Thursday, November 26, 2009

With a Winged Heart

To melt and be like a running brook
that sings its melody to the night . . .
to know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
and to breathe willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks
for another day of loving;
to rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy;
to return home at even tide with gratitude;
and then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart
and a song of praise on your lips.
~Kahlil Gibran,
From The Profit

Prayer & Gratitude ~ Bali, Indonesia
I followed my law school sweetheart to Florida after graduation. By that time we had been dating for almost three years—studying together, competing for scholarships and grades, playing and having lots of fun. But the competition didn’t end when we received our diplomas; in fact, it escalated. What started as healthy competition, energizing our minds and supercharging our work, became a source of tension, conflict and hurt feelings when translated into jobs and compensation. And the gap between us just kept getting wider.
Within six months of moving to Florida, our relationship ended. Unfortunate, really, because he was the only friend I had in the area, new colleagues notwithstanding.
In the days, weeks and months that passed I grew more and more anxious about my decision to call it quits. Granted, I was working like a dog and flourishing in my career. At night I fell into bed, exhausted but generally satisfied with the direction of my life.
But weekends were another story. No meetings to attend. No busy phones ringing off the hook. No place that I had to be and not many friends to play with outside of work. That’s when I missed him most. That’s when I questioned my decision. And that’s when I would get lost in thoughts about why it had all happened this way. Why was I in this small coastal town, a thousand miles away from my family? Why had I been so inclined to follow him to Florida and, yet, here we were not even speaking? Was there something more for me here?
Years passed and, still, I got up every morning with a spring in my step excited for what the day would bring. When I could, I took the scenic route to work, driving along the Gulf Coast of Mexico, enlivened by its emerald green waters and sugar-white sand beaches. I threw myself into my work, loving every new project and idea, absorbing it all like a sponge. I opened myself to experience whatever came my way.
In my fifth year as a lawyer, I began to see a greater purpose for my being in Florida. Simultaneously, I was told of an upcoming offer of partnership with my law firm—“We’re all waiting for you,” the partners said—and I was offered a full time position as general counsel with one of my clients. On the one hand, I had the opportunity to be the first female partner in a firm of men. On the other, as general counsel for this young entrepreneur, I would be able to set my own hours, work from home, and enjoy a good measure of travel and freedom that I wouldn’t have in a law firm setting. As tough a decision as it was, I followed my heart and accepted the position as general counsel—a risk that came with opportunity that would later prove to be a bridge between two worlds.

Ceremony for Healing & Protection ~ Bali Indonesia

“Bless the bridge,” they say, and indeed I do.
When I reflect on the path that led me to where I am today, it’s easy to see the threads connecting one thing to another. I can look back with gratitude at the relationship I lost yet see everything I gained in the process.
I got to work with an amazing group of lawyers who really mentored me, teaching me how to be a good lawyer and business woman.
I lived on the magical Gulf Coast of Mexico--I always said that I wanted to live at the beach.
I met new friends, some of whom I count among my best friends today, and together we had lots of crazy-fun adventures.

I began my true spiritual studies after experiencing the darkest night of my lonely soul, which changed my perspective and set the course for everything I’m now doing in my life.
I explored geographically, connecting with my passion for travel and different cultures, which led me to San Francisco where I met some wonderful people who challenged me with new perspectives, inspiring me to get-out-of-the-box.
And I gained the wisdom and courage needed to make the greatest career leap of all—into my new life as a writer, photographer and entrepreneur. This is the essence of gratitude, giving thanks for all that is even when Life doesn't happen as you envisioned it. Trust me, I know it’s easier said than done.
The Gratitude Paradox:
“Giving thanks for all that is, as it is” is both truth and crap.
Because if you can’t see your way to anything positive
about your situation—
when you’re in the throes of tragedy and loss—
this statement is as good as an instruction to a deaf person
that she should listen to the music.
I'm not suggesting that we demonstrate appreciation for the painful or tragic things that hurt us--for having been the victim of a violent crime; for having lost our loved ones; for having been locked up for a crime we didn’t commit; or for having lost our entire life savings in a devastating financial disaster. When we’re in the middle of such things, I dare say gratitude comes easy. But one day, when we’re out of the fog and life moves on, I encourage the kind of gratitude that allows us to bless our journey and the strength and wisdom that we’ve gained from having endured such hardships. After all, we are who we are today because of what we made of yesterday.
In time, perhaps, we learn that we need not wait until the puzzle is finished to acknowledge its purposefulness and give thanks. For at its best, gratitude is a continual state of grace. It is to acknowledge with the whole heart the interconnectedness of all things—even while we’re going through it, even when we don't fully understand why—without crumbling in our feelings of separateness, aloneness or thoughts of having somehow been forgotten by the world. Gratitude is a thought form, a way of being; a choice.
Remember, every lover, friend, and experience is a precious gift, and every lesson learned brings wisdom to the heart of the recipient. Through it, we derive a greater sense of Self that we carry with us for the rest of our lives. Honor this wisdom as a blessing and give thanks so that it may serve you well.
Happy Thanksgiving friends!

By Melissa Johnson