Life really is a journey that is not about the destination…
2004 was a big year, and the start of an incredible shift on my life’s journey. I had three small children, my management and consulting career had taken it’s toll on me, my stress level was relentlessly high and I felt like I was drowning with no real way to save myself. After all what was I saving myself from? Maybe I was just plain CRAZY! I had it all – three amazing kids, a handsome successful husband, a respectable job, a nice home and I was a committed key volunteer who gave countless hours to community organizations.
I got lost in “the hustle for worthiness” as Dr. Brene Brown has coined it and I was living the good girl, good wife, good employee, good volunteer, life of pleasing, performing and perfecting to prove I was “good enough.”
I resigned at the end of that year and I promptly had a bit of a come apart. I am sure it was adrenal burn out from the years of stress. You know that circumstance where you can be rock solid in the face of complete chaos and then, when it is over, and you can be with yourself and experience the enormity of the situation you just took part in, you fall apart? It was like that. I knew I was stressed but was too busy pushing through to realize the toll it was taking on my body, my emotions, and in my life. As I started to normalize those experiences and looked back at it, I could see clearly how much my life, my soul self, was being compromised. It was really quite profound to be experiencing the extreme costs of stress we all hear about but don’t really take seriously until something breaks. The stress manifested in my physical body, the thing I had taken for granted all of my life, and as it struggled under the complications of years of stress, that really affected me emotionally. I began having anxiety attacks about leaving home and doing things alone. That period of my life are so uncharacteristic of how I had lived my life to that point. Much of my life had become unrecognizable to me. I couldn’t even relate to it as being my life. I had always been an athlete and “tough as nails emotionally.” I had spent my life being the one everyone could count on. I realize today that that was safe, I didn’t have to be vulnerable in that role. All of a sudden vulnerability was not a choice, I needed help and I was really terrible at expressing just how much I needed it. Big Gift #1: Get real, be vulnerable…the 2 x 4 has landed!
As challenging as the next couple of years were for me, I am grateful! That experience started me on a determined path of self discovery. I had to dig deep, get real, and come to terms with who I was from the inside because all the pressure I had put on myself to be acceptable from the outside, meeting other’s expectations, had officially train wrecked my life as I knew it.
As my kids grew, life became all about supporting them as they went through sports, and bands, girlfriends, boyfriends, and teenage mishaps. Great life lessons as a parent, most not handled brilliantly the first few rounds but with some practice Mike and I got better at choosing the right response: freak out, flight, or freeze. By the time our youngest hit his teenage years we were well seasoned and nearly unflappable…nearly!
My learning curve to not take things so seriously didn’t have a curve….it was vertical. I guess that would be Gift #2: Stay present, stay grounded, don’t get caught up in the fear story of “this surely means I am a failure…what will people think ” and to be thankful for the way the teenage mind works; there are many opportunities for age and wisdom to catch on and head things off at the pass, if we are paying attention to our intuition. When all else fails, I found it perfectly appropriate to throw back a shot of tequila before attempting to pick up the pieces with tact and grace….I got better at that…tequila, tact, AND grace.
My life had swung back up to surfing on top of the waves, I was beginning to pursue more of my passions, beyond being a mom, and really starting to feel inspired about my new career. And then, as the journey goes…the next wave hit and the upheaval in our lives after the economic crash was severe and touched every aspect of my life. Gifts #3-8: #3: When there is little left of the life you had, you remember what really matters and priorities become very clear. #4: The most painful experiences in life offer the greatest opportunities-I know you have heard that before and I am here to tell you that it really is true. At this point in my life I was getting good at reaching out to my support system and mentors and that was a game changer for getting through courageously and staying connected to my authenticity. #5: It is not only OK but essential to burn the bridge behind you, with grace if you can, when you know with every fiber of your being there is no way you are going back to the way life was before “the awakening.” It doesn’t matter that “the awakening” crashed in, body slammed you to the ground and left you gasping for breath. We get to choose to stand up or stay down – either way, our life is going to change. #6: The sweetness in life happens in the moments and in the 20 seconds of insane courage it takes to take the next steps. #7: What people outside of our trusted circle think of us, our circumstances, our life has absolutely nothing to do with us – when we stop pleasing/performing/perfecting for their approval. #8: We cannot be our best, our most authentic, without being in relationship with people who are willing to see and love the essence of who we are and that starts with us seeing ourselves that way. My horses taught me this gift and it changed the course of my life in every way. When I started to know ME in relationship by experiencing it with others – without having to compromise my authenticity, I started to heal and grow and to trust that my unique way of being in the world is all I am responsible for.
My kids are all in college now. I am finding my way through the maze of emotions as a new empty nester who loved being a mommy more than just about anything and opening the chapter of my life where I fully step into my strongest desire to serve as a coach, healer, horsewoman, and partner to my husband Mike.
Gift #9: No matter how sideways you may have gotten from your belief in your dreams and goals, I know big change is possible – no matter what your critical self may be telling you! And it starts with an inner calling to know and live from your heart authentically, to trust your innate feminine intuition, and to honor your boundaries emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Knowing who you are on the inside and finding the courage to take the first steps toward being your brilliant, authentic, amazing self is where the magic happens. Gift #10: Is it easy? Hell No! Worth every step? ABSOLUTELY! The hustle for worthiness is way more painful!!
With each challenge I have faced, I’ve found a deeper part of me. Life is designed that way if we are aware. I’m grateful for my family, friends, and mentors who have supported me along the way. And I am so grateful for the horses who have taught me how to reconnect with my wild and true nature. I’m entering the second half of my life with the courage to let the Wise Wild Woman in me speak her truth, live and love authentically and to be of service to others on their journey…I promise you there is a light at the end of every tunnel, you just need to believe it isn’t the train – I can help you with that! ; )
“Within every woman there is a wild and natural creature, a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity, and ageless knowing. Her name is Wild Woman, but she is an endangered species. Though the gifts of the wildish nature come to us at birth, society’s attempt to “civilize” us into rigid roles has plundered this treasure, and muffled the deep, life-giving messages of our own souls. Without Wild Woman, we become over-domesticated, fearful, uncreative, trapped.”
~Clarissa Pinkoa Estes
Author of ‘Women Who Run With the Wolves’