An Open Letter to Life
by Catherine | September 15, 2016
We haven’t always seen eye-to-eye.
Remember that time that you were convinced I should leave my life in the U.K., with my job and my partner and all my dreams, and return to my roots in Toronto?
Oh, you don’t remember?
Let me remind you. I didn’t want to go back to Toronto. I was stubbornly making my way in England, following a boy around and living inside his life. You asked me gently to come home, and then you even roared, but I was stubborn. I was going to work any job, survive any loneliness, put up with any poor treatment, just to stay with that boy in that world.
So you dragged me home.
You crippled me. You made me double up like a 90-year old woman. You made it impossible to walk more than 5 paces at a time. The pain you seared down my legs made it so I couldn’t sleep. You put me on bed-rest for a year. You forced me into solitude and pain. You made my only option to come home.
I was 23, Life.
But I forgive you, because you changed everything.
In that year, you showed me the first glimmers of a new path. Without the distractions, you gave me the opportunity to take a long, hard look at my life. You introduced me to myself, because the only other person in that room was me. I could not run, and I could not hide. There was no way out, so the only way was in. You taught me about pain, and loneliness, and defeat, and fear, and resentment, and uncertainty, and fragility, and grief, and then you taught me about love, and identity, and gratitude, and connection, and dreams, and tenacity, and healing, and presence, and mystery.
Everything beautiful I have now is because of that year of inner exploration and re-rooting in this place I never planned to return to.
So really what I’m here to do today is to bow down to you in gratitude, for the great mystery you weave in my life that takes me nowhere I planned but everywhere I was always meant to be.
Because if I had not been dragged, kicking and screaming and in so much pain, right back to Toronto, I would never have ended up on Vargas Island in the B.C. wilderness. I would not have stood on a secret beach, the Pacific Ocean kissing the shore, cedar scenting the air, with tears of gratitude running down my cheeks, saying,
As we have established, Life, you don’t always give me what I want, and I often end up thanking you anyway, because within the hardship you also offer gifts. But this time, I was thanking you because you gave me everything I had hoped for on that trip, and then offered me more than even that.
I asked for challenge so that I could feel strong, and you brought me two foot waves over the bow of my kayak, and pouring rain and fumbling fingers on unfamiliar tent-poles, and sand everywhere, and trip guides to support me with humour and confidence in each challenge to ensure that I was always empowered and never overwhelmed.
I asked for connection so that I could feel nurtured, and you brought me eleven women who were kind, and funny, and wise, and wild, and courageous, whose paths are so different to my own and yet whose sweetly shared stories of hopes and fears could have been spun by my own tongue.
I asked for wisdom so I could feel tapped into a knowingness to guide my journey, and you gave me a guide whose kindness and old soul offered me clarity where I could see only cloud, breadcrumbs to a path where I could see only dead-ends, and invitations to discoveries I may have not made on my own. You gave me other women to share their own hard-won knowledge and encouragement, so I could learn from paths I will never walk and hardships I will never bear.
I asked for heart-opening gratitude so that I could feel blessed, and you brought me the huff of a sea-lion’s breath off the shore while we stood in our closing circle, and full rainbows arcing out over the ocean, and slippery seals with spotted backs, and trickster ravens stealing granola bars, and streams of sunshine, and shore-waders and ospreys and bald eagles and bio-luminescence and the slightest glimpse of a wolf leaving a beach for her forest home and
I asked to be witnessed so that I could feel understood as I am, and you gave me circles of women sharing deeply, with great vulnerability, in sacred and safe space where everyone’s story is welcome and no one is trying to fix, or diminish, or outshine any other woman’s story.
I asked to feel wild joy so that I could feel free, so you gave me a wilderness raw and true, and voices raised in howls, and cathedral groves of cedar, and the harmony of song, and tears born of laughter, and the strength of my own body, and the wonder of the crashing waves.
Then you gave me more, Life. In the sacred, magical circle of women in the wilderness, you gave me more than I have language to wrap around, because there are some truths that are granted to us only through experience, and not by word.
Thank you – for gifts that came disguised as hardships.
Thank you – for giving more than I knew to ask for.
Thank you – for everything this experience was, and all it will mean to me in the years to come.