In the past two years I moved to the other side of the planet, started using my childhood name again, got a divorce, lost 15 pounds, changed all my daily habits, began and finished a masters degree, traveled in over 10 countries, started a new relationship, and committed to a daily practice of Ashtanga Yoga. I’ve had change and lots of it. I’m redefining who I am and my entire life in a drastic way. I don’t think I would even recognize myself two years ago.
Well maybe I didn’t so much as change myself as much as I did uncover who I was all along.
The changes themselves were an inevitable result for me. That’s not to imply it was easy. Every single change I made was a conscious decision met with consequences on multiple levels. I’ve made lots of changes, but it doesn’t seem to get easier. It’s a hard, scary battle. Even lonely.
Especially lonely. And I constantly doubt myself, ask myself why, and question if it’s worth it.
I often feel overwhelmed with fear, guilt and sometimes selfishness.
But the results have been incredible. Seriously, incredible. Worth every little bit of it.
I’ve choose to spend most of my life bending to the needs of others. Living in the shadow of their needs. Their support. Their interests. Their dreams. Consumed by guilt and inadequacy, I felt safe there and in many ways that is how I claimed my own type of worth. The hardest (and scariest) thing for me has been learning to value myself in my own life.
I can almost pinpoint the moment that began the revolution in my life. It was a location far from home; a small beach town in Nicaragua. I was on holiday with my mother and 2 of her sisters. I’d been on ‘vacation’ before, but this was an entirely different experience. There I was with 4 other middle-aged women, exploring off the beaten track. We spent a lot of our time afraid of being robbed, chatting to strange and interesting people, and doing everything on the spur of the moment. It was a blast! And very far out of my comfort zone. I had experiences I never thought I would have. I talked to people I was normally too intimidated to talk to. And I learned about ideas and interests from around the world.
While I was in Nicaragua, I became someone else entirely. I wasn’t worried about anyone but myself. I had time to just think, reflect and wonder. I was easy-going. I was trying new things. I was present and aware. And I liked this side of me. I was happy.
Returning from this experience I was able to acknowledge (out loud) that I wasn’t happy in my life.
I wasn’t the person I wanted to be. In fact, I didn’t even know who that person was.
This was the start for me. Accepting that I lost control of my life. Admitting that I had made a lot of bad decisions. Decisions that were not for me. And a realization of the type of person I wanted to be.
Even admitting this was excruciating.
I felt like such a fake. A phony. A failure. My life seemed so meaningless.
All the fronts I had up were bogus and now I knew it. I fell into a depression. The despair and loneliness of depression was foreign to me and excruciating. I think it would have swallowed me entirely if I didn’t have such amazing support and love from my mother and my sister. They asked me all the tough questions I needed to ask myself. And they encouraged me to make the changes I needed in my life.
Realizing that you need to change and actually making changes are two very different things. The most difficult part was knowing that decisions I made would change relationships I had and hurt a lot of people. Especially those close to me. And very deeply. And this is exactly what happened. I have never been responsible for someone’s suffering so intimately as I did in that moment I asked for a divorce. It’s indescribable. I felt my body tie up in a million knots. My entire soul felt actually, physically crushed. It was like being run over by a truck. It was so traumatic for me that I’ve blocked out most of what happened after that initial moment. I can’t recall words that were said or feelings that passed. It just one big, empty expanse. And then a rush of guilt. A tsunami of guilt.
The guilt kept piling on as I lost a family, best friends, and the respect of most of the people in my life. Just one experience after another reminding me how selfish I was. How I had ruined everything. And what’s worse is that I felt like I deserved it. I welcomed every little bit of the judgment and hate I was getting. I made no attempt to defend myself, claim my own right to life. I just lived in that pain and guilt indefinitely, found some unhealthy ways to cope, and learned to survive.
A then one day I woke up, looked in the mirror, and felt just a little bit better about myself. I don’t know why. I guess I just had enough. I learned to tuck a little of the guilt away and make it a little smaller. I learned to let go of some of the things I couldn’t control. And the next day I did the same thing. In fact, it started to become a daily affirmation. It took a lot of effort, but I got up every morning and told myself I was worth it. Told myself time would pass and things would get better.
However, I must admit the guilt and pain are still always around. I carry it around with me like a stone in my pocket. It’s sting isn’t quite as bad now, but I always know it’s there. Every time I reach into my pocket, there I find it and I’m flooded again with emotions. It’s a little smaller now and smoother. And it doesn’t get caught in with everything else in my pocket as much as it used to. It’s manageable. I’ve gotten used to it’s presence and even kind of like it. Or at least learned to appreciate it.
I think many of our experiences in life are like this. At least the important ones. We carry them around with us in some form and their effects are never completely lost. Sometimes they influence us to change and sometimes they try to prevent us from it. But we ultimately get to decide what to make of them. Mine motivates me daily. It makes me grateful for my second chance and reminds me to make the most of it. Mine is a symbol of my internal strength and gives me the confidence I need to value myself, my convictions, and my place in this universe.
However, I must admit the guilt and pain are still always around. I carry it around with me like a stone in my pocket. It’s sting isn’t quite as bad now, but I always know it’s there. Every time I reach into my pocket, there I find it and I’m flooded again with emotions. It’s a little smaller now and smoother.
It is within the depths of despair and conflict that we are forced to face ourselves, own up, and be the change. My life is nowhere near perfect and I surmise it never will be. I will continue to make mistakes, harbor regrets, and battle my inner demons. But each choice, each change, gives me just a little bit more insight and strength. Walking my own path brings me peace and happiness. It makes me feel alive and connected with the world around me. This I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
“I challenge you to make your life a masterpiece. I challenge you to join the ranks of those people who live what they teach, who walk their talk.” Tony Robbins
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