This is not a cute story about boy meets girl or even a progressive narrative about girl meets girl. What unfolded is a story about how girl met self after decades of hibernation on a transformative journey of self-discovery. Are you paying attention? I certainly was not.
First let me paint a picture for you to pause and answer some basic questions. You are driving home from work. Just another day like many others in a succession of days that make up your life. What is your journey like? Do you take the same route every day? Are you singing along to your favorite tunes, lost in thought, or are you annoyed and frustrated with the traffic? What is captivating your attention? Are you paying attention to the signs, the people, the trees? When you get home, do you even remember the ride or does it melt into hundreds of other very similar rides from days past? Was the time that it took you to get to your destination meaningful? Did you make the very most of those moments you were alive? What about when you got home and began to prepare dinner or when you brushed your teeth that morning or walked your dog or made your children breakfast? Did they have meaning or were you just going through the motions of your life waiting for something really special to transpire? Waiting to be happy or rich or successful or pregnant or married or divorced or… or…
Well this was my ride, my story… Like everyone else’s my life had all the twists and turns, the road bumps, the fender benders. My vehicle was simple, my journey pretty ordinary but I missed the signs and I wasn’t paying attention. When I finally started to notice a series of small nuances converging into ah hah moments – seeming coincidences, 11:11’s everywhere, I realized it was the universe trying to tell me that a new road was under construction that was going to alter my journey.
When that defining moment came, that one cathartic impulse, it was so very subtle and I see how like probably many other moments that came before, I could have easily missed it. But this time I couldn’t, didn’t and the smallest of seeds was planted that got the wheels moving in a different direction and once gaining speed, could no longer be stopped.
I was alone in my bedroom at my desk, on my computer. Solitaire was my drug of choice to numb those lonely moments when I found myself with time on my hands for the first time in a seeming eternity. I noticed how addicted I had become, and started to wonder why, given the infinite possibilities for some very long awaited “me time” I chose to play solitaire. It was like I was stuck inside a vortex rendering me immobile while something started to stir from deep within.
I was a mother of three whose kids were growing up and now were immersed in their own activities. The first was driving and jumped at the chance to chauffeur her siblings to their sports practice and friends. My husband of many years traveled a lot and would be gone anywhere from one to three weeks at a time for business on a regular basis. This free time was such a forgotten luxury that I literally did not know what to do with myself.
I had a book on my dresser by the Dalai Lama called “The Art of Happiness.” I had never actually read it but I loved the idea of happiness. It seemed like such an abstract wonderful concept, happiness, but it wasn’t me and I could not bring myself to actually even read the book. Almost like something that was just beyond my reach.
The more free time I had, the more solitaire I played and the more I questioned why I was stuck in my room playing solitaire. Shouldn’t I be taking full advantage of my newfound freedom doing something that was going to bring me lots of enjoyment? Here’s the clincher. I had no idea what that could possibly be. It had been so long since I had any free time, since I did anything just for me, I was at a total loss. I was lost. I had spent so many years driving back and forth in my journey never once stopping to question if I was happy. Maybe I was hiding behind my identity as a mom, my busyness an excuse to avoid myself. And when I was faced with time alone with me, guess what I realized? That I was not happy.
So here I am cruising along life’s highway for so many years, taking care of my family and not taking care of me. Sound familiar? The mom sacrificing her own happiness not to deny her kids a bit of their own. But guess what? Here is where all the logic of my ‘sacrifice’ fell apart: The happier the mom is, the happier the family. And if you can’t teach your kids to be happy, then you are totally missing the boat. You can teach them to be kind, honest and a slew of other really important character traits. But happiness is by far, the most important. And it extends far beyond our individual selves and family structure. I have come to realize that it is each and every one of our personal responsibilities’ to live a happy life.
Let me explain what I mean by that. Let’s take a simple example of the cashier in your grocery store and examine her interactions with two types of people passing through her line. Customer A approaches with a scowl, complains about everything and has a disrespectful tone that leaves a very nasty taste in the cashiers mouth. Customer B approaches with a smile, asks her how her day, her kids and compliments her earrings. No matter what type of personality the cashier has and how thick her skin, the energy that each leave behind doesn’t just dissipate, rather causes some type of reaction. Think if we lived in a world of only A’s or B’s, then multiply A or B times hundreds of customers or millions of people in the world and you start to see the ripple effect each of us has upon the universe. Who is more likely to volunteer at a shelter or be kind to animals? What legacy will each be passing on to their kids?
Back to my story.
So the realization hit that I was unhappy. The deeper the realization set in, the more I knew I really wanted to be happy. But I had no idea how to get from point A to point B. And I knew that reading the Dalai Lama’s book was not the secret roadmap rather one of those signs with a clue. One night all alone in my room playing solitaire the feeling came up upon me and I knew that I did not want to live one more second of my life in the unhappy status quo and I went in search of help.
The crazy thing is that until then, I did not even know that I had been living in the dark for so long. I had just become so numb to life for so many years, I had completely pushed aside my identity as a unique soul, as a vibrant woman for so long, I had completely lost track of who I was.
What came next was the beginning of an amazing road to self-discovery coming into the light. I spent six months with a wonderful therapist that helped me work through a laundry list of issues that had accumulated while I was “asleep.” I dealt with anger, resentment, insecurities, and my wounded inner child.
I read books that changed me forever. I discovered yoga and meditation. I went back to doing the things I loved to do as a child – rollerblading, dancing, and I joined a softball team. I did what I had to do for me, what was right for me, and I worked really hard to find my way.
I learned to monitor my thoughts and keep them happy and to be kind to myself. I rediscovered my sexuality. I learned the importance of gratitude and put it into practice in my daily life. I learned to be present and live in the moment. I found my soul connection with the universe. I shed pounds and worries, and let go of what I could not control.
And as I shed my layers of discontent, I taught my kids what I learned about happiness. At first they thought I was annoying and for the longest time my daughter would call me Ghandi because I would preach lessons that as teens, they never heard from me before (and because I had a sticky on my bathroom mirror that said, “become the change you want to see.”) It elates me to see the changes in them mirroring my own and knowing I have passed along my most precious gift to them.
One day, almost a year after my defining moment, I remember coming out of my daily meditation with the amazing realization that I was really happy. I called my girlfriend, who has been on her own path of awakening and in tears told her, “I wake up happy. I go to sleep happy. I am always happy. I feel like this is too good to be true like I am in a bubble that is going to have to burst.” But years have since passed and there will be no turning back.
Not that life doesn’t present us with roadblocks. I’ve since got divorced, my son had cancer, I’ve had failures and I sometimes disappointed those I cared about most. In no way do I feel I have it all figured out. Each of us is a work in progress. But we have to stay on the journey and never give up the fight for our happy. Any time things seem too overwhelming, I just look up at the stars on a clear night or stand beside the ocean and my troubles seem really inconsequential in the scheme of things. I know for certain if I was able to find my way into the light you can too.