I had the dream job, the dream husband, and the dream lifestyle in a paradise by the sea. Happiness was on the rise and its expected trajectory was limitless. I was living a perfectly charmed life, despite regular bouts of personal insecurities and self-doubt; and the formula I had created for this life centered around pronounced wellness... health, fitness, and discipline of mind and body.
I ran three miles five times a week. I practiced yoga. I drank smoothies, ate vegan meals, and consumed eight glasses of water a day. I wore a size 0. I lived in this impeccably choreographed external reality while my internal footing was not completely solid. I had overcome a dysfunctional childhood, suffered career failures, and let go of unfulfilling relationships. I fought for the life I wanted, and created the best version of it I could, hoping that if it remained stable long enough, then maybe I could feel a deeper sense of happiness in my soul, down to my core.
But it didn't remain, and I didn't feel it. Tragically, an eruption of unexpected losses and unplanned detours sparked unconscious triggers and unwanted emotions. They invaded my intentionally crafted life and threatened to undo all I had labored so hard to craft. The upheaval was both gradual and sudden, with curve balls thrown so fast and from so many directions, that there was no time to brace for disaster. A minefield of hidden wounds and emotional pain surfaced, dormant in the era of my neatly landscaped life, yet set ablaze in my now messy and damaged life that was near impossible to keep manicured.
I still tried to keep it manicured though. I kept my life mostly intact for years, and even thrived in some areas; yet my proven formula of wellness and previous methods of healthy functioning were no match for my unresolved hurt and pain. Overgrown and unmanageable, they began to overpower my life and eclipse my presumed happiness, forcing me to face myself... inside the construct and behind the velvet curtain. With nowhere left to hide, I accepted the invitation for personal growth.
As children, we grow without effort. Our bodies, ripe with possibility, develop beyond our control and without our deliberate intention. Our minds, clean slates ready to be written on like new blackboards with fresh pieces of white chalk, soak up all of life’s experiences like sponges.
Before our physical bodies are even done developing, our minds and hearts already begin to fill with experiences that elicit hopes, hurts, dreams, insecurities, ideals, misconceptions and conclusions. A climate of coping, managing and minimizing can take over our healthy emotional development; and a strict regimen of denying our feelings and numbing our pain can set in.
There is a depth and a vulnerability inside ourselves that we don’t often explore unless we are invited... unless we are compelled to dig deep out of necessity to break through to the other side of pain and tragedy. Loss is often the catalyst to this discovering, seeking, and unearthing, as was the case with me; but it doesn’t always have to be so. Its onset could be as intentional as simply nurturing a desire for a more fulfilling existence and a deeper understanding of self and one's place in humankind.
Personal growth is not a given. It is achieved only when one actively seeks out what can exist beyond the constructs of our past wounds and present reality. Without it, we are at risk of staying stuck in a version of ourselves we have outgrown but insist on trying to squeeze into, like that tight pair of jeans we believe still fits even though we have to lie down and suck in to zip them up.
Growth occurs in individuals who are forced to face themselves and their future without the absolutes they thought would remain intact but didn't; as well as in those who are not satisfied with the status quo or the suffocating discomfort of that tight pair of jeans.
Life can challenge us to our limits, or it can slowly progress in an unaltered and uneventful slumber. Whether we are propelled by our circumstances or voluntarily choose to explore corners of our souls we have yet to shed light on, growth happens when we open ourselves up to the possibility of becoming who we truly are. Becoming kinder, more compassionate, and empathetic to ourselves and others. Becoming whole and healed and wise and open and vulnerable. Becoming who we were meant to be before we began to superficially tailor, edit, and fabricate a version of ourselves we needed (or thought we needed) to present to others for self-preservation.
Becoming you is the single most important thing you can do in this life. From tragic to transformative, we have the power to make our lives what we want out of what we have. All that is required to establish strong roots and grow magnificent wings is to accept the invitation to explore what grounds us deep inside, and to cultivate the strength and courage to let it fly free into the wonderful wilderness of this world.
It's already inside of us. Let's go find it, together.