I was hiking with my family – I’m lucky to have the four of us together. (My older child just spent six unexpected weeks at home in Pennsylvania, versus their “real life” in Minnesota. It’s the first time in years that they’ve been in Pennsylvania for six weeks, and we’re taking them back home – in a rented RV – to Minnesota.)

We were hiking in the Indiana Dunes National Park – my younger child wants to visit all the National Parks in his lifetime – and as we hiked our way to the actual trail, the vistas around us were quite different. To the right we had marshlands – with bullfrogs and blue dragonflies and even yellow birds. To the left we had grasslands – with a huge, possibly nuclear, powerplant in the not-so-distant distance. Some of us were looking to the right, commenting on the beauty and nature and vocally appreciating the hike and the view. Some of us were looking to the left, commenting on the fact that this was a weird, and less than enjoyable, way to start a nature hike.

“Hmmm,” I said, always the coach, “this is like life. You can choose whether you metaphorically look to the right and the beauty and bask in the view or whether you look to the left and wish the view were different.”

“Or,” my older child added, “you can look right ahead and see all of life and be glad for all of it.”

That seems so true to me, especially as we drive toward Minneapolis to leave my older child there. Especially after having them close to me – in my sight, in my home, and within hugging distance – for the last six weeks. I can choose if I look to the left and wish it were different. I can choose to focus on the fact that after dinner tonight I don’t know when I’ll see my kid again, and I’ll feel close to heartbroken. Or I can choose if I look to the right and bask in all I have. I can choose to focus on the fact that they’re still here with us and that I can still see them and hear them and hug and hold them. If I do that, I will be flush with joy. Or I can choose to look right ahead and to both love the fact that they’re here right now and also know that we’ll be saying goodbye soon…and be glad for all of it.

This past weekend I was also part of an online ICSA (International Cult Studies Association) conference for cult survivors. I presented with two other Moonie Second Gen’s (those of us born and/or raised in a cult). I logged into the webinar from a field in the Cuyahoga National State Park and shared my experiences leaving my cult and building a life afterwards. I talked about what I’ve learned and how I, again, could choose to look at all that was bad in my childhood, I could choose to look for what was potentially good in my childhood, or I could choose to see it all.

Those who know me know that I work pretty hard to pretty much never choose the view where I wish everything was different. I work pretty hard to look for and savor the beauty and joy and love around and within me.

And I also see the beauty and joy and love of looking right ahead. Of taking it all in and letting it all be okay. Of remembering that the present is perfect, even those parts of it that clearly aren’t perfect.

There is clearly so much that isn’t perfect right now – as I drop my kid off in Minneapolis to go back to their job in social justice and to join the movement and actions that are, thankfully and unfortunately, still taking place there. (Thankfully and unfortunately because they’re clearly, unfortunately, necessary.) And I can always choose whether I look to the left, the right, or right ahead.

I can choose to be happy, even while seeing and feeling sadness, struggle, pain, and injustice. I can choose to see and feel it all.

I’m going to see it all, and I’m going to be happy.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and please share this post with others if it resonates with you!

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