One year ago this very week, I took a single step and commenced a journey of change. Life itself is a journey of change, but at this moment I realized that I must consciously and earnestly pursue change. All change occurs from within. I began the journey of changing my life, my attitude, my heart from the inside out.
Before this moment, I had accomplished a lot, earning academic degrees, marrying a wonderful man and having a beautiful family. I had learned many important principles of joyful living and was doing my best to follow them. I tried to live in gratitude and look for the good around me. But without even knowing it, I was stuck in the very natural paradigm that something outside myself would bring happiness, and that circumstances around me should be the way I wanted them to be. And yet things were often not the way I wanted them to be and I sometimes fell into the trap of being negative and critical, frustrated and unhappy.
Change must have a catalyst. While circumstances may differ, the catalyst is always the same. It is called real intent. When I got to the point in my life that I really intended to change, that I was willing to do whatever it took to change, that is when the answers became clear. In the words of Budda, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” When we are truly ready, this universe, created by a loving God, bends to bring us the answers we need.
Here is an excerpt from my journal (November 2011).
“On Sunday afternoon, as the kids and I were going home from church, the Suburban would not start. The next day, Mike’s car was also having problems. Then I missed the thirty-minute pick up window for the forty pounds of hamburger that I had ordered and paid for through Zaycon. So now I’m facing the prospect of losing all of that money and buying grocery store meat for months.
“Our dryer wasn’t working. The downstairs toilet wouldn’t flush. Margaret had seen me pulling up the chain in the tank to manually flush the toilet. She decided that she was big enough to do it too, which is how the porcelain lid got cracked in half. And that sharp porcelain lid was the cause of the deep cut I suffered on my right hand. This cut partially severed the tendon and ligaments on my middle knuckle rendering me unable to tie my shoes or fix the girls’ hair.
“When I was still mourning the loss of my fully functioning hand, Mike and I went on a date. The kids are usually so good when we are gone, but this time they were sitting around eating their Halloween candy and didn’t notice Margaret coloring all over her body, her bed and wall with a magic marker. Nor did they notice that she and Joshua poured a large bottle of concentrated dish detergent on the family room floor.
“When we returned to find this situation, I immediately began sucking the soap out of the carpet with our Bissell. The result was a bubbly mess that clogged the machine over and over again. As I was dumping the bubbly water into the tub, I realized that we had no hot water.
“The next morning, I got up and ran the Just Cuz half marathon in the blowing snow and ice. When I got home, I was chilled to the bone, but there was no hot water for a shower. We ended up having to replace the hot water heater. And I spent the evening scrubbing rust out of the carpet because the old water heater leaked all over the stairs. I didn’t get to shower until the next day.
“The following Tuesday was my birthday and when I was baking myself a cake, I started the dishwasher and to my dismay, water began pouring out all over the floor.
“If God is trying to get my attention, it has worked.”
During this difficult few days, I fell into depression. I spent a lot of time on my knees begging for help and for answers. And through the thick pavilion my attitude had created between myself and the heavens, I felt a clear inspiration, “You are not unhappy because of what is happening around you. You are unhappy because of what is happening inside of you. Choose to be happy. Don’t wait for your circumstances to make you happy. It is your choice.”
This inspiration initiated a period of earnest study and work. As I put into practice the principles I was learning, I began to understand deeply that I am here on this earth to act and not to be acted upon; that there is a space between stimulus and response in which I get to choose how I am going to think, feel and behave. At times, I have fallen back into old patterns and had to revive my resolve to change. And so it is at this one-year anniversary I have decided to recreate my journey in writing, to better understand and internalize what I have learned and to prepare my heart to learn more.