La vita e bella —Life is beautiful
I like to relocate. I like to experiment with my career. Change excites me. Novelty ignites a passion that makes me feel alive. Sometimes I am hard on myself for the stifling that I feel when I am doing something that I might perceive as routine. I’m a person of faith and understand contentment, yet the feeling sometimes eludes me. When I put my mind to something, I usually experience success, but then I’m ready for a new challenge. That’s it —it’s time for something fresh. So, I seek the next opportunity. Then the questions arise within: Am I unknowingly self-sabotaging? Do I have the skills to lay down meaningful roots? Am I running from something in my subconscious of which I’m not aware? Could I be distracting myself with noble endeavors while avoiding my true calling because that might be scary or too big, or worse; what if I don’t succeed? When I catch myself entering this space of doubt (which, I’ve since learned, is part of being human); I pause, breathe, and give myself space to realign.
My name is Helen. Other than a former high school classmate, I don’t know another Helen. Not sure why my parents chose that name, but they did. In a small town in Landstuhl, Germany, two Panamanian parents decided to name their baby girl, Helen. As a Latina, I grew up bilingually and bi-culturally. My childhood home always smelled like a home-cooked Panamanian meal —a bed of rice topped with a meat medley, beans, and plantains. We didn’t have a lot growing up, but we always had enough; most certainly we had love. There were four of us and we played. We stared at each other trying not to laugh, we played Parcheesi, Hungry Hippos, Chess, Connect Four… those some of the favorites that come to mind. Other than Atari, electronics were not as ubiquitous as they now are, and so we interacted with one another a lot, hit each other a whole lot, tickled each other to try and make them pee (just al ittle), chased one another.
Life was fun and natural, but I worried.
My parents had a loving but imperfect marriage, and every disagreement would produce a deep fear in me that they would divorce. I can remember asking mom every day, “Are you and dad friends?”, praying that the answer would be yes followed by the story of his elaborate apology. I worried that we would experience another earthquake like the one we barely survived, where thousands in Rome perished. I worried that WWIII was approximating like the philosophers were predicting; I worried that I’d never learn to write in cursive, that my grades were not good enough and what I would “do with my life” was the question incessantly present.
The college years, though academically memorable, were laden with frequent vacillation and a sentiment of uncertainty in many of my personal decisions. The college parties began to feel empty, and the need to find joy, contentment, purpose, and to know myself better felt desperately close. So, I leaned in and stopped resisting the nudges for spiritual growth and evolution. I started digging, determined to give the little girl in me a shot at becoming a content, joyful woman. The unrest that gnawed on the inside could not be the way life was designed to be lived. Enough was enough. I made a choice to seek something larger than myself that would, in turn, allow me to unapologetically be myself.
This journey with God and myself is ongoing. A replete childhood and adolescence, the ambivalent 20’s, finding and marrying the man of my dreams, raising two beautiful children, building an exciting music career in Nashville, two adventurous cross-country moves, and settling back into the familial comfort and nostalgia of my hometown of Virginia Beach has landed me here, in this moment, writing for Devon’s beautiful blog.
All our trajectories are different, our narratives vary, but I can bet that most of us seek the same divine assurance that we are on the path uniquely designed for us. So, with conviction and humility, I’ll share my personal nearest and dearest lessons on this journey thus far. Because what has allowed me to live more fully and vibrantly in a state of joy is what I have gleaned along the way:
We are created and hardwired for connection. The most important connection we can make is a divine connection. Meditate, pray, and connect with God. It is only through this connection that we can access the innermost recesses of our hearts and receive the guidance, gentleness and unconditional love that quenches spiritual thirst.
When we are hyper-focused on the end of a goal, or a specific measurement, we discount everything that unfolds along the way. There is great opportunity for joy long before we reach the end.
There is profundity in simplicity. It is the simple pleasures along life’s path that elicit a profound satisfaction in the spirit. Cuddling a dog, a gentle warm breeze, a fulfilling conversation with someone we care about, a hard laugh, the first sip of morning coffee, or looking into the eyes of a child can serve as a balm to our souls, and when we recognize the joy of that very moment, we are living fully.
Align more closely with your true nature. Seek out the things that inspire you and do more of that. Decide to withdraw from the activities that no longer help you grow or evolve. It’s a decision you make to calibrate your life to be in tune with not only who you are, but also who you want to become.
Regardless of your age or stage of life, invest in your body and mind. The cells of your body are never old. They are new. They keep regenerating. Your body has the potential to be as young and vital as it has ever been.
So, if I could go back and tell the little girl in Naples that even with the hurdles, life will continue to become more fulfilling with each decade, that she would one day get a grip on this “worry” that she couldn’t define, and that she would find the contentment that she chased and the steadfast joy for which she longed, I think she would be pleased with the purpose in that pursuit alone. Because in the pursuit, therein lies the beauty.