Dark Days Do Lead To Brighter Ones

“The only thing standing between you and your goal is the bullshit story you keep telling yourself as to why you can’t achieve it.”Jordan Belfort

This time of year always puts me in a reflective mood. I’m not sure if it’s the change of the seasons, leafless trees, cloudy skies and, every time I look out my window, mentally preparing for at least four months of snow, cold and days hunkered indoors. Perhaps it’s the lack of daylight, and even sparser sunlight – the joys of the lake effect in winter. Or maybe it has something to do with the fact my late ex-husband died right before Christmas at far too young of an age, and every year when the anniversary of his death rolls around, I have a twinge of regret. We hadn’t been together for years, or in touch, but one always wonders if reaching out to a person in emotional distress might have made a difference. It also doesn’t help that the day of his funeral, which I couldn’t attend due to living out of state and no vacation time, I found out the dog we had together and I took care of for 10 years was dying and had two weeks to live.

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Make no mistake: The Universe connects us in mysterious ways. It also sends us signals about what is working and not working in our life.

Four years ago at this time, the only career I had ever known – one that many would perceive as prestigious, one that had landed me in West Michigan, one that provided a steady paycheck doing something I loved – also was coming to an end. I never entered or stayed in the newspaper profession to feed my ego. It was more out of a sense of passion and purpose and the opportunity to make a difference. But, after 11 years, it had taken its emotional toll.

Super unhappy at the time, I indulged in self-destructive behaviors as a way to cope for several months leading up to being laid off. Due to a series of circumstances that had been building for a few years, work had started to suck the life out of me. Literally. I was sick, stressed, negative, and generally not myself. I struggled to drag myself out of bed in the mornings to go to work. I started doing things that weren’t in my character because I felt hopeless and helpless to change my circumstances. When you are a single woman who has to support yourself, when you live four hours away from your family, when you feel like you don’t have many options, life can become very overwhelming and exhausting.

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It got so bad I took leave for two weeks so I could regroup and figure out my next move. I knew layoffs were coming, and I willingly volunteered to be the first in the newsroom to get pink slipped. People thought I was crazy at the time. Luckily, I didn’t have kids, a mortgage or other big bills to worry about. I also knew it was that or quit, swallow my pride and move back with one of my parents before I lost my mind.

I also remember praying. Really praying. It’s one of the few times in my life I’ve gotten down on my knees and pleaded, asking God or some Higher Power to deliver me from my job and change the course of my life. I remember crying and hibernating and trying my damnedst to trust that the Universe had a plan – that it would all work in due time. And I did have a plan post-layoff. Take some time to rest and heal. Qualify for unemployment and the No Worker Left Behind program and go to graduate school. It worked out for the most part, in many regards better than I could have expected – other than I have yet to land that amazing full-time job I thought would be so easy with a master’s degree. I never expected the economy would be this slow to recover; it would come down to who you know, not what you know; that there would be age discrimination at age 37; or so many people afraid to hire someone because they perceive them as a threat to their job.

But, just like I did four years ago, I have to trust that it all unfolds in divine order. I am grateful I have learned to make hard decisions, listen to my inner wisdom and stay true to myself. Maybe another corporate, high-stress job is not in the cards for me – at least not right now. I talked to a woman recently who retold a similar experience. She was a successful divorce attorney, but she was miserable and found herself $50,000 in debt even with a good income. She started taking trips to Sedona, Arizona, to work with spiritual guides and practitioners.

During those sessions, the answer kept coming back that she needed to quit her law practice or she was going to die of cancer like her mother. She didn’t know how her life was going to unfold, but she trusted the Universe to make it happen. Now, a decade later, she runs a successful business in Sedona that plans customized spiritual retreats for people. She told me that we will never be shown everything, just bits and pieces. But if you honor what you are being shown and pay attention to what the Universe is trying to tell you – and act on it – the right path will continue to be revealed.

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Although that period four years ago – I was off work this very week if we go by calendar date – was dark and painful, I consider it one of the defining times of my life. It’s not been a cake walk in the four years since. My life is definitely not perfect and not entirely what I thought it would be. Now $20,000 in debt with student loans, currently being deferred, I also qualify for financial assistance through the local hospital because my income is so low and I have no health insurance. I am still living in West Michigan – a place I planned to escape as soon as I graduated.

But I am so grateful I am facing my fear of failure and fear of the unknown. Maybe they were life lessons I needed to learn. Sure, there is some comfort in a steady paycheck and health insurance, even when the job is making you sick. Yet, I can attest there is a sense of calm and peace that comes from carving out your own career path, too. I cherish having freedom and flexibility, along with feeling passion and purpose. I am improving my organizational and time-management skills by planning ahead and meeting deadlines of my own accord. I can sleep late, work when I want, say yes or no to assignments. Even better, I don’t have a boss or office politics to deal with, no commute on snowy winter days, and am back to meeting interesting people, telling their stories and learning something new every day.

I also have a renewed sense of self-confidence because, yes, I am doing what I feel is my true calling. I don’t live in a big house or have a new car in the driveway, but I don’t live on credit, either. And I finally feel happy. Along with writing, another job I didn’t get led to becoming a certified Total Control Wellness instructor. Teaching women how to improve bladder control with exercise and lifestyle changes energizes and excites me every time I teach a new session. I have become passionate about researching and writing about women’s health issues around hormones, birth control and other taboo topics.

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Simple abundance means you realize your blessings don’t come from material things and you learn to be content with what you have – knowing it is more than enough. Whether you want to call it God, the Law of Attraction in action or connecting with your higher self, life is pretty good when you operate from a place of authenticity and honesty and trust the voice within.

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