The Best Gift to Receive
Monday June 17, 2024

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The summer of 1997.

Having just graduated from high school, and knowing I would be heading to college across the state in the coming fall, I asked my parents if I could head to Portland for a month to attend a personal course that had caught my interest. Having a dear family friend and her husband who lived near Portland, they welcomed me into their home with their beagle Molly and youngest daughter who was still in high school, and I felt like the most fortunate young woman in the world.

Working every summer during high school at either a restaurant in my hometown sometimes during the school year as well, or changing irrigation pipes for neighboring farmers, and one summer as a custodial summer assistant cleaning the very school I attended during the school year, the opportunity of being able to live in Portland during this transitional summer between living at home to heading to college to escape to Willamette Valley felt like a dream. And as a young woman who wanted freedom to just be, it was a breath of fresh air. My parents said yes, supported my attendance at the course, and not a day after graduation, I was moving into our family friends’ recently vacated third bedroom as their eldest daughter had moved out of the house into her adult life.

The beautiful part of this experience, understood more now upon reflection as someone who knows themselves more consciously than I did at the time, is that what I savored most about living with my new home-away-from-home parents was just being able to be Shannon without prodding or shamed passively or poked to do or be someone different. I share this because I was not the person who went to parties during high school or who was all that gregarious; to an onlooker, I am sure I looked too boring in my weekend choices, but as I shared in my first book, I enjoyed my own company throughout my entire childhood, nearly always having animals by my side of all types – dogs, cats, horses, etc.. As well, a notebook was never far away, nor a book, but pressures were felt indirectly as to what ‘fun’ entailed as well as pressures to limit my curiosities to what was approved. The one outlet that was approved of were sports, and so that is where most of my extracurricular time was placed during my childhood; however, I had made a point upon heading to college that I wanted to pursue something different outside of athletics, in large part, to give myself intentionally more freedom.

What delighted me, what piqued my curiosity, is very much reflected in all that you see on TSLL, and while I feel incredibly grateful to both my mother who nurtured in me the spirit of creativity and exploration as well as my father’s modeling of hard work and ingenuity, I never felt, especially at this turning point of my life, encouraged to actually do so if it wasn’t what was known to my parents, so I was deeply grateful that they supported my idea to enroll in this course in Portland. But here is an example of the universe helping us out. We need not look at such voids, or what appears to be lacking, as negative because we’re actually being given something of great value. Rather these moments of feeling a void are helping to move us forward where we need to go. Simply because we don’t feel all the support we want doesn’t mean there isn’t love or nourishment. In fact, if there is everything we supposedly want in our childhood home, there would be little encouragement to leave and venture out into the world to discover what life is calling us to unearth about ourselves and our unique journey.

So this yearning to strike out a bit more on my own before a full year away at college felt completely natural and necessary because it was time to start learning to step out on my own, to begin seeing what it felt like to not have the pressures that caused so much discomfort and perhaps realize new discomforts and how I would navigate those.

What I enjoyed immensely about my time in Portland was that I didn’t really change too much at all, but my comfort and ease of being wholly Shannon intensified. Being Shannon was simply, but entirely, savoring everyday life: walking their petite Beagle family darling of a sweet pup Molly multiple times a day around the neighborhood in between my time in class which took place in the heart of the bustling city of Portland, sitting outside in the yard and garden reading, conversing around the table during lunch or dinner, watching television programs we didn’t have access to with curiosity as to what everyone was talking about, and not having anyone hovering over me, assuming that by being still I was doing something wrong. This balance of stepping out and challenging myself, learning something new with this course in the environment of a city provided the stimulation to understand how I felt about all sorts of ideas and events, and opened my eyes in many ways to ideas never before experienced first-hand or heard about, but then to balance that infusion of new energy with the return to a quiet, neatly kempt home with kind and generous folks and the space to relax and be, was a nourishing equation for peace of mind.

During our multiple daily walks, Molly and I would wander all about the neighborhood, and with her happily trotting along, my mind was set to wonder and dream about the life I wished to build for myself. The future seemed full of possibilities. I found during that summer how I delighted in living in a neighborhood, quiet yet with various folks living different lives in different chapters of life. Having grown up in the country quite far from town and not near neighbors really at all, it felt quite isolated, too isolated for me. But I also loved having so many animals as a child and the freedom to roam about in the fields and forest, so figuring out that balance – being able to welcome pups into my life and have places to wander and walk, became a key piece to figure out. So much thinking was taking place during this time. My curiosity and wonder and wonderment about so much had been set free to roam, and I learned quite a bit about what fostered serenity in my daily life. Without knowing it entirely consciously, key fundamentals of understanding what brings me peace were discovered as I began to distinguish my voice, my yearnings and curiosities from that of the culture that had raised me – both the community and my family.

