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Finding meaning in life’s twists and turns

Finding meaning in life’s twists and turns

I recently experienced a visual about worrying. It was a mountain where the highest point is the peak of worry.

As a young child, most of us stand at the base with nothing significant to worry about and through life’s twists and turns, we climb and climb until eventually we experience an epiphany or a renewed sense of gratitude where we finally understand that worry is a waste of energy and time. This is when we descend down the other side of the mountain and everyday burdens feel lighter. 

Observing my own kids makes me realize how trusting and fearless young people can be. I used to be like that. In my early 20s I backpacked in Europe and there was a span of time where my friend flew back to the states and I was waiting for my sister to arrive. I was on my own in Paris knowing no one and only partially understanding the language, and I was happy as a lark, not a concern in the world.

As I got older and became a parent, life began to feel precarious and fragile, especially after my mom passed away. My tendency to worry and feel fearful or anxious escalated until about a year and a half ago when it hit a peak and I decided I wasn’t going to live in that mental space anymore. I’m not too far past the peak, but I feel like I’m coming down the other side. I’m human so I still worry, but I’ve learned strategies to keep the spiraling in check.

The more wisdom I gain from challenges, the more I understand how fleeting and mystical life is and why there is no point wasting time worrying about everything. In most circumstances, the things we worry about never manifest anyway.  

Reaching the mountain’s summit didn’t happen overnight. It’s been a decades-long journey of digging deep into my soul, forgiving myself, befriending myself and finding a spirituality that works for me. I’ve learned that a healthy body and clear mind are the two foundations for everything and because of this, I’m extraordinarily particular about what I put into both.

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Part of my reawakening story has to do with birds. Last summer I started finding bird feathers everywhere. This was strange because aside from a feather here and there in my life, I’d never really noticed or discovered very many bird feathers. It felt like Mother Nature was placing the feathers for a reason. As I began to find owl feathers, blue jay feathers, woodpecker feathers, and more, I purchased a pack of cards from the Star Seeded Shop in Clyde that offered a spiritual message for each type of bird feather. This became a summer hobby of finding feathers, learning about birds and connecting to each spiritual message. I also became aware and focused when I went on daily walks which made my time outside more enjoyable and intentional.

I never used to think much about birds, but now I think of them all the time. It started when my mom passed away. I noticed hummingbirds and cardinals, her two favorite birds, everywhere, as if she was comforting me from afar. Then when I was living in Maggie Valley, I would sit on my front porch and listen to birds which were plentiful and melodious in my neighborhood. This early morning symphony became a healing daily ritual. Fast forward to last summer and my feather-finding adventures. All of this made me realize why so many people are fascinated with birds.

A couple weeks ago I found a few crow feathers, then a couple days later, a really pretty woodpecker feather, then two really vibrant turkey feathers. I started thinking about the whole process of birds molting and shedding feathers. One of the reasons for this is to make way for new, stronger feathers.

Pondering the philosophy of molting made me consider that humans need to do the same. Sometimes we need to shed old patterns, relationships, situations, environments, habits, past guilt or regrets, in order to make way for the new.

As we enter the summer season, a time when many animals start shedding and molting, perhaps we should think about what we can shed over the next few months. Maybe it’s something emotional like old baggage or shame from an event that happened long ago. Maybe it’s toxic patterns within a friendship or relationship that can be helped with a little love, compassion or a hard conversation. Maybe it’s a job or career that’s become unfulfilling. Maybe it’s your home. Is it a cluttered mess that’s blocking all that good energy from trying to come in? We all have something to shed.

I always like to view a change in season as a time for renewal. I’m ready to molt and I’m ready to move further away from that space of worry and anxiety. There’s a quote by Kristen Butler that says, “Sometimes you just need to talk to a four-year-old and an 84 year-old to understand life again.” In my vision of the mountain, I see a four-year old on one side of the mountain and an 84-year-old on the other side. Everyone else is somewhere in the middle, and perhaps flying above is a beautiful bird who drops a stunning feather at the moment when we most need it.

(Susanna Shetley is a writer, editor and digital media specialist. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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