Work has been such a huge part of my life – in every aspect of the word. Work as in – at a job. Work as in – working on goals, investments, endeavors and such. Work as in – doing the work required to be happy. Really happy.
I have worked my tail off for as long as I can remember. My family had very little growing up. So I learned how to work very hard at a young age. I had big goals then (and later :)) And I have accomplished really all of them. (OK, except that cottage. And let’s add in a brownstone to really cap it off. ha! 🙂
Working hard has been incredibly fulfilling for me. I mean – it’s turned into extraordinary experiences. I financed my own schooling. I went to one of those gorgeous, to-die-for private liberal arts women’s colleges in Virginia. I spent a summer in Paris living in a studio rooftop apartment, later graduated, and moved to New York basically that same week. I bought my first, second, third, and fourth cars. I bought and renovated my first, second, and third homes in New York. And I personally seeded a full blown fashion line in New York City. And all of this – every bit of it – was done on my dime. Yes, that’s a lot of work. That is years of sacrifice to make it all happen, starting at age 12. I guess you could say that growing up poor suited me. It helped me to know from a young age that I could do anything. Both because I had a reason to have to accomplish things on my own, and because I also had great parents rooting for me every step of the way.
BUT, the greatest work I have ever done has been outside of every single one of these things. It’s the work I have done to be happy. All of the things above did not make me happy. It was something else…
The work I did to be happy involved surrendering what I thought I NEEDED. Essentially, everything…
A husband / LOVE.
A million dollars.
I had to give up the NEED for every single one of these things for something greater…something that transcended it all. And what I gave these up for was alignment with the Divine…THAT is really all I needed for true wholeness – and true happiness. I mean that. THAT is all we truly need!!! Tapping into that is better than ANYTHING – better than the best marriage, better than all the money in the world, better than beauty, better than time. (Take that from someone who was very skeptical of God um…like just 5 years ago.) You see, when I was attached to these things and NEEDED these things to be happy, fulfilled, and whole…life was not so great. In fact, it was quite awful. You may remember that I felt DEAD. Life was full of pain, a broken heart, a stressed out life to the max, and literally no self worth.
But as soon as I made my one and only priority aligning with the Divine, my entire life changed. I healed in ways I never, ever thought was possible. I felt happiness and wholeness like I had never known – and I’ve felt that everyday since. How did I do this? I had to unattach myself from the NEED to have my life laid out in a certain way in order to be happy. I literally had to give that ALL up. That’s a massive surrender. I mean, we’re human, after all. That’s a lot to give up. But not giving it up just led to dysfunction, that awful sting in my heart as I laid in bed at night, desperation to be loved in order to feel whole, anger and hatred so deep I could just tremble, hurt that made me wonder if I would die in my sleep, insecurities or fears about my personality and looks, the belief that I literally had nothing to offer anyone, the feelings of failure, loss and nothingness, the belief that I was not worthy of being loved.
So how did I unattach myself from the “needs” that were only leading to dysfunction?
I changed my priorities. No longer was it my priority to “figure out how to make my husband love me” or to “have a baby or else.” My priority became the pursuit of ALIGNMENT, PEACE and REAL LOVE…ABOVE everything else. That had to trump EVERYTHING. I had to decide what I treasured more: dysfunction and attachment to things and circumstances, or freedom and peace.
How did I “align” and tap into that flow of peace and happiness?
Very simple. I pursued all the virtues of the Divine…love, forgiveness, compassion, gratitude, joy, hope, etc. So in all those awful moments that I described, I started to pursue these virtues in those moments instead. (That’s where the surrendering takes place. You have to surrender your so called “needs” in those moments, for something greater. You have to surrender the knee jerk reaction that you so badly want to have – the reaction of anger, fear, offense, jealousy, envy, or whatever…and the justification that goes along with it.) But as you PURSUE these virtues instead, it’s like the other crap starts to melt away. It’s making that initial step to surrender your natural self that takes all the power, desire, and courage in the world. But once you do it, the power of the virtue starts to snowball. It starts to dominate and embody you, instead of the other awful thing that you were trying to rid yourself of. Basically, when you pursue these virtues…you “at one” with the very energy that they represent…you “at one” with God himself. You know, “light is attracted to light”, etc. There is an ENERGY associated with this stuff. You will feel it!!!!!!
[Some of you may recognize this whole dang process as the Atonement. This is the Atonement. This is redemption.]
Was it difficult to unattach?
Well, once you really realize your so called “needs” are causing so much dysfunction…um…it’s not too difficult to want to change gears. Unless you just honestly want to be miserable and be a victim forever. A lot of people are attached to this way of life (maybe they were raised that way) and they just aren’t ready to give it up. They live and die miserable. Though I really, really do believe it’s within us all to give up that kind of miserable life. I think it depends on how much you want to be free. I wanted it bad. I had had ENOUGH of living in pain. I really, really had had enough. I didn’t want to die that way. I wanted something better. And I was willing to do the work.
How do you maintain this? Do you ever slip?
Of course I slip! I did have off and on moments as I was learning this. Things just come and come and COME at you – especially during a divorce. Oh my. But I kept at it. The more you do this, the easier it does become. And the quicker your turn around becomes. There are still times when I have an off moment. If I don’t care for myself physically, I might have more of those moments. But I know if that happens, that it’s ok. It’s just a reminder to get back on track. And I know what to do to get there.
What else helped you to unattach?
The name of this blog will give you a clue. LOVE. 🙂
I wanted to be a good mom someday, so out of love for my unborn children, I decided to do all this. Love is the GREATEST fuel on earth for doing really difficult things. I also tapped into this kind of love with my ex husband. I had to surrender a lot in that situation. i.e. the expectation of him to love me, the desire for him to think I was attractive (he had a personal issue with the way I looked), the desire for him to want to have a child with me, etc. These things were not lining up the way I had hoped and dreamed. After 7 years, he said he didn’t love me and never had. So yes, I had to give up all of those expectations and needs, in order to stay “aligned”. But I did so, out of love for him as a human being. No longer as a husband or someone I desired. But a human being who was in pain. A human being whom I wanted to have compassion for. A human being who maybe could have benefited from my surrendering. Maybe, maybe not. But I was going to offer it, regardless. (Again, I wasn’t perfect at this, but I worked hard at it and it came together.)
Do you really think other people can do this, too?
I am betting my life on it. I wouldn’t be writing this blog otherwise.
Any more tips?
PRACTICE. Practice applying this in the smallest of ways. Practice surrendering to a bad hair day. A burned dinner. A missed train. A rude comment. Watch your reactions. Practice turning things around by pursuing virtues. The more you practice this, the more it becomes WHO YOU ARE. The more it becomes your automatic response. The more your brain actually begins to change it’s wiring!!!! The more you actually change the very being that you are.
ASK for an opportunity to practice this. Decide that you’re ready to do the work. Ask for it. Be open to it. There is POWER in that. There is willingness in that. And there’s no better time to start than now…
I hope this was helpful. Feel free to ask more questions. I’d love to hear if this connects any dots for you. I’m trying to explain it, but would love to hear if I need to do more. And, any and all personal experiences are welcome here. They are so empowering to others (and to us). I just love it that you all have made this blog a place of sharing, empowerment and vulnerability. It’s really so beautiful to see.
Also, you might enjoy a related post that Danny did on this same subject here: Choosing Happiness: A Sunday Sermon.
(photos by Saydi Eyre Shumway, in Boston)