“If the house is crooked and crumbling, and the land on which it sits uneven, is it possible to make anything lie straight?”
-Katherine Boo, Behind the Beautiful Forevers p. 254
I have made countless attempts to re-build my metaphoric house. I would tear it all down in my head and start re-building. I noticed the method wasn’t working. I kept finding myself wrapped up with the same patterns with different people and unfortunately the same results. UGH! I have been on a self-help kick since I was thirteen. The first book I read to try to restore my thinking to sanity was, A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson. I still have the book all tattered, highlighted and torn. I have read it a handful of times and always find a new message to bring with me. I feel like all the books I have read plant seeds in my head, but they can only have an impact when I am ready to water them.
I spent years in search of some outside way to make me feel better on the inside. I moved all over the country in hopes of finding something. I kept finding myself in the same predicaments. My romantic track record was a doozy, I mastered the art of unhealthy relationships. They screamed TOXIC! I would literally move to another state when a relationship ended. I didn’t just do this once, let’s just say in a span of ten years I moved in and out of seven, yes, seven states. Luckily for me, a career as a national sales trainer made the moving fairly easy. Each place I lived, I would try to start over.
The first time I finally settled down into a relationship and truly committed myself to it, I once again did it for the wrong reasons. I didn’t know it at the time. Hindsight is always 20/20. I was so abusive to myself that it made it very easy to be verbally abusive to me. No one could talk worse to me than I did to myself. I had a core belief system that said I was unlovable, unworthy, and overall a waste of space. I let the shame of all my past decisions weigh me down. It was not just that I felt like I did stupid things. In my mind, I was stupid and worthless.
When I got married, I lost myself completely. In my mind, I wasn’t worth being there anyway. I dove head first into being the best mom I could be, the best wife I could be, the best daughter I could be, and the best fill in the blank I could be. Although all of those things are positive, my foundation was based on such unworthiness that all my actions to do better and be better actually drained me. I became a martyr.
By this time, I had read countless books with great ideas on how to be better, but nothing was sticking. I couldn’t do the work to get myself out of my mess because I didn’t know how to become worthy of coming out of it. It wasn’t until my mom sent me a copy of the movie, The Secret that things would start to turn around. Keep in mind, I said “start”.
After watching The Secret, I made the realization that I needed to find a spiritual connection again. At the time, I was pretty angry with God. Just like many people in my predicament, it was much easier for me to point my finger outward than fix the real problem, me. Within a couple days of watching the movie, I was outside playing with my kids. They spotted a neighbor and her daughter. We had never seen them before. We walked down our long driveway to greet them. It was instant! The woman and I started talking, and it was like we had been friends our whole lives. A short time later, we met for dinner and talked about starting a spiritual group. We actually did it! We had a couple people come and go, but the core group was three women. We were exactly what each other needed. A ripple effect started happening in my life. I kept meeting more amazing women. I finally started to feel better and the blessing started coming. I found AL-ANON and a job that I loved. As I was transitioning to the person I wanted to be, my relationship with my husband started to break down to the point of no repair. Our dynamic was based on me being a shell of a person. He didn’t know what to do with the person I was becoming, and I no longer wanted to live surrounded by anger and chaos. We outgrew each other. He would say that I was being “brainwashed”. I have to say, I was and boy did my brain need it. My belief systems were suffocating me. I truly felt alive!
Years ago, I had heard that you aren’t ready to walk away from a marriage until you can walk away without anger. I can’t remember where I heard it, but it always stuck with me. When I finally left, I did it without anger, and I never looked back. I left the marriage with my two children and that’s it. We moved in with my mom and stepdad, so that I could go to school, and my kids (and I) could see what healthy relationships looked like. I started attending the PEL program at Eckerd College the very next semester. My life has been on an upward track ever since.
Hold on, that is not to say I haven’t had my share of lessons, but the benefit of studying Human Development is that I had access to a lot of great advice and observations through my next growth spurt (warning: you will hear this term a lot). About a year after I left my husband, I decided to dip my toe in the dating pool. This is where I learned a big lesson in not fixing my foundation before building a new house. When I went into this new, what I call non-relationship all I wanted was someone who didn’t drink. I didn’t focus on any other element of a healthy relationship and for now, we will just say that it was a crash and burn situation, but it was exactly what I needed to finally start to fix my foundation.
During one of my courses at Eckerd College, Dr. Anne Geroux literally opened my eyes wider than they have ever been opened before. She said, “You are as healthy or as sick as your partner.” WHAT!?!?! That was a game changer for me. My thought process went into hyperdrive. What does this mean? I have chosen a lot of really unhealthy partners. I have been with all kinds of addicts, emotionally unavailable, and lets just say sick individuals. How could I be as unhealthy as all of them? Screw this! I fought the urge to rationalize and blame her for my choices. Instead, I chose to completely jump in and fix my foundation!
For the next year, I worked my ass off fixing my core belief systems. I mean every day reading, meditating, and writing it out. I was finally ready to do the work. With a combination of AL-ANON, audiobooks, school, and doing work every day to clear out my old garbage, I finally got to a place where my foundation was worthy of building a solid house on. For the first time in my life, I have a sense of peace inside me. This doesn’t mean that the old patterns and thought processes don’t sneak back in from time to time, but they are manageable. I am aware of when they are there, when I am being triggered, and best of all, I have the tools to do something about it.
Today, my life is very different. This is what I have learned from my experience so far: If the foundation is not built on solid ground, it doesn’t matter how great the house looks. The walls will crumble and it will all fall a part. The more I thought about it, the more I saw that the foundation of fear was not stable. It created many problems in every situation big and small. I have watched it destroy so many peoples lives. However, the foundation of love builds amazing things, and when the core comes from a place of love, the message is clear and our eyes are opened to a better way to live. We are all humans, we are driven by love or fear at different periods of our lives. My hope is that I choose loving action before jumping into fear mode. Fear itself is not per se a bad thing. We will all have fears, it is a part of being human. The problem is when fear becomes our core. I see it as the difference between doing the right thing because of the fear of God (or a person, place or thing) or doing the right thing because of the actions of Jesus (or any other loving human being) inspire us to live a life more like them. I choose to live inspired by people who act from a loving place. Welcome to my journey…
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I hope you come on this journey with me; the best is yet to come!
Photo credit: Rachael Wolff
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