2014: A Year of Learning & Unlearning

As 2014 comes to a close and we gear up for another year filled with possibility and wonder, I would like to share with you some lessons that were taught to me in 2014.  For me, last year was one of unlearning and relearning and it is my hope that you will begin to notice things in your own life that you, too, can see with new eyes.

Meeting the Manatees
Meeting the Manatees

My first lesson came early in 2014. At the end of January, I was given the unbelievable opportunity to fill one of my bucket list items – swim with wild manatees. The moment I was face to face with these gentle creatures of the sea is one that is forever ingrained in my memory. To be welcomed into their habitat with genuine curiosity and gentleness was a tremendous lesson in not only trust, but also forgiveness.  Manatees have been on the endangered species list for a great number of years – no thanks to their only natural enemy – man. Not only was I able to swim, touch, and interact with these thousand pound mammals but was also granted permission to trace the deep scars left on  their backs and tails from one too many encounters with boat propellers. It was the closest thing to a spiritual connection I have ever had. Without an ounce of exaggeration, I can say I am forever changed.

Created by: Jane Stewart
Created by: Jane Stewart

The next lesson 2014 taught me was in the importance of stopping. I mean that both literally and figuratively. I’m a busy lady – always have been. However not long into 2014 I realized how sick and tired I was of just ticking items off my ever growing “to do” list. I knew I desperately needed to reconnect with myself, so I finally stopped always doing for others and instead put myself first (a VERY difficult transition for me, I will have you know). I put the cell phone away, took deep breaths, started meditating, enjoyed long walks with my dog, and sometimes just relished in the pure act of sitting and staring. It has been a glorious lesson in simplicity and what really matters and I know I am a better daughter, friend, volunteer, employee, and person because of it. Since this lesson is also what prompted me to start this blog, one could argue it was my most profound realization of 2014 as I consciously try to live and breathe it during my every waking moment.

Meeting "Captain Dildo" in Dildo, Newfoundland
Meeting “Captain Dildo” in Dildo, Newfoundland

Having a sense of belonging is the next lesson 2014 presented to me.  As mentioned in my Cherish Your Story article, my mom was born in Corner Brook, Newfoundland. However, she was born in the late 1940’s when being from Newfoundland wasn’t exactly the “hippest” thing in the world. Until very recently, Newfoundland culture was not high on the discussion list within my family. Three years ago I paid a much overdue visit to the Rock and immediately feel in love. It was the first place outside of my own home where I felt an instantaneous comfort and connection. The humour, the kindness, the fresh air, the hearty and relatively stress free living all sang to me.  I spent most of 2014 learning about Newfoundland. From reading the amazing stories of brave fisherman battling the unpredictable sea to repeatedly testing the best recipes for toutons, I have come to fully embrace my half-Newfie blood. Having a sense of belonging and identity is definitely a powerful mechanism for overall well-being and one that brings a smile to my face every time I think about it. While I’m not quite ready to pick up and move to the land of cod and bologna, I can say with great enthusiasm that I will be paying it a visit again in the very near future.

Me and Gus - therapy horse extraordinaire!
Me and Gus – therapy horse extraordinaire!

My final big lesson of 2014 involves a sense of humility and what unwavering support looks like. One of my many hats involves being a counselor who is certified to work with therapy horses. Once a month I meet with a group of men and women from a local military legion. All are former members of the Canadian Armed Forces and all suffer varying degrees of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). I have been privileged to hear intimate stories of bravery and loss, sacrifice and triumph, anger and appreciation, and frustration and acceptance. The constant, however, is the impenetrable devotion and support to their fellow man/woman. These amazing humans have pushed me to tears more times than I care to admit, yet they continue to be there for one another no matter the circumstance or struggle. I have been humbled by their stories and simply do not have the words to properly express my gratitude for their trust and service. There is so much more behind the “Support the Troops” campaign, and I consider myself very fortunate to have been given the rare opportunity to see and hear firsthand what it really means to support such amazing people.

There, in a nutshell, are my major life lessons from 2014. Were there more? Absolutely. Every day is a lesson if you look hard enough. The ones mentioned above are ones that have had the greatest impact on me and continue to do so as I write these words. I am forever grateful for learning the lessons I did and look forward to many more in 2015.

Created by: Jane Stewart
Created by: Jane Stewart

I hope as this year comes to a close and a new one begins, you too, take time to STOP and see all that is around you.

May 2015 bring wonderment and happiness, as well as a lesson or two.

Happy New Year!

Erica 🙂

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