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 decided to relocate to the Chicago area in 2013. His family lived nearby, as did Sage’s father (who very much wanted her to move out there). It was a difficult decision, as it meant giving up my job and leaving my family and the mountains behind.

We faced a lot of uncertainty at this point. Despite months of hunting, neither of us had jobs waiting for us in Chicago, and our financial resources were limited. 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.

Hell

My fiance and I moved to Highland Park, IL, on July 1, 2013. Because we moved to a town that was too far away from her father to share 50-50 parenting, I was served with papers and became embroiled in bitter a custody battle. Sage was in her father’s possession at the time he decided to sue me, and my attorney indicated that this gave him a great advantage in court. 

Even during our best and earliest moments together, my relationship with her father had always been toxic, and the custody battle that ensued was so brutal that I plummeted into a place of deep despair.

He and/or his attorney knowingly spread lies about all sorts of things to reduce my credibility including misclassifying my residential type (like it should even matter), referring to my fiancé as my boyfriend, and misrepresenting my intentions behind statements I’d included in a pre-existing parenting agreement. He also withheld my daughter from me when it was my parenting time and violated the court’s summons when he secretly took her across state lines. And, that’s just for starters.

The fact that I unnecessarily gave up my life in Montana was either ignored by the attorneys and judge or twisted into insinuations that my amazing job in the Governor’s Budget Office was on thin ice (it wasn’t – the then-Budget Director even offered to come to Chicago to testify on my behalf), and a picture of me being an irresponsible and psychologically unstable parent who was underemployed and couldn’t provide for my daughter was painted.

Finally (or maybe not finally!), both my Facebook and Gmail accounts were hacked at an opportune moment, which involved the disappearance of an important email about a job interview – a job that I desperately needed to prove that I could provide for my daughter. While the only evidence I could find for the hacks was circumstantial, I certainly had my suspicions.

That summer, my spirit had broken and I felt utterly powerless to combat the actions that were being taken against me by my daughter’s father and his attorney. It all seemed so hopeless. And, it was causing incredible strain between my new fiancee-civil-union-partner-husband (that’s a whole other story) and me. I felt that there was truly nothing left for me to do but to hate the world or surrender. I chose the latter.

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. Ultimately, this practice truly transformed me; all of the despair and resentment I felt eventually vanished and were replaced with compassion and love. 

Since 2013, I can’t think of any lasting resentments I’ve held 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.

Uncertainty

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, he was chronically sick, 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 a nugget of gold hiding in the muck. 

The opportunity revealed itself 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, soul-crushing 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.

Kristi