You are stunned to receive a list of job postings in an area where you think you might want to live. Your best friend has property out west and based on her description, you like the sound of it. Your long-time friend who sent you the job postings, whom you’ve known almost since you moved here, lives out there now, too. You respond to his email, he writes back, you start chatting on Yahoo, one thing leads to another and before you know it, you’re making plans to spend Thanksgiving with him out west. This will be the first time you have spent the holiday away from your sons, but they will be well cared for by surrogate family.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, your friend notices that you are pretty tightly wound, a significant understatement. He, on the other hand, is the most peaceful person you have ever met. Nothing fazes him, he takes everything in stride. His entire being radiates peace. You want what he has; you just need to know how to get it. He introduces you to some transformational training that he has done over the years, but because you are a champion “yeahbutter,” you stubbornly resist the idea for yourself. First of all, it costs money. Second, you are a dyed-in-the-wool skeptic. Third, while you work incessantly and no one would ever think you lazy, you are, in fact, very lazy about some things and this appears to be one of them.
Chaos prevails upon your return home. Your anger and frustration levels are through the roof, your fear for your older child overwhelms. You feel responsible and powerless at the same time and you cannot think straight for the constant noise in your head. Your friend neither pushes, nor attempts to influence you to do this training; he merely parks the vehicle in your path. You are so miserably angry, depressed and afraid that finally, you climb in and take the wheel. You register for the very next Landmark Forum, just a month away, and make arrangements to take the time off work. You find a cheap hotel where you can stay for two nights, opting to drive the 90 minutes home at 1am on the third night so you can go back to work in the morning. You will return two days later for the final session of this crash course in personal transformation.
As the date draws near, you make sure there’s food in the house for the boys and leave them notes reminding them to take care of the four cats, to lock up when they leave, and not to leave dirty dishes in the sink. Bright and early Friday morning, bags packed, you leave the house, anxious about this adventure that will soon commence. You calm yourself by thinking about the possibility for peace. Each person will get out of the training whatever he or she chooses, although the concept of choosing is not exactly in your repertoire at the moment. Traffic on the highway is heavy and you worry that you will be late. You left in plenty of time, but you have forgotten how backed up things get approaching the city when there’s an accident. You arrive with five minutes to spare.
For the next three days, you explore your entire concept of yourself, who you are, why you are who you are. You confront your deepest fears and acknowledge your responsibility for yourself—for your part in who you are, why you are, who you would like to be and what holds you back from being your authentic self. You learn how to forgive, how to separate the story in your head from what actually is, and how to take responsibility for your life and the choices you make. You release all your childhood insecurities and hurts, you let go of your rage toward the surgeon who botched you, your anger toward your mother for not being who you wanted her to be, your fear of vulnerability. You learn that life is choice, and while you may feel you have no choice because the consequences all may seem equally awful, you still have the power to choose. Your friend stays out of the process, although you speak freely with him about it. He is the consummate listener.
You learn about boundaries and how to set them; you have struggled with them ever since you were sexually molested as a young girl. You discover that much of what you think you know about yourself, your family, the world, is not necessarily true, and that what you don’t know that you don’t know will trip you up every time. It’s quite stunning to realize that the amount of human knowledge, compared to the whole of the universe, is only a tiny, imperceptible fraction of what there is to know. You make amends, as best you can, with those you’ve hurt. Even though your mother has been dead for 11 years, you write her a letter, detailing all your angst, your grief for the relationship you never had with her. You catalog your hurts, those still quite alive in your pscyhe and those you’ve kept locked up in your head to justify your anger. When you finish your 9-page letter (back and front), which takes you most of the night, you have time to sleep for a few hours.
You gain some valuable insights about yourself. You have, in many ways, fostered the difficult relationship you have with your older son, who has a lifetime of his own problems to conquer. You created this monster because you lacked the tools to do things differently. You are not responsible for what other people do or say, or for fixing the things they break, material or otherwise. You are only responsible for yourself; your own behavior directly influences others’ behavior. You learn that what you resist persists, that you cannot sweep things under the rug to avoid conflict because sooner or later, the lump under the rug will become an obstacle that trips you.
You cry for the first time in many years. A weakness exploited by others, you learned not to cry as a tiny child. You allow yourself to grieve for your mother, who really did do the best she could with what she had, for your father, your nurturer and protector, and for your beloved brother, who died much too young, having lived most of his life playing an always unfamiliar, uncomfortable role. You cry for the little girl who felt abandoned and unloved, for the young woman and her two small children, whose husband and father disappeared without a trace one day. You cry for the physical pain you have suffered for the past 10 years; you cry for your son, whom you love so deeply, but whom you cannot seem to reach. You cry until there are no more tears. You sleep deeply for a few hours and when you awaken in the morning, you know you will never be the same.
A great weight has been lifted from your shoulders and the chaos in your head is down to a nearly imperceptible level. You no longer feel angry with your mother, your surgeon or your big-headed boss; a lightness of being you have never known flows through you. This must be how you felt as child, before you forgot how to be happy. You now understand that happiness is an inside job; you can choose to be happy, you can choose whether to allow your anger to overtake you, and you can choose peace. This is what it feels like to take control of your own life, to be responsible for yourself in the most elemental way. You get to set the boundaries, you get to choose from among endless possibilities for how you want to live. Your sense of liberation is almost euphoric and you find yourself smiling at nothing all day. You are wide awake for the 90-mile drive home at 1:00 am.
In the morning, you go to work still smiling and happy. Your co-workers want to know what you’ve been smoking. They don’t trust your calm, cheerful demeanor. Your good mood lasts all day, despite the big-headed boss being his usual pain-in-the-ass self. You now have filters to discern a BFD (big f*cking deal) from what is not (most things), where before, everything was a BFD. People from other departments come down to see you; odd news travels fast on campus. No one really believes this will last, they’ve known you for too long. Where is the woman who lives from crisis to crisis and what have they done with her?
After work the next day, you and a friend drive in for the the final evening session. Enrolling in the four-day, advanced course the following month, you commit to continuing your transformation. In the intervening weeks, you experience the power of the mind-body connection; the fiery pain you suffered for the past 10 years is almost entirely gone and your long-standing fibromyalgia issues lessen dramatically. You feel gratitude beyond description, for your own courage to transform, for the amazing friend who loves you enough to open the door to possibility for you, for your children whom you love above all else, and for the peace that has replaced the chaos in your heart and mind.
In your transformation, you have now created the possibility to touch, move and inspire others.