I was a middle child of three with a younger sister and an older brother, born into a traditional Catholic family in the 1960’s. My father was an alcoholic—hard-working, disciplined and always right. My mother was a teetotaller, also hard-working, disciplined and always concerned with appearances. Both my parents were fanatic about cleanliness and order.
Throughout my entire childhood, life was lived the same way, day in and day out. There was security and stability in this rigidly structured home with equally as much unpredictability and hyper-vigilance. I paid the price for years of emotional neglect while the selfish disease of alcoholism silently dictated our roles in the family. I learned to enable and blame as I took the role of peace-maker, having endless patience to fix my father’s drinking problem.
The outcome for me was co-dependency, low self-worth, perfectionism, shame and an extraordinary ability to endure pain and rejection.
This would be my challenge for the rest of my life, and also light the path to my greatest gift.
I was always the ‘PollyAnna’ in my family—seeing life through rose-coloured glass, no matter the reality that was going on all around me. In reflection, I can see that this particular lens I viewed the world through had its purpose, being both my salvation and my prison. I survived the frightening and upsetting chaos of weekends with my dad’s drinking, albeit with many tears, and chose to console myself in the fantasy world of television families where everyone was a loving and smiling member of the Brady Bunch, the Waltons, or Little House on the Prairie; where love was abundant and family bonds were loyal and strong.
I was also deeply moved and attracted to watching charity programming on TV such as World Vision and the Toronto Human Society; anything that evoked an emotional response within me to help the suffering and needy.
My Catholic upbringing was a stepping stone to the spiritual life I now lead that is inclusive of all religions. As a young teenager, I was always searching for something that matched my ideals on love, family, relationships and life purpose. I dreamed of becoming a missionary so I could hold and care for orphans in third world countries. I also knew I wanted to marry my Prince Charming and have children and be a stay-at-home mother. I wanted as many of my dreams to come true . . . I never considered that they wouldn’t! I rescued animals, babysat for many families, and had ESP when it came to sniffing out people who needed my help. I was a magnet for those in need of a listening ear or assistance in any way.
I found myself choosing nursing when I graduated from high school, and my first job was in a psychiatric hospital, taking on the huge responsibility of counselling acute and newly admitted patients and working as part of a team of healthcare professionals.
In my twenties, life began to reveal another layer to my ongoing sensitive personality as my lack of self-love revealed itself in my relationships. I often felt invisible, confused and different, and was uncomfortable with people. I masked my feelings of deep inferiority by learning to smile through everything to hide my emotional pain. I was doing this to avoid rejection, but in the end it only kept me separated from the closeness I craved. I cried while I was alone, and that was a lot.
As I began to look closer at my childhood through the shame that I felt so much of the time, I discovered an Adult Children of Alcoholics group where I began to unravel some of my beliefs I had about myself associated with my father’s drinking: If I could just be perfect enough, he might stop drinking.
I realized for the first time that I was not responsible for my father’s drinking, and that no matter how perfect I was, it was not my fault that he drank.
I’ve spent the rest of my life since that realization reclaiming all those parts of myself playing out in every painful misunderstanding in my world.
I’ve been married and divorced twice. I never thought I would be a twice-divorced statistic so the shame continued when my first marriage ended after 18 years in 2006. I’ve often said when my first child was born, I birthed myself, too. Nurturing her, and being her voice strengthened my intuition and reconnected me with who I really was, invigorating my inner child. Within a few more years, my second daughter was born, and then my son.
I found deep personal meaning as well as healing in mothering my three beautiful children, inspiring me to be braver in my approach to life and clearer in what mattered most to me. I stopped at nothing to realize my greatest vision of what was possible for a family, expressing my passionate values of authentic living through my many interests.
Through this process, I became the happiest I had ever been; my personal fulfillment was in mothering and facilitating my children’s freedom to be themselves. I was an advocate for them as I needed to be for me.
