Hanging on my bedroom wall is a quote written in black felt pen, nailed right in the center of my dream board which reads,
Happiness (your dreams) is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings (dreams).
And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness (that next dream) forever, to stay afloat on top of it.
It’s a quote from a section of Elizabeth Gilbert’s wildly popular book, Eat, Pray, Love with some Catherine mixed in with it.
In 2006, I purchased her best-selling book because my 16-year career in mortgage banking was crashing and deteriorating right before my eyes, like a retired Las Vegas casino implosion.
I needed to ease my fear of losing everything and becoming one of those bag ladies in front of Target, digging through the trash for food. All my adult fears danced around my head with the ring-leader of them screaming:
Ohhhhhh fuc* what will you do next (for a career)? Can you even do anything else?
Note to Catherine: fear makes for the absolute worst partner — it lays around your place nagging you with gut-wrenching thoughts, while turning boxes of tissue into little wet balls of cotton, leaving you with red wine stains on the bathroom counter and chocolate crumbles on your counter.
I had to get out of my own head.
One day, desperate to find something besides wine and chocolate to make me feel better, I decided to take a long walk to the nearest shopping center. Nestled in this quaint outdoor center is this lovely little bookstore and coffee shop. Wandering around bookstores warms my heart and gives me hope so I decided to hang out there until they made me leave.
In an obscure area towards the back there was a table of paperback books for sale. From about 3 feet away, I found myself staring at one particular book cover, contemplating whether or not I wanted to spend money on a story I had been hearing so much about without knowing what the real story was.
But the idea of a book title beginning with the word, “Eat” (maybe there was chocolate?) fascinated me. It helped that it ended in “Love” too — something I’d been so horribly bad at for such a long time (when it came to partners).
A voice inside me said, “Catherine – buy the damn book!”
So I did.
Never argue with a voice sounding like your Irish grandmother while you are spending your single weekend afternoon in a local bookstore, where the salespeople would like you to leave so they can close and enjoy the life they’ve managed to create.
Have some self-respect, Red.
My son was with his father for the weekend. I went home, changed into my pajamas, crawled under a blanket on the couch — with my usual box of Kleenex and glass of red wine.
Light jazz played softly in the background.
Self pity feels great with jazz.
At 3:00 a.m. I was still on my couch reading Eat, Pray, Love, and contemplating finishing the entire book in one sitting. I hadn’t touched my wine in hours and for the first time in days I didn’t feel like crying. In fact, I had been laughing out loud at Gilbert’s wit and wonderful vulnerability.
So I did the thing that most women would do in my position:
I took the book to bed, curling myself around its pages like some long lost lover cuddling me and I drifted off to sleep dreaming of India.
As soon as I awoke that morning, I rolled over and began reading right were I had stopped several hours before.
I didn’t make coffee. I didn’t eat breakfast.
I stayed in my pajamas until I finished the book — sometime that afternoon.
I remember it was the afternoon when I finished the book because the sun was casting a long soft ray of light through west window of the living room. Upon finishing the book, I’d gone over and laid down on the floor under the sun’s rays with my arms spread out wide and the book closed tightly in my right hand.
I inhaled a deep breath and thought,
I need to get a better fuc*ing life.
Here’s a woman who went out and faced her life head on. She faced her limiting wall and scaled over it. She did it traveling and eating, traveling and meditating, and traveling and riding bicycles through rain-forest country. Then she did it again for the whole world to read.
Then I told myself, “Well, she didn’t have responsibilities”
“She didn’t have kids.”
“I love raising Brian and she doesn’t have that.”
But truth be told — I envied her.
I envied her because, even though she was afraid, she changed her life anyway.
It couldn’t have been easy – even without kids.
I continued to lay on the floor for what must have been an hour. The sun moved down behind the fence, while my living room faded into the colors of sunset.
Suddenly, I jumped up, threw my box of Kleenex in the garbage and said,
“Catherine, old girl, whatever it takes – you are going to change your life!”
Of course, you have to be really specific with these types of requests when making bold statements at the universe, or it will send a hurricane into your living room then sit back and say, “Well, you said you wanted change.”
As you can imagine, I was very specific.
That night I created a dream board from the magazines laying about my house. I went on to create a list of the 150 things I wanted to do before I died. I entered them in my daily journal. They take up 6 pages.
Then, a funny thing happened to my life.
I’ve completed 12 of those 150 goals so far — this website is one of them.
In order to change your life have to stop burying your passions in wine and sorrow and go after whatever it is you really want. You are the only one who can make your dreams come true.
You only have one blessed life.
And let me be the first to say — changing — ain’t for the faint of heart.
It can be difficult and tiring, boring and tedious, and you can go years before you see results. But if you look carefully at your life while you are working on it, you will notice little, subtle changes occurring, and one day you will find yourself smiling for no reason.
Because it suddenly dawns on you that you’ve changed the trajectory of your life. You will never again work in mortgage banking.
And there’s no better way to live your life.
If not — then go ask Elizabeth Gilbert.