When I woke up this morning, the first thing I did was a guided meditation titled “Cultivating Joy.” In this meditation I was taken back to a time when I felt joy. The first thing that popped into my mind was a time about three weeks ago; my husband, my dog Lily, and I had traveled to Wintergreen Resort to celebrate my birthday.
Wintergreen has always been a magical place for me. I was born and raised in the same county, but just on the other side of the mountain. My idea of a birthday celebration has become much less of a party and more of an ungregarious celebration hidden among the beauties of Mother Nature.
It was here, at an elevation of about 3,500 feet, surrounded by the beautiful Blue Ridge, that my soul just magically became lighter. It was a spectacular sunrise of pinks and oranges that exposed the beautiful blue peaks and the fall foliage.
Sitting on the second story balcony of a condo high on a ridge just above the ski slopes, I sipped my coffee and chicory blend with Lily guarding me. It was here that I felt a peaceful joy surge through my veins and entire body. I was overcome by this feeling; it had been too many years since it had visited.
This is truly my magical healing place. It is here in the encapsulation of the mountains where I feel as if I am receiving a hug from the Universe, safe, warm, and nurturing. It feels like coming home.
It has been a rough couple of years. In 2021, my career as an educator came to a disappointing end. I started teaching in 1999 and loved it. It was my calling. In 2011, I received my master’s degree in education administration and leadership. My goal was to change education.
I laugh aloud as I type this, as it was naïve and unachievable. The hierarchy of education wanted yes-people to run their schools, not people like me who wanted to fix the problems. I was an administrator for three years and returned to the classroom for my last six. It was the fallout of COVID that started my quick exit, and I retired on the last day of 2021.
It was a decision that would serve me well. Teaching negatively impacted my physical and mental health and my quality of life. Teaching in public school for over twenty years, working second jobs, and being married to a retired Army Warrant Officer had, however, afforded me the opportunity to retire in my fifties. Once I retired, I would spend the next almost two years mourning this career and feeling like I had failed.
In late August of 2022, I was getting ready to start teaching fourth grade in a wonderful small private school, that gives me hope for education. It was one week before classes started that my mom was diagnosed with pancreatic and lung cancer. She moved in with us, and I quit my job to care for her.
It was a long and hard nine months, and five days later, on May 31, 2023, she died and the grieving started.
I had been experiencing anticipatory grief for the nine months of her illness, but death grief, I found, was quite different. I am an only child, and I was Mom’s primary caregiver. Mom and I loved each other but were as different as night and day. Our relationship had always been contentious. We failed to understand or appreciate each other and our vast differences.
Mom was not an emotional person, and I always felt inadequate and uncomfortable around her. She never adored me, I never felt as if I could do enough, no matter what I did, and this did not change with her illness. There was no end-of-life epiphany for her, nothing she wanted to share. Just regret on my part that we could never connect as mother and daughter.
It was not until a couple of weeks after I left Wintergreen that I realized I had arrived at the mountain with anxiety and a shit-ton of baggage, and I left with none of it. I had been trying to grieve, trying to forgive, trying to move forward, and trying to heal from past experiences. While I felt like there were things that helped me open up and be ready, it was what I will now call the “magic of the mountain” that truly healed me.
I realized that I had not felt peace and joy like this in over a decade. I had been so bogged down and stuck in life that I could not heal, forgive, and move forward.
I’ve felt joyful every day since we left the mountain, and my whole mindset has changed. I have, after a lifetime of anger and pain, forgiven my mom for what she did not know or was not capable of.
I realize that everything I had needed and missed from my mother was in these mountains. These mountains provide me safety, warmth, and nurturing. The warm embrace of the hugs and acceptance I always needed, I find here. Since then, I have been able to recall this nurturing feeling, by traveling back to the day that this magical mountain healed me.
For my whole fifty-seven years on Earth, I had wanted Mom to adore me, to nurture me, and to be the mother I needed, but that was not who she was. I have through this experience, with the help of this magical mountain, learned that I have everything I need to nurture myself. Mom gave me all she could, and my only regret is she is not here for me to tell her that it’s okay. We meet people where they are.
I stopped beating myself up over my educational career, and I realized that season was over for me. I am in an “exploring my hobbies” phase. Thanks to my mom, I have that gift of time to explore my passions. I thought I could only be valued by others and value myself if I worked, but that is far from the truth. Our careers or jobs are not the essence of who we are. If that is all we have, we may need to explore why.
I have let my family, especially my grown children, off the hook for my emotional well-being. No guilt trips here, just love and adoration to accept them and their choices. And for my amazing husband, I have done less whining and moaning about my “issues.” I have had some form of anxiety my whole life, but I am so much better. Healing this baggage and moving forward has changed me.
I am not saying that one trip to the mountains will magically heal you. I have been working on my healing for many years in a variety of ways. I do believe that yoga, meditation, mindfulness, spirituality, and energy healing have provided me with the skills and openness to heal, to change my story and perspective.
I had to be open to receive the “magic of the mountain,” Mother Nature, and the gifts the Universe gives us to heal ourselves. It is my belief that healing is our responsibility, and it is also an individual thing, not a one-size-fits-all journey.
I am just grateful that after a lifetime of various issues and struggles that I feel that I have found my perfect healing recipe. It is my hope that each one of you reading this will find yours as well and experience the level of joy and peace that I have found in the last few weeks. It has been a long time coming.
And if it feels like all your healing efforts are not yielding any results, stick with the process and be patient with yourself. Be still, be open, and be silent, for it is in these moments when true magic visits our soul. Never stop believing or looking for the magic. Your magical moment could be right around the corner.
About Pamela Fox
Pamela Fox is a writer, a yoga teacher, a nature lover, a community herbalist, a lifelong learner, and a seeker of joy. Pamela is the mother of five children and an empty-nest child, her dog Lily. She and her amazing husband live in beautiful coastal Virginia.