a very personal story - part 1

Dear Sugar Shells,

This week I'm telling you a very personal story.  It's technically about my thirtieth birthday disaster but really this is the story of how I found my way into owning my little life coaching practice / business.  So; thank you for being here. And away we go!

When I was 29, I lived in Hayward, California, in a 530-square foot condo on the edge of the Hayward Hills and little else.  Emma the Brave was my trusty roommate.  

For my thirtieth birthday celebration, my family reserved a table at a fancy French restaurant.  My boyfriend of 1.5 years was invited, too - his first time meeting my dad, in fact.  I remember feeling the happy butterflies of excitement and getting dressed with pleasure.

My phone dinged while I was fastening my earrings - and it was the boyfriend.  He had texted to say he couldn't attend.  

My heart dropped onto the floor as I stared at that message. I don’t remember whether or not I cried, or if perhaps I wrote him back (or maybe called?).  I do remember my stomach flip-flopping around badly, the butterflies replaced by a twisting knot of wires.

I went to dinner anyway. Alone, I walked into the restaurant, greeted my family, and informed them that he wouldn’t be attending. I did excuses and they did pleasantries.  I spent that dinner forcing myself to be light and lively to disguise how much I wanted to slide down the slick wooden chair into a sobbing pile under the table.

Afterwards, I went home alone and laid down on the sofa in the dark.  I cried.  I cried big loud tears and little leaky tears, suffused with the shame of relationship failure and the physical pain of misery.  I cried from exhaustion.  And I cried the choked, wracking sobs of pure loss.

His last-minute absence illuminated how much I’d been wrangling that relationship into the shape I wanted - something that would win me my family’s approval and something I could count as a life achievement.  That possibility flew out the window before dinner and I knew it wasn’t coming back.

What also disappeared that night was my willingness to win.  

Until then, I had followed all the rules.  I had earned excellent grades in school as well as two college degrees and two teaching credentials.  I worked in an enviable job that blended education and social justice.  I spent time with my family.  I had several close friends.  I went to yoga, ate relatively well, and endeavored to get enough sleep.  And I’d even bought that tiny condo - all by myself! - to secure my own financial independence.  

So, I had Done All The Right Things, and yet here I was, alone (Emma the Brave notwithstanding) and perfectly miserable.  I wept disconsolately in the dark, on my special birthday, mourning all the illusions I had just lost and feeling completely wretched.

Strangely, though, something about it felt clean and right.  

And when the boyfriend arrived that night to apologize in person, I turned on the lights and broke up with him.  I told him to leave.

As he gathered his things, I seriously considered throwing his beloved computer over the stairwell. (So, not my wisest moment.)  I wanted to wound him and I felt very angry, true, but more important, I wanted to physically destroy something.  I wanted an explosion! I wanted actual 3-D evidence of the overwhelming collapse that I felt happening in my internal world.  

Confession:  I did not break the computer. (Thank goodness. That would've been expensive.)  I resisted that impulse, BUT fortunately I didn’t resist the destruction.  That night, without wording the experience, I unconsciously decided to stop following the rules for the sake of winning.  

I wanted a different way of doing things.  I wanted to feel different.  It suddenly wasn’t enough to look successful and together: to win in the external world.  I wanted to FEEL successful and together...and confident and peaceful and cherished and true.  And, somehow, I could sense that this meant playing a new game.
More soon, and much, much love, 

P.S.  This is probably Part 1 of 2...maybe 3.  We shall see.  Thank you for reading!!