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I’m in Arizona for a bit visiting one of my cousins I credit with saving my life in the days following my mother’s death. I can’t even begin to adequately relay all the ways, large and small he showed up for me back when I wandered through the dark forrest that was my life.

Years earlier he had also lost his mom and he recognized the hollowness in my heart. He knew I couldn’t talk about it. He knew there was no fixing it. He knew it was simply going to suck and things in my life would never be the same again. But he also knew how to pick a path through this particular landscape.

He taught me how to ride horses. He showed me how to interact with animals and gave me bits of life wisdom in small digestible doses a few sentences at a time. He could ‘whisper’ disturbed animals back to wholeness and he worked his magic on me as well.

Fast forward forty-five years. I’m sitting in his living room. His two schnauzers take turns hopping up to visit me. It is a credit to the gifts he shared with me because one of them is not fond of strangers, yet, she is warming up nicely to me. All dogs love me, have I mentioned that?

He is still giving me bits of life’s wisdom. Today we talked about my sense of powerlessness in childhood and my OCD leanings in adulthood. Anxiety, the fear behind both extremes, drives that train. I swing between them looking for a place to land, hoping for middle ground, a solid place without fear, anxiety and the need to self soothe, hide, or flee.

He reminds me that my childhood — the one where I felt powerless — taught me how to claim my power for the rest of my life.

He reminds me that my OCD as an adult is me not trusting anyone else with the important business of my life. For good cause, because the people I trusted as a child really mucked it up now, didn’t they?

He reminds me that its now ok to land and find middle ground. Its ok to trust, to lean into letting someone else do some of the heavy lifting now and then, to let someone care for me. Its ok to not feel fight or flight. Its ok to relax and not live in that exhausting place where everything… Every. Single. Thing…had to pass through my personal inspection lens to be approved.

He makes me take credit for the strength I’ve shown over the miles I’ve already put behind me, the hills I’ve crested and the valleys I’ve crossed. I’m still standing and putting one foot in front of the other and not giving up. I’m still seeking, picking my way through — I get points for that.

Each time I talk to him, I feel like I am following him on a trail that he is blazing. He has already cut the brush away, making my path through the wood easier.

How do you repay someone who saves you? Who goes on to teach you how to live your best life? Who leads you by example to a place of peace and love where acceptance is the law of the land?

You don’t. But that’s the point. You can’t. You can only live. But if you live well — well that is the point.

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Self discovery in progress, stay tuned

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