The soft sounds of a beautiful poolside waterfall have been caressing my soul this week. I am beginning to awaken my spirit with new strength, courage, bravery, curiosity, and inner peace. This entire week has been spent in deep reflection surrounded by amazing women who have earned the right to hear my story. I am grateful to the women who are on a very short list of trusted lifetime friends who continue to stand beside me while I walk this journey. I have been gifted the opportunity of time this summer to travel across the United States providing a healing space of personal solitude, along with many treasured moments with these extraordinary women. As I carry on in the process of providing space to myself to celebrate each day as it unfolds, I have experienced many awaking moments of extreme peace and joy. One of the intentions for myself during this summer trip was to slow down and allow stillness in a moment to surface and smile from within the heart with gratitude. It has been so fun to have already made multiple changes in direction and destination along the trip. I find it fascinating as I continue to be amazed at what life is naturally revealing to me through this process. Quiet time along this journey has given me the silence to dig deep and answer my own questions within myself. Spending the majority of my life continually chasing and planning the next triumph with the belief of achieving more in life would bring wholehearted living that is fulfilled and complete. I am beginning to better understand how my upbringing definitely programmed my frame of reference for this type of thinking. I am grateful for the many positive character traits that I learned from my parents including a very hard work ethic, respect for other people’s property, and a loving appreciation for water. As I process through the many struggles and a broken heart I continue to be kind and gentle on myself. I consider the impact of too many facets being juggled over the past 3½ years that resulted in my emotional unraveling. Then again I find myself rumbling through the processing of what I imagined would have, should have, and could have been. I do not feel bitterness about the accident or any hardships endured, as I take these lessons along side me as a gentle guiding path for the future. I truly believe that the bravest most courageous decision that I have ever had to make was walking away from my 17-year relationship with Susan. The pain of formally divorcing someone you loved so deeply is intense as the heart pulls your mind into 1000 pieces. However for me the option of staying any longer because of worry about what people would think was far more destructive and harmful to my soul, spirit, emotional health, and physical self. There were no options on the table for me other than to save my own life. I conclusively drew a final line in the sand on December 29, 2017 and said, “Deb get brave! You have done all you can do here. It is time to get off the floor and save yourself, as if you don’t you will die. You cannot fix Sue and she will have to figure out if she wants to be in this life or not. Stop trying to repair other people and go fix yourself.”
Many years ago my dear friend Beth W had given me this beautiful picture of a coffee mug that was flowing with bright colors and cream rainbows of froth. This picture hung in my bathroom facing the mirror I used to get ready for work everyday. For me the coffee mug provided a visual illustration to help me establish my intentions each morning while preparing for school. Beth told me many times over the years, “Deb you can’t allow your cup to become empty or you will not be able to spread your abundance into the world for others.” On December 29, 2017 I stood in the bathroom, looked in the mirror and could no longer see the colors or the froth in the painting behind me. I will never forget the sensation and presence I had at that critical moment. Once I no longer could see the fabulous picture behind me in the mirror I had to make the decision that I feared the most. In a moment of complete despair a higher power spoke to me and provided an unbelievable message of strength and courage that swept through my consciousness. I said to myself, “Deb you have to let go of things that are completely out of your control. You cannot fix this one; it’s not your job. Let go of the control.”
For me this process will continue to evolve as I lean into the discomfort of unplanned lessons life has challenged me to walk. There were many opportunities over the past 3½ years that I wanted to throw in the towel and give up, but I continued to believe things would get better. For many years I thought I could fix Susan’s broken spirit and she would try to meet me half way. The wheelchair was not that big of an issue for me and I did my best to embrace life from a different perspective. The lesson for me is that you can’t fix other people and you certainly can’t make them do anything without resentment. I have rumbled the circumstances over in my head hundreds of times and I am at peace with myself in this process. My daily meditation is to appreciate how these agonizing life lessons serve a purpose for the path that I am walking now and into tomorrow.
Life has recently been offering some rewarding revelations of enlightenment into my soul. One such event has been happening over the past few nights with my sweet friends Beth and Janet. My Way epiphany began as we were all sitting at an outdoor café a few nights ago enjoying a delightful glass of wine. Our conversation revolved around the strong women on the island at the beginning of the just released movie, Wonder Women. I mentioned to Beth and Janet that I loved the beginning scenes in the movie and how they showcased the strength of woman and how they supported each other on the island.
As we continued to debrief the movie I said to Janet, “You know we should all walk the “El Camino de Santiago,” together next summer. Janet who has wanted to do this pilgrimage hike for years said, “You know what Deb, I was planning to do just that for my birthday in April.” Beth chimed in, “She’s already bought all the gear and it is sitting in the closet at home.” Janet immediately perked up in her chair and said, “Oh yes I am ready! I went to REI last year and spent $1000 on everything needed and the staff at REI already fitted me perfectly for my backpack.” The excitement in our conversation started with the significance of strong women supporting each other and ended up with a tentative date in early June 2018 to meet in New York and fly to Paris. We will spend 3-4 days in Paris and then travel to Spain and walk with one another for the 5-week pilgrimage. The significance for me to walk this journey across Spain is yet another metaphor in my life. When one door closes another door is awaiting your arrival, but only if you are brave enough to walk through the door. Life sometimes appears safer and easier to stay stuck behind the door for fear of the unknown. Janet and Beth both have their personal intention of WHY they want to trek across Spain next summer, as do I. For me personally, my WHY was defined when my spirit spoke to me in December and said, “Walk forward and towards a happier more joyful light.”
