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What my Mom’s Suicide Taught me About Love

Open Heart Love

After my mom’s suicide, I read her prayer journals. The final six-months of entries were variations of the following:

“Please, Lord, let me feel love. Let me be loved. If I can feel love, I can make it through anything. Without it, I am lost.”

Between Hollywood’s Rom-Coms and the annual commercialization of Valentine’s Day, we’ve been socialized to believe that the feeling state of love is found from external sources. In 2018, Romantic Comedies grossed $241 million in North America alone.[1] According to the National Retail Federation, consumers spent $20.7 billion on Valentine’s Day this year.[2] We’re constantly bombarded with the message that to be happy, we need love from a partner, family members, our friends and our pets.

Love is not found in others; it can only be generated within. Each of us is love; we simply get confused sometimes. When we allow that confusion to take up residence in our head and continue to seek it outside of ourselves, we live in a state of lack and non-fulfillment.

I was named after Guinevere from my mother’s favorite movie, Camelot. She was enthralled with the idea of two men loving one woman so deeply and tragically.

Growing up, I lived in a menagerie of sorts. Name any domesticated animal and we had it…dogs, cats, rodents, birds and reptiles. My mother was continually adding new pets to the household.

Once, I remember walking into our living room and seeing my mother crying on the couch reading her Reader’s Digest. When I asked what was wrong, she handed me the magazine and told me to read the story.

It was about a woman who owned a parrot. She had tried for years to teach her parrot to say, “I love you” without success. Then she had a medical emergency that put her in the hospital for months. When she recovered and returned home, her parrot greeted her with, “I love you.” Cue the tears.

The next day, my mom was highlighting the Penny Saver’s Pets For Sale section. Within a week, we had our own parrot.

Another time, I remember overhearing an argument between my mother and stepfather.

“You never say I love you anymore,” she said.

“Why do I need to say it?” he asked.

“Every morning for the past two years, I’ve walked you to your car and tell you ‘I love you’ before you go to work,” she said. “And every morning, you drive off without saying it back.”

“You’re exaggerating,” he said. “It hasn’t been that long.”

Perception is a powerful force. And I’m not blaming anyone for my mother’s suicide other than her perception of whether she was loved. When she believed she needed others to love her and thought they didn’t, she suffered. She based her happiness and self-worth on external validation.

It didn’t matter that her kids frequently said, “I love you.” We were all affectionate with each other. We spent copious amounts of time on family activities like hiking, riding bikes and crafts. Yet, no amount of “I love you,” quality time, or pets were going to satiate something that only she could provide herself.

If you are also looking for love and coming up empty, I invite you to assess how often you seek it versus how often you give it to yourself. If you’re looking outside more than inside, here are five ways to practice loving you:

  1. Tell yourself in the mirror, “I love you.”
    Look in your eyes and mean it. Each time you pass your reflection, whether you say it aloud or silently, give yourself some love and appreciation.
  2. Be kind in your thoughts about yourself and your worth.
    If you catch yourself talking smack about you, notice it and without more self-judgment, simply acknowledge it as unkind. Take a breath and start over again with a more loving and compassionate thought to replace the original.
  3. Trust your judgment.
    Follow your intuition and trust that you know what is best for you. If something feels icky, then it’s probably not right for you. If something feels zingy, more of that, please!
  4. Respect yourself.
    Set boundaries and keep them. Treat yourself with respect and others will treat you in kind. And if they don’t, respect yourself enough to walk away.
  5. Treat yourself with the same tender, loving care that you give to your loved ones.
    This is the Reverse Golden Rule. Treat yourself the way you treat the most treasured people in your life.

At your core, you are love. The big “L” love. You are your own happily ever after. You are your own knight of the round table.

 

[1]https://www.statista.com/statistics/668722/romcom-box-office-gross-north-america/

[2]https://nrf.com/media-center/press-releases/fewer-consumers-celebrating-valentines-day-those-who-do-are-spending

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4 Simple and Free Self-Care Practices that will also Improve Your Relationships

Practice Self Care

We’ve all heard the golden rule. Did you know that it also works in reverse? Treat yourself as you want others to treat you.

How we treat ourselves is how we invite others to treat us. It is our boundary threshold. If we are unkind in our internal monologue toward ourself, we then permit the same unkindness from others. If we take little-to-no time out for personal care, we show others that it’s acceptable to devalue us as well.

If you want to improve how others treat you, start treating yourself with more patience, kindness, love, respect and appreciation. Show yourself that your time is valuable by spending it on activities that tend to your wellbeing.