Having children awakened my feelings and intuition to such a degree that I began to further question the meaning of life as far as our purposes here as parents. I found myself resonating with the idea that the only true education was life and thus began my journey down the road of home schooling. This decision caused a huge stir in my husband’s family because of their strong academic preferences, and my family could not understand our choices and remained silent.
Later on, I would learn this was not something my husband whole-heartedly supported either, no matter that I can only assume he went along with it to resist conflict. For me, it connected me to the thread of consciousness that was now spreading into many areas of my life.
As my true self was blossoming in my first 18 year marriage, the gap between my husband and I grew massive, each of us beginning to walk down very separate paths.
The call from my soul was so great to step out into the world in a more meaningful way to fulfill my purpose. I fought to resist hearing it for fear of what it was asking me.
For two years I sidestepped every whisper that asked me to face what I knew I needed to do.
In 2006, my husband and I separated with a profound sense of clarity in me that knew this was to be. No matter the years of working on us, nor working on me, I asked myself a simple yet direct question: Am I happy?
As I pondered the truth of my feelings, the answer “no” came like thunder. My deep desire to be honest left no stone unturned and the marriage ended.
Six months before that time, I met my second husband-to-be through an online Myers-Briggs personality forum and we began talking about the challenges we were both having in our marriages. As fate would have it, we were ending our marriages at the same time.
After we met, my life took off via the most intensive spiritual boot camp where every answer to who I was would be put on the table for scrutiny.
A six year long-distance relationship began with 500 miles between us. I married him after 3 years while juggling my confused and unsettled children and a family I was estranged from. I had moved away from my children’s family home, with no new friends—I was as isolated and challenged as I had ever been. I was insistent on having the kind of spiritual relationship I longed for, and my family life would be a beautiful extension of that. I stopped at nothing to create the perfect vision of what I felt was possible, and in that attempt, my life crumbled and I lost everything but my fantasy.
Co-dependency was a best friend through those years, disguised in great love and devotion to my family, for people, animals and the world. I was relentless in understanding and making peace with the reasons for everything unfolding with oscillating calmness and craziness. And yet, I never succumbed to all the conflict while attempting to create a ‘normal’ life for myself and my children.
I resisted my screaming intuition that was telling me to let go of this relationship that was not the answer I was looking for. I fought for 6 long years to help my husband to finally immigrate from the USA and after one month of landing in Canada, we separated.
Over the next couple of years, as I began to accept a greater truth, I realized I had received in this relationship everything I had asked for. Everything I was passionate about with my husband, was what I was trying to give myself. I asked to know unconditional love and I received the opportunity to do just that, albeit with a very different outcome than I expected.
I needed to build a relationship with myself for the very first time that would then allow others to live their own lives, free of my judgments and over-involvement. Until I did that, I would be projecting all of my own wounds onto them and never be able to accept nor see them for who they really were.
My desire to live an authentic life continues to be my guiding light, shining the way to my greatest freedom and wholeness.
I have come to see that whatever we are experiencing out there is a reflection of our inner worlds. All the solutions to our problems begin and end with us. It is this understanding that allows me to love more honestly, without manipulations that can hide a deep need for love and acceptance, and to have more compassion for others who are also doing the best they can.
All that I wish to have with others, I need only give to myself first and I magically receive everything I ask for from my life. Although I still live with fears, I now know the infinite power of love has been helping me heal through endless opportunities in my relationships as part of my journey through the cycles of life; endings are merely new beginnings.
What has transpired is an expanding sense of understanding, acceptance and unconditional love, as well as a deeper trust in my own divine purpose for BEing.
Peace is now growing an authentic place in my heart.
At any given moment in time, we can change our realities by simply focusing on another way of understanding or perceiving it.
It is possible when we are ready for a change in perspective, for suffering to turn to gratitude and even great joy.
Gratitude is the powerful energy that releases our resistance to what is, allowing all that we deeply desire to flow to us, at the perfect time and in the perfect way.