A few years ago I hit the emotional equivalent of rock bottom. On the outside I looked like a cross between a Maybelline ad and a catchy sitcom. Kinda cute, mid 30's, fit, three kids, devoted-ish husband and the two story home on the cul-de-sac. Because this is a blog post and not a ten book series I'll spare you the details, but the story includes a failed business, a dipping self-worth, an uncertain relationship with my spouse, a questioning of my faith, a widening gap between myself and my confidence as a mother and the general feeling that everything was sinking and no one was noticing my frantically waving hands or my smoke signal.
In true "triumph over adversity" style, I visited a convent, walked a meditative labyrinth, experienced an incredible spiritual shift and set out to change my life. Rock bottom turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. Once I said "yes" to getting happy, everything changed. It was as though I had stood on a chair and yelled "I'm ready!" and the universe rolled its eyes and said "FINALLY."
I learned how to master my mind and my emotions, wrote a book, started a successful coaching business and now teach hundreds of people how to get happy by leading with their inner power. But all of this magic did have some unexpected side effects. I found that there is indeed a...challenging side to positive thinking and to the path of growth and enlightenment in general. Here are three things I discovered that no one warned me about:
1. Many of the people I care about aren't happy and there might not be anything I can do about it. You see as I learned how to process life in a way that served me, I honestly never had a bad day. I find beauty, miracles or education in pretty much everything that happens to me. A side effect of that is that my spidey senses are ultra sensitive to the fact that most people don't live that way. I recently had lunch with a friend of 30 years. She complained about the food. She complained about the temperature of the place. She complained about her husband, judged the waitresses shoes and threw a mini fit when her iced tea spilled. Until that moment, I hadn't realized how unhappy she was. I had always attributed the complaining to a personality quirk. Now I see it as a sign of discontent. And my heart aches because she isn't one to accept help of any kind. I hear things differently. Anytime someone utters a complaint, it sounds loud to me. Beneath every negative comment, I hear cries for help, deep longings for something more. Beneath every tedious worry I see crippling fear. And I wish I could bippity boppity boo it away for everyone in my path. But I know for some, pain, fear, worry are all part of their journey.
This line of work, this opening of my soul has heightened my awareness, my empathy, my intuition. I wouldn't trade this for the world, but sometimes it's a lot to carry. There is a super fine line between an offer of help and unsolicited constructive criticism. I dance on that line every day.
2. A LOT of people I know are completely full of crap. As I deepened my quest for authenticity, beautiful things happened. I connected to my truth, to my soul's desires. I also found that my bullshit-ometer is quite sensitive. You can't come to lunch because your car is acting up? BEEP BEEP BEEP. I should buy your product now because you are absolutely closing the doors at midnight and I will never again get it at this price? BEEP BEEP BEEP! I get it. We often fudge the truth not because we enjoy lying but because the truth is hard for even us to swallow! When I hear a little white lie, my compassionate antenna perks up. I know that when we cancel something it is usually because our energy is down, or we are feeling a bit inadequate or fearful or a host of other sucky emotions. I also know that it's almost never because the car is acting up. And I know that when I get an email that wreaks of manipulative marketing, the person is probably wonderful, spiritual and fun at parties. But a fear of scarcity has them pulling out all the stops. Some really do close the doors at midnight. I have! But some close the doors at midnight every night for three weeks. And I "x" out feeling...icky. We hide our insecurities behind things like false bravado and canceled plans. It makes me sad. Because we are all whole; and we are all enough.
3. Haters gonna hate. Perhaps the most unexpected side effect I have experienced so far was a narrowing circle of friends. Here's the abridged reason. Misery loves company. Gossip loves company. Judgment loves company. Sadly, we live in a world where it's a bit odd for me to go around quietly blessing people and cultivating love. Several people dropped out of my life when I stopped participating in the drama and gossip. I guess I wasn't fun to them anymore, which is ironic because I am loads more fun now that bliss is a non-negotiable part of my daily routine! Another old friend sent me a very direct email that said my positive outlook was "a little much." She suggested I needed to come back to reality. I suggested she build a new reality that allowed for more love and less dissatisfaction. But I can't will the people around me to change. I can only change myself and hope they are inspired by it. Some will be blinded by the light and turn away. Others will allow the light to lead the way. Both are out of my hands.
At the end of the day, the challenges that come with striving to live a happy, healthy life are far overshadowed by the incredible blessings and opportunities that have come my way. I know there may be whispers, raised eyebrows and maybe a few snickers from the front table at Panera. I'm ok with that. Part of the beauty of this journey is this: when you follow your soul's compass, stand up for your life, lead with love and choose happiness, your need for approval disappears. Judgment is replaced with compassion. Self-doubt is replaced with clarity. And positive thinking isn't a concept, it's a way of life.