Welcome to the fourth era of my life, which picks up where the third era ends:
After reconnecting with my fourth-grade crush and pursuing a long-distance relationship, I made the difficult decision to relocate to the Chicago area in 2013. His family lived nearby, as did Sage’s father. It was difficult because it meant giving up my job and leaving my family and the mountains behind.
We faced a lot of uncertainty at this point. Neither of us had jobs waiting for us in Chicago, and our financial resources were scarce. People close to me struggled to understand why I was doing what I was doing or how we were even going to get by.
Ultimately, it was about Sage. For the first 11 years of her life, she had only seen her father two to three times a year. Now, she wanted to be closer to him, and I wanted her to have that opportunity.
[Note: most people mentioned in my stories can be anonymized by the withholding of certain details. In this particular case, however, it’s not possible. Because the event that follows is critical to my story of personal growth, I have chosen to include it here.]
My fiance and I moved to Highland Park, IL, on July 1, 2013. Because we moved to a town that was too far away to share 50-50 parenting, I found myself embroiled in a custody battle. Sage was in his possession at the time I was served with papers, and my attorney was concerned that this fact put me in danger of losing the case.
My relationship with her father had always been toxic, and the custody battle that ensued plummeted me into a place of deep despair. Lies about me were spread, the fact that I unnecessarily gave up my life in Montana was ignored, and a picture of me being irresponsible and psychologically unstable was painted. Both my Facebook and Gmail accounts were hacked at an opportune moment, and while I never learned who was responsible for the hacks, I had my suspicions.
Ultimately, I recognized that I was powerless over the actions that were being taken by the opposing side. And like I had done before when things seemed hopeless, I surrendered.
I started meditating in earnest and, inspired by the Dalai Lama, I focused my meditations on feeling profound compassion and love for the person who was suing me. I spent a lot of time on my meditation cushion during this time. This practice truly transformed me; all of the despair and resentment I felt vanished and were replaced with compassion and love.
Since 2013, I have literally not held any (lasting) resentments towards anyone – even those who do terrible things – which I attribute in part to the compassion meditations I did back in 2013. Resentments kill our spirits faster than nearly everything else, so this is no small achievement! If you would like to learn more about this practice or listen to my 10-minute guided Meditation on Compassion, click here.
Two years later, my job was downsized. We (my now-ex-husband and I) had no retirement, no savings, and no reliable income besides a small unemployment check and modest child support payment.
We faced massive financial uncertainty, and our outside resources were limited. We had a lot of credit card debt, nearly six figures in student loans, a car payment, and high rent, not to mention two dogs and a teenager. I had no idea how we were going to get by. But I had faith that everything would somehow work out and that there was an opportunity for growth waiting to be uncovered.
The opportunity came quickly. I had been miserable at my job – a job that forced me to compromise my integrity – and being forced out allowed me to do what I couldn’t do on my own: leave a terrible situation.
During my period of unemployment, I pursued work that was more meaningful to me, including helping women who were intimidated by spreadsheets via my former website The Spreadsheet Alchemist (as a data analyst during my 9-5, I live and breathe spreadsheets).
Discovering my life’s purpose
If you read my first three era posts, you may have concluded that my life has been far from conventional. I’ve known since I survived my final suicide attempt that I had a story to share (era 1). My discovery of Krishnamurti’s teachings and how that led me to give up nearly everything to pursue a life of purpose solidified this awareness (era 2). After working with a mentor for seven years and transforming my life with her wisdom (era 3) followed by the deep personal growth I experienced in era 4, I came to realize that I had more than just an entertaining story to share.
For a very long time, my greatest desire has been to bring more compassion, love, and light to our world. I’ve been inspired by others who do this, and I believe strongly that there can never be too many lightworkers. There is a lot of darkness out there, and we need all the help we can get.
Through meditation, I have unearthed my dharma (aka purpose): to share my experience, strength, and hope with others.
Experience, strength, & hope
In this era, I wove my experience, strength, and hope into my story. The takeaway is that if we are open to seeing life’s challenges as opportunities, they become just that.
I flipped the lawsuit into an opportunity to develop immense and unconditional compassion and love towards those who I felt brought out the worst in me. And, I freed myself of resentments and other highly toxic feelings.
I approached my unemployment as an opportunity to pursue a career that didn’t compromise my integrity and allowed me to do something more meaningful.
Uncertainty is an incredible catalyst for growth if you suspend your fear and instead seek out opportunities.
I literally freed myself from hell by changing my focus. You can, too.