I remember the day well.
I was sitting in my driveway after a long days’ work, wondering how the hell I was going to survive, stressed to the max and about to lose everything.
I was about to file for bankruptcy.
I sat there and cried. And heaved. And cried.
I was frozen: I couldn’t move or get out of the car.
A song came on through my stereo—Fix You by Coldplay.
As the words belted through the speakers I could feel the warmth of my soul dedicating and singing this song to myself. Life had handed me exactly what I needed at that moment for my inner strength to pull me through this mess.
The light inside me began to glow and flicker, and I knew that I would be okay.
The proverbial rug had been ripped out from under my feet and I’d fallen hard, but clarity came slowly as I crawled and scraped my way back up.
The next two or so years weren’t easy: If being 32 and moving back in with your parents doesn’t taste like humble pie, I don’t know what does! I learned a few huge life lessons and now feel like I’m much better off for having gone through this.
Lesson 1: I learned to accept the negative.
I call it my bankruptcy. I took ownership. I took responsibility. I was to ‘blame’. I became 100 percent okay with that.
It wasn’t someone or something else that made my life choices: I chose to buy instead of rent; I chose not to be financially savvy with respect to my relationship; I chose to spend my paycheque rather than save.
I was always choosing bigger, newer.
It was all me.
After the dust settled, anger had subsided and with no one else to point the finger at, I felt defeated but simultaneously forced into acceptance—after all, how could I grow or learn from the situation by looking elsewhere?
All too often we take responsibility and accept the positive but not the negative in our lives. There is no appreciation for the good when you don’t accept the bad.
Opposites keep us in check; they offer balance.
Light and Dark, Up and Down, Past and Present, Yin and Yang—we can’t have one without the other.
Lesson 2: I was forced to dig deeper into who I really am.
“You don’t realize what you’ve got until it’s gone.”
You’ve probably heard this famous colloquialism before. When people say this they are usually talking about the loss of something physical: a house, relationship, money, a job.
Well, it’s famous because it’s true, at least in some instances. I went from owning two houses (one fully furnished) and making $100,000 per year to all my belongings fitting into a 4’ x 8’ moving trailer and being jobless.
When you talk about loss and downsizing, I am Queen. However, rather than looking at the saying from an outward perspective, I learned to look at it inward.
I started to ask myself questions like:
What have I got now that I have nothing?
What are my beliefs? What are my values?
What do I feel strongly about? What do I like about myself?
What am I good at?
Who am I?
Because I had less physical items or a certain lifestyle as potential answers to such questions, the answers had to come from within. I was forced to re-assess who I really was inside and acknowledge that this would always be enough.
Lesson 3: I learned to make decisions with my heart rather than my head.
All of the choices that lead to my bankruptcy were thought out, planned, and analyzed. Choices that came from my head.
This is where I went wrong.
Two lessons emerged from this:
First, ego makes decisions in the head, soul makes decisions in your heart. Ego is fueled by fear—fear of rejection, unworthiness, failure, disappointment. But when our egos are offered nothing to chew or mull on, our hearts will show us what we need to know.
The second lesson is a skill I developed whenever I find my head is crowded and I’m not able to shut off. First, I get comfortable. I close my eyes and let my eyes gently “look” at the inside of my forehead. I picture my thoughts as though they are on a whiteboard or chalkboard. I don’t force them—I just let the picture appear naturally.
I then start to erase it. I picture the eraser wiping over the board clearing my thoughts in it’s path.
Once the board is empty, I focus on it’s colour. If a thought pops up, I simply imagine my hand swooping in to wipe it clean. Once the board is clean, I start breathing into my heart. I focus on my inhales and let the air surround my heart and fill my chest.
I recognize what it feels like.
This is my heart making decisions. These decisions are real, true, honest and overflowing with self-service.
Lesson 4: Minimalism is weightless.
We live in a world where collecting things and stuff make us feel important: a new pair of shoes, a new phone, a bigger house, a better car. But once the novelty wears off or something better comes along, we are now just left with a pair of shoes, a phone, a house and a car.
We keep reaching, we keep buying—and in turn we are never happy with what we’ve got.
When I realized I had a more abundant life without always having the bigger or better thing, a huge weight was lifted. I started to see my belongings as tools in my life, not status symbols. Yes, I miss some things that I gave away—but I also found more joy in giving or donating these items than from having item itself.
Conversations with my family and friends have deepened to internal belongings. My bank account grew and I learned to live on less. My value as a human being is no longer linked to a price tag.
I now feel emotions at full cost, rather than a discounted rate.
From where I sit now, I was offered an opportunity to get a do-over—a clean slate, if you will. I could use my bankruptcy as an “excuse” to reset who I was and become who I am.
Being human means I am not perfect.
I still make mistakes and have some bad habits, but the most powerful summation of all this is that I now know the difference between head and heart, stuff and value, and life and living.
And that is worth so much more than what money can buy!
Author: Shantelle Clarke
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Frank Park / Unsplash