An Orange County, Calif. native, Jennifer Bauer relocated back to the OC in 2015, after 18 years of living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area. For 16 of those years, she held various executive marketing and communications positions in sports, live entertainment and high tech. She holds a Bachelors degree in Marketing and a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from Santa Clara University, as well as a Life Coach Certification from the Martha Beck Institute.
At age 20, Jennifer lost her mother to suicide. That set a course in motion that allowed her to informally help other bereavement survivors process and find meaning in their loss. Empathizing with their suffering and having seen the other side, she is honored and humbled to help others navigate their courses across the pain and guilt to a shore of peace.
Through experiencing various challenging life circumstances, Jennifer sought out ways to overcome her own mental and emotional roadblocks that were keeping her from living her best life. She found Martha Beck’s books, tools and teachings to be just what she needed.
During her own self-exploration of her life’s purpose, Jennifer discovered that she wanted to help others create the joyful, fulfilling and impactful lives that they were meant to live. This realization led her to pursue Life Coach training in early 2017, and she became a Certified Martha Beck Life Coach in early 2018.
MY STORY: AN IN-DEPTH VERSION OF THE ABOVE
My life’s timeline of milestone events and people have all played a part in shaping who I am right now. My values and guiding principles have been molded by each interaction and action that have compounded to create me in all my uniqueness.
As I contemplate and look at this timeline, the quote that stands out to me is that from the movie Eragon:
“You are stronger than you realize and wiser than you know. What was once your life is now your legend.”
What legend would I leave behind me if I were to die today? What do I believe in the deepest parts of my essence?
I believe that loss causes you to love deeper and appreciate more the people who remain in, and those who enter, your life. I didn’t reach the depth of my capacity to love, and be loved, until I experienced great loss.
When I was twenty years old my mother committed suicide. If you want to know what guilt and regret feels like, it is the most ginormous ball of self-loathing that clings to your innards and claws at your eyes.
I’m sharing this here because I’m in a completely different, transformed place now. It took me many years and a lot of mistakes to find my way back to myself.
Because of that grief, because of how low that trough was, I had a wildly high appreciation of everything good that was in my life. I saw my siblings and loved them more fiercely than I had ever loved before.
I began saying “I love you” openly, often and with an intention. I was more present in conversations with my friends and family. Every joy and success was to celebrate and embrace with an open heart. Nature was more beautiful.
I forgave quickly, easily and without the offending party’s admission of fault.
This all sounds virtuous and lovely, except there is such a thing as being too wide-open. I had swung to the other end of the pendulum with wanting to see only the good and pure in other people. While I had dealt with the grief over my mother’s death, I hadn’t addressed my guilt. I had a penance to pay. For as loving as I was to others, I was the opposite with myself.
I started to disassociate with my body and my instincts. I certainly didn’t trust my judgment or my actions, which meant everyone else was right and I must be wrong. I became involved in unhealthy relationships because I felt I deserved it.
In 2008, I attended the Professional Business Women’s Conference, where Martha Beck was a speaker. I immediately bought Martha’s book Steering by Starlight. Reading that book set off a ripple of events. I started to realize my value and purpose. I started to forgive myself for my part in my mother’s death. I began to find my voice again and step back into my power.
While this was a step in the right direction, I hadn’t learned my lesson yet about setting boundaries and trusting myself.
Someone who I had been friends with for a couple years convinced me to invest in his business. He knew I was struggling to make my house payment and painted a picture of financial ease. After investing, I couldn’t get this friend to return my phone calls. Where was my return that was promised? What happened to our agreement? Then I found out he also stole my identity.
Within two weeks of this realization, I was laid off from my job. I could no longer pay my bills, I had no savings and my debt was overwhelming. This was during the Great Recession when the housing market was under water. Even if I wanted to sell my house, the market value was far less than my remaining loan amount.
My newfound self was shaken loose and I began to doubt my worth. I remember sitting on my couch and feeling a flush of heat flood my face while my chest constricted so tightly that I couldn’t breathe. Gasping for air, my arms going tingly numb, my mind thought, “Is this what it feels like to have a heart attack? Is this where they’ll find my dead body?” Then as quickly as it came, it left. I could breathe. The heat left my face and I could feel my arms again.
