Most of what I write here in the blog is about how I stay devoted to my desire to live a conscious life, because I know that the biggest challenge to staying devoted to the kind of life we say we want to live requires routines, rituals, and a variety of little tricks and tools to help us.
I am the first to admit that my life is far from perfect, but that, despite this (or maybe because of it) I am still happy each and every day. Does this mean I’m walking around in a blissful haze of happiness all day, every day? Of course not! But I’ve come to understand that I can choose to shift my mood and better manage the challenges that living inevitably brings to all of us.
The tools and stories I share here draw mostly from the present-day view of my life. Though I deal with some challenges, rarely do I experience soul-level debilitating pain. Stress? Yes. Anger? Of course. Sadness? Unquestionably. I also regularly experience feelings of overwhelm, frustration, fear, jealousy, disappointment, and disconnection.
However, I also regularly experience excitement, worthiness, pleasure, playfulness, joy, and other such delightful feelings.
When I tell you that I love my daily life, it’s not a line I toss out as a piece of my branding. It’s a peek into what I have created. It’s not me gloating about what I have achieved, but a conscious effort to share what I have learned.
When I dig into the past, I try not to linger there too long. If you were to know me before 2004, you would have met a woman who, not only was unhappy. But I was experiencing day after day of gut-level misery. I popped anti-depressants and numbed myself with food, alcohol, and exercise. As a child I learned that it was best to wear the mask of “I Live a Happy and Picture Perfect Life,” so none of my friends really knew how bad things had become.
My husband wasn’t my partner, but my adversary. I lived in an almost constant state of shame thanks to my lack of integrity with my own values. Though one of my top values is truth, I became a habitual liar. Because when I or either of our daughters displayed our imperfections in any way (especially with behavior problems at school), he would go overboard in punishment. Most damaging to all of us was his complete withdrawal of affection if anyone committed an “infraction” when he would refuse to even speak to whoever had been “bad” for days and weeks at a time.
When I had finally had enough of barely surviving and found the courage to divorce him, I was terrified. I had built a perfect facade of a life and now “everyone” would see me as a failure.
I worried about how I was going to pay the bills, parent two girls, and redefine my own identity. Because, who was I if I wasn’t a “wife”? I knew that I had to do it from the inside out, but had no clue where to begin. I only had the kernel of the idea that if I ever wanted to be happy, it was up to me to find faith in myself.
It was up to me to do the work to change what I didn’t like about myself and my life. I studied, read, went to therapy, went to church, traveled, worked with a coach, and found the tools that worked for me.
And, baby, let me tell you, I made a hell of a lot of mistakes. It was two steps forward, three steps back in those first months. When I finally did start gaining traction, when the happy days began to outnumber the crappy days, I didn’t want to believe that it could last.
Life didn’t change overnight. Every time I made progress, I had to choose to stay devoted to the process of creating the kind of life I wanted to live.
I will be honest with you: while I have abstract memories of those days when my life wasn’t like it is now, I don’t really recall them in detail. The human mind is such a glorious thing that when we create the kind of life we desire to live and stay devoted to the practice of honing it, we forget much of the pain we had before.
What we remember are the lessons. We remember glimpses of what life was like, but looking back sometimes seems as if we are gazing into the life of someone else. It’s up to us to guard ourselves from the triggers that could propel is back into our old ways.
No matter how bad life may be. No matter how numb you may feel or how “perfect” Instagram shows you life to be, you don’t have to settle for a life that is less than what your heart desires.
Often, we hang on to being miserable because we’re afraid of life being different, even if it could be better. And I can tell you that the woman I was at thirty-four is forever grateful to the woman I am at forty-seven. Because all that work is worth the results of this life.