What the Hell Are You Doing In this World?

What the Hell Are You Doing In this World?

My lovely bride is a different person today than she was several years ago. Night and day different. You might know that from her first guest post.

Why is she night and day different? You really want to know?

Read this. It ‘s about the reason she’s alive. It’s about how she answered the question that is the title of this post. I hope it speaks to you like it speaks to me.

– Eric

Today is my 39th birthday.

I am a yoga teacher.

I am a personal trainer.

I am a wannabe Buddhist.

I am a passionate vegan.

Sober as FUCK.

AND I AM REALLY FUCKING HAPPY.

Why am I telling you this? Because it still amazes me that I’m even here, let alone that I’m in the space I am in today. My birthday is always a time of reflection for me, so I thought I would share with you a little bit of my journey BEFORE my big life transformation 2 years ago.

I distinctly remember a conversation I had with my mother when I was 14 years old; she was yelling at me (something she did quite often), and she was berating me about the condition of my life.

I don’t even remember what I had done to instigate the fight with my mother, but she said to me, “Stephani, what the hell are you going to do with your life? What are you going to be doing when you’re 30?”

To which I replied, “I don’t care. I’ll be dead by the time I’m 30.”

And I meant it. I had absolutely no intention of living past 30. As long as I can remember, I have always been… just maladjusted to life, for lack of a better term. I was always uncomfortable; I had crippling anxiety in social situations. I was a shy, awkward, introverted kid that had a hard time making friends.

My home environment was dysfunctional and unsafe. I lived in absolute chaos.

At 14, I was already on the fast track to nowhere. My future didn’t look too bright; I was a volatile, angry kid. My grades were awful, and I just didn’t give a shit about anything. During this time, I found the relief I had been looking for in a bottle of good old Boones Farm. From the first sip I ever took of alcohol, I knew it was the solution I had been looking for. My awkwardness went away. I stopped being so introverted.

I drank every single chance I got; my life quickly spiraled into alcohol, drugs, and a life that was quickly ensuring that I would get my wish-that I wouldn’t live to see my 30th birthday. I couldn’t picture any kind of life worth living, let alone one where I was “old.”

I could give you the gory details of the 16 years of my drinking…but I’ll spare you that pity party.

What I can tell you is this: in my drinking I had accidentally created the chaos in my own home that I fucking loathed from my own childhood. It sucked, and I was stuck.

So…Imagine my surprise on August 9th, 2006 when I woke up on my 30th birthday.

Shit. I was still alive.

And I had no idea why. Or how. Or what to do from there. I literally had done NOTHING with my life.

The next month was hell. I tried to drink myself to death during that time.  It didn’t work. I’m obtusely resilient, and I just wouldn’t die.

So on September 10th, 2006, I had my last drink. It was a shitty bottle of cheap white wine. On September 11th, 2006, I got sober.

Honestly? There just wasn’t anything else left to do.

I thought that was quitting drinking was going to fix things. Wrong. It actually got worse. And stayed worse for the first 7 years I was sober; the only difference between the drunk me and the sober me was that I no longer passed out, drove drunk, and slept on my bathroom floor.  I was crazy. I still wanted to die on a regular basis, but was just too chickenshit to pull the trigger.

My life didn’t get better, because I lacked the skills to do some serious self-reflection. I also needed to change my patterns of thinking about my life. I was stuck in my story, and I was wearing my trauma like a badge of honor.

I just couldn’t get free of my past.

So that’s how I lived. I lived stuck.

That is, until everything changed two years ago when I hit rock bottom.

And oh man, did it ever change.

Wait. What? A switch just flipped and everything changed? Just like that?

Yup, just like that.

So what changed? How did I go from a sick, miserable, dysfunctional kid/adult that wants to die…to the person I am today?

Well, that’s a big shift, wouldn’t you say? Yes, yes it is.

In my last blog post, I had a hard time explaining my transformation. I said, “Maybe it was god, maybe it was self-will, maybe it doesn’t matter.”

Or maybe it DOES matter.

I’ve actually been thinking about it quite a bit the past few weeks. And I think the answer is actually pretty simple.

I found a reason to live.

Now, when I say “I found a reason to live” I’m not talking about the obligatory stuff. I’m not talking about changing my life for my kids, my husband, my family. I had to want to change my life FOR ME.

I HAD to find the thing that lights my soul on fire. The thing I want to get up for in the morning. The thing that makes me understand why I’m here on this crazy fucking planet.

In “yoga speak,” this is also known as Dharma. I’ve found my life’s purpose.  All of those things I listed at the beginning of this post….the yogi, personal training, sober, vegan, Buddhist hippie nonsense.

Yup. That’s my Dharma. Helping people. Healing people. Inspiring people. Using what almost destroyed me to give hope to someone who is struggling.  I started doing yoga. I started working out and eating healthy. I started helping other people. I started writing. I started reading. I started learning. And my soul caught on FIRE.

See, when I was a kid, nobody was living their Dharma. As a kid, I learned that being an adult equates to being miserable. Nobody ever showed me a good example of what being a happy, functioning adult was. I don’t remember seeing an adult in my life express true, abiding joy, or talk about something that made their spirits light up.

No Dharma. Just survival. And chaos.

I guess nobody ever told them that this life is fucking beautiful, and that they could go out and help make this world a better place with the unique gifts that they possessed. Instead, this world, and it’s messages, snuffed out their fires. And then that was passed on to me.

Well gee. No fucking wonder I wanted to die before I turned 30.

I wanted to die because nobody showed me how to truly live.

But…that same resilience that wouldn’t let me die almost 9 years ago (and 2 years ago), is the same resilience that brought me to this place I’m at today. Out of sheer desperation for something different, I started taking action. I started reconstructing my patterns of thinking, and I stopped being a victim. I stopped wearing my past like a badge of honor.

I stopped living in my story, only when I started writing a new one. The hurt of my past dissipated when I started doing things that rewrote the script in my head that said I just wasn’t good enough. The script that said I was broken, and worthless, and there was nothing to look forward to.

Because I stopped being stuck and started moving forward with my life, I was able to halt the cycle of dysfunction that was bestowed upon me. I’m not sure why I was chosen to break the cycle, but holy shit, am I ever grateful.

I think we all at some point in our lives are presented with two options; an opportunity to live our Dharma, or to plod on to the bitter end. Most people, unfortunately, choose the latter.

When I found my Dharma, I greeted her like an old friend. I welcomed her with open arms. I stopped digging, and I started looking. And I started saying yes to the things that brought me joy. I’m writing a new story today.

If you are reading this, I want you to know it’s not too late. It’s never too late to start over, and find that thing that makes you come alive. If you’re miserable, please. Put down the shovel and stop digging. Instead of digging, start looking. Look for the thing that brings you true joy. And then go do it.

And I’m never turning back. My kids don’t ever have to see me struggle again. I get to show them how to really LIVE. Not just exist. They now know that they too, can do whatever they set their minds to, and that this world is indeed fucking beautiful. They’ve seen their mom’s soul catch on fire, and they have full permission to go explore what’s going to catch theirs on fire as well.

The cycle has been broken.

Happy Birthday to me.

-Stephani

What the Hell Happened to Her?

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.

 – Eric

stephani

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:

  1. Stop being a coward and jump.
  2. Pick up a drink and drink myself to death (another nasty habit I had given up almost 7 years prior).
  3. 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.

Family too.

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.

– Stephani