Learning to Really Live

2012 and 2013 were two of the worst years of my life. I lost my beautiful mare to an accident. I lost my grandmother and wasn’t able to travel back to Massachusetts for the funeral. I lost my father to a terminal illness. We lost our precious family dog to tick-borne disease. Finally, I lost my 49 year old brother to cancer just 7 short months after reconnecting with him.
I reached a point where I was just numb. I couldn’t feel because I would just fall apart. It took months before it all sank in and the tears came. But in all of that, I learned some valuable life lessons. There is only one constant in this physical world—death. Relationships die, people die, animals die, and we die. It is the one inescapable truth of life.
As morbid and hopeless as it sounds, that lesson has energized me and my life. Knowing that all of my relationships will end reminded me that God gave us gratitude and love to fill our lives with joy. Connecting fully in a relationship, making time for our passions, and giving to those around us fulfills the very best part of us, connecting us more fully to God and to our true selves.
To quote Braveheart, “Every man dies, not every man really lives.” Before the last few years, that was just a cool line in a movie. Now, I get it. I have to die. I have to lose the people around me. But I can live each and every day in between to the fullest, creating a life worth living.
So what does that look like? I start every day with a prayer of gratitude, thanking God for the blessings of my life. I kiss my husband goodbye and tell him I love him before he leaves for work every day no matter what. No frustrations or arguments interfere with that. Same goes for my daughter.
In September of last year, I was offered and accepted my dream job. I do what I love with people I love from the comfort of my home office, which allows me to be here for my dogs instead of feeling guilty for leaving them in kennels all day. Every day that I’m physically able, I ride my horses after work. I get exercise and fresh air and am working toward new horsemanship goals every week.
I found myself a church home and volunteered to help with youth education, which put me in the position to run the youth group. Connecting with the teens in the church gave me a new source of joy and love. It’s a small group, but I love each and every one of them. They challenge me to be better, smarter. They inspire me to connect more fully with God and with them.
The worst two years of my life taught me how to really live my life. Some say life is about finding yourself. Others say it’s about creating yourself. I think it’s about having the courage to face yourself and to be your true self, the self God created.

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