I have a story to tell that is full of grief, and the happy ending has not yet been written. But, I do have hope that I can live a beautiful life, even if my current vision of success is quite different from the one I would have hoped for myself several years ago.
In my mid-30's, I was struck by a sudden, debilitating autoimmune disease. I was a nurse practitioner who had left medical practice for a healthcare administration job that I loved. I was a fit, active yogini and health-food nut. I was really a happy person. Out of the blue, I became very sick with swollen lymph nodes, blood clots in my lungs and severe, debilitating joint pain that caused inability to walk or sit. I was able to continue my job working from home, but most of the time, I was lying down to work. The first year I practiced ceaseless positive thinking; I believed that any day I would wake up and would be all better and could go back to work and back to living. The second year, I lost hope. The physical and emotional pain were so overwhelming that I often asked my Maker to release me from this life. The third year I had a profound realization: I'm not dead, I'm not dying, so it is time for me to start living again.
Living looks really different than it looked three years ago. There's a difference between being physically alive and truly living. I came to peace with taking medical leave from a job that I can no longer do physically. I have come to accept that I have a nameless illness, but that my life does not have to be defined by my job or my health. I am not really sure what success is. I have no idea what my future holds, but I am creating a beautiful life for myself. That life is a much more simple life than anything I have lived before. It is finding peace and joy in small things: making my 6-month-old nephew laugh, sending a handwritten card to a friend, enjoying the feeling of the sun on my skin, giving thanks for the days that I am able to go to yoga class. This is probably not the life I would recommend for anyone else, but it's the life I have been given, and I am hopeful that there will be many more beautiful chapters.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with our women's conference, "The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power" which will take place in New York on June 6, 2013. To read all of the posts in the series and learn more about the conference, click here. Join the conversation on Twitter #ThirdMetric.