my mindset of optimism and gratitude was about to be challenged. I thought that all these awful things were happening TO me and I couldn’t understand why such terrible events were coming my way. What had I done to deserve this? I would think. I was clearly not in control of the life circumstances that were happening all around me (the least of which being a global pandemic). It’s in the middle of this chaos that I started to read, and learn from people who had lived through hard lessons about divorce and loss and heartache before me. And eventually, I began to understand that these life events weren’t happening TO me, they were happening FOR me. These events were designed to grow my spiritual being.
In life, you will have to learn to be fully present with whatever emotion you are experiencing. Lately, there has been a lot of grief in my life, and that was never a part of my plan (is it ever anyone’s?). But that’s the thing, it didn’t matter if I had planned it or not, it was there. And one day you will find yourself in a tough place too. There will be break ups, and betrayal and deception and jealously and loss. However, YOU, my sweet girl, have the power to move through those tough emotions with power and grace. Personally, I’m a feeler. When I first notice a twinge of sadness, I usually feel it in my heart space. There’s a tightness there. Instead of resisting that sadness and wishing it away, I’ve learned that I can move through this feeling best by allowing it to wash over me. I say hello to the emotion (just like the Simon and Garfunkel song Sound of Silence “Hello Darkness my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again“). I get clear on where it’s coming from and what it wants to tell me. Sometimes it tells me to get on my yoga mat and move. Sometimes it tells me to put on a favorite old movie and watch it with a pint of ice cream. Sometimes it tells me to crank up the volume of a particular song and dance it out. Sometimes it tells me to just sit and allow the tears to stream down my face. The point is, I feel it. I feel the sadness, the anger, the grief, the pain, the joy, the excitement, the nervousness, the pride, the love. All of it. When I feel it, I’m no longer afraid of it. Then I thank it for teaching me what I needed to learn. Afterwards, I usually get some good rest and start a new day with a clear mind. You see, when you allow your mind to accept the situation and find gratitude for the lessons that are coming your way, you are in charge of your life, even when it may feel like you’re not. You’re in the bothness.
Have I lost you yet?
Let me sum it up as succinctly as possible. You, my sweet girl, were given an incredible gift when you were born, and it’s called your mindset. Not your mind, that’s ego. But your experience of your life events, that’s mindset. No matter what happens in your life, as the good and the bad karma plays out, you get to choose how you will respond to every life situation that comes your way. Will you scream or will you dance? Will you hold your breath or will you exhale? Will you harden your heart or will you open it up? Will you let the events ruin you or empower you? Will you grow more bitter or more grateful?
You know that I always say that“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain” -Vivian Greene
That’s the bothness right there. Is the rain a burden or a blessing? Is it something to endure or to enjoy? YOU get to make all those choices, my sweet girl. Feel the feels. Embrace the darkness when it comes, but always invite the light back in. Watch as many sunsets as you can. Allow the rain to fall on your skin and the snowflakes to land on your tongue. Smell the flowers. Gaze at the stars. Cook and eat with passion and presence. Laugh out loud. Cry without shame. Dance like nobody’s watching. Be seen in public without any makeup. Speak your truth with love. Sit in the bothness and seek miracles in everything. And you will find them everywhere. Because you, my darling, are a miracle.
I am rooting for you every step of the way, as is the Universe. I will be here to celebrate you when you triumph and to sit with you when you fall. And if none of what I just said resonated with you today, please keep this letter and read it again next year. And the year after that. One day it will make sense I hope. In the meantime, Happy Fifteenth birthday my sweet girl. Permission granted to enjoy today and every day FULLY. Here’s a little T Swift for you to kick off your day. Shine on. Love, Mom. xoxo