It took me some time to realize that I was on the wrong path. That the work I was doing for a living was no longer fulfilling me; actually was no longer working on any level. Funny how the universe intervenes when you haven't been listening: Contracts are broken; new clients are nowhere to be found; the flow of money runs dry.
I had already reinvented myself once, extrapolating my ego from a fairly large and demanding life in the music industry. So I knew I had it within me to start over again. This time, however, was markedly different in many ways: I was entering my fifties. My perspective was wider. I had suffered just enough loss in my life to not only realize its fragility and preciousness; but also to reflect long and hard and deep about its meaning and my purpose. My heros had changed. My admiration gushed for the founders of socially conscious companies like TOMS and Warby Parker and Soma.
I wanted to do work that mattered. Something beyond just me making money and contributing to my household. I also wanted to do work that I loved. These were really the only two things that mattered to me and I was unwavering in my determination to figure it out.
My husband and I put our heads together to look at the reality of losing an income. It wasn't merely us anymore, we had a daughter who's recent dyslexia diagnosis meant an impressive new school with an equally impressive tuition. Financially, our life and responsibilities were a heavy burden for just one to carry. There would be sacrifices that would need to be made.
Nonetheless, I impressed upon my partner in life that I had reached a now or never moment. I knew it with every fiber of my being. I may not have had a clue about what the future looked like, but something inside of me was keenly aware that if I didn't try to figure it out now, figure me out now, I was making a mistake. This was my chance. He supported me. Of course he supported me. And so I started on my path. Unbeknownst to me at the time, this required equal parts strategy and spirituality and blind trust.
I considered it an opportunity to completely overhaul my life. As if I were writing the script of a movie and I was the lead. Who would be my supporting cast? Where would this work take me? Could my family travel with me? Even: How would I travel and where would I stay?
Like the pieces of a puzzle, I began to shape what I wanted to do, who I would serve and how I would go about it all. At no time did I feel like I had all the answers, but when I had enough of a foundation built, I hit the go button. Then I watched with amazement as it evolved and changed and morphed into something even better than what I had in mind, time and time again.
It would be a radical transformation on many levels. It also became a deep sense of conviction that I was building something I could be proud of.
Most of this creative work - the concepting, the visualization - took place while trail running in the hills near my home in Tennessee. Trail running is a relatively new passion of mine. And it coincided beautifully with my new-found awareness that nowhere do I feel more alive on this planet than in the woods. This is my personal place of connectivity. I can empty my mind in a meditative way and listen big. So it should come as no surprise to me that this is where I got all of my answers. I solved problems. I created. I received inspiration. Without fail.
This is perhaps the biggest irony of my story. The old me had been trained to accomplish things within the allotted time I sit in my office. The more I crossed off my list, the more productive I viewed my day. This was so ingrained in my thinking that it took a full three years before I began to value my time in the woods as much as I valued my time at my desk. In truth, it is where all of my best ideas are born.
Before this all starts to sound far too idealistic, let me get very real with you. When you decide to invest in yourself and put all the chips on the table, once and for all? It requires more courage than you can imagine. There is an undercurrent of emotions ready to pull you down at any moment. The biggest of which is fear. It riddles you with doubt and insecurity, making you question that vision you've created of yourself - the very one that on a good day is what keeps you going - telling you to give up. That can't be you. It isn't possible at all.
Confusion and weakness sets in. It becomes possible to justify a glass of wine at 3PM and lose a few days to Netflix. What I realized pretty far into my journey is that fear of failure is a huge deal. It is so much easier to hold your dream out in the future, just beyond your reach, perhaps something you'll look into next year. In this way, it becomes something you always strive to attain, but you never actually try to do. You are safe; you can never fail.
So it appears this endeavor is not for the faint hearted. It’s not for the delusional or egotistical either. If you are not immediately humbled by your shortcomings as you embark on this effort, then, well. Perhaps it will be a whole lot easier for you.
For me, each time I look up and see a new piece of my landscape, it requires skills I don't yet possess. I know now that I will need to continue to stretch and grow and change. Still, I persevere.
Every day, I move forward. No matter how trivial I may view the accomplishment, it is all progress toward the greater good of what I am creating. I know I am on my path. The fear and doubt are rare now and when they appear, they are more irritating than debilitating.
The unequivocal truth is that when you decide to do what you came here to do; when you determine that you are not going to settle; that you are willing to invest in yourself and do the work that is required to become the best and highest version of yourself? The universe rises to meet you. Magic happens. Doors open. You are supported and held and guided. And the fulfillment you feel as a result is beyond what you have ever experienced before. It not only changes you...it changes everything.
Early on in my personal spiritual journey, I went through a phase of watching and reading stories of NDE’s or near death experiences. It was an integral part of shedding my ingrained catholic beliefs of heaven and hell and life ending at death.
This led me to the work of Dr. Michael Newton (Journey of Souls: Case Studies of Life Between Lives), which quite literally blew my mind and made me eager to experience my own past life regression; which I later did with the fabulous Nancy Hajek right here in Nashville.
In the forward to Frank Ostaskeski’s beautiful book, The Five Invitations* is this quote by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.:
Chances are until you have experienced that one great loss, this will read to you as more ominous than catalytic. Like grief itself, these types of statements can’t fully be absorbed and understood until you experience them yourself.
We can get attached to who we think we are. We can be downright stubborn about it. Our identity seamlessly and completely intertwined with what we do. What we do becomes what we are. But what if what we do is taken away from us in the blink of an eye? Who are we then?
In the words of Chinese Philosopher Lao Tzu: