I was recently invited to share my story and facilitate a small group of Occupational Therapy students at the University of Toronto. Spirituality and the meaning of life were at the core of our discussion and it was so fantastic to stand in front of the students and fully embrace my story, my experiences, my skills and knowledge. I see now how I am bridging it all together.
Since the talk, I’ve been thinking a lot about Madame (Mme) Pambrun. Mme Pambrun with her curly brown hair and infectious smile. The first person, besides my mom and dad, to show me that life was all about perspective and choice.
The summer before I moved away to university, 18 years ago, I went for a massage in my neighbourhood, outside of Windsor, Ontario. And that simple act of self-care was a pivotal moment in my life.
Mme Pambrun lived on the next street over from ours. Her son was in my class and she ran her business from her home. She gave me an incredibly relaxing massage, but I quickly saw that she was much more than a massage therapist. She was a healer.
After a conversation about leaving home for schooling, she offered to spend time with me over the summer to explore self-development stuff. I accepted. I used my hard-earned money and paid for this opportunity to learn and grow from someone who was living consciously and staying real in the process—not all rainbow and butterflies. I was needing this as I was a deeply sensitive teenage girl with divorced parents and was about to move eight hours away from home!
We rode our bikes to the beach and talked about beliefs, perception and choice.
She had me walk along the beach and named what I saw, without judgment. Simply noticing.
She had me list the first three words that came to mind about several different topics including men and money. And we worked on shifting my ingrained, limiting beliefs.
Mme Pambrun changed my life.
I remember thinking how cool it was that she had totally embraced who she was and how she loved to help people.
It was only a matter of time before I would come full circle.
Finding my place in the world while living far away from my family was transformative and an adjustment. I had so many questions.
After two years of undergrad, I took a year off, volunteered in South America and switched degrees. I went back to become an occupational therapist (OT)—the closest thing to being a spiritual mentor while being a recognized professional (not that the evidence-based and regulatory stuff mattered so much to me, but I felt like it was a stepping stone—that would prepare me for the person I was meant to become).
Throughout my twenties, I kept in touch with Mme Pambrun and reached out when I needed someone I could trust, someone with objectivity and insight. Her guidance was so valuable. I have to recognize my role in all of this too as I took charge and chose to take responsibility for my own life. I risked making myself vulnerable and spent precious time and money to continue learning and growing in a way that would set me up for a life of empathetic listening, trusting my own heart (not perfectly but I had more permission and insight to do so) and unlimited possibility.
I learned the difference between judgment and discernment.
I learned that there’s always something to learn and yet we are exactly where we are meant to be.
I learned that we can’t change others—we can only change ourselves.
The last time we spoke was a couple days before I gave birth to Stella at home in 2010. Mark was finishing up his radiation for Melanoma. She reminded me that I was powerful, and that my body was meant to do this (which is exactly what I now tell all of my pregnant friends and doula clients).
It was like she was my midwife, assisting in the birth of a woman.
Once I became a mom, I suppose, her work was done. I felt confident. I still had my struggles, especially with adjusting to motherhood while supporting my husband with advanced cancer, but I had the skills I needed. Many of those skills came from my background as an OT, working with people of all ages, from newborn to old age, as they go through crisis, illness and unexpected events enabling independence and function through meaningful activity. But the exploration I began with Mme Pambrun set the foundation.
The ten years of study, both personal and professional, was worthwhile. The growth continues and never ends really. It goes deeper and expands more and more every day which is all part of living a fulfilled life.
In recent years, I’ve had other mentors, each with their own lessons to share—which has been important as I step fully into how I mentor others as well. I believe wholeheartedly that people come into our lives for a reason and that we can learn from all different kinds of teachers, but many of them come into our lives through their professions, whether they’re doctors, therapists, or spirituals teachers.
We all have a path to walk…and in the end, we are never truly alone. You can always choose to seek support, mentorship and a community of like-minded people.
If you want more satisfaction and meaning for your life, let’s explore what matters to you and create small changes so you can live your life from a place of true intention. It all starts with a conversation. Schedule a time to chat here.by