My journey will continue to be filled with deep personal work on myself while redefining my purpose and passion in life. I find this stage of the process difficult as it takes my constant attention to stay present in the daily process. I am allowing myself to feel scared, nervous at times, uncomfortable, vulnerable, yet feel the freedom into a new life of peace and joy. There were many dark moments in December of 2017 when I felt beyond helpless, and truly believed that I had no possibility of a better tomorrow. I had completely lost my faith that my life would be anything different than in those dark moments of agonizing suffering in mental and emotional fatigue. Being the primary caretaker for Susan for 3 ½ years was at times harder than running a marathon everyday for your entire life. The emotional and mental struggle for me had become unbearable. Speaking only from my perspective and personal experience the emotional scares are the ones that go unnoticed from an outsiders vantage point. I have read the descriptions of men and women who have come home from the war with PSTD. I am in no way comparing the circumstance that I endured with the brave warriors who defend our country. The feelings that I would frequently find myself in were disinterest in any type of pleasure, guilt of Susan’s accident, loneliness, emotional detachment from Susan and our friends, irritability, anxiety of loss of control for anything in the future. More disturbing to me towards the end of our relationship were the many red flags of my destructive behavior to myself, such as drinking every night, thoughts of suicide, and a general disregard for my health. I actually got to a place where thoughts of suicide were easier to accept than living in the emotional and mental hell I felt trapped in. There are no words to express how difficult it would have been for an outsider to have truly known or understood the anguish I was in on a day-to-day basis. From the outside vantage point I was still a high performing teacher doing amazing programming for kids during the day. Yet after 4:00pm I was an extremely depressed and a very lonely person desperately trying to just put one foot in front of the other to survive to the next bell. Our friends were lost for words and truly did not know how to help Susan and I anymore. In fact, I know many friends had honestly backed away from Susan and I over the last year, as our relationship was so rocky and almost toxic to be around us. I honestly tried everything I could imagine over the past 2 years to ease my suffering. I worked out at Planet Fitness 5-6 days a week for over two years. I changed jobs within my school district to isolate myself more from my friends and colleagues. My emotional baggage was so over the top and I even stopped talking to other adults. It was easier for me to do my job all by myself in the gym, rather than plan and collaborate with my colleagues. Last school year I just stayed in my office late at night and went into hyper vigilant grant writing mode. I figured that if I could pour my emotional energy into writing some big grant money for my school that I would feel better about my life. I am proud and very humbled that I did land some nice grant money and amazing gear for my PE kids. Regardless of me, this equipment will enrich their lives by learning how to enjoy numerous new outdoor recreation venues at Rogers New Tech High School @ #rnthspe. The most powerful and life saving event that turned my life around was joining NWA Hot Yoga in January 2018 with the incredible owner and dear friend Scott Pitts. Yoga saved my life!
As I continue to reflect upon my experiences over the past few days I am struck with several epiphanies and insights into myself. One of the first things that I am realizing is how much I truly enjoy spending time by myself doing new things. I love getting up in the morning and doing my own thing throughout the day. It has been a long time since I felt this type of liberation in my soul and I am embracing the experience each day. The feelings of loneliness that often rise within my heart are real, but a healthy reminder to me that healing and new perspectives are processing in my life.
For me my life had become fixated into a tunnel vision and I had lost my ability to see perspective into my situation. Last week while I was in Page, AZ paddling Lake Powell I had the unique opportunity to experience life from 2 different perspectives. The first 100 miles on the lake were from 4” off the water looking straight up a 300’ canyon wall. The 2nd vantage point was from 10,000 feet skydiving over the vastness of Lake Powell. The purpose for me doing these 2 completely different experiences was to gain a new vantage point and perception in my life. When paddling my kayak through the intensely rough waters on Lake Powell, I had no choice in the matter other than paddle like hell to save my ass. The waves represented the extremely difficult times in my life and how I continued fighting forward trying to keep my snorkel about the waterline.
Whereas jumping out of an airplane at 10,000 feet brings new life into the words, “let go of the control.” The feeling of completely letting go and releasing the fear of falling towards the earth brings a fresh perspective into my awareness. When I exited the door out of the airplane there were a few seconds of very little orientation as to what is up and what is down. Suddenly as you stabilize your decent and begin to fly like an eagle there was an incredible perspective and paradigm shift that became very clear to me. My life will always have new challenges, struggles, hardships, painful losses, and many unanswered questions, yet I am incredibly curious, optimistic, and hopeful that the best years of my life are right around the corner. Last week I was strong enough to paddle 100 plus miles through the Lake Powell Titanic waves and survive the plummet towards earth from 10,000 feet at 150mph.
There is a sweet vantage point when you can look up at the sky from 4” off the water one day and dive toward the earth the next. For me both views were beautiful and provided spectacular scenery. These experiences are helping change my vantage point of life, whether in a kayak, an airplane, or my yoga mat. It is imperative to maintain a positive angle of attack, and push hard to the edge to enhance the overall view that might just challenging your original perspective through a new lens.
May the Journey Begin Within You