• jennifer raper

The Adventure in Staying

This blog was supposed to be posted a few days ago. That was the deadline I had set for myself, but when the moment came to pull the trigger, I suddenly felt immensely tired. I felt so sleepy I couldn’t imagine posting it without first getting a nap. I went upstairs and slept for a bit then returned to my computer and the blinking cursor in front of me. Then my eyes started itching from the kitties I am fostering. How could I possibly write with itchy eyes? Next it was the sound of someone cutting their grass down the street. Then I was hungry. This continued for a couple of days until I finally admitted to myself I was getting cold feet.

It’s a little scary putting my life out for the world to see. I have always been a pretty private person. I am not one to air my laundry, either clean or dirty on social media. I post pics from vacations since that’s the easiest way for all my friends to see them, but I never share any personal information. If you perused my profile, you would see smiling faces and happy moments capturing me and my family living the good life. I do, in fact, have a good life. I have been blessed with good health, a loving family, financial success and the ability to see the world.

I have also had my share of heartaches. Very few people know about those. Most would not suspect that the girl with the big smile holding up a glass of wine at sunset in Uluru has had bouts of depression and anxiety, feelings of not being enough and fears about the future.

Those places were dark and lonely, and when I finally found my way to the other side I knew I wanted to share my story with others so they would know they are not alone and feel hope that things can get better, much better. So here it goes. This is the shortest version possible of how I was able to fall in love with my life again. :)

Things started to fall apart several years ago after I went through an unexpected divorce. I never imagined I could feel that much pain. It left me questioning my worth, who I could trust and if the world was a safe place. I had panic attacks and cried a lot. I was edgy and would isolate myself from others for days. I found a fantastic therapist and coach who was able to help me deal with the behaviors and move forward with life, but I never quite put those anxieties to rest. I built a nice career, raised an amazing daughter and did all the things I was supposed to be doing; yet I was never completely at peace.

I fell in love a few years later, and I was on top of the world! It felt like I had finally found the happiness for which I had been waiting, but when things didn’t work out all of those anxieties came back up to the surface. It sent me spiraling into such a deep depression I did not want to continue living. I felt stuck. When my alarm went off in the morning, I wanted to pull the covers over my head and just stay there all day. I had no passion or motivation. Things I loved before didn’t appeal to me. I trudged through each day doing the bare minimum to remain a halfway respectable human being while longing for that energy that used to fuel me. The world had changed from an exciting place with an endless supply of things to see and do to a prison full of expectations of who I should be and what I had to accomplish.

Out of that low place sprung a determination to figure out this happiness thing once and for all. I began to formulate a strategy. I wanted to remind myself what a strong, determined, adventurous woman I was so I started planning a month-long stay in Sydney, Australia to find myself again. I love travel, and this seemed like the perfect remedy until a few days later when I was driving to visit my daughter in college. I was listening to an audiobook called The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, and he was talking about the things we do to avoid being present. I gave myself a nice pat on the back for not doing most of them. Then he mentioned travel and adventure.

“ that what I’m doing? Could I be using this trip to avoid dealing with my feelings of heartbreak and devastation?” I thought. “No. There’s nothing wrong with travel. It will give me the inspiration I need to yank myself up by the bootstraps again.” Despite my most convincing speech to myself, I still couldn’t shake the feeling that I might be running more than finding myself.

Over the next few days, I contemplated what would happen if I chose to stay and face whatever I was fleeing. An adventurous trip would consume my focus and keep me from feeling sad, but simply avoiding pain is not the same as healing it. This would be new territory for me. My whole life has been about moving quickly, and any disappointment was followed by a swift effort to rise even higher. The constant noise and movement around me kept me from negative feelings, but it also kept me from facing some demons head-on. So I decided to conduct a little experiment. I put myself on a travel and adventure ban in order to see what might happen if I got still and quiet and allowed myself to actually feel all my feelings, both good and bad.

As it turned out, staying was much more of an adventure than going to the most exotic destination I could imagine. When I finally stopped the distractors, I was able to really experience the emotions I had been suppressing and discover beliefs I held that increased my anxiety. It started with the feelings of emptiness and failure after losing the man I thought I would be with forever, but after I healed those wounds I found that more and more began showing up. I had buried so many things over the years that I had a graveyard of fear, shame, rejection and unworthiness. As I gave time and attention to each, I experienced a peace and freedom I had not felt for years. My lightheartedness, motivation and joy gradually began returning.

It was a lot of work and I spent hundreds of hours reading and learning about ways to keep myself in that happy place. I also began to feel passionate about helping others and wanted to make it easier for them to find their path. I trained and got my certification as a life coach and have just started a website with resources that helped me. Every day is not perfect, and I’m still figuring things out; but I decided to start this blog in the hope that someone will identify, even if in a small way and be able to change their own life for the better. I want to share the highs and lows of my journey as well as the tools I discovered that helped me dig my way out. This post is only a brief synopsis of the road I traveled, but I plan to lay out all the pieces of the puzzle in greater detail in future posts. I hope you stick with me, and I would love to hear from you so please feel free to post comments and questions as well as you own story.

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