Gifts Where You Least Expect Them

27 Jun

“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness….It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift.”
—Mary Oliver

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.”
-Pema Chondron

“This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.”


I chose all of three of these quotes as they reflect similar themes to me: the theme of finding gifts where we least expect them. It can be so difficult when you are in the midst of dealing with something difficult to hold onto the hope that there is a higher purpose and a reason for this happening.

As someone who is admittedly a teensy bit type A, I struggle with the idea of not being in control. I want to be able to control and plan and have things go the way I think they should. Somehow, this rarely turns out to be the case… One would think that as a yoga teacher and a therapist, I would be better at this. One would be wrong.

A good friend of mine recently told me that we just have to trust that our angels know better than we do. I have been trying to take this advice to heart and not worry as much when things seem to be going awry and just have faith that it will all work out in the end.

When I reflect back on my life, I can find numerous examples of not receiving what I thought I wanted, which turned out to be better for me at the end. For instance, I really wanted to go to one of the Ivy League schools for undergrad. I didn’t get into any. Instead, I ended up attending Amherst College. A Division III school in New England was perfect for me. It allowed me to continue swimming competitively and be a contributor to my team, while still protecting my time for studying (among other things). After graduating, I applied to and was rejected from a few teaching jobs before obtaining a job at an educational policy think tank. This job helped shape my decision to pursue my doctorate in clinical psychology. When applying for graduate programs, I desperately wanted to attend the psychology program at UCLA. Not only was it prestigious and ranked number one, but it would have meant I could have moved home to my friends and family. When I had my visit and interview however, my gut told me this was not my best match on numerous levels. Fate made the decision for me and I did not get in. Instead, I remained in DC and attended a program that more closely aligned with my career needs and allowed me to stay near my friends in DC. Had I been accepted, I’m not sure that I would have listened to my gut.

Yet I still get so frustrated when things are not going my way in a given moment. My yoga practice has been a huge help in allowing me to observe the emotions, sit with them, and let them go without just burying them and hoping they go away only to fester and pop up later. The Pema Chodron quote above reminds me that I seem to have yet mastered this lesson as life seems to keep presenting it to me 😉

Recently I found myself confronted with a situation in which I finally had to acknowledge I had received one bright and shiny box full of darkness, addressed to Kristin. I ignored my gut feeling and intuition and was distracted by the fun wrapping and package and the allure of a gift. After all, it promised just what I thought I wanted! I refused to listen to those that could see past the shiny wrapping paper and tried to warn me, insisting that I knew the true contents and they were not looking hard enough. I had bought into the slick design and packaging and was unable to see the truth. I tried hard to believe that if I only changed or tried harder, somehow the darkness would go away and the true gift would reveal itself to match the packing. I fed the darkness, giving it opportinities to change and prove itself. All it ever proved was that it continued to be a box of darkness. After the fact, I struggled to understand the purpose in having an experience that hurt so badly. Why would anyone want to give me such a gift?

I have to believe that it is true that this will turn out to be a gift, that I am learning my lesson so that it no longer needs to be repeated, and that it is clearing me out for some new delight. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it 🙂

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”

-Helen Keller

PS – My beautiful and talented friend Halle wrote a blog post about a gift of darkness years ago. It has stayed me all of these years, so I’ll share it in the spirit of this post as well. She is a much more poetic writer than me 🙂




2 Responses to “Gifts Where You Least Expect Them”

  1. Angela Kukhahn June 28, 2011 at 3:16 pm #

    Wow, this is really beautiful, deep and soooooo true! Thanks for sharing!

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