“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand that this too was a gift.”
When I was five years old I believed in myself:
I stood up to a neighborhood kid that picked on my best friend Susan, even though that bully girl was a lot taller and bigger than me. I had plans to draw every day for the rest of my life. I wanted to fly to England to meet Davy Jones of the Monkees so I could marry him. I BELIEVED all these things could come true – simply because my little heart imagined them so.
Then two big, life-shifting things happened.
First, I started school and met people outside my family whose projections of their own human selves began to tear me down. People who told me I couldn’t or shouldn’t do things this way, or think about ideas or dream that way; people who made me feel bad on days they felt bad about themselves; and people who picked apart my heart and words and choices and laughed at my questions and creativity.
So I got quiet with anyone outside my small trusted circle. I got good at not standing out too much. I crowd-sourced approvals before making decisions. I played small and grew dependent on the moods of others to give me a good day. By the time I got married in my early twenties, I had stopped believing in myself altogether and lived every day in victim mode – blaming every source outside myself for the circumstances of my life, or the way I felt about being me.
But then, the second big shift happened.
Twenty-five years later from the time I stood up to that bully, I learned of Debbie Ford, and her book Spiritual Divorce, and in lightning speed everything I ever knew to be true or had been told or led to believe began to quickly unravel.
Debbie’s work began to teach me how to accept the circumstances of my life (after all, I’d co-created them) and surrender to any notion that things could have or should have been different.
She taught me how to find my life’s GREATEST gifts in the most unlikely places (my shadows: those things I didn’t like about myself) and from my unhappiest events (those years of feeling sad and small).
She showed me how to shift the perceptions of my life stories.
She taught me about projections and how everything I like or dislike in the outside world are actually things I like or dislike about myself.
Biggest of all, Debbie’s teachings showed me how ALL possibilities live inside of me. I began to once again believe in my five-year-old’s wings.
So I left my marriage when my son was eight, still mining for its gifts; and for the next ten years I grew a new love story of a life for me and my boy, all the while reading each new book Debbie published (almost) every year. I changed the “stories” that I’d created in my head over the years (and that were driving my life), and began to look at the world with a new set of eyes.
And as I did, I began to notice a curious pattern begin to take effect:
Every time I hit a wall, I found a window right next to it. Whenever I fell low on money, a check arrived in the mail or a house utility lowered its monthly bill. Whenever one person fell out of my life, there was now just enough space for the new right one to fall in. When I became anorexic, on my knees, at my last cry out to God, I found a yearlong nutrition school that would not only make me healthy again, but reinvent the way I would raise my son, and how I thought of my body, mind, and soul.
When I wanted my son to attend a high school an hour away, within two weeks I found someone who would rent my home for the next four years. When our second-floor, makeshift apartment got too cramped for Richie’s high school sleepovers, we laughed and turned furniture on its side to make room for more sleeping bags and board games and popcorn bowls.
When my son asked to attend a college so far out of my financial league, I found enough Band-Aids and patchwork pieces to weave together a plan, and even took it as an opportunity to return to school for my own degree. When others threw their money fears at me, excitedly I talked of possibility and vision and FAITH and did it anyway.
And at the end of this era, when my beautiful Grandma Rose died last year and my world turned dark and I was sinking, I returned “home” – and spent the next 12 months studying with The Ford Institute and became a certified Integrative Life Coach specializing in Breakthrough Shadow Coaching, representing Debbie’s remarkable work, so I could teach others how to make peace with their lives too.
I believed I could do all these things, so I did.
My five-year-old self would be so proud.