I am a deeply empathetic person. Not sympathetic – EMPATHETIC. Usually, when someone tells me about a challenge they are having in their marketing career, not only can I sympathize, but I can usually remember- vividly- what it was like to be exactly where they are.
I get how, when you tell someone that you just can’t afford to launch your product right now, or you just don’t have the time to create all that content, you really mean it. It’s NOT just an “excuse” , and it’s not because you don’t know how to “think abundantly” . Sometimes your back really IS against a wall. I’ve been there.
So rather than throw another “think abundantly!” or “no excuses” message your way (because I know that there are plenty of wonderful articles out there that do justice to both those themes), I thought I’d share a story of one of my own pivotal moments, where that change from having my back against a wall to having the freedom to create the career of my dreams started to happen.
So : WAY back in the day (about a year ago, lol), I was desperate. I needed to either find the money to continue running some pretty integral software that makes a major piece of my online marketing work, or get out of the game and go back to teaching yoga for $30/ class (not that there’s anything wrong with that- I LOVE teaching… but I had this huge impulse inside me that literally made it PAINFUL to think about putting my online dreams on hold).
To say it had been a tough year would be an understatement. I had gone through a lot. I was broken. I had ended a 10 year marriage, gone into my first 6 months of parenting singlehandedly, building my online business AFTER my kids went to sleep (so I had consistently had about 4 hours’ of sleep, and not much more, for 6 months straight), I was facing a major bankruptcy as a result of a harrowing last year of the marriage, and I was also broken inside – heartbroken. The kind of heartbreak that is so painful that every morning, for 6 months, I had to breathe through the morning drive to the kids’ school. I didn’t know if I could do it – simply getting them to school without breaking down in a puddle or tears and hopelessness.
Oh- and I was alone. Like, REALLY alone. I didn’t have any family in the same state as me… and none of them were that “net” that you would hope for when your life reaches a breaking point. You see, I have been on my own since I was 17, financially. No safety net. At one point I even asked for help (gasp!)… The answer was “no” – no, there was no money to borrow. No, I wouldn’t move in with my parents. No, nobody wanted to come over and give me a hug when I was falling to pieces. No insurance. No steady paycheck. No support.
I knew there was no other way through this than to “be strong”, and I hated those words. In fact, I hated them so much that they made me feel like there was a raging lunatic woman inside me every time I heard them , even from my own internal suggestions! “How DARE you suggest I “be strong” one more time!”, I would internally scream at myself. “When is it enough already? When have I “been strong” enough?! HUH?! What am I, some sort of Iron Woman? I’m a woman- WOMAN! When do I get to fall to pieces? When do I get to let go? I’m tired of being strong. It’s making me hardened, and exhausted, and miserable. I am SO DONE.”
I really was done. And one day, when the kids were safely in school, the house was quiet, and I had created a good space to do so in, I allowed myself 6 hours to really let go. To really let it all out. I screamed, with raging tears flowing so freely I frightened myself. It was bottomless. The more my body sunk into the rage, the hurt and the grief, the worse it got. For hours. I became a madwoman. But even in the deepest throes of agonized feeling- which I knew I needed to do- I had to watch the clock. I had to “get it together” before 2:45 so that I could get my children and bring them home to what I hoped would energetically feel like a clearer mother and a clearer home. So at noon – three hours in to my full-body pity- ragefest, I looked at the clock. And I had to become my own therapist, steering my “self” through this experience while also observing it and making sure it was actually doing some effective work. Tall order. So- at noon, the “therapist” part of me watching the “raving lunatic” part of me made a careful observation of the ensuing downward spiral tizzyfit that the 6 hours’ of “space” was causing. And my inner therapist observed that this wasn’t going anywhere productive. I was just spinning out or downward- spiraling, depending on your point of view. And I decided that the reason for this was that the energy of this whole experience wasn’t flowing – it was festering and burning me up from the inside out. And, as any good yoga teacher will probably tell you when they see that happening, I told myself “wow! you need to MOVE this out!” … but THEN my inner Greek DNA surfaced, and decided that the best way to go “move through” this particular experience would be to go to the garage (my version of taking it to the mattresses?) and throw some sh*t around. Literally.
So for the next hour, I tornadoed through my own garage, literally destroying stuff. It felt amazingly good. I’d never done anything so violent before. Every crash seemed to break through another energetic layer of stifled anger that had been trapped in my body. It felt good to break stuff. And after my heart was pounding and my hands were so hot with channeled rage that I swear I could have cooked something by touching it, I came across a box.
