A few years ago I began coming to terms with my life. I began coming to terms with who I am, the choices I had made, and I began seeing a different way to live the rest of my life. The end result has been a completely new beginning for me and my family.
I had some shameful secrets in my past. Secrets that I planned to take to my grave. Then through a series of significant life events, including the loss of my dad, I became aware that keeping my secrets would require me to die having never lived a full and whole life. That bothered me deeply.
It bothered me because I have two young children and the thought of them growing up to live a life where they couldn’t own their mistakes, be true to themselves, and be true to the people around them, broke my heart. The more I thought about it, the more it broke my heart that I was living that way.
An ancient Christian philosopher once said, whether or not Jesus literally died and rose from the dead doesn’t even matter unless you yourself have experienced the resurrection for yourself. I think he was saying we tend to get bogged down in the historical facts and science until we have completely missed the actual message. A personal resurrection is required for you to walk in the great truth of this life. We spend so much of our time debating the facts, that we miss the transformative message.
When I read those words I felt a familiarity. What I had gone through was a personal death and resurrection. The old me had died and the real me, the authentic me, had been raised up in its place. My faith tradition talks of dying to self and being born again. Concepts that were a little out there….things I thought I believed, but in truth I found unfathomable – until they happened to me. Dying to self, I found, was dying to the lies that I and our culture, including my religion, had told me were true. My resurrection was to wake up to the Great Love that envelopes all things – including me. It was the recognition that my pain, my mistakes, and all the good in me were equally valued and loved. My entire life was worthy of resurrection and redemption, if only I could believe they were.
This process opened my eyes to many inconsistencies in my life. One was realizing my life was really all about MY LIFE. My husband, my children and me – that was what made up my universe and everything I did was centered around making our lives better, easier, and ‘successful’ (as the world defines success). Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I was a bad person. I loved people, had loved them my whole life. I’ve always had a passion for justice. I’ve always tried to be a good friend and care for other people. I’ve always had a heart for the suffering of others. But the reality of how I spent my time proved my primary focus was about making things better for my life and my family’s future. Caring for others was a side job – not my center.
One of the ways I realized this truth about myself was the fact that I was working at a job that I did not love. I was working at a job I was not created to do. I always knew I was made for something different, yet I would not leave. Why? Because they paid me very well. Eventually I realized I subconsciously found my value in my paycheck and my career. I didn’t know it, would have argued against it, but in hindsight I can vouch for the absolute truth in that statement.
I felt a calling on my life to do something different. I felt a calling on my life to serve and add value. I felt a calling to live my life very differently from what I had always done, but I feared a drastic reduction in my pay. I stayed in my job because we have a beautiful home that we built exactly as we wanted. We built it on a beautiful farm where two of our siblings, their families, and one set of parents also have homes. I wanted to live here – I still do. So for well over a year, I fought everything I knew to be true to stay here.
Then I experienced my personal resurrection. Over the last two years, as I have walked through this incredible internal transformation of all I knew to be true, the calling became much more tangible and real. In the last year, it was no longer an inner whisper that I should do ‘something’ else, I had a clear vision of my path. And yet, I still would not leave my job and risk our financial security. I continued to remain in a job that grew increasingly more frustrating and dissatisfying.
Instead I began to pre-mourn my life. I was 43 years old, and when I looked forward I believed that, left to my own decisions, I would retire from my job 20+ years down the road wholly unsatisfied and completely aware that I had missed out on my real, authentic life. I simply lacked the courage to take the first step. It was a tragedy I was creating, and yet I felt unable to change.
At the same time, an intense feeling of purpose and direction was taking place. My life seemed to be aligning itself toward a goal I had no will to pursue. A debilitating fear of public speaking vanished. I met key people who would encourage me to grow in new ways and have a profound influence in my life. People I barely knew began encouraging me toward this new life. This continued until if felt as if everything in my life was pointing in the one direction I knew I was meant to go. A direction I knew I would not go.
The truth of the matter is, my professional success had been my path to acceptance and worthiness. I had lived my life under a veil of secrets and shame, and the only area of my life where I felt truly worthy was my career. I could accept everyone’s friendship and love because I was able to do something well – just look at my job. I might not be ‘good’, but there must be something ok within me because I have a good job.
Even my husband didn’t know my secrets, so I deluded myself into thinking I was earning his love by providing a good life. I was earning my kids’ love by giving them a nice home close to family. I didn’t realize what I was doing, not consciously. Yet somewhere deep down I did know – why else would I have clung to things so desperately.
But then the world got tired of waiting and conspired to create a great push forward. I follow the teaching of Jesus and believe in the Great Love he talked about. I believe in God. I don’t think everyone has to believe in exactly the same thing I do, or use the same language – but that is my language and center. So I believe that there is a force, a love, that pushes us to our authentic lives. I believe that it is this powerful love that eventually grew weary of my fears. Why else would things happen with such divine symmetry.
The culminating moment in my transformation was when I stood in front of my faith community and told my life story. I was scheduled to do so on January 11, 2015 and from that day forward I had complete clarity. The mourning began that day and continued throughout 2015. On January 11, 2016 – exactly one year later – I was let go during a corporate restructuring.
I knew two things the moment it happened. I was to follow my heart and I was not to run out and replace my income.
It is the first time in my life I understood the what it meant to be still. I suddenly became very certain and very much at peace. This peace and certainty has remained with me in the months since.
This does not mean my ego doesn’t ever wake me up at 2am screaming, “Have you gone mad?!? No one gets to ‘follow their heart’. This is selfish and crazy. Call your network tomorrow and go back to work.”
Selfish…Crazy? Perhaps… perhaps both in some ways. None the less, I’ve decided to dedicate my life to helping people crawl out from under the secrets that keep them from leading a whole and complete life. I’ve decided to do this even if it means we lose our beautiful home, and have to live much more modestly. I long for a life that matches my calling. (I haven’t given up on our home. I do continue to pray for some miraculous thing to happen that allows us to stay here. I have given up, though, on the idea that I should sacrifice everything I believe to be true in order to stay.)
Most days I can remember: My ego is an idiot.
My life feels like an incredible adventure. I have a sense of purpose and peace that no paycheck could provide. I feel like I am such a very small cog in such a very large picture. Small, but critical. Even the smallest cog can wreak havoc if not doing what it is designed to do.
So, I’m going to do a lot of different things that share a single purpose: I’ll be sharing my story here and looking for opportunities to speak; I’ll be opening a mediation business to help people resolve conflicts and live more peacefully; I will pursue more photography opportunities; I’ll be working at my church and helping build up our faith community. At the foundation of every endeavor – I will be working to remind people: You are enough. There is enough.
This is my beginning.
PS Over the next weeks and months I will share my story here on the blog. I hope that you will subscribe using the link at the bottom of the page, follow my page for the blog on Facebook (links to your right), and share far and wide. It is your willingness to share my story, it is your likes, and your comments on social media, that will drive this age old message of mercy and grace into the lives that I hope to touch. I thank you for walking with me.
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