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Tag Archives: Family

Being Grateful in Every Moment

imageI was once a full-on hippie, living from my car, camping my way across this North American continent.  Barely 18 and driving myself from the Midwest to Alaska. I rejected family, commitment, and mostly, responsibility.  I sought truth, the wild, beauty, and answers to the purpose of this life.

My life today is different.  I live in a lovely home, work a professional job, have a husband, children and daily commitments.  I have to carve time for adventures into the wild, and usually I bring my children with me.


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Yet the truth seeker, the beauty seeker, the wild seeker, she has not left.

So when I recently overheard someone telling a group to “stop seeking the answers of life for as soon as you find the answer, the questions will change” I was shocked.

Isn’t that the very point?  Follow with me for a moment.  As a child I was obsessed with reading historical literature (the whole living a thousand lives through books).  Then I became obsessed with religion and spirituality.  That transitioned into a questioning of the status quo and American Dream, which lead me to Alaska and exploring true wilderness (while learning to do so safely).  From there I delved into science, which lead me to a rewarding career.  The professional life and subsequent financial planning led to questioning my values and purpose in life.  Thanks to all the previous questioning (and answering) it was easy to  know my/my partner’s values and uproot our lives to better align with those values.  Now that we have children, all of those previous cycles of questioning and answering have culminated in the responsibility of raising people who will go out into the world and make their own way (a bonus of the Alaska years is knowing how to safely take them into the wild).

The constantly changing questions in my life have fueled my evolution.  

So, what does ring true to me?  I no longer reject commitment, responsibility, even tradition.  What I have come to believe wholeheartedly is:

The purpose of life is to be grateful in every moment.  

I used to read that line and scoff, how can I be grateful in the face of loss, tragedy?  Now I live these words, for the worst in my life has prepared me for the best.

And the commitments I used to flee, now I am thankful. Every commitment in my life, shows how my life is interconnected to those I love.

As I wrote that last line, I received a message from a beloved friend.  Her eldest is in the hospital with a newly-diagnosed, serious disease.  He is three.  Her third child is in her womb, past her due date.

My heart races to her, yet she is across the country and I cannot immediately be there. I am trying to get there.  Once there, I could help, sure, but I cannot take the challenging roles she must play out.  I cannot birth her baby for her, as much as I wish.  She has been up at night for weeks taking care of her son, waiting for some cure, diagnosis and she is exhausted.  I could sit at her son’s bedside but it is her that he wants and her that needs to be there.  In times like this it is so clear how strong we must be (in this instance, as mothers) and how deep our commitments must run.

It is moments like these that the biggest lesson I have learned comes heavily to me.

My life is to love.  My life’s work is to act on that love, to be strong for those who need strength, to be present for those who need me.  

It’s why the outcome of the mountaintop retreat is for me to give up my career in the next 8 months.  I have the answers to the questions that particular career gave me, and my focus has shifted again.  My role has changed and being at work, no matter how rewarding at one time, is no longer my focus, nor deepest commitment.

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Mountaintop Couples Retreat- Part II (why are we together & where are we going)?

 

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Question #1. Why are we together?

What an opener.  How does one even answer that?

And yet for us, the answer came almost immediately.  Jarring in it’s truth, it is why we work as a couple.

We are together because we bring what the other needs to move farther into a deeper, more fulfilling life.  To evolve, if you will, from where we started in life.

I was raised with unconditional love.  For all our faults, my family gave me unconditional love from birth.  I’ve also had unconditional love spiritually, as I have had faith since early childhood.

My husband was raised with the mantra of “no excuses”.  It doesn’t matter what is thrown in your path or how hard things get, you are responsible for living the life you desire.

Combine the two and we can build a life that knows no limits.  We balance each other out and have the opportunity to raise children who are fully loved, loving, and self-responsible (responsible for own well-being).

Why are you together with your partner? I’d be interested in others’ answers.

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Question #2- What direction are you going as a couple?

As we worked through the questions, a thought kept reoccurring.  My husband and I have been able to stay together as a team through the past decade because we asked most of the important questions when we were first getting serious.  We had a long distance relationship.  You can only use small talk and recounts of your day for so long.  To fill hours on a phone or pages in a letter (email was just beginning when we met), you have to get real.  We discussed everything from our values, to how we wanted to raise kids, to what old age would look like.  We have been through so much in the last 15 years, but through it all we have been generally heading in the same direction.

The beauty of doing a retreat as a couple (as opposed to a group) is you can start from where you are.  For some, this is will be the first step in determining the direction and mission of your family.  For us, rather than finding our direction, our goals became clearer, refined.  We focused on refining how our team works and treats one another.  The planning for our future was less a battle of what direction to go and much more a discussion of when to enact certain changes we knew we both desired.

Our direction is clear, we want a life filled with love, exploration, helping others and the freedom on make our own life choices.  We began this fifteen years ago.  We are now well on our way, living in our desired location, raising our two beloved sons, and saving for the day when we no longer need to work full-time jobs.

To achieve this, we need to continue to simplify our lives.  Avoid added distractions, expenses, and negativity.

The beauty of acknowledging our direction is how simple it is once again to say no to things that do not aid us.  For the past year we have discussed getting a camping trailer, it aids our goal of exploring and spending quality, family time in nature.  However, it hurts our savings goals and our simplification goal.  We would have to find a storage place and maintain yet another big purchase.  After our retreat, we no longer need to discuss it, it doesn’t fit where we are right now.  There is beauty in knowing your decisions are rooted in your life direction and you as a couple do not need to keep rehashing the same ideas.

What is your direction as a couple?  Are you beginning your journey or well on your way?

 

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