This is your one and precious life. Show your body and your mind that you value and respect it. Here are some suggestions for simple and free self-care:

  1. Say “I love you.”
    …to yourself. Find a mirror, look into your own eyes and say those three impactful words – out loud. Then tell yourself all the qualities and characteristics about yourself that you love. Find ten new gems each day to tell yourself – again, out loud – that you love.
  2. Give yourself undivided attention.
    Spend solo time with yourself to notice your thoughts and behavior, reflect on your day, visualize the future you want to create, and set intentions for your day and life. This is time where the phone, computer, TV and other distractions are off and put away. Learn to be comfortable with yourself and the stillness. If you can enjoy your own company, so will others.
  3. Love your body.
    Care for it as tenderly as you would a newborn child. Nourish and strengthen it through food and exercise so that it can keep all its automatic functions running smoothly inside you. Tend to its aches and pains rather than “pushing through.” Give it ample rest. Allow it to experience the pleasure of touch, whether that is through hugging loved ones or maybe receiving a foot and shoulder massage.
  4. Make time for play and rest.
    As the adage goes, no one gets to the end of their life wishing they had worked more and harder. Aside from the pleasure factor, which in itself is enough (and kinda the point of life, just sayin’), play is how we become our most creative, problem-solving selves. If we could turn our jobs into a game, or if it involved our true-passions, our success and impact would be exponentially increased. When we balance that play with rest, we not only recharge our one, precious body, but we also give our subconscious, higher-self the space to do its most loving and best work.

You’ll find that incorporating these simple, yet highly beneficial practices into your day will add joy, improve your overall health and shift the dynamic of your professional and personal relationships.

 

If you find these practices difficult, or a strong voice inside that tells you it’s selfish, coaching can help. Let’s talk!

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10 Exercises to Fall (Back) In Love With Yourself

Let your life bloom like a cherry blossom in Spring.

With all the hype and commercialism that surrounds Valentine’s Day, our culture batters us into believing that we need some other person to shower us with adoration, compliments, chocolates, fancy wine and dinner, champagne, flowers and poetry to feel loved and complete. The truth is, you are the only valentine that matters. Only you can make you feel loved, adored and treasured.

Don’t believe me? Think I’m full of it? Try each of these exercises and then if you don’t feel at least a little more self-love, tell me I’m crazy in the comments.

10 Exercises To Fall (Back) In Love With Yourself:

  1. What are you exceptionally good at? What talent, skill, or “personal magic” makes you uniquely you? Set a timer for ten minutes and list them all out – even ones that might sound silly like organizing your sock drawer by color, style, pattern and material.
  2. What problems are you good at helping people solve? This could be at work, with friends who come to you for help, or maybe scratching that one spot on your dog’s back that he can’t reach on his own. List at least three…and keep going if you get on a roll. Nothing is off limits here if you have a knack for it.
  3. Find and name at least six things that you love about your body that don’t focus on the exterior. Here are some starters: Maybe that your heart beats completely on its own without your having to do ANYTHING. Or maybe that you breathe automatically as well – you’ve been doing it since birth, you do it in your sleep (without any thought) and will continue to until you reach the end of your journey. Have some fun with it…try to think of as many things that you love until you go more than sixty seconds without thinking of something new.
  4. What did you accomplish today? (Or yesterday – if you just woke up and reading this is your first accomplishment of the day. Besides waking up, of course!) List it all out…the big stuff AND the little stuff. That can be everything from making your bed, to getting dressed, to putting your shoes on the right feet. I’m serious – these all take some level of effort and this is your opportunity to give yourself some long-overdue credit. Remember the days when even smiling or burping would elicit squeals of delight from your parents? It’s that kind of list.
  5. What are your top 5 favorite smells? Go find at least one of them and take a few minutes to breathe it in and savor the action of smelling something so dang good.
  6. Visualize and relive your most favorite vacation. Take a long, slow, deep breathe and bring yourself back to that time. What did you see? What did you experience? What activities did you do? What sounds did you hear? What did the air feel like? How did the food taste? Any particular meal or treat stand out to you? What did the bed (or sleeping bag and tent) you slept in feel like?
  7. Play a song you enjoy either singing or dancing to…then do it: Sing, Dance, Jump, Shout. Let the music take over your body and flow with it. No one is watching, it’s just you and you can move and vocalize however makes you feel most free!
  8. Think of someone who’s approval or affection you crave. Imagine the most perfect conversation in your most ideal dream of conversations with said person. How do you feel? Where does that hit you in your body? What does that feeling feel like physically? You just gave that to yourself. The conversation came from your deepest core, your own inner truth of what your higher self believes about you.
  9. Name 10 (or more) things that you are whole-heartedly grateful for in your life. This can be anything, even if it’s silly, that makes you feel deeply thankful. Spend a few moments filling your mind with those people, places and/or things. Let gratitude for them fill your heart chakra.
  10. Find a mirror, look into your eyes and say, “I love you.”

