The Gateway – Open Heart Story

Story By Carol Cerrone Richards

I just woke up from one of those dreams where you know the Universe is sending you a message loud and clear. I was sitting around a dinner table, visiting with a group of children that I had known through a prior relationship. Hanging, on the wall above us, was a neon sign flashing THE GATEWAY.

The message resonated in my heart.  Before I went to bed that night, I had thought about THE GATEWAY to happiness. And I had thought of these children and how I enjoyed sharing time with them. But, I also thought I could have enjoyed our time together even more if I had not been preoccupied with where the relationship was going or whether I was “meant to be” with their father and if this was my “ready-made” family. It turned out it was not.

As our relationship evolved, we realized our time together had drawn to a close and we were “meant” to move on. That’s the part I have struggled with throughout my life – letting go. Even when I know it is the perfectly right thing for me to do for my good and the good of all involved. But, I am proud to say I am now much better at the art of letting go. But, there are still times when I have to be dragged, kicking and screaming into my own future. (After all, as with any art form, it’s a matter of practice and I am still honing my skills.)

Daily life experience is the master teacher for developing this skill set.  Once you choose to enter THE GATEWAY, there are an infinite number of ways to learn and understand that, in order to truly enjoy life, one must make the most of what is on your plate today.

Whenever I have an opportunity to share some words of wisdom, I advise folks to practice staying present. I encourage people to fully engage in each stage of their journey to the fullest.  Because, I promise you, it will change.  Life is constantly evolving. That is why we are alive, to bring forth life and create – to grow, learn and move through the stages of our lives. THE GATEWAY to happiness is entered when you stay fully present to each part of your life, each chapter, each page being written.  By appreciating each chapter of our story, as it unfolds, we open ourselves to living in a state of joy.  And joy begets more joy.  There are unending avenues to pursue, and each one has so many treasures to uncover.

If you are single, enjoy this time to learn about yourself and what you truly desire and deserve. Oftentimes, we don’t appreciate what we have at that moment. Instead, we wish we were somewhere else further down the road in our journey.  Single women still spend an inordinate amount of time dwelling on when their soul mate will make an appearance. While longing for our perfect partner is normal and healthy, putting our lives on hold until then is not. Women would benefit by recognizing that being single offers so many choices and the freedom to explore:  opportunities to grow more comfortable in your own skin; to learn to be true to yourself; to find your voice; to safely separate from your parents; and to learn to be your own best friend. The list is endless.

I did not find my soul mate until I was 52 years old and had experienced marriage, divorce, step-parenting, a long-distance relationship, cohabitation and single life. After so many years of trying to find the right fit, I finally let go of the idea of needing to be partnered to be happy. I embraced my life as it was and realized it was OK to be single and that I was happy. Then, boom, I met my husband.

Oftentimes, that is the amusing irony of life. When you let go of what you have “struggled” to attain, it comes flowing right to you. OR NOT. And, if not, then it was not necessary to be present in your life; and, by letting go, you have freed yourself to attract and receive something better.

Marriage is another wonderful way to live your life. But, it is different than being single. When you are married, it’s a shared blessing to enjoy life with your partner. While there are many challenges in learning to share the same living space day in and day out, there are also many rewards. The beauty and comfort of waking up in the arms of someone, who loves you unconditionally, is a joy that fills up your heart. And, the more I stayed present and made it a daily practice to enter THE GATEWAY, the more I blossomed in my relationship with my husband.  But, I found I had to continually choose to enter that portal in order to receive the gifts of grace that awaited me on my journey through my fabulous fifties. A daily decision was necessary to refocus on practicing presence of mind.

The efforts were well worth it. I began to receive compliments on how beautiful I looked and was often asked what I was doing differently.  I would reply that it’s the same clothes, same face, same hair and makeup….the only difference was my husband’s love.  I felt loved on the inside and that was reflected on the outside. I likened myself to a desert flower that had learned to survive during a drought. But, when the water started to flow, I began to reach higher, grow stronger, and bloom brighter.

And I continue to evolve in my marriage and learn to allow myself to relax into my blessings. It may seem counter intuitive, but I had to learn how to receive the gift of unconditional love. It was foreign to me. I had been so focused on “earning” love and giving love to get love. I had not learned to love myself unconditionally and to recognize that I am worthy of being loved for who I am, not just for what I do.

Like so many women growing up in the 1960’s, I absorbed the idea that I had to be a “good” girl for people to love me. I had to always do for others, be kind, smile brightly and speak lovingly. If I didn’t act “nice,” I would not be loved. It is important to learn to be loving and kind, but it is also important to learn to set healthy boundaries. Otherwise, our acts of loving kindness are manipulative and controlling. True loving kindness comes from compassion and connection, not from a “need” for approval and companionship.

This place of peace and understanding was not an easily arrived at destination.  Many times, it felt like an arduous and slippery slope. However, I now realize that my reaction to the evolving events made it a more painful climb.  I did not know about THE GATEWAY, let alone know how to traverse it. I could not wrap my mind around “embracing” the perceived painful circumstances. It is when one appreciates that there are gifts to unwrap, wherever we find ourselves, we have discovered THE GATEWAY to happiness.  I can now be grateful for all the relationship setbacks because they taught me so much.  The maturity and wisdom I gleaned from all my life lessons have provided me with the insight that the joy is in the journey.

Beware of all the distractions that move us back outside THE GATEWAY.  It is easy to become frustrated and annoyed when we don’t feel like we are where we “should” be or want to be. It appears difficult to switch gears and be grateful for what is going on and excitedly looking forward to what will be. We waste so much of our present lives wishing it away. We long for what we had and dwell on the past and what might have been. Or, we spend countless hours ruminating about what the future will bring. The way through these torturous thoughts is to learn from the past, move forward; and to become better, not bitter.

Ask yourself: “How much of your life has been lost by not being present to what is happening right now?” My dream came to me because I realized that I missed some of the joy of being a part of the lives of these young children. I had not developed the deep trust and faith necessary to go completely through THE GATEWAY.  When we truly believe that our Divine Source is watching out for us and taking good care of us, then we let go and enjoy the ride. But, too often, we want to be in control of the ride. We want to dictate how it should be and how it should evolve.

THE GATEWAY to happiness lays in letting our Divine Source, our God, direct the flow of traffic. Our role is to trust and enjoy what is on our plate. Embrace our own lives. Live through each challenge, each pleasure, and each crisis. Treat them as opportunities for appreciating the gift of life and the ability for humans to think and feel and evolve and mature.

Once you cross through THE GATEWAY, you may find yourself overwhelmed with choices. But, once again, staying present will allow you to dial into your own guidance and make the best choice you can at that moment.  So many of our decisions are confusing because we are coming to them from a place of fear instead of accepting we are all on an adventure. There are so many paths from which to choose. You cannot go wrong when you follow your heart and gut.

Keep in mind, life is full of paradoxes and by sweetly surrendering to Divine will, you loosen the ties that bind you and open the valves so energy can more easily flow. The channels are then flooded with all the blessings that are your Divine right.  This is my interpretation of the true meaning of free will – choosing to allow God to grant your heart’s desires by opening yourself to receive; while, simultaneously, surrendering to a higher power and trusting that all is for your greatest, highest good.

As each new day dawns, let us continue to choose to cross through THE GATEWAY and relish in our individual adventures as we purposely progress along our paths. I look forward to seeing you there.

Publishing Editor’s Note:  Carol shares her life experiences to show the importance of living in the present and accepting every step of our journey.  Her honest and heartwarming words are a wonderful guide to true happiness.  The beautiful photograph was also supplied by Carol. 

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