So how am I doing in my quest to re-invent my life, follow my evolving Blisses and create the life I really, really want?
It’s been two weeks, not one, since my last review post. (And if I were Catholic that would sound like I was sitting in a confessional.) Being in Vegas last weekend with no internet access made doing a review pretty much impossible, but I have to admit I’m one person who kinda likes not being constantly accessible.
I want my away time, thank you very much!
(Though given my druthers, I’d take my away time in a quieter and more natural venue than Vegas…)
But back to the question at hand (I do have a tendency to go off on tangents…): How am I doing?
Rather than list all the “what’s going wells” and the “where it get hards” of the past couple of weeks, I’m going to tell a little story.
The Universe whacks me with a 2×4…
Here’s the thing: 4 months ago today, my life hit a major snag. I’d been seriously stressing for a couple of months about money (or more accurately, about the lack thereof). Then two days before Valentine’s Day the man I thought was my life partner, the man with whom I shared my heart and soul, who lived with me and shared my workspace, announced, out of the blue, that he was moving out.
In fact, he’d found an apartment already and was signing the lease on Monday.
Whoa! [cue screeching of brakes and fast-rewind of audiotape sound]
Not only did I have to reshape my entire view of my life, but I also had to immediately make up for the loss of his share of the rent. At a time when my biggest stress was money.
It was not pretty.
…and that 2×4 finally got me to pay attention
The thing is (and of course hindsight is 20-20), I’d been less than 100% satisfied with my life for quite some time.
I was frustrated that I was spending 99% of my time doing uncreative admin and drudge work for my art business, and only 1% (if that) actually creating art. And I’d had some niggling doubts about my relationship as well.
But things weren’t uncomfortable enough for me to make any radical changes.
Face it, things weren’t uncomfortable enough for me to even see outside my little box to envision what else might be possible!
That’s the beautiful thing about the Universe hitting you with a 2×4. Although it feels like it’s coming out of the blue, like my ex’s departure, in fact there are always hints before you get smacked upside the head.
Little whispers, like:
“Melissa, you got into this because you love creating and making art, and you’re not doing that. You know creating is what makes you happy. Don’t you think you should figure out how to spend more time creating?”
“Hey, Melissa, how about trying something new? You don’t actually have to do one thing for the rest of your life.”
“Melissa, this person has really different core values from you. Maybe he’s not the one to spend the rest of your life with.”
But when things are still pretty comfortable, you just don’t always have enough incentive to make a change. It’s hard to change. It’s uncomfortable. For better or worse, even if we know we “ought” to make a change, it’s often only when not changing is more painful than changing that we finally bust out and do it.
As Anais Nin put it,
And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
How I’ve blossomed
Susan Elliott has a great book called Getting Past Your Breakup: How to Turn a Devastating Loss into the Best Thing That Ever Happened to You (affiliate link). It has tips and exercises for integrating your loss and moving on with your life, and if you’ve ever gone through a breakup, I highly recommend it.
But the principles behind it apply no matter what the loss is. Steve Jobs gave a great commencement address at Stanford in 2005, detailing how the tragedies in his life turned into the best things that ever happened to him. Watch the video – it’s incredibly inspiring.
(As a calligrapher, I especially love the part about Jobs’ interest in calligraphy leading to the wonderful typography we have today on personal computers!)
Some of the biggest losses in my own life have resulted in some of the greatest gifts:
- At 16 I tried out for the cheerleading team (I cringe to admit this), and because I wasn’t one of the popular girls, I didn’t get in. I was devastated, but because I wasn’t booked up with cheerleading time commitments, I started taking dance classes after school, and discovered my first big passion, culminating three years later in a year at Juilliard in New York.
- At age 20, while at Juilliard, my budding dance career was suddenly ended by an injury. Which took years to emotionally recover from, but also ultimately led me back to finish my degree at UC Berkeley where I met my first big love.
- This first big love turned into a lousy marriage and ended in divorce, but my 5 years in that lousy marriage allowed me time and freedom to explore my creativity and get started in my art career.
And more recently, my financial crisis and my breakup forced me to finally look outside my ketubah artist box. I started writing. I started making art for me again. I started looking at really fun, cool ways to add to my income stream.
I started having fun and really loving my life again!
I thought I was happy before, but perhaps before a snake sheds its skin it feels pretty good and shiny too.
Back to the point
Which brings me back to the point of this post: how’m I doing?
I could complain that I’m underslept and that my finances are still not where I want them to be, and this would all be true. But the fact is, despite the bags under my eyes, I feel more balanced and happier than I’ve ever been.
Why? It’s pretty simple, really:
- I’m doing the things that make me happy.
- I’m engaged and excited about the projects I’ve taken on.
- I’m making time for exercise, friends, and even two upcoming music camps.
Over the course of the last four months I’ve figured out a few things about what leads to happiness, at least for me. And the key has turned out to be totally opposite from what I’d thought. (But this post has already gotten kinda long, so I’ll save that for another time and make it a post of its own.)
Comments from the peanut gallery?
Kathleen Avins says
Melissa, I want to thank you for sharing this. I love stories of re-invention, and your own story is beautiful and inspiring!
Melissa Dinwiddie says
Aw, thanks Kathleen! I always hesitate before posting personal stuff, so I’m glad you found it inspiring. That’s always the goal! 🙂
What a series of unfortunate events! You’ve recovered extremely well in such a short lapse of time, props to that. I’m glad that you’ve shared something so personal.
I went through a tough break-up 3 months ago (already!) and my life is still completely messed up. It’s only now that I’ve moved out that I’m starting to work on myself and shake things up a little bit because, truly, I don’t want to feel miserable anymore. The difficult part is that we are best friends and see each other every day! I love spending time with her but sometimes I’m tempted to ask for a second chance. I can’t tell you how much I’m still in love with her and wish things could be differently but for now I need to work on myself.
Things get too comfortable and, as you said, you don’t really change. Not that I didn’t want to change, but it’s when I didn’t have the choice anymore that I was willing to get out of my comfort zone and actually change. Sounds weird but that’s how it goes eh?!
I’m at that stage where I’m still hoping we can get back together, how sad! But not until I’m comfortable enough with myself. I want to grow as a person and my journey to self-discovery has brought many epiphanies so far, which I’m thrilled about!
I’m going to have a look at that book you suggested and looking forward to more epiphanies!
Melissa Dinwiddie says
I totally sympathize. One of Susan Elliott’s (author of Getting Past Your Breakup) main suggestions is to have zero contact with the ex. Honestly, I don’t think I’d have moved ahead so quickly if I’d stayed in contact. It was hard at first, but made things so much easier in the long run. The fact that he moved to a different city helped.
Check out Susan’s blog: http://gettingpastyourpast.wordpress.com/ Great stuff, and a lot of what’s in the book started as blog posts.
And no, it doesn’t sound weird at all that the change only happened when you didn’t have the choice. For better or worse, that seems to be how it works. I’m still working on being able to hear the whispered hints of the Universe before I get slammed by a 2×4, but I think there may be something about the way humans are wired that makes us unlikely to change unless we really have to.