THE GIFT OF YOURSELF

Let me start by saying for the last 24 years, I’ve been telling my children we all have a gift, it's our job to figure out what that gift is, and then share it with others. Sharing our gift is the purpose of life, the way we all authentically connect. I'll also mention, as the years marched by and I preached this to my children, the notion of my own life’s purpose continued to elude me.

The year was 2002, I'd just gone through a divorce and was beginning the process of trying to figure out what this feeling of disconnect and subtle loneliness that had been looming over me for 20 years was all about. I knew there was a connection between these feelings and not being able to find purpose, but I had not yet sorted it all out.  Unbeknownst to me, this reluctant dive into uncomfortable feelings would evolve into a life changing journey, one that would flip my world upside down. A world already in turmoil from a divorce and adjusting to being a single parent of three young children. This self reflective mission brought with it trips to the therapist, spoken and unspoken judgment from others, self doubt, and overwhelming emotional pain. But I knew if I continued to live my life without addressing this feeling of disconnect, I'd end up missing my entire life and never realize my purpose. So as difficult as it was, I trekked through the pain, all the while fighting off the self doubt that had set up camp in my heart, from trying to endure it all. A few years into this exploration, I'd done enough work on myself that I was beginning to come out of the depression, and although a better understanding of one's purpose was slowly materializing, I was still unable to totally grasp it.

It was December 2004 when my 11 year old daughter and I were holiday shopping. As we approached the checkout, there perched a Christmas tree adorned with ornaments bearing names of those in need. My daughter asked about it, and I explained you could select an ornament from the tree, then purchase the items listed on the ornament. Although money was tight, I knew giving to others would teach my daughter empathy.  So she plucked a name from the tree and we proceeded to fill our basket with holiday wishes. It wasn't much, just 75.00 worth of gifts, but that simple act of giving brought a vivacious smile to my daughter's face as we checked out. Being that I had limited funds and was not the best book keeper, a few days later, I received noticed from my bank that I'd overdrawn my account due to buying the gifts. I was so frustrated for putting myself in that situation, and would have to wait for next weeks paycheck to bring the account above zero. I also felt shame being that I couldn't afford to share a 75.00 gift with a person in need. Some may argue that I was being financially irresponsible to buy the gift in the first place, and maybe I was.  But the point being, I was trying to give a gift I didn’t have to give.  Apparently, somewhere along the way, I'd become impatient about finding my true purpose, and thought financial support was the answer. Well financial support was not the answer, not even close.

Life marched on, and as the years tiptoed by, I continued jumping from job to job in search of my gift.  All the while gaining a better perspective on myself and who I really was through lessons learned along the way.  In 2015 that meandering path lead me to create Wolf Tracks Pottery, and for the first time in my life, I felt like I was home.  But it wasn't until about 6 months ago that some clarity about my purpose started to solidify within me. My sister and I were sitting at her kitchen table and I was feeling a bit defeated due to the bad weather that had occurred during the prior days art show where I was selling pottery. The rain had curbed attendance down to a trickle of drenched shoppers which in turn, meant my pottery sales where practically non existent, which equated to scraping to pay next weeks bills. My sister got up from the table, dug around in her purse and pulled out an envelope. She set it on the table in front of me, quietly saying “This is from one of my co-workers, open it”.  I picked it up, peeked inside and saw seven crisp one hundred dollar bills. I broke into tears and said I can't possibly take the money. My ginger haired sister sat up in her chair very authoritatively, a stance she often takes, and said “You absolutely will take this money. The giver has watched you walk by faith through some very difficult times over the past 10 years, and now while trying to get your pottery out to the people it will touch. She has just gotten over a bout with cancer, and both your pottery and your unwavering faith have given her hope, they've been a gift to her”.

That day at my sister's kitchen table, something fell into place, an unscrambling of my thoughts began, and a certainty arose that up until that point, had eluded me. Until that very day I was unable to see the gift I had to give, one that had no monetary value at all. It's the same gift we all have access to, the same gift we all have the ability to share, if we have the courage to do so. The gift of our true, authentic self. You see, when I say authentic self, I’m referring to the person our soul wants us to be, the person we were put on this earth to be. The same self we often hide behind closed doors or beneath protective layers we have formed around ourselves, for reasons such as fear or shame. The justification to stay behind those doors or underneath those layers are endless. Maybe the thought of sharing your true self seems impossible because if you slowed down long enough to think about it, you may realize you don’t even know who you are. Perhaps you know if you share your true self, it will put you in the chair of vulnerability, which is a terrifying place to sit. You may worry the process of finding your purpose will disrupt your family, and you feel that’s not fair to them. Is it conceivable you've become so lost under the layers of negative emotions you’re holding onto, that those very emotions have become your identity; the angry person, the fearful person?  What I've finally come to understand during my journey, is the road to authenticity is not paved with outer influences such as the size of our home, the seemingly perfect picture we paint for others, or by fitting in, but instead by honoring our own uniqueness and what we carry in our heart. The most precious gift we can offer one another is an vulnerable look into who we really are and how we got here. The gift of our story, of our journey, and all that it entails. Having the courage to share our true, imperfect selves, pain and all, lets others know they're not alone in their own pain and vulnerability. It's through listening to one anothers stories that hope emerges, and we gain compassion, empathy, and forgiveness. These are the ingredients needed for true connection, this is the birthplace of unconditional love.

It's only after we give ourselves the gift of pursuing authenticity, that our purpose, our gift to others, will emerge. You can not find the later without the prior. During my trek toward authenticity, the layers began to fall off and the true me began to unearth. With that, my pottery took life through sharing both my pain and joy. As I get closer to my authentic self, my art continues to evolve.

Over a decade has passed since the day my daughter plucked a name off that Christmas tree. And as I settle in next to this crackling fire, clutching my steaming java, buttoning up this blog, I now understand the feeling of disconnect I felt all those years ago, was due to living a life that was not in line with my authentic self. It was the result of listening to society rather than my inner voice, and trying to fit into a mold that I was not meant to fit into.  It was the result of not valuing my own uniqueness, and not having the courage to share with others what was holding my heart hostage.  Today I can say without a doubt that my creativity, my pottery, would have never come alive without embarking on this terrifying, yet incredible adventure toward authenticity. It has emerged from not only finally being true to myself,  but also from drawing inspiration from other people's stories. My hope is that my pottery will encourage you to embark on your journey toward authenticity, and give you the courage to share your story along the way. I guarantee sharing your pain and joy will touch someone else's life. As you venture out, know there will be days filled with a plethora of happenings that may bring you to your knees. There will likely be many tears, so get the tissues. But as you roam down that path in search of yourself and your purpose, something amazing will begin to happen, feelings of peacefulness will start to emerge. They will be fleeting at first, but with each passing day, those peaceful moments will linger just a bit longer, and eventually you'll feel peace more than anything else. It's in those moments of peace you'll begin to understand that the temporary pain you've been experiencing during this new journey, is nothing compared to the constant pain of continuing to live a life that's not true to who you are. It's in those moments you'll be filled with overwhelming self love for having the courage to walk toward authenticity. It's in those moments of peace you'll find your gift. I encourage you to start today and share your story along the way.