I had a dream recently that I was back in college. Only it wasn’t the college I went to and I was, well, someone I didn’t recognize. You know how dreams are.
In the dream I was unhappy, insecure. I was overweight and was not very pretty. I became friends with my roommate, which made me very happy. She introduced me to a guy (a man, really…he was 42) and we started dating. We double dated a lot with my roommate, and one weekend the four of us went out of town together.
I remember sitting in the car while the three of them went into a store. It was raining hard. The guy I was dating came out to the car and I noticed that he seemed upset. When I asked him what was wrong, he said there was something he wanted to buy but didn’t have enough money.
I reached into my wallet and gave him everything I had. I think it was about $40. He went back into the store and several minutes later he, my roommate and her boyfriend came out of the store, hopped into a taxi and drove off, leaving me by myself. They did not return.
I woke up. But that’s not where the story ended.
I remember consciously thinking uh-uh. No way. That’s not how her (my?) story ends. I am going to go back to sleep and give her (me) a happy ending. And so I did.
In the dream that followed I was pissed. Royally pissed. At the guy, my roommate. Life. But mostly, myself. I used my rage as fuel to change my life. I wrote a book, which became a best seller. And I was elected class valedictorian for my graduating class.
As I gave my commencement speech, which was about overcoming obstacles and becoming the people we were meant to be, I remember looking out at the audience and seeing not only my roommate, but the guy who left me in the rain.
I was proud of who I’d become. And grateful for the challenges I’d had to overcome to get to where I was.
And then I woke up. For real this time. And I knew. This was not a dream. This was my story.
I had become the hero in my own journey. In the dream, yes. But also in real life.
My husband once told me that I am the most introspective person he’s ever known. It was the best compliment he could’ve given me (though I’m not certain he meant it as one!). It’s true. I am. I’ve spent my entire adult life working on becoming a better person. Becoming whole. Becoming who I was meant to be.
The only problem was, I had no idea who that person was. And so it took me a while to get there (here).
I had to overcome a lonely childhood, which is strange when you think that I grew up with seven sisters, but it was. I had low self-esteem, gained and lost the same twenty pounds more times than I can count, and had one failed relationship after another (until my mother worked her magic from heaven and sent me my wonderful husband of fifteen years). I went to college and became a CPA (don’t be jealous!), but still never felt smart enough.
Intuitively, I knew that life was not supposed to be like this. That I was not supposed to look at myself and life in general as an obstacle to be overcome or worse, endured. Or to live for that moment in the future, when (fill in the blank) happened, and I could finally be happy. I knew that life was now. This moment. Regardless of my personal circumstances.
I just didn’t know how to get there.
And so I began to read. I read The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck. I read Thomas Moore, Joseph Campbell, Marianne Williamson, Deepak Chopra, Ram Dass, Jon Kabat-Zin, Andrew Weil. And later, Eckhart Tolle, Wayne Dyer, Brian Weiss, Elizabeth Lesser, Thich Nhat Hahn and many others. I read everything I could get my hands on.
And things got better. I got better. I started to like myself. I took back my power and I stopped caring what others thought about me (part of that was turning 40, then turning 50, at which point you really do stop giving a sh%& about what others think).
But something was still missing. I was happy. I really was. I just wasn’t…fulfilled.
And then, when a serious injury sidelined my (very amateur) endurance athletic career, my body and my mind began to quiet down.
And that’s when life started unfolding. On its own terms, not mine.
I wrote my first novel in 2010. That’s when I discovered my life’s purpose. And my life became filled with a zest for life that I never knew existed. But it wasn’t until a medical crisis struck in March of this year (on my 55th birthday) that I experienced a profound and permanent shift in how I view not only myself and my life but the world around me. Here are a few of the things I’ve come to realize:
- Everything in life is energy. You are. The chair you’re sitting on is. In fact, the entire universe is energy. And that energy can heal you. Whatever your problem is, if you tune into the positive energy of the universe, you will be healed. I know because, after suffering for more than forty years with a heart condition that eventually incapacitated me, I was cured. All I had to do was open my heart and let that energy in (which first required me to stop folding my arms so tightly across my chest all the time—keeping the healing energy out and the negative energy in).
- I learned to think and speak in positive affirmations. When the negative thoughts come (and they do), I stop myself in mid-thought and think or say something positive about the person or situation that was bothering me.For example, I recently finished writing book 2 in my series, The Other Side of the World, and all I could think was, “it’s not as good as book 1…what if readers hate it? Oh God, it’s cr—“ I stopped the thought mid-stream and said (out loud), “I Am an amazing and talented author and people love my books.”
- You get what you think about, whether you want it or not. I spent forty years living in fear that my heart problems would come back, and the universe never let me down. Instead of saying, “My heart is strong and healthy. All is well,” I said, “Please God, don’t let me have any more heart problems.” It’s something to ponder the next time you’re struck with a negative thought.
We all have our own, unique journey, and none of us is (or ever will be) perfect. Some of us are stuck at dead-ends (been there!), some of us have taken more forks in the road than others (*raises right hand*), but eventually, when we’ve suffered enough, we can find the way out. The path to freedom, a way to claim our joy.
What about you? Have you become the hero in your journey? What paths have you taken to get there? If you’re not quite there yet, what positive steps have you taken toward that path?