At a hotel in Las Cruces, New Mexico, I swam in a swimming pool today. It was the first time in seven years. For most people that realization might not be a defining moment, but it brought overwhelming joy and gratitude to my heart as I swam from one end of the pool to the other and back again, underwater, holding my breath the whole way. I did handstands and flips. I exhaled all of my breath and sunk to the bottom of the shallow end, and sat on the floor of the pool, legs crossed as though on dry land, like I did when I was a kid. I used to swim every day in the lake where I grew up. I love the water. It’s refreshing and cleansing. It’s holy. The last time I remember swimming was in the summer of 2010. It was midnight, the sky was brightly lit with the moon and stars, and the water was unusually warm at the Burbank townhome complex where I lived with my husband, as I floated on my back to peacefully take it all in. The light in the pool was not on that night, so I took off my swimsuit and felt the freedom of being naked. I laughed out loud with joy, like a child. If I’d known what was to happen next in my life, I might have exhaled all of my breath and sunk to the bottom in the deep end and stayed there. That is the honest part.
I didn’t exhale and I didn’t sink to the bottom. Not that night, anyway. As I floated underneath the vast universe, I had a faint feeling change was coming. Big change. Growth. Stretching. Adventure. The excitement of the unknown. Had I been given a glimpse of the entire big picture, I might have focused on what else was around the corner, potentially a perception of great loss. Fear. Lack. Humiliation. Loneliness. No self-worth whatsoever, and the awareness of uncertainty. I know now that focusing on all of those negative emotions would have only given them strength. Made them grow larger, like a plant being fed and watered. Suddenly, without even knowing what was happening, my faith was growing bigger than my fear and nothing had even happened yet, that I could see, to cause this stirring in me. So I remained still. And I waited. That was the first sign of the faithful part. The scary part, and the grateful part. Those three companions always appear together, The Three Amigos, buckled into the passenger seat on my journey.
Then Bam! My life started shifting with such momentum it made my head swim (see what I did there). Since my focus is to keep this essay positive, and for us to remain in “solution mode” instead of “problem mode,” I’ll zoom right to how I felt in the year 2012, after being catapulted into awakening like a circus clown being shot out of a cannon, too high to see the net below. I felt scared. I felt vulnerable. I felt excited. I felt betrayed. I felt confused. I felt responsible. I felt hopeful. I felt free. I was starting to feel happy.
Ready for what? I had no idea. For the first time in my life, I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t have a story to tell people that would fit, make sense, put them at ease, release myself from judgment and hurtful comments. All I had was the truth within myself, and two choices. I could continue to do what I’d always done, and walk through Door Number One. Fight the crazy-strong desire to be myself and follow my heart, busting my ass to replace all that had just fallen away, get that solid high-paying job with benefits and a new place to live, get back out there and mend the deep heart break I’d experienced from the dissolution of my marriage and the shocks of cruelty and humiliation that came with it. OR I could choose Door Number Two. I could embrace that crazy-strong desire and surrender to it. I could finally do what my heart was telling me to do, even though it made no sense to anyone else. I could choose love, not fear. I could trust that if it feels good, it’s the way to go. I could be open, honest, vulnerable and RAW. I could keep it simple. I could believe that life happens for me, not to me, and all of this craziness was God cleaning my house. I could believe all is well and I am safe. So that’s what I did. I chose Door Number Two. That was the joyful part.
Here is the messy part. It took a while for me to really “get it.” I had a lot to learn about dissolving limiting beliefs and the habits that felt safe but had really always held me back. I had chosen Door Number Two with my heart, but my head was still knocking on Door Number One because it was familiar. I was close, but still standing in the hallway between the two doors to my future. There were lots of funny parts too, and one of them was that my life choices were now being carried out on a January to December schedule. Once again, Life was making it easier for me to recall while telling my story later. The entire year of 2012 was crazy-making, with my 14-year marriage coming to a brutal halt, my secure dream job becoming a hurtful nightmare, and my longtime dentist pulling my four front teeth, which I found out later did not need to happen. It was the perfect storm…more on that funny part later. In 2013, I came oh-so-close to getting on the road to happiness, but instead of following my heart I listened to what was going on in my head and accepted, you guessed it, that good ole high-paying job with benefits. I do believe that everything happens the way it is supposed to, and that job taught me to stay present and observe what is going on instead of just going through the motions. What I noticed during that year was that my Executive Assistant and Manager skills were fading, like a soul being released from a Harry Potter photo. It was a year of mild disasters, and when it ended I felt grateful for having said “yes” to the lessons I’d learned and cannot unlearn, to my growing certainty that the corporate world was no longer serving me on my path. Two years into my new topsy-turvy life, I jumped. In January of 2014, I gave most of my possessions away, loaded the Jeep with what I thought I needed, determined to use the fact that I had no home address (let’s reframe “homeless”) as an opportunity to just keep driving. To go where I hoped I could be of use and to help others if needed. I became the alchemist of my own life, melting, mixing and welding together “what I do” and “who I am.” From there it got messier.
Stay tuned for Part 2.
Love always, GoTerriGo!