I typically refer to the period of time following my divorce as “the dark days”—I was so lost.
I didn’t regret ending our marriage. I knew it was the best choice for everyone involved. But, it left me without an identity. I had no idea who I was outside of our relationship. The only things I had ever been, the only things I had ever aspired to be, were wife and mother.
Who was I apart from those things? I had no idea.
I wandered through life for a while without any direction. I let myself try new things—some were good for me, others became new forms of self-harm. I didn’t know who I would become, but I knew that I wanted more than I had. I didn’t want to go through the motions at a job I didn’t love because I needed a paycheck. I didn’t want to waste another day of my life feeling empty, unhappy, unfulfilled, bored, or otherwise dissatisfied.
No. I had wasted enough years. It was time to make my life amazing, and figuring out how to do that quickly became my only goal.
To really get excited about my life, I had to find a purpose larger than myself. In Buddhism, this is called dharma. Our dharma begins with action that is aligned with our true self. The problem was, I was not at all in touch with my true self; I didn’t know who she was. I had let other people lead me around for so many years, I had become completely disconnected from the woman I was born to be. It was time to get to know her again.
Getting to know myself was a long process. There was some pain involved. I had to strip away layers and years of things that I had taken on from life and the world around me. Ending my marriage was actually the first monumental step in that process. It was absolutely the wrong relationship for me—I knew it in my soul for years and years, but clung to it because I was too afraid to let go.
In leaving that relationship, I created space to find an identity apart from my ex-husband. I could be free of his expectations, and the persona I had developed to please him. I could release the hundred pounds of excess weight I had used to insulate myself from the rest of the world. I could travel back in time to the years when I did have an identity and recall the confident, self-reliant, creative, intelligent, ambitious young woman I used to be.
Finding my purpose became my purpose. I needed to reconnect with my spirit. To do that, I had to learn to sit in stillness and it was an impossible thing for me in the beginning. It opened a floodgate of emotions from which I had been hiding. What had changed everything for me was allowing myself to face the pain of my past, to feel the hurt I had been doing anything I could to numb, and acknowledging my truth for what it was. I began to heal, to grow, to change one day at a time.
From that new place of honesty and self-acceptance, I began to ask myself what I wanted to do with my life.
What were my talents?
What made me happy?
How could I serve others?
What did I love to do?
If money didn’t matter, and I could spend my days doing anything, what would that look like?
What was my dream—the big one, the one that scared me a little?
In the honest answers to those questions, I found myself. I remembered how much I loved to write. I remembered how my English teachers praised my papers and poetry. I remembered when a creative writing professor told me that I should have my work published, the essay contest I won in fifth grade, and the countless times I wrote about my life in secret and destroyed the evidence when I was finished. I remembered the little voice that told me to start a blog, to write a book, to share my story. I had spent my life believing that I was not capable or worthy of such tasks. It was then that I realized writing is not something I do, it’s who I am.
Calling myself a writer was a huge step toward realizing my dharma. It was more than a silly hobby. It was my purpose. Suddenly, all the painful things I used to hide from became my inspiration. I was able to fully embrace my past—seeing it for the gift that it is. Without the pain of my past, and the overcoming of it, there would be no story for me to tell. For the first time, I found gratitude for the terrible things that happened in my life. I knew in my heart that I was given a story, and the desire and ability to tell it, for a reason that was bigger than I ever imagined.
Stepping into my purpose has given new meaning to my life. As I’ve shared my story, I’ve been amazed at the response. Knowing that I’m helping people with my words gives me peace and satisfaction. I know that I have found the path I was born to walk. Whenever doubt or fear sets in, something wonderful will happen to encourage me to keep going. I’ve never felt more supported by life than I do today.
Our dharma is a gift.
A gift that brings us peace, joy, and fulfillment in our daily lives. It’s our gift to share with the world—to help, serve, and inspire others. It’s part of who we are at our core, something we love to do, a natural talent, the thing that keeps calling us back, no matter how many times we’ve walked away from it. It may be something completely unexpected, as writing was for me. But, when we find it, life is magic. When we begin moving toward our purpose, opportunity surrounds us, people come into our lives to support us, and everything just works.
Then, one day, we look around and realize that we are doing it—the big scary thing that once felt impossible. We’re right in the middle of it. And there’s no turning back now.
And the satisfaction we’ve found is greater than any of the challenges we face. And there’s no way we can fail, because this is why we are here. We know who we are, and what we want, and maybe for the first time ever we believe that we can have it. We are limitless, fearless, and completely unstoppable in that space, because we were born for this, and nothing can keep us from it.
Author: Renee Dubeau
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Editor: Catherine Monkman; Toby Israel