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Life Doesn't Owe You Anything

I’m on the top of a red rock mesa. Stunted junipers, flowering cliff rose and bright red penstemon, the desert sun. I can’t remember the invitation from the guides, which I’m supposed to be exploring as a part of the psychospiritual adventure of an Animas program. So I just go with it, speaking out loud to the World, “I don’t know why I’m here,” I admit. “Sure, I had my reasons for applying, and I guess they were convincing enough, but I know better than to believe those are the true reasons, your reasons.”


I’m remembering my graduate school experience. Whatever justification I gave myself – my passion for social justice, my drive for a do-good career – Mystery had a totally different plan. I often joke that it was a hell of a lot of money spent convincing my trauma to emerge from shadow, which is what really happened in grad school. But the truth is, that emergence is one of the most precious things to me, absolutely priceless.


“If the real reason I’m here is to behold the beauty of magnificent wild places, to be undone by all the different and particular flavors of green…Thank you!” I went on, offering all sorts of random but wonderful reasons, perhaps, for Mystery to bring me to this canyon. Before long I found myself weeping in gratitude for the marriage I felt deeply unseen and unmet within, for the physical abuse I endured as a child, for having no clue where my life is going next. And those are just some of the “unfortunate” events of my life!


My life! I’m alive! I get to be here!


I have this day. And maybe another. And maybe still another.


That last line I pulled from Mary Oliver’s poem To Begin with The Sweet Grass, in which she asks with her sharp love: If you have not been enchanted by this adventure, your life, what would do for you?


I want to suggest something bold: life doesn’t owe you anything. If that is true, then everything we receive is a gift. Everything. It can be hard to say what that gift is, in the heat of despair or disappointment, but what if we believed it anyway? How do you feel and what becomes possible if you believe that whatever arises – whatever hardship, whatever struggle, whatever heartbreak – is an offering?



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