It used to be a boxful of hope. Of promise. It was a box that held my heart in so many ways. Six months ago, I had packed a massive 20-DVD set inside that box- a set of DVDs that promised to change your life in all the right ways – my husband had ordered them and received them to “turn his life around.” You know the kind of program I am talking about : it could have been the best put-together abundance-centered, secret-imparting program in the world, but if the person on the receiving end of it wasn’t ready to change, to receive, and to implement what they had learned, it would seriously do them more good as a makeshift barstool to crutch and support their hunger for a “fix” from the outside….if they weren’t hungry enough – no, wait…. STARVING for change…this would just be a supporting piece of furniture in a futile quest to numb the real problem into the recesses of consciousness. In that moment, the whole program that we had invested in for him seemed to be the CAUSE of all my loss, and the cause seemed fraudulent to put it mildly.
At that point, 6 months into hell, into ruin, and 4 hours into an energetic and emotional descent into my own internal rage, all of my energy fixed on that box of DVDs. And my hands got hotter. I was Kali the destroyer. I was Hecate boiling the contents of her cauldron. I was fury.
I could literally feel the blood pounding through my veins as I removed the first DVD from the box. I turned with as much grace as I could to face the opposite wall of my temper-tantrum garage cage and coiled energy back though my body… When I flung that first DVD across to the opposite wall, I just remember thinking that it didn’t make enough noise as it shattered on the opposite wall. So I picked up the next three together and flung them with as much force as I could muster.
I don’t remember what number DVD I was on when the miracle happened.
In the middle of the furious assault on the well-meaning abundance course, a miracle happened. The oh-so-calculating Laura, the girl with a fistful of fury trying desperately to self-therapy herself through her own descent into the abyss, tripped. I literally tripped. I tripped over my own mess of broken pieces in my own garage right as I was in the motion of flinging another DVD through the air to the opposite end of the garage – I let the DVD go, but not in the direction that I had thought it was going to go in… and I fell.
Know what I fell into? I fell into my daughter’s baby blanket. It had been cast aside by me a few moments before because it was between me and an inviting plastic object that may or may not have contained Disney princesses on its front panel… and that Disney princess aberration needed to be destroyed. My daughter had long grown out of the offending plastic thing, thank goodness, and it felt wonderful shattering such an offending symbol of female oppression to pieces, just like my dreams of being someone’s princess (hell no- actually, someone’s heart- someone’s empress-) had been shattered and burned. It had felt wonderful shattering that pink monstrosity of false female stereotyped happily-ever-after cr$p. But now, here I lay, blood pounding, shocked by my misstep and fall, on this sweet, soft, innocent little baby blanket. On a thing of comfort that the most precious little person in my universe had fallen asleep with over and over again.
And I broke.
The fury that had coursed through me for four and a half hours finally gave way to grief and heartbreak. I found myself in a fetal ball on my cold garage floor, clutching that little soft baby blanket so hard that my knuckles were white, and I bawled. I fell to pieces completely, and completely accepted that I was alone. I had tripped in life and there was no safety net. I freaked. But this time, after having cleared all of that pent-up rage out of my body, this grief finally felt like a real release. It finally felt good to melt into a puddle of disastrous, pathetic, destroyed dreams on my garage floor. My body was letting go. My muscles were letting go.
When I finally was able to take a deep enough breath to open my eyes and have my vision come back into focus, collect myself enough to count my fingers and toes, assess the storm damage around me, my eyes noticed something else, on the other side of the garage.
When I was flinging those DVDs at that wall and misstepped with the last batch before the fall, the force of my throw was still so violent in that last release that it had knocked a boxful of books off a steel storage shelf. One DVD thrown in fury had that much power. Wow. The first thought through my head when I realized what had happened there (I won’t lie) was “dang! I AM strong!” … and then I got curious enough to pick myself up and go over to see what I had knocked off the shelf.
