Our lives in front of us all is a wide-open horizon and we march ahead, not in a straight line, but more or less on a serpentine path.
We are drawn towards the left or the right either because we are running towards something or away from it. And many times, in our lives, we stop to assess where we are and whether we are going in the right direction.
We can also become laser-focused on one point out in front of us, for better or for worse. Our thoughts are magnetized by the circumstances and we develop tunnel vision. And we can find ourselves inspecting every detail of what we see ahead even if it’s unnecessary. And that can slow our progress down to a crawl.
Also, if the circumstances are negative – that our gaze has been drawn towards the left side, where for example, the edge of a dangerous cliff lies, we may in fact steer ourselves closer towards it until we snap our view back to the road ahead.
So, the power of self-awareness is being able to ask yourself every once in a while: “Is this really what I want to be looking at right now? Is this adding to the beauty of my life and helping me move forward? Or is it becoming a disabling distraction?”
Therefore, occasionally you need to zoom out and take inventory once again. Who is in your life? Where are you going? What can you be doing instead to get there? Are your fears really fears or can they be viewed as opportunities?
It’s all a matter of perspective. Shift your eyes from looking over your left shoulder, where the edge of the cliff lies and look towards the right, where your beautiful future waits. Same environment. But different angles.
But continuing your journeys won’t start by standing. It starts with movement. And as many people may have known, I had been motionless for a few weeks – stunned and frozen by betrayal and disappointment.
But then, one recent Friday night, I said “Yes” to doing something different than what I’d been doing for several weeks. I went out to see live music in Seattle – something that was once a staple of my life when I first moved to the Pacific Northwest during what would be the falling action and dénouement of the famous Seattle music scene of the 90’s. An activity that gave me great joy and pleasure and was one of the biggest reasons I wanted to live here.
And so, after pushing my way through the crowd to the front row and locking my feet where I stood so that I could protect my place, I slipped back into the attitude I had when I first heard Everclear and Marcy Playground play live on Pier 66 in 1998 – and that mindset was freedom.
At that time, I was, for the first time, really free from the shackles I’d packed up and carried with me from Kansas to the Emerald City. I had left my first husband – my first emotionally abusive romantic relationship. I was on my own and free to be myself – a woman who loved music. A woman who was not afraid to stand up and stop kneeling before someone who demanded obedience. A woman who knew when to walk away. To move.
In one of my therapy sessions, when I told her that I was felt trapped – unable to completely move forward, my therapist suggested we tap into some nostalgia. The goal was to find the point in time when I was able to liberate myself from a place I no longer wanted to be. It was suggested that perhaps it was the moment in time when I left home for K-State at 18 years old.
I tried to travel back to then. Which, I have to admit, in order to do this, I even played White Lion’s song “Wait” on YouTube – which was the road anthem for my boyfriend and I back in the day – the song we’d play as loud as we could when we’d hit the open highways of the flat Kansas landscape and just run away from life.
But it wasn’t working. And that’s because, I told my therapist in our next session, while I was free from one aspect of my life, the truth was I was still chained. And the chains were connected to the young man who would become my first husband a few years later.
You see, while in college, I did indeed grow further as a woman. But a bulk of this change was under the caring the oversight of the head of the Architectural Engineering department. Chuck Burton, a grisled former construction company owner known for his tenacity and zero-bullshit style, was a man who saw all the potential I had and gave me the security I needed to learn not just how to bloom but to spread like an unstoppable wild fire. He helped teach me how to become a force of nature.
Naturally, I faced a few criticisms from jealous classmates who called me a “brown nos-er” and “teacher’s pet” which I hadn’t had to endure ever before because I never really ever stuck my neck out before. But I also felt that unshakable support and encouragement that taught me that it didn’t matter what they thought. If the people who really mattered were there with you, you could do anything. He stimulated my will and my fight - he didn't punish me for it as others had.
But, the flames would constantly be watered down by my relationship with my boyfriend. I had given him too much power in my life. I wanted him to love me and in return, it meant at times, that I had to placate his fragile ego in order to keep him happy.
The first two years of school, we were both enrolled in engineering. However, he simply couldn’t keep up with the academic rigors involved. I tried to tutor and teach him but his own sense of image and security kept him from advancing. It was more important to him to better than me – and to make sure I never forgot it - and it was more important to me to let him believe that because I didn’t want to be alone. A sadly familiar scenario I’d recreate again and again and again.
But, the University – not the Universe - did its part to limit the space between us by the simple fact that he couldn’t pass the classes and I could, so I moved on in the program and he changed majors. And that is when I was able to finally grow. However, my chains still limited my movement.
I have already told the story of how, despite deep feelings of knowing it wasn’t right, he and I would get married anyways and move to Seattle. And how only two years later, we’d be divorced and he’d move back to Kansas. But, somehow I’d forgotten exactly the magnitude of that moment. That is, until two weeks ago when a friend called and gave me one minute to make a spontaneous decision to go see a concert.
And so it was, on that Friday night – through the transformative powers of music - this woman who was taught how to move like a prairie fire was reignited again. It was the nostalgia my therapist urged me to find. And it worked.
I rode through the remainder of the weekend with optimism. And on Monday proclaimed that I’d continue through rest of the week like a woman riding a magic carpet.
I took that magic carpet up to a 30,000-foot view of my life – above the clouds that had cloaked me for weeks – to find my way again and the path to get on. And then I pointed forward and doubled-down.
I zoomed in just enough to change the perspective. I gave higher precedence to framing my view with more of the things I knew I wanted in my life and diminished the role the negative pieces had. I took “free time” and pushed forward with One Broken Mom with the energy I wanted but hadn’t quite been able to summon.
And that’s when movement became momentum.
And people noticed – strangers and friends alike.
Interviews became more interviews. Experts listened to what I was saying and said “Hey – you’ve got a really good thing going. How can I be a part of this?” And then people asked me to do their shows. But more importantly – the most important thing in fact – was that the people I wanted One Broken Mom to reach and help were responding back with “Keep going! It’s working!”
And it all took less than two weeks from then until now.
Because that’s how momentum works. In physics, it’s a property of mass and it’s speed and whether those two pieces combined are greater than the forces around it.
But what appeared to be more success in my life coming about was only a matter perspective. There is still substantial work ahead and not all of it is going to be pretty. However, there is also a lot more of the good stuff I wanted than ever before.
So, by diminishing the negative forces and the power they have to slow me down – which is a choice – and by adding velocity and mass to my ideas and future every day, I was able to overcome the motionless state I had been in.
And that, my friends, is in fact, the definition of power. Pure and simple.