By Cheryl Pehkonen
Recently, I embarked on a journey that would remind me of who I am. How it came about is nothing short of proof of the undying of love between a father and his daughter.
My father raised me to be self confident, self assured, strong and empowered; to say what I meant and mean what I say. He taught me to take care of my car–change oil, replace a flat tire and even to change spark plugs (back when you could still do that on your own). He made sure I could drive a stick shift (so no matter where I was I could always get home). When I bought my first home, he gave me a tool kit and a trash can. He was that kind of a dad-and he was opinionated, tough and he had a sense of humor that many never really appreciated. He encouraged conversation and exploration of “facts” and he vehemently defended his beliefs. He told me he never wanted me to have to depend on someone. And so I explored and tried new things and often fell on my face and more often I flew.
At various times my father would smile and say, “ahh little dragonfly”. I always thought it was a play on the word “grasshopper” from a popular TV show and it wasn’t until I was much older that I asked him about it. He said a dragonfly is a symbol of strength, courage, transformation and inspiration-all traits that he saw in me. Wow! I was “wild”, I was open to experiencing new people and new cultures and new ideas. I read and I researched and I loved unconditionally.
As often happens in life, I became more aware of what the world thought a woman should be and shifted myself to be that person so that I would “fit in”. After my father passed away, I hid that courageous woman and began bending to popular thought, and a little more of me became buried as the years went by. Pretty soon I was unsure of almost everything I did and I began to live my life from a place of fear-showing the real me to a select few that I trusted. I analyzed every situation and chose the safest route. I was alive, technically, but not living.
Fast forward to a year ago-I have decided to break out of that “conventional mold” and be my authentic self. Part of that journey took me to a High Ropes Course. I have never been afraid of heights and I also knew that I didn’t have to participate in the more “extreme” parts of the course. I watched a few others go first (the safest route) and decided it is okay for me to try the tandem walk.
I began to climb the ladder and all of a sudden my heart started beating erratically, I couldn’t catch my breath and I was overcome with the need to get down to the ground. The young me was fighting with the old me and I just stood there for a moment, when all of a sudden a dragonfly landed on the rung of the ladder just in front of me. I looked at it and it appeared to look at me. “Dad?” I said. A slight rustle of wings and then up it flew to the top of the ladder. So up I went-watching this dragonfly and shutting out everything else.
When I reached the top, the dragonfly flew away and I took a deep breath and stood, stepped onto the wires and held on. The wires shook (from my absolute terror I am sure). I could hear my dear coach on the ground shouting out encouragement and providing me with support on how to lean my body in a way that would allow me to navigate the course. It was a struggle, because I needed to lean forward and my body fought that position.
And then there was a quick flash of something near me and I heard a slight buzzing near my ear. I looked up and saw not one, but hundreds of dragonflies all around the wires! They were everywhere, encircling the course… and my heart exploded. I believe that somehow my dad had gathered this symbol of strength and transformation to me. And if he could do that, I could be that courageous person that I forgot was inside me. So one more deep breath and I pushed through the fear, not only on that wire, but throughout the rest of the afternoon. I pushed myself through my fear and ultimately I jumped off a telephone pole! And those dragonflies were with me through the whole journey.
So now I choose life, I choose to reach out to those that I love, I choose to stretch myself everyday and yes I still fear things and I keep a small dragonfly with me to remind me of who I am and that nothing can stop me. Thanks Dad-I love you too!
Cheryl is the mother of two amazing sons who make her heart sing. Once her boys were grown, Cheryl decided to turn her energy to more fulfilling work and “retired” from her position as Vice President of a health advocacy/home care company.
Cheryl has been coaching, mentoring and empowering people to reach their goals for over 25 years and has dedicated herself to continue that work full time through the founding of her own health, wellness and empowerment coaching company, Amberwing.
In addition to coaching, Cheryl is an avid organic gardener, voracious reader, and loves the beautiful game of soccer. She volunteers many hours of service to the youth of her community as well as the Gratitude Community.
You can find out more about Cheryl and Amberwing by going to Amberwinglife.com