I recently turned 47, and I want to share my journal entry (with a few edits) from that day with you.

The older I get, the more I settle into and appreciate the precious life that I have. Truly, I’ve reached the point of knowing in my heart, my soul, that I am a spiritual being who’s been blessed to have this human experience.

And when I look back on my life, I see a series of opportunities offered to me to help me ‘wake up’ to this glorious fact…opportunities that have helped me see that life is actually happening for me rather than to me. I am so grateful to have this worldview, but I didn’t always.

Surviving a suicide attempt…

Twenty-seven years ago, I swallowed three bottles of sleeping pills. Shortly thereafter, a grim prognosis from my psychiatrist inspired what became the first of many ‘wake ups’. In short, I woke up to the fact that my perception of reality was merely that. A perception…and a very skewed one!

And so I faced a choice: I could continue to perceive things as I had been, which clearly wasn’t working for me, or I could choose to perceive things differently.

In a moment of profound clarity, I chose the latter.

When I look back to my darkest moments – this failed suicide attempt and the two events that follow – I’m grateful that I’m able to see just how deeply life was happening (and continues to happen) for me.

The depression and suicidal ideation was a huge wakeup call as to how I was not living in integrity with my soul; that I wasn’t allowing myself to be guided by my true nature. I’d been living behind a façade for the majority of my life, and I’d buried my true nature, my spirit, my Self so deeply that I didn’t even know who she was.

It was also a wakeup call to the fact that I didn’t hold myself accountable for where I was at in my life…beyond the debilitating self-blame for being such a hot mess of a human.

Getting sued…

Fast-forward 17 years, to the time I got sued for custody of my daughter. I’ve shared that story before and so I won’t rehash it here. But it’s too relevant to completely omit…

The gist is that I got sued when I moved from my home in Montana to an Illinois town about a 45-minute drive from my daughter’s father’s. It wasn’t ideal for a 50-50 co-parenting split, and despite the fact that I’d always been the soul custodial parent, I now found myself at the mercy of the Cook County courts.

The first few months were incredibly difficult, and yet the despair that came from all that unfolded during that time period ultimately transmuted into into deep forgiveness, compassion, and unconditional love…not just towards the person who was suing me, but also towards the whole of humanity.

Talk about life happening for me! Had I not been forced to contend with something that truly shredded my heart and overwhelmed me with despair – something that forced me to choose between the polarities of darkness and light – it’s hard to fathom that I would have undergone such a profound paradigm shift. And it’s this paradigm shift that’s informed pretty much everything in my life since.

Surrendering my pup…

And then there was the time that I surrendered Damsel. The day before, she’d attacked my partner’s young child in response to him falling off a stool on the floor below. Like, he’d done nothing to antagonize her, but she had a screw loose in her brain. This wasn’t her first incident of very concerning behavior, and I knew that if I didn’t surrender her, I’d have to move out because she was too great a threat to others.

[Side notes: I had fostered Damsel before adopting her through a rescue that pulls pups from shelters. And, I had just combined households with my parter maybe two months before the attack.]

Surrendering her back to the rescue – actually to a behavioral facility – was one of the most agonizing things I’d ever done. The fear Damsel showed as I turned her over freaking killed me – no words can describe just how devastating this was for both of us (and my daughter). My pain was so great that I wanted to die, like I wanted the Earth to take pity on me and swallow me up.

And that’s when once again life happened for me.

It was during this time of grieving so deeply that I couldn’t see myself going on that brought me to my knees…to the point of true surrender.

Now, I’ve surrendered before with relatively easier stuff. For example, when I survived my suicide attempt (yes, what I was contending with that led me to swallow those pills was psychically easier by far than surrendering Damsel).

But this moment of surrender was different in that I both surrendered and learned how to surrender. It’s like, I discovered how to surrender by will rather than by force.

Allowing myself to surrender meant that I allowed myself to feel the feels (rather than fighting them), knowing that they would eventually lessen and pass. It meant that I was present with the pain without trying to change it. It also meant that I allowed the stories behind the pain to dissipate. I acknowledge you, dear story, and now I’m going to transmute you to a thought that floats by like a cloud because I’m ready to return to a place of peace.

I never rushed anything, and there was zero force involved. I just refused to – to borrow a phrase from my mentor Martha Beck – fondle the story that was feeding my grief and despair.

Once I let go of the story – the words – all that remained was a void. When I experienced this void, this profound nothingness, I was psychically exhausted. But something nudged me to reflect on the gratitude I felt for having had Damsel in my life. All of her silly and endearing quirks, antics, and love. This gratitude filled the void and I was overcome with deep peace.

I still experienced waves of sadness and grief, but the despair and yearning for the Earth to swallow me up were gone. Sometimes we do have to surrender again and again and again, and that’s okay.

An important note is that I didn’t bypass my feelings. I didn’t get all ‘love and light’ about it…no ‘high vibes only’ crap. I felt the feels, the agony, the grief, the despair. I allowed the story behind these feelings to be told. And then I let the story go. That’s when gratitude naturally filled the void.

And now I have acquired a powerful tool for transmuting darkness into light, a tool to free myself from suffering on those (thankfully) rare times it returns. This is no small feat.

Life happens for you

Whether you choose to adopt this worldview is up to you.

From my own experience, when life happens to me, even the most beautiful moments are overshadowed by the knowing – the fear – that they could be taken from me.

When life happens to me, I’m powerless. I’m a victim. I’m at the mercy of factors that are beyond my control…and yet I desperately try (in vain) to exert control over them. How insane is that?!

But when I adopt the worldview that life happens for me, I look for the opportunity in whatever’s presented. The gift in a situation even when it seems like there couldn’t possibly be one.

The gift of recognizing that it’s my perception that causes suffering…and that I can choose to perceive differently.

The gift of discovering personal accountability during a rock-bottom moment and shortly after an incident that nearly killed me.

The gift of unconditionally loving and forgiving the whole of humanity while I was in the midst of a lawsuit that would decide my and my daughter’s future.

The gift learning how to surrender, move through, and feeling gratitude during a devastating event.

The gift of transmuting suffering into peace.

That is all.