Lesson 1: Materialistic Goals Aren’t All that Matter
The thought of selling everything and starting over was, in a tiny way, liberating. I hear of people that after losing their homes and selling most everything feel free in a way they had never known. My biggest fear was losing my remaining two pets if I had to couch surf for a while.
I was so embarrassed that I held my secrets and pain inside for the most part. I would meet friends for dinner and pretend that I wasn’t hungry, since I had no money to spend. When the hormonal imbalance would kick in and I would tear up, I would pretend that my contacts were bothering me and run to the bathroom.
Finally, I realized that nothing material mattered.
Lesson 2: Angels Exist in Human Form
While passing through the tunnel of hell during my recovery to bounce back, I figured which people truly cared and were in tune with my subtle changes. Luckily for me, a friend handed me some cash—unsolicited– to help me get by while I got my head on straight. The generosity of this person rocked my world in a way that left me forever changed.
I realized the phrase “While you may only be one person in this world, you may be the world to one person” personally. In other words, I revived my belief in humanity.
Lesson 3: Miracles Are All Around
On a business level, I’m required to be clear and strong as I coach high-leveled executives on the next step in their career and life—ironic eh?
You can’t be broken and effective at the same time; yet I did take the phrase “fake it till you make it” by heart. By faking my strength, even my smile, I slowly felt both again.
I witnessed the miracle of the universe all around me. Suddenly those cereal boxes that came free in my Sunday paper were valuable. Toothpaste samples at the grocery store were cherished and I learned to turn the shampoo bottle upside down to get every last drop. I would go to the pet food store just to “look around” and grab a few of the free samples for my dog.
Lesson 4: Learned Minimalism
With that cash in hand from my friend, I was able to cover my rent long enough to start billing in my business again; but extras weren’t available. Gone were the monthly hair salon trips, out with the extras like cable, Internet, and dog treats.
I slowly learned how wasteful I had been in my life with food, clothing, and coffee shop stops. There was no money for anything other than college-grade food.
I rode my bike a lot that summer not having the money for gas. I reasoned with the bank’s car loan and my insurance agent for reduced monthly payments.
I taught myself to negotiate payments for utilities and witnessed the kindness of customer service agents when you admit your defeat. Most of all, I gathered that if you’re willing to work with them in some way, people will help you get by on your payments and your life.
Lesson 5: Learned Positivity
Each morning I forced myself to think of three things I was grateful for before letting my feet hit the carpet next to my bed. If I didn’t do this, I would begin my day in the depressed way I had ended the day before.
Soon I started doing this before bed and found that my days got easier. When the magnitude of my situation would hit midday and I would start to crash; I would force myself to get outside, go for a walk and notice something beautiful. When life is bleak, even the smallest things like the song of a bird or the color of the sky can jar you up a notch.
Every morning before starting my work day, I would force myself to listen to or read something inspirational. I couldn’t control the world around me, but I could direct my emotions.
Yes I cried a lot, but I would balance those moments with what I was grateful for and kept moving towards what I wanted—to bounce back to some stability again.
Lesson 6: Clarity from Self-Observation
I learned to watch my emotional state like a hawk.
If I felt desperate and scared, I would imagine my worst-case scenario…worst case I would loan my dog and my cat to people I trusted and couch surf. Worst case I would go on meds. Worst case I would ask a friend if I could share dinner with them.
Once I knew my worst-case scenario, I was able to relax a tiny bit and then I would focus on what I was grateful for… When life blows up there is a crystal clarity that occurs.
All of the issues that you’ve been hiding behind with your job or your money or your relationship are out there in the open. I have clients who lose their jobs and realize that their marriage has been broken for years; knowledge that was just hidden behind frequent business trips.
Lesson 7: Focus on the Now
I also learned that once the blow-up occurs and you share it with those close to you, it’s important to not keep telling your sad story.
If you do, that’s what you end up focusing on and it’s easy to feel like a victim. Much better to focus on where you’re going and put your energy into moving forward. This is the biggest mistake I see clients make—telling the same sad story, over and over.
For me the hardest part was laying in bed, alone, during the middle of the night, drenched in fear. As I laid awake in terror, I learned to pray for help and learned to meditate so I could hear the answer. I tried to be as much in the now as possible.
Most of all, I learned that when we’re broken, we’re really just broken open. We are a seed that sits in the dark, damp earth waiting for spring. We alone decide in which direction to send our sprout once the season has turned.