 

For those of you who made it through all 10 exercises, I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments. Please share what you loved, what you found challenging (if anything) and how you felt afterward!

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If You’re Not Feeling the Christmas Spirit

Finding the Gifts Inside

Two days before Christmas, I’m reminded that it’s not the happiest time of year for many people. Between finding (and paying for) the “perfect” gifts and bracing yourself for family dynamics (let’s face it, no one knows how to push your buttons like family members)…it may be easy to look at the happy-happy-joy-joy social media posts of others and begin to “compare and despair.” (It’s an MBI coaching term for comparing your insides to someone else’s outsides.)

Does any of this sound familiar to you? I am spending too much on presents and don’t have enough money in the bank to cover this. I don’t have enough time to get it all done. My mother-in-law is going to make her usual passive aggressive comments at Christmas dinner. Everyone else has a special someone to spend the holiday with and I’m still single.

If they do, try to recognize this is a typical lizard brain “lack and attack” stress response that can create fight (WTF!?!), flight (run far-far away!) or freeze (overwhelmed! ack!) behavior. It’s easy to get into a downward spiral of these thoughts if you believe them. Here are some suggestions to get out of that funk:

  1. Notice and observe your thoughts. Try to distinguish them between facts (circumstances) and notice how those thoughts are making you feel (emotionally and in your body). What is your corresponding behavior because of those thoughts and emotions?
  2. Ask yourself: “Is that thought true? Can I absolutely know – without a shadow of a doubt – that that thought is indeed true?”
  3. Notice whether these thoughts are based on a movie in your mind of reliving the past and/or a potential future that may or may not unfold. The reality is, neither the past nor the future exists. The only place they’re alive is in your mind. You are feeding their power – nothing else. The past is done and the future is God’s business. Visualizing that pain in your mind is causing harm to yourself.
  4. Ask yourself: “In this moment, right now (not 10 minutes from now or 10 days from now), am I safe? Do I have all that I need in this moment?” (If you’re naked and living on the streets – I doubt you’re reading this blog – but try to find a shelter.)
  5. Try to find an alternate truth…a thought that would be the opposite. Simply explore another way of perceiving the facts. (You don’t have to believe it, just feel around and find some space for new thoughts.)

If you’re still feeling bah-humbug, then you may want to try some self-care.

You have a choice in how you spend your time and with whom. If you don’t want to buy people extravagant presents or spend time with people that make you want to crawl out of your skin – don’t! Instead, maybe spend your Christmas doing whatever makes your heart sing. Take a bubble bath, dance out your frustration to your favorite music, buy yourself that gift you’re hoping to receive, meditate, sign up for that class or activity you’ve been wanting to try, and finally read that book that has been sitting on your nightstand collecting dust. You can’t control other people or circumstances, but you can choose to love and treat yourself with TLC.

“Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.”
– Lao-Tzu

You hold the power to turn your Christmas from funk-filled to fabulous!

 

*The above suggested steps are adapted from a mixture of the work of Martha Beck and Byron Katie’s “The Work” (of which the latter is a more in-depth process than presented above, and can be found here).

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Living Life Backward: A Reflection

African STAR Retreat

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 Eragon, a movie I’ve never seen but will make a point to watch:

“You are stronger than you realize and wiser than you know.” I’ve seen that on memes and postcards and mugs throughout the years. What I didn’t realize, until I looked it up for attribution, was that it continues on with a phrase even more poignant: “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 (merely a few weeks after my twentieth birthday actually), I was studying for finals in my junior year of college. Sitting in my bedroom, my cell phone rang and I saw it was my mother calling. I sent her to voicemail. She called back another two times and I rejected those too. Then she called the landline of our apartment and my roommate, Cindy, picked up.

“It’s your mom,” she said. “She wants to talk to you.”

“I don’t want to talk to her right now,” I replied. “I have to study. I just can’t deal with that right now.”

“Just talk to her,” urged Cindy.

In a huff, I picked up, “What do you want?”

“Can we talk about why you’re mad at me,” she said in a warbled, intoxicated voice that I had been accustomed to translating.