For the next two years, like clockwork each year, I was laid off from another job. All for different reasons, none of them within my control. A venue closed for renovations and couldn’t justify a marketing position. A sports team was acquired by its competition and all our staff was laid off. It would be nine months before I found work again.
Looking back, I needed to lose it all to build anew. I needed to completely dissolve and cut the ties to the life I was living. Each time, I was forced to look inside and dig deeper to find meaning. Over those three years, I hired two different life coaches. Working with them changed my whole perspective and gave me tools to not only accept who I was, but also love my uniqueness and recognize the gifts I had to give the world.
I realized that my mother’s death was not my fault. She was on her own path and made her own choices.
I distinctly remember the moment that I “got it.” The moment I completely surrendered to a power higher than myself. I woke up from my victim pity party and accepted my life as it was, my journey as it would be, and myself just as I am. No more, no less.
I was driving down interstate 5 on my way to Orange County for Christmas. I felt a sense of calm, peace, contentment and love radiating out of my body. I cried tears of joy. It is unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced. I was listening to a Lady Antebellum song “I’m Ready To Love Again” which struck a chord.
The lyrics are:
“Seems I was walking in the wrong direction
I barely recognize my own reflection
Oh, scared of love but scared of life alone
Building walls around my heart to save me
Oh, but it’s time for me to let it go
No longer am I afraid of the fall down
It must be time to move on now
Without the fear of how it might end
I guess I’m ready to love again”
To me it wasn’t about loving someone else, but it was about being ready to love ME again…to love my life again…to open myself up to whatever path I was intended to go down without fear, without walls…and let it all go.
Once I did that…everything changed.
Within a few months, I started dating the love of my life, my husband Jeff. I had created an “ideal husband” vision with one of my life coaches. It was one of those “this is impossible, but if I could have it all, this is what I’d want.” You know what? I got exactly what I asked for. I am thankful each and every day for the gift of loving and being loved by this man.
A few months later, I got an amazing job with some of the most brilliant people I have ever worked with (and still maintain friendships with today).
I found the courage to declare bankruptcy and not fear what people would think of me for doing so. As part of that, I foreclosed on my house and just let it go and accepted that it wasn’t mine to have. The emotional release I had from getting out from under that financial burden was so freeing.
I started to use my body compass to assess my relationships and cut out the people who gave me a shackles-on response. I paid close attention to my instincts and gut rather than allowing logic and reason to rule my actions. It opened up space in my life for meeting some amazing people.
Shortly after getting married, my husband and I set a goal to move back to Southern California to live closer to our family. I resigned from a job that I enjoyed, but that caused a lot of stress and demanded all of my time. In exchange, we now have a life that gives us so much more time with each other, the people that we love and activities we enjoy.
Now, I am self-employed as a Life Coach (or Wayfinder) and observing my clients when they have life-altering insights is extremely fulfilling. One of my client’s husbands told me, “I feel like I have my wife back, thank you.” Talk about heart-expanding!
Despite my bankruptcy, we now own a home that is uniquely ours and exactly how we pictured it. We do the activities that bring elation. Had I not gone through what I did, I wouldn’t have all that I have now.
Some of my friends have told me that I’m the strongest person they know. Had they experienced what I had, I know that they would be too. We all have it in us, we just need the opportunity for it to shine through.
I believe that my choices were to either stop living or move forward. I chose to keep going. I now see obstacles and challenges on a very wide spectrum. For every low, there is an equal high. From a distance, it is a series of long, slow, rolling waves…each carrying a lesson we are intended to learn.
I believe that your body and dreams can guide you if you simply pay attention and follow their wisdom. My higher self knew that I was making mistakes and I reasoned away the signs. I needed to learn to listen to my body as it guides me toward my best path.
I believe that you can’t live your best life with your heart clenched tightly closed, nor with it forced wide open. Living the life you crave means a relaxed balance between the two so that you can catch and hold the opportunities as they come.
I have no idea what tomorrow and the day after bring, yet I do know that if I follow the integrity of my essential self, what lays before me is better than I could ever ask for myself. Yes, there will be moments of losing my identity…it’s all part of the beautiful process and it, too, brings me to somewhere even better than where I was before.