For nearly two decades I worked towards what I thought was the pinnacle of my career: a coveted senior level position at a major movie studio. I did everything we’re supposed to do. I got my MBA, that first ‘foot in the door’ job at Disney, worked my ass off, was steadily promoted and finally made it to Senior Vice President. I’m not saying all of this to be bragging. This ‘picture perfect’ career was beyond stressful and was literally killing me (we’ll get to that later). So last year I left. And since then, I’ve been on an incredible journey of healing and insight, reaping unexpected life lessons.
It takes time to ‘turn off’ our patterns, physical and mental ones.
It was a tough transition to stop habits grown over decades. I was conditioned to check my emails constantly, brace myself for long days of meetings, and worry about what my boss was thinking. What do I do with this quiet and space? I felt unanchored and purposeless for weeks. But slowly, I relaxed into and then relished the gift of unscheduled days. Time with limited commitments allows for clear thinking and wandering thoughts. Our imagination and daydreaming can reconnect us to passions our overloaded brains have to suppress.
I don’t need much to be happy.
I discovered that it’s the non-material things that bring me joy: gardening, reading, music, exercising, my dog, spending time with friends. I didn’t have time for these pleasures when I was working and they don’t cost much money either!
I remember a conversation with my dad, who was a very successful, workaholic attorney, during which he described his ideal retirement. He imagined spending his days reading good books, drinking coffee and petting his dog. This is a good snapshot of how I’ve spent this time off. He was on to something great!
I can live comfortably on a lot less.
Now I have time to do things that previously I outsourced. I cook instead of ordering out every night. I used to despise cooking (an epic fail to my mother), but now it’s a fun challenge to meal plan. I relish knowing what is going into my food and controlling how healthy it is. It’s cheaper than a restaurant and when it tastes good, too, that’s a win!
And, I’m not buying unnecessary clothes, makeup or tchotchkes for a short term endorphin boost. I have down time to decompress, so I don’t need to relieve stress with shopping. I’ve learned to ‘shop my closet,’ realizing that I have plenty of basics for a “capsule wardrobe”. I’m wearing and enjoying items I forgot I owned.
I can heal myself (and my dog).
Without health, we cannot do much of anything. The main reason I left my job was because I was so stressed and run down that I contracted MRSA (fancy name: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). It’s an antibiotic resistant staph infection that can become deadly quickly if it enters the bloodstream. It’s something that the elderly or those with long hospital stays acquire, not a healthy 46 year old. After a week in the hospital and six weeks of disability, I realized the blessing of this scary disruption. My job wasn’t bringing me joy. I needed to make a lifestyle change.
So I set out to become the healthiest I’ve ever been.
- I did a three month cleanse to restore my gut health. A lifetime of illnesses and antibiotics had wiped out most of my good bacteria, which are the important foot soldiers of strong immunity.
- I quit drinking Diet Coke. I’ve been an addict since my teens, even sneaking it into school classes. Diet Coke contains aspartame, which is made up of aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol. Each of these chemicals can cause tremendous damage to our bodies, including serious chronic illnesses. Aspartame accounts for over 75% of adverse reactions to food additives reported to the FDA, and is listed in Prescription for Nutritional Healing under the category of “chemical poison” (https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/11/06/aspartame-most-dangerous-substance-added-to-food.aspx). This is not something I want in my body.
- I got off sleeping pills. I needed Ambien every night to take the edge off of stressful days and counteract the caffeine from 4+ daily Diet Cokes.
- I modified my diet. This one materialized in a humorous way. My elderly dog has arthritis so my vet suggested putting her on an Eastern medicine diet to reduce inflammation. I started cooking for her and saw significant results, so I adopted her meal plan, choosing anti-inflammatory foods from her approved list. So you could say eating ‘dog food’ has healed me.
I’ve learned the power of my mind.
This is a big one and so simple. Thanks to a dear friend, I met a wonderful meditation guru who exudes encouraging healing energy. She taught me how to still my mind, which has led to invaluable discoveries.
I’m still on this journey of awareness, so I’ll share one substantial lesson. Quiet reveals our intuition. And our intuition is always the truth. With busyness as society’s new status symbol, it’s nearly impossible to have time to slow our thoughts and just be. We can get there in many ways: meditation, time in nature, listening to music, yoga. Nevertheless, it’s critical. It calms anxiety and lets creativity and innate knowledge come to the surface. It reveals our path if we listen to it.