It began with an internal knowing. A belief that I could. A refusal to settle. A dogged determination to figure out my purpose. And an audacious belief that I could create the life — any life — I desired. The process was slow and arduous. It demanded more introspection and soul searching than I’ve ever done or been willing to do.
It slowly took shape in my head. In the pages of my journal. In circle graphs and sketches and inspired moments running through the woods. Always when I was quiet, reflective and without judgement. When I had it figured out, I knew I had found my life’s work. My soul knew. With every fiber of my being, I knew.
I’ll never forget the first time I shared my plans. Outside of my insanely supportive husband, no one else knew of my intentions. We were at brunch with family who were visiting from out of town and someone asked me what I was going to do. I nervously and tenuously starting articulating my vision, verbalizing most of it out loud for the first time.
I’m building an online library of true stories to give hope, healing and inspiration to others; together with workshops and a giving fund for one-to-one giving to help those who are going through the types of things I write about.
I was met with nods that could only be described as confused ambivalence, until someone felt compelled to ask the pointed question: “Can you afford to do that?”
The words came out automatically: “I can’t afford not to.”
My abrupt answer surprised even me. Until I found the quote above by Anaïs Nin and realized yes, this is exactly how it feels.
It’s been two years now and my life is radically transforming all around me. I can honestly say that I had completely underestimated my ability to create the life I’ve always wanted. In my younger years I had no idea what it meant to follow your calling; to do the work you came here to do; to be the person you came here to be. To live your truth.
In a sense I was operating from the vantage point of ignorance is bliss. I didn’t look up, I didn’t look down, and most significant, I didn’t look within. I just meandered along and did what was expected.
This transformation has been an intentional quest. I’ve had many teachers and guides along the way, preparing me, stretching me way beyond my comfort zone and at times, utterly shocking me. Like: Are you kidding me?
Now I understand what it means to let go of ego and let your inner wisdom; your intuition; your higher-self guide you. It is a lesson that arrived in its perfect time: When I was most receptive and able to put new tools to use.
It has not been a smooth ride. There were times I went kicking and screaming in a pitiful version of an adult tantrum, resisting and refusing until I was exhausted. At which point I would retreat into the bath with a glass of something red. Tomorrow is another day, I would tell myself.
And the universe waited patiently.
Now that I have some traction; now that I have fully owned and stepped into my journey, watching the miracles unfold and visions manifest, I am equal parts awed and schooled.
Here’s what living your truth has taught me:
It takes trust.
There are times when you have no idea where the path is going to lead and you have to be ok with that. Days when there may be only one thing you know for certain, and even when you look at that, there are big holes missing in your big picture. You may set out on a path, determined to do nothing but make massive progress when suddenly you are so fogged-in that all you can do is look at your feet and with absolute trepidation, shuffle the day away slowly.
If you are not good with uncertainty, or if you are still hung up on taking complete and utter control over it all, this is going to be one of your first big challenges. This journey is one in which you are led. You can plan. You can make lists. You can set goals — in fact, you should. But you cannot get lost in determining how it is all going to manifest. You have to trust. Learning to trust — in you, in the unknown, in your dream, in your vision — this takes everything you’ve got.
Fear is the enemy you sleep with.
It’s unavoidable. Fear, both conscious and unconscious, will set up residence in your mind. It will cause you to doubt. To toss and turn at night. To waste time. To stop believing altogether that it is possible for you to create the life you envision.
You need to shut down the voices who tell you that you can’t; you shouldn’t; you are crazy; it will never work. Sometimes this is your voice. Sometimes it is the voice of your friend, your sister, your mother or your partner. Sometimes this voice and these words were planted in you long ago and you didn’t even realize they took root.
Put down the fear and the doubt, push the ego aside (it likes to be in charge) and let go of expectation — yours and everyone else’s. This is where your power lies: within. You have to mentally block everyone and everything else out and get really quiet to hear that voice inside. The one who knows what you came here to be. Listen to it. Believe it.
“If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.” Thomas Edison
Courage takes on new meaning.
There’s a new feeling that I have had to get used to. It is, quite literally, one of the ways I gauge whether or not I am supposed to do something. I call it “nervous butterflies.” On my scale of one to ten, nervous butterflies lives in the middle. On either side of the spectrum lies the paralyzing: “There is no way I can do this,” and the false bravado of “I can do this!” Suffice it to say if anything makes me feels remotely uneasy, I immediately know that it is something I must do.
It’s not a comfortable feeling and that is precisely the point. To be comfortable means you are not stretching; you are not growing. You’ve become complacent. Avoiding something because you feel anxious will keep you from moving forward.
Learn to embrace the discomfort. Reinventing yourself — or perhaps better said, coming home to yourself — means that you are going to be showing people new parts of you. Exposing things about yourself that perhaps they never expected. You have to be vulnerable and real. You can’t hide behind a suit or a title or that famous person you work with. (That last one was just for me. Yup. This was me in my 20’s, 30’s and part of my 40’s.)
You have to stand alone. And the risk is that people may not like the new you. You have to be ok with that. You may lose some friends, but you will most certainly gain a whole new tribe that are vibrating at the same level you are; those who are attracted to you and will support you and cheer you on.
“It takes a lot of courage to grow up and become who you really are.” E.E. Cummings
A path with a heart.
I have reinvented myself a few times already. This time was unequivocally different from anything else I had experienced in my life. The work I was doing was not driven by my ego. It served a purpose beyond my wants and needs. The path I was creating had a heart, before I even knew there has long existed language and philosophy around the concept:
“Look at every path closely and deliberately. Does this path have heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use. Both paths lead nowhere; but one has a heart, the other doesn’t.
One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong; the other weakens you.
A path without heart is never enjoyable. You have to work hard even to take it. On the other hand, a path with heart is easy, it does not make you work at liking it.” Carlos Castañeda, The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge
Those who seek a joyful journey will most certainly eventually find it. You simply will not be able to turn away from the internal nudging. The whisper of it is time. It rises from within. It lives in your heart. In your unconscious. You will acknowledge your discontent and rather than numb it, pretend it doesn’t exist or put it off for a another day, you will accept it. You will make a commitment to yourself and be willing to do the internal work. Then you will take the first step and start to fish around in the murky waters of uncertainty.
Keep seeking until you find the answers within. Then have the courage to do whatever it takes; to become whoever it is you were meant to be; to live bravely in your truth.
So save this for future reference. When fear and doubt and insecurity are looming so large you don’t think you have what it takes. Use this to remind yourself that you may not have all the answers, you may not be certain where the path leads. But you will know when it is time to start. And that is all you need to know.
I’m Kerrie L. Cooper. Here’s my truth.
I’m a guide, an author and founder of kindred. We share true stories to give hope, healing and inspiration to others. We are building an online library that features stories of perseverance, courage, happy, survivor, sacrifice, hope and more. Anthologies about the things we face in the course of life that leave us feeling utterly alone. Our next anthology is “courage” and will feature the stories of the LBGTQ community to give encouragement to youth who are just figuring it all out.
We offer workshops + a blog where others can share their truth, learn to live their truth, and be less alone.
Our giving fund is comprised of merchandise profits + donations, and helps those individuals who are facing something unexpected: The gay son who is kicked out of his home and needs first and last month’s rent plus utilities; the single mom who needs airfare to be with her daughter who is ill; the family who needs a medical device for their son that isn’t covered through insurance. The types of events where a cash donation can make all the difference. One-to-one giving, just when it is needed most.
This is the heart of kindred. It’s my heart, too.
Thanks for reading. Means the world to me. Kindly, Kerrie [email protected]
Originally published at medium.com