By: Shea Gardner
I have never considered myself a storyteller so this is a first for me. I am still not sure if what I am telling is a story or more of a revelation for me. But perhaps that is what storytelling is all about. Coming to the realization of something, a lesson learned, an epiphany of some sorts. A story usually takes you on a journey, has a plot which thickens along the twists and turns and then a happily ever after ending. I am going to take you on a journey of me coming to my revelation of abundance.
Right before I started writing this I asked my husband about abundance… “What do you have an abundance of in your life?” I asked him. What abundance does he have in his life I wondered?
He replied “support”. He took a long pause then went on to ask me if I meant internal or external…“Both.” I replied.
“Abundance is a big word.” He said. I chuckled and responded with “well isn’t that ironic?”
Of course this short conversation got me wondering about the actual definition of the word “abundance.” What does Abundance mean?
A quick google search on my phone and the very first dictionary definition explains Abundance as “a very large quantity of something.” This word isn’t new to me. However, the concept of having abundance is.
I grew up in Michigan, coming from a pretty ‘normal’ family in a pretty ‘normal’ small town. From the outside we looked abundant. There were eight of us in that house on Lochmoor including my parents and our dog. I am the middle child of five, right in between two sisters and two brothers.
My dad, whose parents escaped concentration camps in Poland and moved to Detroit after world war II, brought in the money. And my mom, whose family came to Detroit from rural Kentucky and Alabama, stayed at home. Both of my parents grew up poor but never complained, only worked harder to make sure their own kids had things a little easier.
While my mom took care of me and my siblings, my dad went to law school and ended up working for the big electric company in Jackson, my hometown. As hard as my dad worked and climbed up his corporate ladder, he was still very careful with how and where he spent his money. And even though I had everything I ever needed, I still felt envious of my friends at school and on my sports teams. They always seemed to have the coolest clothes and all the gadgets and gear. I had the hand me downs and the off brands.
Whenever I asked my parents for more than I needed, my mom kept me humble by reminding me of all the mouths her and my dad had to feed in the house along with the fact that we (my siblings and I) had way more than both my parents ever had growing up.
Fast forward to now at 35 years old, a wife and mother of two, I still wear hand-me-downs and buy the off brands for me and my family. I am a yoga teacher on a very tiny budget living in one of the biggest cities in the U.S. somehow making it work for us. I should thank my parents for teaching me how to ball on a budget.
But back to abundance. This word has appeared in my life over the past three years more than ever.
In 2016 when I was about six weeks postpartum with our second child, my daughter Wren, I realized I had Postpartum Depression. It was so bad I found myself contemplating running away from my family and never looking back. I shared with a good friend that I was in a really dark place and she recommended I try some yoga videos on youtube. So I did.
Yoga brought me back home to myself. And like a good spiritual practice is supposed to, it also stirred up all of my traumas in hopes of me healing. And wow do I have an abundance of them.
I don’t believe in trigger warnings because no one warns me when I am triggered… so here is a reminder, this story comes with twists and turns as promised.
I am a Survivor of seven years of childhood sexual abuse by two different family members, a rape in college and several years of violent relationships in my twenties.
If you had asked me about abundance before I found my practice I would have laughed and shared all of that with you in hopes of you never asking me that again.
As I dive deeper into my spiritual studies, I am realizing the spiritual communities love to talk about this word a lot. So even though this is my first time actually writing and telling my story about it, it is not the first time I have contemplated it’s meaning.
I have come to the conclusion that there are three ways I can look at this word and define it for myself.
My depression and anxiety (pretty typical outcomes for Survivors) love to remind me of all the abundance in my life, from unpaid bills and loans to a very real worry that my kids will end up a Survivor like me.
Then there is my Survivor Self that loves to remind me of the all the abundance in my life from overcoming said traumas; I run a nonprofit, teach things I am passionate about, and my relationships are only getting healthier with family, friends and even strangers.
But the third way is my favorite way to identify and define abundance in my life and that is through my kids.
I have not experienced anything more life-changing than becoming a parent, particularly the Mother role.
It is through Leo and Wren, five and three years old respectively, that I see abundance in a completely different way.
Abundance isn’t about having all the things, or doing all the things, or experiencing all the things, or achieving all the things, or overcoming all the things.
Abundance is my breath.
My one single cycle of breath, an inhale and an exhale.
That one breath gives me one more moment to come back from those thoughts of the past no longer or the future that has not yet come… to be present with my kids who think this world is the most amazing thing ever.
With wide eyes of wonder they want to have all the things, they want to do all the things.
They haven’t been tainted by the truth of this human experience which is that there is a balance. A dance between the dark and the light.
And it isn’t about separating the two into having and not having, but rather accepting that the two must coexist. We wouldn’t know one without the other.
We wouldn’t know abundance without experiencing the suffering that comes from loss.
My own suffering usually happens when I experience a loss that I am unable to see I had no control over anyways.
So thanks to my kids, I found my practice of yoga, which led me to finding my breath – the one thing I haven’t lost yet.
My life is abundant because of my breath.