This article first appeared on The Good Men Project and has been republished with permission.
“Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it. Not against it.” — Eckhart Tolle
I can’t believe it’s been almost a year since my grandmother and mom’s passing. It feels like a lifetime ago. So much has happened since.
So much, in fact, that I now find myself writing this article from another continent with no return date planned any time soon.
This is the third time I’ve packed my bags and left the States for an indefinite amount of time. The first time was back in 2011 when I decided to quit my corporate job, gather my savings and leave everything I knew to go backpacking through South America for a year. The second time I had a little more structure. In 2012 I moved to South Korea for two years to teach English, which I did while simultaneously getting my coaching certification through the International Coach Federation. And now I’m here in Germany with my girlfriend, building my coaching business and exploring other parts of Europe.
When looking back on the past six years as a whole, it’s amazing to see such a clear path with bona fide barometers of progress and growth leading me to where I am today.
It didn’t always look like a clear path while I was in it.
Not even close. I had many moments of self-doubt and confusion. There were times where I questioned myself and asked, ‘what the hell am I doing with my life?!”
There were also plenty of times where I was put in less than ideal situations that didn’t make any sense. They were pretty shitty in fact.
But I always had an overwhelming feeling, wherever I was or whatever was happening, that this is where I needed to be right now. This is where my growth is. This is where my understanding is. This is my path.
That foundation helped me see that nothing is ever a mistake. Not even my mom’s passing.
Trusting Life Even When It Hurts
My mom was diagnosed with esophageal adenocarcinoma in the summer of 2014. This was right when my second one-year teaching contract in Korea was coming to an end. Prior to her diagnosis, I had made plans to travel through Southeast Asia and India to continue my Self-guided education once my contract ended.
I still have the email I sent my mom letting her know of my plans and why I felt this was so important for me. As a quick prelude: my family has always been very close. We’re Cuban. It’s our nature to stay together. So aside from my travels, no one else in my family has been away for any extended stretch of time. Which is why her response still brings tears to my eyes. It’s too long to post but here’s a little excerpt that speaks to the essence of the message.
“Know that you’re a free spirit. Go where you need to be! We will always be here, your number one cheerleaders!!”
Words can’t describe what this message meant to me. I was beyond touched and excited for the journey ahead.
A month later she was diagnosed and the rest is history. I came straight home and became her primary caretaker for almost two years.
The irony of it all is that during those two years our relationship was the best it had ever been. The closer she got to death, the closer our relationship became. From one perspective I’m sad that it took her getting sick for my resentments to soften and our bond to strengthen. But from another, I’m beyond grateful to have had that opportunity.
It feels weird to say because of the amount my mom endured and suffered during that time, but in many ways, those two years were a blessing. We got to share so many beautiful moments together that I’ll cherish forever. Her presence and love continue to shower my being any time I think of her. I might never be able to feel her touch or hear her voice again, but in many ways, she’s still as alive within me as ever.
Can Life Truly be Trusted?
That’s why it’s hard for me to view any of this as having been a mistake. During this time my relationship with my mom healed and our bond strengthened, I got closer to my brothers and I met the woman I love and who I now get to share my life with. Although I may not be able to fully understand why it had to happen like this, I also can’t deny the depth of growth, healing, and understanding that came from it.
Life is a mystery. There’s so much that we may never understand. But at the same time, I’ve found that within this mystery lies an intelligence that far exceeds our own.
This intelligence, when paid attention to is constantly communicating to us, paving the way for greater growth and understanding. It may communicate in the form of a discomfort, a challenge, a loss or a tragedy. It may also communicate in the form of intuition, serendipity, luck or insight. But be assured that it is always communicating to us. We are only called to listen, reflect and act in whatever way will bring us back into greater inner alignment.
At the end of the day, we are spiritual beings having a human experience, not the other way around. Life is about remembering this truth, aligning with it and living in full expression from it.
We each have our own curriculum in this life, our own path to greater connection and alignment. What that path looks like for each one of us varies greatly. If we’re able to trust in this and act courageously from it, we start to see that life comes to meet us and support us in ways we could never imagine.
But it is a choice. We can view a challenge, a loss or a tragedy as a mistake that should not or must not be happening, or we can view them as a gift from life, signaling to us to adjust our thinking or our course of action.
I have no idea what life has in store for me. I don’t know how long I’ll be traveling for, how “successful” I will be, or even how long I will live. But I do know that I love life and trust deeply in its inherent goodness and I plan to continue walking into the unknown, knowing full well that my mom and Life are with me, guiding my every step.
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