January 11, 2014

6 Things I’ve Learned From Being Broke(n). ~ Katalin Koda

“It’s a basket case,” she said, referring to my laptop.

“We can either return it to you in pieces or put it back together in its current state of corrosion and corrupted files.” She might as well have been talking about my life.


This past year was no doubt the most intense transformative year of my entire life since 2002, when I lost a baby girl. Nothing trumps the pain of child loss, so it wasn’t as bad, but it was certainly just as powerful, just as dark and definitely wilder.

So, what happened?

First, I fell in love. Not back in love with my husband, but to someone else. (Yes, I was married). As I tried to simultaneously avoid and run headlong to the person of my newfound affection, I then lost my main source of income. As the months passed, this was followed by losing my husband, my intimate family with him and our daughter, losing my place to live and finally, to top it all off, my laptop broke. Corroded, mysteriously.

A real humdinger they would’ve said back in the day. Not only did it rain and then pour, it vortexed. Whirpooled, whipped me around on a river of beauty and river of woes. I felt like I was being birthed and perhaps I shed a thousand skins.

The power of love, desire, and passion blazed a trail so wide, so vividly, so thoroughly that I’m still walking around among the charred remains. I can smell the smoke and feel the heat. My heart is still racing, wondering what on earth just happened. I’m still in love and so broke I can’t even afford deodorant. My nine year old daughter is thousands of miles away from me so my heart is broken in our distance.

As she says, happy and sad together. What a mix up!

As I work on navigating this new terrain, having no idea which seeds I plant are going to sprout following this aftermath, I find I can reflect on what losing so much has shown me.

1) Gratitude. Wandering around Portland in an unlikely ice freeze, trying to navigate a new city after fifteen years absent from winter and also navigate the intense emotional storms of my recent separation, I could barely afford a coffee. My friend bought me one. It cost $2. Then she held my hand and looked me in the eye and told me, ‘Somehow, its going to be alright.” My heart cracked at the amount of gratitude I felt in the presence of her love and a hot drink. This gratitude spilled out and I looked around me.

I had clothes to wear, air to breathe, a story to tell. Every moment I am surrounded by the most incredible beauty: the profound complexity and wonder that is life.

2) Humility. No doubt going through these times of loss, sorrow and change sends us back into a state of groveling humility. I said a great many things I wish I had said differently. Oh how I wished I had said them with more kindness and compassion. Some days were so painful I wondered where all my spiritual practice had gone to. It was dark, and yet I still had clothes and a warm bed and my friends. Even though it seemed so much had been stripped away from my life, I saw homeless people on the streets of Portland with only a tarp and a few items; I remembered people in India who really have almost nothing. Maybe a cloth and a cup and a mala. To be humbled and realized that your own humble life is still so rich compared to so many is even more humbling.

3) Time. Without my online work that I have been doing for the last five years, and my ex and daughter not living in Hawaii anymore, suddenly, I have an immense amount of free time. Massive amounts. How peculiar to not have to cook for people at the moment, besides myself. Or have to login to my work. What does one do with oneself?Suddenly I became more conscious than ever before of really thinking about my life and what I fill my time up with. Even as an author, healer, artist I still spend an enormous amount of time doing things that aren’t really fueling my path or my vision or what I have to offer. All this time led me to the next realization:

4) Clarity. Suddenly, with so much ripped away from my life, certain things became crystal clear. Vivid, stark even. Being completely broke, with no one to rely on, no more credit cards, no more support has led me directly back to the seed of my creative visions.

Without the constraints of family, bills, a home to tend to I find myself engulfed in a river of passion, creative energy and visions. Figuring out which dreams to listen to and which to let dissolve is a crucial part of this process. I’m trying to hold on and get some reigned in to continue sharing the beauty that is erupting from my heart.

5) Need versus Wants. As these visions come forth, of course they need support to make them happen. So along with clarity and focus, I am beginning to really whittle down what it is that I actually need and what I want. Without a single excess dollar in my wallet, I can see how a new pair of skinny jeans is really not a useful spend for me. In fact this time of having so little money has shown me how little I actually need to spend. Firstly, there are a million Free things one can do: Breathe. Meditate. Visit the beach (park, etc). Talk with friends and family. Yoga. Write. And then this has also shown me to cook more instead of eating out, refrain from $4 coffees at the airport, gather fruits (luckily I live in Hawaii, where the foraging is abundant!) I also started getting a lot more creative. Making cards out of leaves, using up my dreamcatcher supplies for gifts instead of buying some, doing trades for food. My needs have always been minimal, but currently they are even more so and yet my life feels very full and rich.

6) In the flow. This is also known as trust, surrender and total effing’ let go. Currently, I am looking out glass doors, care taking a friends home and admiring the gorgeous view of Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii. I am writing on a borrowed old laptop with the possibility that I have lost all my data, along with everything else this year. I have no idea what will happen next, where I will be living in two months, how I will be earning money, who I may be friends with. I am learning to be okay with this. That this edge of uncertainty is actually a giant training in trusting my life. Trusting my heart. Sometimes I feel as if I’m walking across a torrid river, and I have no idea if the next stone will appear for my foot or not. And yet, it does. This is the flow and the trust to carry on, living and learning and loving.

So I am carrying on. Many projects are brewing, stories are being told and laughter is resounding in spite of it all. Breaking wide open lets a lot of light in, I am discovering. A lot of light and beauty and truth and courage. Losing so much that is dear to me, shows me the resilience of spirit anyway.

This new year, may you also find the courage to follow your heart headlong into the wild winds. To carry your passion and beauty for this precious life to the hearts of others. Happy New Year. Here’s to brokenness.

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Assistant Ed: Judith Andersson / Ed: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Vince Alongi/Flickr

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