So much of the time, we would rather stay small and imprisoned than face the uncertainty of becoming who we are meant to be. The resentment that comes with keeping our dreams under wraps may be a life sentence, but it’s also a known commodity. It’s within our comfort zone. In order to stay there, we have to slip into denial, numb out, and stuff down our real feelings and our true selves. What a high cost we pay for that so-called “comfort.”
By staying in my marriage, I wasn’t allowing the full expression of my life to emerge, and looking back, I realize that the marriage was another hiding place for me. As long as I stayed and propped him up, I could hide from what I truly wanted and from all I was capable of becoming. Leaving my husband meant I would no longer have excuses for not fully inhabiting my life—a terrifying thought.
I became aware that my denial had caused an underlying tension in almost everything I did, and tension is the opposite of freedom. In my career, people-pleasing and workaholism became escapes. I kept jumping through hoop after hoop in order to receive recognition and earn a gold star. But no amount of gold stars was ever enough to fill the emptiness of living an inauthentic life.
I have learned that betraying myself can never be the price I pay to avoid betraying someone else. We don’t serve anyone if we are pretending. We don’t owe anyone the denial of who we are.
Mine is not a solo story.
The majority of my coaching clients come to me with no idea of what they really want. They’re in some sort of transition knowing they need to make a change, yet facing the prospect of living life on their own terms aligned with their own desires for the first time is daunting.
Simply naming desires – feeling worthy and deserving of them without worrying about the logistics and implementation – is the portal into the process of healing, truth-telling and transformation.
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For most of my life, I needed validation. I looked outward for permission. Permission to offer myself love and acceptance. I put everyone else’s dreams, needs, desires before mine. I spent my days managing the perceptions of others, projecting an image of perfection. In the process, I forgot something.
I forgot to live my own life. Marriage was a long time to be away from myself.
I didn’t feel loved for who I was—especially not in my marriage—so I believed I never would be. I checked out. Went to sleep. And was awakened only by an explosion of epic proportions.
After the dust settled, I had a choice. I could either stay numb and go back to sleep. Or, I could face my fears. I could embrace change. I could stop living my life in reaction to others. Own up to desire.
And so the journey began.
The journey to knowing, deep in my essence, that I am loved. No matter what I do or don’t do. Even if I don’t do anything I will be loved.
But how? I needed courage. I found it in my body.
My body—flesh and bone—a treasure chest. Its cellular secrets under lock and key until the moment they were ready to be freed. The thaw came that way: an instant, a window, an opening. If I’d left sooner, I would not have been able to stay away. If I’d stayed a moment longer, it would have been radical self-betrayal.
I remember leaving for the last time. I bought a clean, new mattress just days before, knowing it was a last offering to a lost time. I quietly told the truth to someone safe. There was the night I thought I heard him coming for me—first hope, then fear, then resignation. I remember finally asking for help. I remember when I didn’t think all the help was going to help. I remember when it finally did. I remember all the hours around the hours. Those hours building the skeleton of a leaving. Those hours of bone.
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I thought it was just about a marriage ending. But it was about so much more. Mourning the marriage, but also mourning the self I had been. Making room for the one I was becoming. That one—the new me—who could not go back. Who could not survive in such a dry climate.
Or could she? So much wanted to go back. How to hold that part of me? Simply hold it, and not act?
Uncertainty. The tension of opposites. How, just when we think we have landed, we are actually further unearthed. Ground must be restored, but not through stillness. Stillness will not satisfy. I discovered life as breath: fluidity is the only ground we can seek.
I remember the instant my marriage was over. Feeling like a failure for not fixing him. For not making the marriage work. For staying too long or not long enough. Waiting for him to sign the divorce papers. And also secretly wishing he would break down the door. Come back for me. How the jingling of any dog tags on any dog collar took my breath away. No idea that the last time I saw them would be the last time I saw them. Fun and happiness and pleasure were on hold indefinitely.
But then, a break. An unexpected encounter, a moment of awe. Sensation returning to my body. And there, my breath still held, I felt hunger for the first time.
And I cut my hair.
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Florence, Italy. In Michaelangelo’s gallery, bodies birthing themselves from rough and ragged chunks of marble. “Unfinished Slaves,” frozen in a state of self-excavation. I, too, was carving myself back into life.
Shame and guilt stripped away, revealing my raw flesh. I reclaimed time lost; my unlived life. Forgiveness arrived, tentatively at first. Then—now—in bursts of disbelief. Inhabiting my life completely– no hiding, truly living – is unparalleled.
Once there was a marriage and now there is me.
What do I know, now? I know that happiness, fun, pleasure—these are the necessities. I know that loss is loss and grief is grief. I know that forgiveness is the gateway; freedom and love lie beyond. I know that nothing is better than living my life as it is happening. Meeting the miraculous moments as me—just me.
Just being me is the only thing I ever have to do to be loved.
I know that living on the other side of my greatest fear I can do anything.
Endings and beginnings are kickstarts and catalysts. An invitation to a life I never knew was possible: this extraordinary life I am living now.
And above all else I know that no matter what I do or don’t do, I am worthy.
I offer my heart to you with the hope that it serves as a compass to lead you back to yourself, with an invitation to find and trust your own voice as you dive deeply into your desire.
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I wasn’t living my own life. Can you relate? Whose life are you living? Tell me about it on Facebook.