It was a box of old recipe books, most of which had belonged to my mum back in the UK in the 70s and 80s. She had given them to me through her own tears when I had left home at 17. I opened them. They weren’t fancy cookbooks- they were recipe books full of meals she had cooked me and my brother and sister in what I am still sure were the hardest days of her life. She had a tough go of it when we were kids, there’s no denying that- she relied on government support in the UK to raise us. But her cooking was enough to grow us into healthy kids even though she was on a shoestring. And the recipes – the HOW – were all right here in front of me. Pancakes with lentil and mushroom filling. Turnip and lentil pie. Curried rice and chick peas. Continental lentil and mushroom pate. Green pea fritters. Black bean casserole. On special occasions? Cheese and Onion flan. Mediterranean Fish stew. Baked courgette (zucchini to you) souffle. Ah, yes – I remembered these. I remembered eating until I was full every night, even when I am sure my mum was internally tearing her hair out about how to keep the gas on.
Looking through those pages wasn’t just a nostalgic experience that afternoon – the experience became both the divinely-guided inspiration I needed and the actual how-to manual for how I was going to stay financially afloat without dropping another 20lbs, and getting my son all the protein he needed for a nutritionally crucial period of his body’s development. I was going to cook my mother’s recipes! And there was more where that came from. I had grandmothers’ recipes, too. I had women in my lineage who had raised strong, healthy bodies while hiding in bunkers in the Blitz. I had grandmothers who were orphaned at 10 who made it, and passed on their wartime and depression-era recipes to ME.
My grandmothers both managed to send my parents to private schools even though they were struggling with money. And they got my parents in a better place because of it. Through sheer hard luck and some internal patterning that is still challenging, my mum managed to afford private school uniforms, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks, piano lessons and swimming lessons for me in the worst of financial hardship. All these women had put their necks out for their kids. And literally their recipe books of frugal but nutritious meals had been the difference between being able to afford that lacrosse stick for me or not. None of my grandmothers ever drove a car – and my mum didn’t learn until we emigrated to this country, when she was 38. I was raised on lentils and bus fares. And I was proud of that. I was proud of her.
I was proud of my grandmothers. One survived an abusive husband in Canada and took three young sons, all under the ago of four, across the continent to a ship back to Britain. In 1956. No small feat. On a shoestring. One lost her father at 3 and her mother at 10, conquered TB twice and raised three kids of her own. Her TB doctors in the 40s and 50s told her she would be dead at 40. She just turned 80 last week. Badass Nana. yeah. THIS was my lineage. THIS was how high my bar was raised to live up to the strength that my maternal line had raised me to belong to. Ok, so they couldn’t float me cash or a roof over my head when my world fell apart, but here in my garage I had something worth a lot more. I had their recipes of resilience in my hands.
I am sure you have stories of resilience in your family. There are hundreds of stories of resilience on every street across this whole country. What hit me (thankfully with a grace of humor) that day was how ridiculously entitled I must have seen to those women. I mean, they love me and knew I was going through a tremendously rough patch, but all the same I wouldn’t have blamed them, in that moment, if they had seen me as a spoiled little girl who didn’t get her candy throwing a temper tantrum and chucking her toys around. And something changed inside me as a result.
What was my miracle? Truly? A recipe for lentil rissoles. That’s it. There’s ALWAYS a way. There’s always a smart strategy to get by and even care for the people you are blessed with caring for, in the worst of times, and STILL pursue your dreams. Practically, of course, I found the money to invest in my online marketing career. Turns out I was chucking several hundred dollars a month away on processed flour. (good grief, I hate admitting that) … but that’s really sort of a teeny example of what I really got given that day. Through the simplest of things, I got reminded of the strength of resilient heritage that came before me. I was standing on the shoulders of true heroines. And that made an indescribable strength well up inside me. I’ve been charged with it ever since.
But I’d like to remind you of one last thing, and I think this is important: yes, my grandmothers’ resilience was born out of a war effort that shook the world’s foundation to its core. But here’s the thing: WE have an important race to win in the next decade. Nothing short of the responsibility of awakening the entire human consciousness rests on our shoulders. We have to work and strengthen and persevere in the next decade like we are personally waging 100 war efforts. We’ve got some major schtuff to fix on this beloved planet of ours, don’t we? We cannot do this unless you find your charge. You may need to rage in a garage for five hours like I did. You may need to tell your father that you love him. You may need to let go of a relationship. You WILL need to wake up in one way or another. And it will rock you to your core. You will descend into your own underworld of demons and need to rise up singing, with tears welling in the back of your throat and voice quivering as you discover the enormous well of your own strength- and the grace that will bring you to that realization. And when you’ve done that, you’ll never question your own strength, your own inner resources’ power, ever again. You’ll have it. I promise. Be brave and let go.
And find a damn good recipe book.