For the past two years, she had been on a variety of anti-depressants that her doctors continued to increase her prescriptions for. She was not the mother I grew up with. She was a stranger who couldn’t complete sentences and lost her trains of thought. She slurred her words and stuttered. She was a shell of a body without the spirit I had loved.

When I had been home at Thanksgiving we had argued about my flight home for Christmas. As a college student paying my own tuition and working four part-time jobs, I subsisted on a tight budget. My mother, in the process of a divorce and having been a housewife her entire adult life with an AA college education, had all her assets frozen. She was working as a waitress to also make ends meet.

A flight into LAX was $100 cheaper than a flight into SNA (Orange County). She refused to pick me up in LA because she despised traffic and didn’t want to spend the money on gas. I didn’t want to pay the difference in cost to fly into a closer airport.

“So you’d rather me not come home at all for Christmas, than pick me up at LAX?” I yelled.

“I’m not driving to LA to get you. End of story,” she said.

In hindsight, I was also angry at my mom for turning into this whole different person that was so needy and reliant on me, the child.

When she dropped me back off at the airport at the end of the Thanksgiving weekend, I stubbornly refused to hug her goodbye and left without a word. Over the next couple of weeks, I ignored her phone calls. Until December 5 at 8:30 a.m. when she rang the house.

“I don’t understand what I’ve done to make you so mad at me,” my mom managed to stutter through in what felt like two minutes to get out.

“I don’t have time to talk about it right now,” I said. “I have finals in two days and I have to work all day tomorrow, so this is the only time I have to get it done. We’ll talk later.”

“Just know that I love you,” my mom said.

I hung up angry and frustrated without any response. I tried to focus back on my school books in front of me and pushed her out of my mind.

The next day at work, as a receptionist at the school, my two aunts walked in the doors. I was surprised to see them and had assumed they wanted to grab lunch. (They both lived near the college campus.)

With shaking voices my aunt Terry asked, “Is there somewhere private we can go to talk?”

Without waiting for my response and without asking permission, she walked over to my boss’s office and said, “Do you mind giving us a minute?”

I stood up and as I walked down the stairs into my boss’s office, my aunt Kathy said, “I have some bad news…”

Without their completing the sentence, I knew. My legs gave out beneath me and my whole chest felt like it was being pulled down by an anchor. I yelled out the loudest, most guttural animalistic cry of “Nooooooooooooooo” from my very core. My aunts tried to brace me from falling down the stairs. They pulled me up, but had to drag my limp body down the stairs and propped me on the couch. I cried and screamed and cried. I felt like every cell in my body was trying to merge with the earth beneath me.

I don’t remember what they said to me after that. I nodded like I heard them. Months later, when I had to testify as a witness in a court case that my stepfather had waged against my mother’s doctors for malpractice, I learned the details of her death.

Her time of death was within minutes of our phone conversation. From how the lawyers explained it based on the coroner’s report, she had started to overdose when she called me and died shortly after our call ended.

If you want to know what guilt and regret feels like, it is the most ginormous ball of self-loathing that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

I’m sharing this now, for the first time ever to anyone, because I’m in a completely different transformative 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.

From birth to nineteen years old, I held grudges like you wouldn’t believe. After my mom’s death, nothing was worth holding back my affection. 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.

At one point, I wrote on post-it notes that I hung on mirrors in my house, “Stupid bitch!” I lived alone.

I started to disassociate with my body and my instincts. I certainly didn’t trust myself, which meant everyone else was right and I was wrong. I became involved in an unhealthy relationship with someone who raised his self esteem by bringing mine down. I allowed it to happen and felt I deserved it.

In 2006, I bought a house that the universe gave me signs not to buy. I let my boyfriend convince me that the only way to move forward in our relationship was to own a home. Since I paid both sets of our bills, and had the more successful career, it only made sense that I should buy it with my savings and my credit. I didn’t want the house, he picked it out.

On the way to meet with the sellers and plead my case on why they should accept my offer over others, I got two flat tires. Not one, but two. Knowing if I was late to submit it after their deadline, I would lose it, I drove on my rims for three miles to make it there on time. Universe saying what?

In 2008, I attended the Professional Business Women’s Conference, where Martha Beck was a speaker. She challenged all attendees to do some magic that she demonstrated on stage first. With strength against strength, one person tries to close another person’s hands together. Then you do that again, except the person trying to squeeze the other’s hands together fills their mind with a memory of love. I paired up with my girlfriend, Deanna, and with using my memories of feeling love and being loved I was able to easily bring her hands together. We were both amazed.

At the conference, I 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 standing up for myself.

