The 44th Chapter

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“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.” – Carl Jung

Tomorrow I celebrate the turning of yet another page in the story of me. When I awake, my first thoughts of the new day will be the opening lines of my 44th chapter.

Birthdays always seem to be a good time for reflection, I tend to think of all the joys, sorrows, triumphs, and tribulations that filled the last 365 days of my life. Today, I find myself pondering the many things I’ve learned throughout my life thus far.

I’ve learned life is an ongoing process of discovery. Knowledge and exploration of all things emotional, spiritual, and intellectual transform the playground of youth. When I was a little girl, I thought once you reached whatever age it was you became a grown-up, everything you needed to know in life would somehow be revealed. What I learned, was you never reach some magical age when you know all there is to know. If anything, you need to know more and more as the years pass by.

I’ve learned each day is filled with challenges and twists and turns, I’ve learned there is no easy way to navigate through the labyrinth of life. Through trial and error we find new truths, we gain wisdom through experience, in turn we continue to grow and evolve into the person we will be when tomorrow comes.

I’ve learned it’s okay to make mistakes as long as we find the lesson in each one. I’ve learned it’s okay to fall as long as we pull ourselves back up, as a matter of fact; I realized we need to fall in order to learn how to stand.

There was a time in my life I thought I could do it all on my own, I thought I was supposed to. I’ve since learned it’s okay to ask for help. I now know there isn’t one among us who can live a full life without the aid and support of those around them. I must admit I still struggle at times, I’ve not yet learned to ask for help often enough, I’ve not yet learned how to fully accept it when it’s offered. Sometimes the learning process is long; perhaps this is why God gave us an entire lifetime to study.

I’ve learned to listen and to learn from listening. I’ve learned strength can be gentle. I’ve figured out being strong doesn’t mean putting up a wall, while it may keep the unwanted out at times, it isn’t impenetrable and too often it keeps out the good we need to keep our hearts from breaking. I’ve learned love is real and wonderful and deserving of both giving and receiving. Love is something you give and accept without condition.

Growing older has only brought me closer to the values and morals my parents worked so hard to instill within me. Faith, character, honesty, integrity, and humble pride are important companions as you travel through life. Without a road map, it can be hard to know just which way to turn when the paths are many, these are but a few life lessons which serve to provide the direction you need to reach your ultimate destination.

Every action we take impacts the way our future will unfold. What may seem to be nothing more than a shiny pebble in the road can become a mountain we must one day climb if we choose to pick it up and put it in our pocket instead of passing by. The pebble may be a moment of weakness, one wrong choice, one opportunity missed. Things in life are not always what they seem. That one little pebble may be the heaviest burden you will ever carry.

I’ve learned time is precious and fleeting. I’ve learned children grow much too fast, every moment must be treasured and used to teach and love and nurture them so they know how to pass those pebbles by when they come to them.

I’ve learned sleep is a gift, hugs are essential and respect is more than powerful, it must first be given if you expect to receive it. I’ve learned sometimes tomorrow doesn’t come and every hour of every day counts. I’ve learned sometimes the faster you try to get somewhere the harder it can be to get where you want to go.

I’ve learned not to let go of hopes and dreams, not to forget what it was like to be a child and to let the child still inside you come out to play. I’ve learned we must let go of anger or it will control us and eventually destroy us. I’ve learned there is no room for love in a heart filled with prejudice and hate. I’ve learned to give when you can and help when you should. Sometimes the impossible is possible and what seems so easy can be the most difficult. Simplicity can be complex and complexity can be simple.

Parents are gifts to be treasured and honored and revered. Grandparents are angels in waiting and when they hold you in their arms you can feel their wings wrapped around you in comforting warmth. I’ve learned never to miss a chance to say I love you or I’m proud of you or I miss you and need you.

I’ve learned sometimes we get second chances, but we should always try to get things right the first time. Failure is not optional, it is inevitable and it is a great teacher. Worry is wasteful, anger is unproductive and disappointment is fleeting. I’ve learned you must accept yourself if you wish others to accept you.

I’ve learned God is good and real and miracles happen and the only unanswered prayers are the ones never meant to be. I’ve learned faith truly can move mountains, angels exist and heaven awaits those who believe. I’ve learned acceptance is one of the greatest gifts you can give to another and I have learned ignorance can be contagious and we are the only cure. I’ve learned God truly is pure and perfect love.

I’ve learned I still have so very much to learn . . .

Crystal R. Cook

“It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.” – Epictetus

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