After reading a post at Creativity Tribe on sense of direction, part of the series ,This Sensational Life, I began to think about the moments in my life that have permanently changed my direction. “Finding your direction can be as easy as getting centered or having a meaningful chat with a mindful friend, “ says the author, Rachel Payne. I began to think about thousands of little moments that have led me down my current path. Rachel is correct, many of those moments have been quick, seemingly meaningless at the time, but oh so important retrospectively. Others have been big…like knock you off your feet, peel your eyes wide open, no going back to business as usual…big. I’ve had a few of those.
The first time I traveled outside of the U.S. was to the island of St. Kitts in the Caribbean Ocean. My very narrow, U.S. centered view of the world changed. I saw overwhelming natural beauty, poverty, culture and a different way of life. On a deserted beach in the middle of the night, I watched a Leatherback sea turtle lay her eggs in the sand, cover her nest and slowly make her way back to the sea. It moved me in a new direction. I began to feel an obligation to protect her and the planet that sustained her.
The second (and only other) time I traveled outside the US was to Costa Rica. Change in direction to the extreme. The country’s sea turtle nesting grounds are what led my husband and I there. One morning in Tortuguera, we watched two baby sea turtles make their way from their nest to the water. We were also immersed in a culture and language we had very little knowledge of previously. We had experiences with nature that intensified our love for it. I left there with an immense love for Central America and a wider world view. I left the country with a hunger to see more of the world.
Two months later, I was pregnant with my first son. Nine months after that, he was diagnosed with Down syndrome at birth. Direction changed. I was a mom. I was the mom of a child with special needs. I learned that none of us are perfect, that everyone needs help with something, that I could help other parents of children with Down syndrome. I learned that my son was exactly who he was meant to be. I learned that we all are.
I read The Poisonwood Bible, which forced me to truly contemplate the fact that human suffering is the same all over the world. I realized that someone suffering a world away from me deserves the same attention as someone suffering right in front of me. I felt the pain of all human kind and resolved to do my part to end it for anyone I could.
I read A New Earth which contained the words, “The only actions that do not cause opposing reactions are those that are aimed at the good of all. They are inclusive, not exclusive. They join; they don’t separate. They are not for “my” country but for all of humanity, not for “my” religion but the emergence of consciousness in all human beings, not for “my” species but for all sentient beings and all of nature.” These words changed my focus. I was forced to consider more than myself, more than my country, more than my species.
I discovered reggae. The common themes in the music of bands like SOJA, Fear Nuttin Band and Rebelution were love of earth, love of God, and love of people. The music moved me to action. It motivated me to do more for those in need, to eat more sustainably and to consider the impact of my actions on all people and the planet.
I started reading travel blogs. I found people who were discovering the world through long term travel. Many traded possessions, predictability and financial security for the chance to follow a dream. My mind was opened to the idea that there are many ways to live this life. I am not limited by society’s expectations or by financial insufficiency or by my children, or by my age or by my past experiences. I have the freedom to move about the world as I please as long as I am willing to do the difficult work that is necessary to keep moving forward.
Reflecting on some of the big “game changers” of my life forces me to ask what kind of moments I am providing for my children. What can I do to expand their world view and help them to become global citizens? What experiences can I offer their young minds that might instill empathy and compassion? What can I show them that will teach them the importance of respecting the earth? How can I help them recognize their talents and follow their passions? Because of my moments, these are the questions that guide me as a parent.
My goal is to be open to new moments and their potential to change my direction and to help my children be open to theirs. In this way, I believe our two paths, though sometimes heading in different directions, will converge in the most beautiful places.
- Blending academics and outdoor activity, even in winter
- Observing nature in winter