This blog has been a helluva experience. Nearly 5,000 page views from 3,200 visitors in 2 and a half months, with some fascinating and touching feedback from readers. Anyone who has read some of these posts knows this story is not just my own. My lovely bride, Stephani, has her a part, and her own voice.
This is her first guest post. She has some cool and compelling things to say. This one is her version of my “What the Hell Happened to Me?” post. It comes on the 2nd anniversary of her grandfather’s passing; an event which had a huge impact on us as individuals and as a couple.
Several readers reacted with vocal enthusiasm when I mentioned Stephani would be guest writing here. She writes with her heart on her sleeve, and without reservation. It might be jarring to some people, but it will have an impact. I know because I see the amazing impact she’s had on people in the rest of her life now, which is both awesome and inspiring.
I hope you enjoy it.
June 26th, 2013, I snapped.
I found myself sitting on a park bench down by the river, smoking a cigarette (a habit I had given up years earlier), contemplating jumping in the river, damn well knowing that I couldn’t swim.
*Gasp* oh my goodness. Am I actually saying I was suicidal?
The answer to that is…yes. Painfully, honestly. Yes.
I hated my life. Hated it. I was in a job I hated. Actually, I had hated the career path I had chosen. My marriage was in shambles. I was miserable in my own skin; I was devoid of hope and couldn’t remember the last time I was actually happy. Or even moderately comfortable. I was just miserable, and had been for as long as I could remember.
The final straw that lead me to that place on the park bench at the river was the failing health of my beloved grandpa; he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer earlier that month, and the weeks leading up to that were absolute hell. I was juggling a hellish work schedule, my failing marriage, kids, etc. I was also navigating hospitals, nursing care facilities, emergency rooms, and my own shattered heart. My grandpa was my world, and my closest family member. Losing him was unfathomable.
Every day after his diagnosis, I woke up and wondered how I was going to manage it all. Every night I went to bed, I prayed I just wouldn’t wake up.
I was so tired of faking it; the life I had created was based on the expectations of what I thought everyone else wanted me to be, not what I actually wanted for myself. I had no idea who I was, why I was doing what I was doing, or why I was even here. Most of my life up to that point had just been me struggling to convince everyone I was “normal,” even though things were just a mess.
Here’s the kicker: on the outside to everyone else, I appeared to have an ideal life:
- Good job.
- Nice husband.
- Two beautiful, smart kids that went to private school.
- A condo, two cars in the garage, etc.
But it was a fraud. Things sucked. Everyone was suffering due to lack of authenticity, poor life skills, generational dysfunction, and spiritual brokenness.
At that moment in time, on that park bench, I knew I had 3 options:
- Stop being a coward and jump.
- Pick up a drink and drink myself to death (another nasty habit I had given up almost 7 years prior).
- Change everything.
I don’t know what happened. Maybe it was God, maybe it was self will…maybe it doesn’t matter. I snuffed out the cigarette, and I chose option 3.
I chose to change my life.
I walked into my bosses office the next day and I put in my notice. With absolutely no idea what I was going to do. And I just didn’t give a shit. My other option was to die, so this seemed pretty reasonable.
On July 14th, 2013, at 10:58 p.m., I held my grandpa’s hand as he took his last breath on Earth.
Something about that event shifted EVERYTHING (see Eric’s post “What the hell happened to me?” for more details). Watching him die made me realize that I have one shot at this life, and I better stop fucking around and wasting it. My grandpa had worked hard his whole life, and had some stuff to show for it. However, his last days, he spent his time telling stories about his life, his adventures, and his regrets. There were some things he didn’t do right, and he knew it; he spent too much time working, and not enough time with his family. He didn’t adventure enough. He didn’t take enough risks, and love fully with his heart wide open. I watched him regret these things, and it was heartbreaking.
The material possessions, the house, the job, the cars….none of it mattered. When he died, we gave away, threw away and sold 85 years worth of stuff.
Love, connection, experiences. That’s what mattered.
Losing him was the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced. The last of my already broken heart had been shattered.
The beauty in something that is totally shattered is this; it can’t be repaired. It has to be remade.
And that’s what happened. My heart was made anew that day. My life began the day it ended.
My irreparable relationship with my husband was remade. I burned my bridges with my old career and made a new (and amazing) one.
We got rid of all of our stuff. We sold our condo. We hated that place anyways. We started over.
Our entire life was made anew. Including how we live it. I started doing what my grandpa regretted not doing in his last days; I started loving with my heart wide fucking open.
These are some other things I do differently today vs. two years ago:
- I no longer do things that don’t serve me.
- I say no to people A LOT.
- I no longer spend time with people who are toxic, judgmental, and don’t love me for exactly who I am.
- I say what’s on my mind.
- I embrace my authenticity and never, ever fake it.
But here’s the biggest change: I stopped giving a shit what other people think of me.
This has not been easy.
The past two years have been awesome, but hard at the same time.
Shifting the way we have shifted doesn’t come without pitfalls.
When your energy shifts, sometimes it no longer gels with the people in your life. I have lost a TON of so called “friends” over the past 2 years that just couldn’t understand what was happening to me.
Some people think I’m stupid for living my life so off the beam, for giving up my career, my home, my so-called “stability.” Some people think I’m a fake bitch. Some people think I’m just flat crazy.
Many people dislike my live-out-loud, fuck-what-other-people-think approach to life. It makes people really, really uncomfortable.
And they have told me so. And told me to hit the road. Conversely, I’ve told a few people to hit the road; you don’t support me? Don’t let the door hit ya on the way out. I spent most of my life without an authentic voice, and engaging with people just because I thought I had to…no matter how poorly they treated me.
There is so much truth in the saying, “You accept the love you think you deserve.”
This is where the whole “not giving a shit” thing comes in. I do NOT care what others think of me anymore. I will not, cannot, and flat refuse to surround myself with people who are toxic, unkind, and unsupportive. I can’t. That shit almost killed me, remember?
Losing these relationships is actually a blessing. The people that have left my life have been replaced by a new tribe of amazing people.
Today my life is rad. And it’s mine. It’s the life I tried to manufacture before but could never get quite right, because it wasn’t coming from a place of authenticity.
I’m done living my life to please other people. And hopefully you’re reading this, you are too. Fuck that. Seriously. One life. One shot. No regrets, no excuses.
Change is scary. But you know what is worse? Regret.
That fateful day two years ago, I had three options. But the beauty in that, is that there WERE options, There are always options. There’s always hope. There’s always Option 3.
You can, in one moment, in one decision, change everything. Just be willing to love with your heart. Wide. Fucking. Open.
I did. You can too.