The gift I received that summer may have been opened in 1997, but it took years to come to fruition; however, this gift of knowing who and what Shannon’s voice and yearnings were versus what was imprinted or placed upon me through societal or cultural expectations never left me as it started turning the wheels of trusting my inner voice, trusting my inner compass and understanding when I was being told what to think or do, rather than it coming inherently from within my own self.

One of the first lessons that will be discussed in TSLL’s Contentment Masterclass is understanding how to know when it is your voice, your ideas, your yearnings that are guiding your life choices, and recognizing when and why ideals and beliefs that have put upon you and thus aren’t bringing the contentment you are trying to discover. In other words, to gain clarity about how you have been influenced and to be able to gain trust in the choices you make moving forward in order to have the greatest success of living a life of contentment and fulfillment.

The family I had the good fortune to stay with during the summer of my 18th year continued to be a sanctuary for me throughout the past three decades. Always welcomed, with pups or without (usually with and always preferred to be so as the kindness extended to them was in itself a treasured and most appreciated gift as well), wonderful light-hearted chats around meals and a bedroom to rest my head that was thoughtfully decorated to welcome me back. The love, comfort, and kindness extended provided the gift of acceptance to just be myself, entirely, fully and without pressure, nor shaming or guilting.

Sometimes the people who give us the most amazing gifts along our life journey never realize their influence, primarily because they are just being themselves without expectation. Giving without expectation sets us free to live fully in the present, and when we are wholly being ourselves, it is then that we live fully in the present moment. The best gift we can give to anyone is to let them be who they are without judgment, for when we judge we reveal our own insecurities and inabilities as well as illuminate where we need to grow in our own self fulfillment journey.

And to be so fortunate to receive such a gift is nothing we can plan, nor expect, but understandably may hope for, so when such people enter our life, while it may not come up in conversation at the time, or we may not even realize at the time what we are being given, such as the case shared here today, when we finally do, being sure to emulate to others the kindness received is how we pay it forward.

Thank you Saundra and Chuck. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.


12 thoughts on “The Best Gift to Receive

  1. What a lovely, thoughtful and appreciative post Shannon 🤗

    The time and space just to be , to discover , to be accepted and welcomed , just as you are, not to have to ‘try’ to fit in to the expectations of others, or feel the unspoken pressure of that, is such a very precious gift .

    Thank you for sharing .

    Have a lovely week .

    x Anne x

  2. These wonderful paragraphs are so timely, Shannon. Our weather in our neighboring state has had very moody weather lately, and so with the firestove on and Charlie Brown lazing on his blanket in front of it. Am at my art desk, and just appreciating the light, and coolness early this morning.

    What I appreciated from your post was that I had a respite of a stay at my grandmother’s home while attending a state school in Long Beach, Ca. She had been a teacher, and was the most encouraging spirit, without judgement or insistant urging. I have had a renewed appreciation of her and that time lately, and you reminded me of this. Thank you.

    1. Joan,

      Thank you for sharing your memory of your grandmother. What a lovely sanctuary to just be yourself and found nourishment. So grateful you had that.

      As well, thank you for painting such a cozy image in our minds of your feisty June weather. It sounds quite delightful, Charlie Brown especially so. Please give him loves from us here in Bend. 🙂 And thank you so much for stopping by. xo

  3. Dear Shannon, I appreciate your willingness to share a deeper side of yourself, as a young woman growing up with expectations and pressures to conform. With the support of your mom and dad, you were given a beautiful gift of self discovery as you ventured out on your own. I found myself cheering you on and thanking your “special” family, and sweet Molly, for giving you wings to fly in a wonderful direction. 🦋

    1. Karen,

      Thank you for your very kind words and for your support from afar for that young woman. I feel very fortunate to have had this opportunity that at the time I thought the value would come from the course, but came from the entire experience itself. Ahhh, the gift of hindsight. So very grateful. Thank you for stopping by. xoxo

  4. What a beautifully shared memoir…and a touching love letter to kind and wonderful souls. Thank you for this peek into one very special stop on a path that led you to this peace-giving reflection all these years later. Have a beautiful night… -Liz

  5. What a lovely post. It is true, the best people we can have in our lives are those who allow us to be fully ourselves, and like/love us for this, flaws and all.
    When we find those people we truly need to hold on to them!

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