In 2013, an ordinary trip changed the trajectory of my life. I didn’t know before then that was the beginning of when everything was going to change. I didn’t know it was going to begin a season of hard lessons and brutal growth. Even during the short interim where it seemed things were leveling out, they weren’t. Life kept coming. My stepfather passed away from cancer, my mother had a stroke, I quit my job, I started a new job, my 9 year old had life saving surgery followed by a 5 day hospital stay…and those were just a few of the highlights. I was also threatened with legal action, twice, over things that can only fall under the “You’ve got to be freaking kidding me” category. I had a friend I cared for deeply, take advantage of me emotionally and financially, as they seemed to remain completely unbothered by the turn of events they had unfolded. Did I mention I had a near drowning experience in the Sea of Cortez Mexico the same year? That happened too. Damn. When I look back, it was a time of love, loss, high anxiety, fear, and insufferable longing.
For a long time, I felt stuck in the powerlessness of the many negative emotions that season in my life brought with it. I had decided the things I perceived as holding me down in that rabbit hole were things I could not change; things out of my control. I refer to this time in my life of when I was living a “half-life”. Living in the in-between of sorrow and joy, “going through the motions”.
KEEP MOVING FORWARD
Eventually, I had an epiphany…keep moving forward. This is MY life journey, and as unprepared and ill-equipped as I was feeling at the time, I was in charge of it. It was time to move forward with positive action. I trusted that after the difficult, comes the divine. I stopped focusing on the actions and reactions of others and began channeling that mental, emotional, and physical energy into enriching my own life. I taught yoga and became a proficient teacher. The girl who wouldn’t get in the water in 2013, faced her fear and became a PADI advanced open water scuba diver by 2014. I decided to go back to school–for what I was passionate about IN THE NOW, not what I have been happy with in the past. I changed my parenting paradigm to one where “yes” is said more often than “no”. I sought guidance through prayer, support through my amazing tribe of friends, and solace in meditation. Yoga sometimes became #yogaeverydamnday. Travel became more chances to share experiences with friends and loved ones as opposed to the solitary getaways I had previously preferred. I made peace with boundaries…both mine and those set by others.
But the biggest thing I did between then and now? I forgave those who had wounded my heart.
We have to be open to the power of forgiveness for ourselves and others. When other people play fast and loose with our emotions it is difficult. When you are a sensitive person, you feel deeply. I have always been one of those people who takes people at their word because it never dawns on me to assume or even suspect there would be a reason not to. I am not opportunistic when it comes to people, so it is never what I suspect from others. As my Dad used to say, “You can lead a horse to water, but that doesn’t make him a duck.” In other words, you can wait a really long time for people to become the potential that you see in them, to do the right thing, to be truthful, to be responsible, or to appreciate you. In the meantime, you become a story they tell, a wonderful option; a delightful backup plan for when they need something. You become frustrated, angry, hurt. The waiting for that change yields high anxiety, can steal years, and brings much disappointment. How do you forgive those who have taken away the “old” you?
The power to make things different resides in each one of us. I couldn’t change some circumstances. I couldn’t change the fact that other people have free will and will not always use that will towards good. I couldn’t erase any pain I had went through. I could however, change both my response and perception of how I was holding those events. I could not change the story, but I could change my attachment to it. I remembered my ace in the hole…my heart was still hurting, but my mind was not. I held the power to decide to let go, move forward, love myself, and forgive, and there was not one person on this earth who had the power to take that away from me.
HEALING TAKES TIME
Healing from difficult seasons of hurt, loss, and grief takes time. It is an ongoing process. I’ve put everything back together into a very different mosaic, because broken pieces don’t fit back the same way they did before they were broken…but beautiful things can come out of learning and healing, loving and living. This new mosaic includes much more compassion for myself and for others. Though I didn’t always realize it at the time, growth was happening. I stood in my own way more times than I would like to admit to. Sometimes, I found myself doing the same thing over and over while hoping for a different result (because that always works, right?), and sometimes I took my heart and held it away so that it would be protected…but that was longing, not loving.
I’m sharing this with you because there is no time limit on how long things can take…how long we can miss someone, or grieve a loss, or take to find ourselves. There is no timetable, no end date, no deadline, on the time it takes for you to become the best version of yourself. There is no timetable on healing.
The catalyst for my growth was travel and the people that were placed in my path along the way. Everyone’s catalyst for change is different. Everyone’s reasons for change are different. Everyone’s journey is different. However, everyone’s journey at some point will include letting go of the story you tell yourself about your story. The goal is the same: Living without attachment to the past and the negative feelings that arose around your perception of it. Simply put, we need to love ourselves, but more importantly, free ourselves.
Even when it all comes together, it will not be perfect. It’s way better than that. It’s real. Life lessons are game changers; but more than that, they are people changers. As Augustus says to Hazel in “The Fault in Our Starts”, “Grief doesn’t change you, it reveals you.” So, there have been setbacks, or disappointments, or loves lost, or broken friendships, or career disasters or any other plethora of things we live through as humans that inevitably change us. That’s okay. You ARE okay.Embrace the new you that you are becoming. Love every scar, wrinkle, bruise, drop of blood, and tear that was shed as you battled your demons, let go of the past, and became aware of the now. Instead of feeling regret or shame, recognize every mistake, wrong turn, and bad decision merely as past acquaintances who helped you get to the next step in your journey. They all play their part.
Our lives are an amalgamation of the places, experiences, and people that we have encountered. When viewed separately on their own we are tempted to render judgment to those experiences as good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant, and in turn judge ourselves under the same lens. Don’t compartmentalize these parts of your journey. When put all together they make a life–your life–so very beautiful when viewed as a whole. Take the small parts, let go of what no longer serves you, and forgive what needs forgiving. See the big picture. Live a big life. Acknowledge the beautiful moments. Embrace the beautiful mosaic that you are.