This year I’m beyond grateful for a life that only last year I would have done anything to change.

There’s nothing like spending a cold day in the mountains to appreciate the coziness of a warm house or weeks of camping to delight in the simple pleasure of sleeping in a bed. Not until my stomach rumbles with hunger that I can’t feed do I understand that I take for granted easy access to food. Getting outside and experiencing discomfort reminds us of abundance.

The willingness to leave our comforts behind and venture into new territories can lead to our most profound experiences. I am so incredibly grateful to be leading this life with my son.  I’ve been on cloud nine celebrating the recent success of the Pirate Mama Kickstarter. Getting fully funded means that my four-year-old son and I will start the 2016 in the islands sailing. Reflecting on the path that led me here, I’ve realized the important role getting uncomfortable has played.

We live in a society that tells us we should strive for a constant state of happiness. When we are sad, we surround ourselves by people and cram our schedules, but at some point all of that is noise muffling our inner truth. Getting quiet often requires squaring up to loneliness. Those uncomfortable times are when we peer into our souls and know our deepest aspirations. It isn’t until we know our dreams that we can begin to follow them.

When my son was a baby, I would have wished away my singleness given half the chance. I imagined a partner who possessed the perfect timing to relieve me of baby-duty at the precise moment when my sanity hinged on getting outside for a run. I dreamed of another adult to make up silly songs about poopy diapers, someone to share the despair and beauty in the pale light of those sleepless wee early morning hours when babies refuse to sleep.

It wasn’t until I got sick with a month of back-to-back illnesses that I remembered my teenage dream of sailing with my kids, if I ever had them. Delirious with a fever and reading books about female pirates planted the seed for Pirate Mama. If I had lived a consistently comfortable life, if I had never been sick and alone, this adventure would not be happening.

Launching a Kickstarter terrified me, from telling my story to being videotaped, to asking everyone I knew to contribute to the campaign, I felt vulnerable and exposed.

When I began tinkering with the idea about sailing, I debated writing about it for Blue Ridge Outdoors. What does sailing have to do with the Blue Ridge anyway? Would readers even be interested?

I stand in awe at the response. One reader sent me this message. “I just stumbled onto your story. I spent six years of my childhood in the Caribbean, sailing and windsurfing. A year ago, I bought a boat to teach my wife and eleven-year-old son the joys of sailing.”

A writer for a local newspaper reached out to me about an interview for a human interest story. She wrote, “As the daughter of a badass single mama –  your story pulls my heart strings.”

Another reader wrote to me, “You have just started to tap in to the infinite source of strength, support love, faith and inspiration! This project has immense power. I don’t know if you know the impact you have created.”

I learned that when I have the courage to share my story with others, they’ll reciprocate with tales of their own. Story by story I’ve realized that our dreams of full and bold and interesting lives connects us.

Sharing the project with others propelled it forward. In the early phase when I asked Phil Cheney if he might be able to come up with a pirate ship logo for us, I had no idea that his art and enthusiasm for the project would carry it along when my own motivation waned.

Phil also introduced me to Rocky Kenworthy of Dot Editions who donated prints of Pirate Mama for the campaign. The project resonated with him and he told me how his own father was a truck driver. He spent the summers riding with him on his routes and got to know his father in a way that most kids never know their parents. He see’s Pirate Mama as an opportunity for me to pass that same type of life-changing experiences on to my son.

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Talking about what we are thankful this time of year can sometimes come off as glib.

I am grateful for all of the usual suspects, but this year I’ve learned gratitude’s other lesson – that quiet and alone challenges can be the beginning of our most brilliant adventures, if only we have the courage to be uncomfortable.