Life was great. It was 2011 and after 14 years, I had the role I always wanted in the company, a condo on the beach and a new relationship. I was happy. It seemed as though I had everything I’d ever wanted, except the one thing that had continued to elude me — a thriving, financially sustainable private coaching practice.
Fast forward one year later when I began to make a series of life altering, catastrophic decisions. At the time, they appeared to be perfect, based on my ‘highest intentions’. First, I gave up my quiet, singular life for partnership and left my ocean-front Shangri-La to live in a more ‘sensible and affordable’ place, which just happened to belong to my partner. The second was to quit the best job I had ever had when integrity disagreements with my bosses arose.
I made the decision to devote my attention to growing a financially sustainable practice. I had money in the bank, numerous credentials, twelve years of practice, energy and passion to burn. How could I possibly fail?!
But Fail I did. I was ill-prepared for how hard it would actually be to start a business from scratch. Accounting required math skills I don’t have. Blogging and social media was not part of my world. The expense of paying for marketing, business coaching, branding, expos, events, accountants, and networking groups rapidly reduced my nest egg. Although my client roster wasn’t booming, those who came to me benefitted greatly and went on to have their optimal life while, ironically, mine was crumbling.
By the end of the year, I was out of cash, depressed beyond belief, and resigned to the fact that I needed to look for a J. O. B. I believed it would be easy to return to the work world because this had been true in my past. But I was wrong again and about to painfully learn the nuts and bolts of the “new career economy”. This economy views a fifty something, highly-educated, and credentialed woman as “unemployable.” I was frustrated, disappointed and terrified. My partner was becoming increasingly annoyed with my situation and, as I would come to later find out, had begun an affair in the midst of my dilemma.
In June, just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, it did when my partner said, “I don’t love you anymore and haven’t for a long time. You need to move out. I’m done with this relationship.” To say I was devastated would be an understatement. I pleaded to no avail. “Pack up your things and move out. I will stay elsewhere while you make other arrangements.” Just like that, I became another movie of the week. Reality TV had nothing on me!
Let’s summarize: no income, no home, no relationship, no money in the bank. I packed up everything I owned into containers and had them put into storage for an undetermined length of time while I figured out what to do and just how far I could go with my Visa card. I was gutted, ashamed. My confidence was shattered. I was a shadow of my former self. Wracked with a grief so deep, I couldn’t even begin to peel the layers of that onion.
So, I took off in my car with random clothing and necessary toiletries. I accepted the invitation to stay with friends and family. I drove from Florida to New Hampshire. Then to Kansas City and Minneapolis. After that, it was out west to Seattle and Whidbey Island, where I painted houses with my friend’s fiancé’. Yes, you read that right. Desperate times call for desperate measures and I was prepared to do anything to make a few dollars.
During one of the lowest and darkest days I would ever have in my life, while house and pet sitting for friends in West Seattle, I forced myself to go for a walk along the water to clear my head. There, I saw a homeless woman sleeping peacefully in the grass in the middle of the day. I stopped dead in my tracks and whispered, “Without my friends that would be me. I am hanging on by a piece of frayed dental floss.” It was then that I knew without any doubt how people could choose to end their lives as the only possible option. I was face down in the gravel. I was afraid I’d never come back.
All the while I was applying for jobs, putting on a face to the world that I was the most confident candidate out there and it was killing my soul. I withdrew from society and got quiet for a very long time. My friends were really worried. Wasn’t I the one they called when life was kicking them around? What the hell?
The rainy season came to the Pacific Northwest ending house painting. I got a consulting gig in Chicago. Do you know what it’s like to stay in the bedroom of someone’s adolescent daughter, a purple room with glowing star galaxies on the ceiling because you had nowhere else to go? Then winter set in. I had no winter clothes and had to go buy a coat that cost more than my car payment. It was windproof, had a furry hood, and was black which fit my current emotional state.
Finally, Divine intervention appeared. I was making a little money. I met some angels who offered me their vacated efficiency apartment and invited me into their family. I started to believe there was hope again. I got a call from a friend and former colleague telling me about a job that had opened up in Texas, who promised to make sure that my resume got in front of the director. I had a phone interview. They flew me to Houston. Christmas and New Year’s came and went amidst several blizzards where the snow blew sideways. On the only day I could safely drive out before the next blizzard hit, it was a balmy -25! It was so cold that my windshield fluid froze solid, despite anti-freeze, making it impossible to see out the window. I would have to stop periodically to manually scrape off the ice. Nothing would keep me from getting there! Not even the destroyed tire from hitting a gigantic pot hole on an exit ramp somewhere in East Tennessee in the dark. Mini Cooper tires are not in stock in Walmart. Kindness was abundant, witnessed by the hotel manager who volunteered to put on my spare tire in the cold and by the kind man at Walmart who told me where I could go to find a used tire that could get me to Houston.
After several more interviews and extensive background checks, I would get the job but it wouldn’t start until February 18th. Again, I would be saved by my beloved Aunt in Louisiana who would take me in for the month. Over the following three years I worked hard, landed on my feet, and paid off my terrifying survival credit card debt. Ironically, I would lose this job to “downsizing” shortly into my third year. The Universe clearly had other plans for me — I had a calling to answer, and answer I did.
I stand here today completely transparent and vulnerable, witness to the fact that life happens when you are making other plans. Bad shit happens to good people. We fall. We get back up. The only way we can survive this hell is with the love and support from people. Superwomen need to be held while their wings heal. Survival is gritty, dirty, painful, and humbling. You pick the gravel out of your eyes, lovingly hold the shattered pieces of your broken heart and accept, with great humility, the help from others — even strangers. You stand in your truth and fully express your story.
I know, I’ve been there. I intimately understand this dark place.
Thriving is what happens after survival.
There is beauty and strength in the struggle. You, too, can rise! It is the highest definition of power.
Originally published at medium.com