“We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.” – Joseph Campbell
I thought I had my life planned. Since I was a junior in high school, I knew I was going to marry my high school sweetheart, have two children and teach. We went to the same college, I got a job teaching kindergarten and we had two beautiful boys. Everything seemed to be going according to plan, but the truth was year after year I was becoming more and more miserable.
I was stubborn though and determined to make the marriage work, so for many years I pretended to be happy. When my youngest son was just 8 months old we decided that it was time to get a divorce. The life I knew disappeared overnight. The routines, the income, the support all vanished.
For the first time in my life there was a major change of plans. While at first it was painful to end the marriage, it was also strangely freeing. I began to ask myself questions about what I truly liked. What were the meals I wanted to have for dinner? How did I want to decorate the house? What hobbies did I want to do? Up until that time I allowed myself to follow my husband. I had thought of myself as half of the couple, but now I was a whole in and of myself.
This was new territory for me and it led me to make new discoveries about myself that I never would have imagined. Making change in life isn’t easy. It is scary and feels extremely vulnerable. For a long time in my marriage I felt like I was on the edge of a cliff and I just kept clinging to the walls, not wanting to jump. Taking that leap of faith was one of the scariest things that I did, but I never could have gotten to the life I’m living now if I would have stayed where I was.
I have since remarried and have left teaching to purse a passion in counseling. I’m currently working in the addictions field and I have been able to use the lessons from my life’s journey to help others who are just as scared of change as I was. Through this journey I have learned that staying small keeps us stuck. I was stuck for many years. It took a major life event in order to shake me, which allowed me to move again.
Through these experiences I have grown in how I now see myself. I no longer loathe the person I see in the mirror and I can honestly say that I love myself and my life. There are five life lessons that I have taken from my experience that I would like to share with you:
1. Be compassionate to yourself. I have had to learn to give myself the same compassion that I gave others. I began by visualizing myself as separate from me, lying in bed crying about what was happening in life. I then practiced talking to myself the way I would talk to a loved one. It was awkward at first, but after some practice I could feel the shift taking place in how I saw myself and the way I acted changed.
2. Be true to yourself. For many years I did the activities that my ex-husband liked and pretended to like them too. The truth was I didn’t like them. They never felt right to me. Getting to explore my own passions and hobbies was liberating and completely changed the direction of my life.
3. Be clear on what you want. It took me a while to allow myself to ask the question, ‘what would I love to do?’ So often I limited myself by thinking about what I could do or what I could afford to do. When I began to visualize what I would love to do, new possibilities opened up and I began to visualize a completely different life.
4. Be selective in the thoughts you listen to. For many years my thoughts controlled me. I beat myself up when I made a mistake and blamed others when things went wrong. It wasn’t until I started doing yoga and began a meditation practice that I learned how to control my thoughts instead of my thoughts controlling me. I can now choose which thoughts are for my highest and which thoughts are limiting me.
5. Take action. There is a saying that if you want to walk on water, first you have to get out of the boat. Taking that first step towards change isn’t easy, but it is necessary. I look back on my life now and I can see all the places where I was hesitant to get out of the boat. The places where I got out led to lasting changes. While I didn’t always walk on water the first time, I always learned something new about myself and I wouldn’t trade those times when I felt like I was drowning for anything.
Life challenges us to make big changes for our own growth. Are you ready?