Our Gifts Are Not Our Own

As I sat on the small porch of a modest house waiting for my session to begin, I recalled the last time I had visited this lovely place, right after we had lost our best friend to a tragic car accident. We had come seeking a connection and left comforted by the knowledge that she had arrived safely on the other side. We had been given tacit permission to move on with our hurried lives. But now some 20 years later I was back, this time eager to slow life down and absorb the stillness.

Her drawing began with a broken line that gradually spread into a pencil, symbolizing my focus on writing and designing growth and rehabilitation. She shaded big blocks of brown for constructing programs, vibrant blues for connecting with people over the internet, and beautiful shades of healing throughout. The portrait was the birthday gift that I had given myself, but it had come with hidden costs. Before she could sketch my journey she had to establish her conduit, the individual responsible for guiding her drawing and providing commentary on my life.

She described an older woman who had passed when I was young, and I immediately thought of my paternal grandmother for whom my oldest daughter was named. A particularly strong woman succeeding boldly in a world of men, we had enjoyed a strong connection during her life and I was honored to be at her side when she passed. But despite my efforts to cling to her memory, she was clearly not the one.

How I tried to avoid the obvious- my other grandmother, my mother’s mother, a woman who I had barely thought about or spoke of in all these years. Even as her identity was pushed into focus, my mind rejected her presence, resenting her appearance, even mispronouncing her name. I was ashamed of my own reaction and listened with confusion as the medium emphasized this woman’s significance.

Did I know that she was a great writer, and that she was responsible for guiding my own gifts and the manuscript that I was so feverishly working on? Did I know that her relationship with my grandfather was actually loving and strong, rather than the tragic mistake that I had concluded.

No, I obviously knew nothing. And I reeled at the discovery.

The rest of the session had felt like a warm embrace with assurances that I was on the right path and that so many were proud of me.

But the biggest gift came later that evening. After first dismissing the medium’s details about my grandmother, my mother had called her sister to confer. To her surprise, she learned that my grandmother was indeed a gifted writer, although focusing her talents on penning beautiful letters, while longing to do more. When she was young she was the bell of the ball, beautiful and engaging. But after she was married she felt trapped by conventional life, yearning to travel and experience exciting adventures, left to read self-help books and live vicariously through the lives of her daughters.

My grandmother had felt stuck, just like so many women today. Although we try to stretch and grow and challenge ourselves, we are constrained by the expectations of others. But what was her life like compared to mine? Her options, her realities- even more restricting and limited. And when my daughters will someday view my choices through their lenses, what will they see, what assumptions will they make?

How wonderful that she should have a hand in my journey, rooting for me and my efforts to help others actualize their dreams and potential, serving as my guide, my angel, my muse.

Of all the gifts that I have been given, perhaps this is the greatest…. the knowledge that our gifts are not our own

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About mbhuber2013

convener and co-founder of BTEP, instructor for Tanzania Study Abroad course; Associate Dean for Undergraduate Research and Experiential Learning at University at Buffalo

4 responses to “Our Gifts Are Not Our Own”

  1. Lynn OConnor says :

    Just beautiful Mara! Happy New Year!

    Like

  2. Grace Costantini says :

    Mara, my response to your blog was so emotional. With two daughters of my own, it was interesting to reflect back on my own mother and grandmothers and there influence on my life. Then to think about how my girls will look back on me and how I might have influenced them. You are so insightful. Truly our gifts are not our own. Thank you for your inspiration to do some soul searching of my own. Grace

    Like

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