I kicked my boyfriend out of the house. I literally woke up one day and realized just how miserable I was with him and how much happier I would be alone.

He asked me, “What’s wrong? I feel like you’re not the same person anymore.”

“I’m not,” I said. “I don’t love you. You need to move out.”

He was in such shock that he started to bribe me with, “What if I bought you an engagement ring? Let’s go shopping right now. Is that what you want?”

“No,” I said. “I don’t want to be with you anymore. I’m done. I’m over it.”

While this was a step in the right direction, I hadn’t learned my lesson yet about boundaries and trusting myself.

Someone who I had been friends with for a couple years convinced me to invest with him.  He knew I was struggling to make my house payment and painted a picture of having a couple thousand more a month in income. This friend drove a fancy Mercedes SL500, wore expensive shoes and clothes, and had a habit of dining at top star restaurants. I was so panicked about money and bills, I wanted to believe in something that was too good to be true.

While I can’t get into the details of the con for legal reasons, I will share that he wracked up more than $210,000 in debt under my name and credit.

I was ashamed to tell anyone for fear they’d think I was as stupid as I believed myself to be. There were signs along the way that I ignored. Mostly from my body, which had revolted in the form of forgetting how to write. Even writing my name was challenging and full of spelling mistakes.

Shortly after this, I was laid off from my job as Director of Marketing for the arena and coliseum in Oakland. The city and county issued budget cuts and every Director level position had been eliminated. I could no longer pay my bills, I had no savings left 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 I 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.

As I struggled to figure out what to do about my financial situation, I met and started dating a new man, who looked perfect on paper. He was handsome, funny, successful, and most importantly seemed to dote on me like I hadn’t experienced before. I would get frequent texts throughout the day about how beautiful, smart and charming I was. After only three weeks, he blurted, “I love you so much.” Two months in, we were spending most of our free time together.

One night, I had an extremely vivid dream. There was a baby crawling underneath a beautiful, black grand piano. The piano was playing lovely, smooth music. I kept trying to grab the baby out from under the piano and couldn’t. Despite all my attempts, I couldn’t pull the baby out, so instead I put my hand up against the legs so that the baby wouldn’t bump its head as it crawled. I knew I had to get the baby out before the piano crashed down on top of it crushing it.

Remembering the Dream Analysis chapter in Steering by Starlight, I used the tool and was able to decipher that my boyfriend was the piano and I was the baby. My higher self knew that somehow, he would crush me and hurt me. Instead of listening to my dream, I let logic and reason push it away.

Less than a week later, we were laying on my couch watching football when I got a call from a number I didn’t know. I let it go to voicemail. With my boyfriend sitting next to me, I listened to the message from a woman stating she was his wife. That she’d found his ‘other phone’ and was calling to let me know that he was married with kids.

Another blow. I was drowning. I felt so much self-hatred at how stupid I was.

For the next two years, like clockwork each year, I was laid off from another job. All different reasons, none of them within my control. A venue closed for renovations and couldn’t justify a marketing position. A year after becoming the head of marketing for Strikeforce MMA, it was bought by its competition, UFC, and all the 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 break, 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. While I’ll never know for sure, I believe now that when she said, “Just know that I love you,” she didn’t want me to blame myself for her decision to end her life. She knew what she was doing and didn’t want me to feel any guilt for it. It was her way of saying that no matter what was going on between us, I was loved.

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.

December 2010, I was driving down interstate 5 on my way to Orange County to spend Christmas with my family. 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

Seems I’ve been playing on the safe side baby
Building walls around my heart to save me
Oh, but it’s time for me to let it go
Yeah I’m ready to feel now
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 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. In fact, on our wedding day, I gave him my journaled notes that I had created with that exercise. He’s not perfect, but he’s absolutely perfect for me. 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 those which 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. You know what? 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, where we grew up, 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, for a life that gave us so much more time with each other and with the people that we love.

Because my journey in learning lessons is never over, on the career front, I pushed ahead with taking jobs my body compass wasn’t thrilled with because of the money and prestige they offered. Within six months of becoming the head of marketing for Angels Baseball, I resigned. Stubbornly sure my calling was marketing, I took another job for a tech start up company and within 10 months was laid off again.

I finally got it. “I hear you,” I said to the universe. My purpose is not to be a corporate marketing executive. That started my path toward tapping into what my life’s purpose is, what makes my heart sing, and what unique gifts am I hear to offer the world.

Now, I am self-employed as a Life Coach (or Wayfinder) and seeing my clients 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, with time that heals, 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.

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. It was a lesson I needed to learn to now listen 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 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.