It was a defining moment, laying on the floor, tears silently streaming down my cheeks, my body pulsing from real, vibrant, clean pain when I started asking, How did I get here?
Where did this series of events begin? And maybe it was my inner-knowing who answered with, When you compromised here; when you caved a little there; when you settled for this, that and him; when you people-pleased last Monday and were too bitchy last Friday; when you drew a boundary, but in the wrong place at the wrong time; when you let yourself be a doormat at the wrong entry, when you said no instead of yes or maybe when you meant hell no while simultaneously smiling and nodding…or maybe it was fifteen years ago when you simply didn’t know better.
But what if that voice was just my inner critic? The one that experiences fear and lack and wonders why perfectionism is not a possible option. The inner critic that grudgingly admits I’m human, but only when I am feeling secure and confident, and never when I need to admit it the most, when I am terrifyingly vulnerable and in the need of a reset.
It was on that day in that moment that I realized if I was going to be where I longed to be, where I’d envisioned I’d be at 42 – and yet oh-so-far from it in reality – then a whole new series of events needed to begin. I needed to rethink, reevaluate and reset just about… well, everything.
The life I had built, the decisions I had made were crumbling to the ground and my identity was erased in a single solitary request from a man I’d been with for twelve years. Four words tilted my axis, “I want a divorce.”
Within 14 weeks my husband, our two dogs, our home, our shared possessions, our co-owned business and intertwined lives were history. I was living in a new home, sans man and dogs, sans furniture and cars, sans habits and routines, sans titles and roles, sans security but with a whole lotta pain and debt.
Typically, when we experience a darker period in our lives, irrespective of each individual’s details, we will experience Kubler-Ross’ famous stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
In one of the darkest periods of my life I leaned into each of these phases instead of resisting them. I spent an extraordinary amount of time journaling and processing my thoughts and feelings. Through each phase I looked at myself in the mirror, raw and naked, and asked, Who are you…really? Who might you be…really? What might you still do…really? I didn’t rush nor apologize for the phase I was in on any given day. I didn’t force answers when none were forthcoming. I cried when I wanted to cry, stayed up late eating chocolate when I wanted to soothe and I shut out the world when it seemed best to not take my wrath out on innocent others.
And then one day I stopped asking, What might you still achieve? and started asking, How do I want to feel, and what do I need to do to feel the way I want to feel? [Thank you, Danielle LaPorte for this beautiful gift of a question.] I wanted to feel radiant and generous and financially grounded. I wanted to feel creative and cherished and significantly meaningful. And this clarity rebuilt me. It was perhaps the most major reset of my life – philosophically, emotionally, spiritually and physically. I rebranded my company, rebranded my style, wrote an Amazon bestselling book, got involved with non-profits, formed stronger friendships with more women than I ever had, paid off all prior-life debt, started getting financially secure and grounded and discovered my true self and some pretty cute shoes along the way. Why? Because I wanted to feel radiant, generous, grounded, creative, cherished and significant.
I also learned, in an extraordinarily painful way (like how many of the best lessons in life are served up) that I cannot want happiness for someone else more than they want it for themselves. We must choose happiness for ourselves, support others in their creation of it, but we cannot will it so for anybody but ourselves. How do you want to feel?