In Losing Everything, I Found the Beauty in Nothing

I’m not a pessimist…at least, I like to think I am not. On the contrary, I’ve always considered myself a badass woman. At 23 years of age, I was married, a mother, and a homeowner. I had a stable, financially secure career—and my life looked damn good (especially on the outside). Four kids, 15 years of marriage, a beautiful home, and two expensive cars later, I started to find myself tired. Smiling became difficult, waking up every morning was a feat, and my husband’s usual romantic gestures felt meaningless. My husband noticed and recommended I see a therapist, so I did. I loved my therapist—she was a brilliant woman, but even she couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t happy anymore. I was bereft and didn’t know why.

Everyone in my life was telling me that I was losing my mind. I reacted, and started tackling the things in my life that I wasn’t quite sure of. Soon I asked my husband for a separation. I knew the 19-year-old who chose him was not the 34-year-old woman I was today; a lot had changed. Of course, that meant crashing not only my life, but the lives of four little beings I was responsible for. As a woman, I naturally felt responsible for pretty much everything and, as a woman, I was blamed for pretty much everything. Shortly after my separation, the only solid rock I had in my life, my mother, became increasingly ill and died within six months.

Here I was now, having to be completely alone with all the choices I had made. It’s funny when you have someone in your corner; some things are just easier to do. Alone, I decided to crash and burn in it all—in the hopes of a fresh start. So I quit my job and gave up the cars and lifestyle my family had come to know as the norm.

My children thought Mom had lost it—and though at times I thought so too, there was always a voice inside telling me, “Go, let it all go!” Of course, I didn’t wake up one day and just say “fuck it,” though I can appreciate it may have seemed that way to the outside world.

I watched everything I had spent my life building fall away. I started to see, I started to hear, and more importantly, I started to feel. I was numb, and I was living a life designed by someone else. It didn’t belong to me, and more importantly, it was missing important aspects of me.

The first thing I did was ask myself: “What do I want? What am I feeling?” I cried, broke down, and let myself feel and release what no longer served, fulfilled, or inspired me. After, I was left empty but it was an emptiness unlike anything I had ever known. I had space, I had room, and I had possibility.

I ended up signing up to do some Mindfulness and Awareness training courses that essentially brought me back to life. I took the next three years to get to the bottom of how I had gotten to where I was. Who had created this life and why? Who had told me that this was the ”right” way? Who set these rules in the first place? I embarked on a journey of self-exploration. It wasn’t an easy journey by any means; after all, looking back at one’s life, particularly one’s childhood, isn’t usually fun. I had to face some hard truths and some real pain that I had never allowed myself to feel and grieve, which I now know is a very necessary part of the process of growth and transformation.

It wasn’t easy. I did various jobs to keep myself and my children afloat while I plunged into my subconscious at full force. Nevertheless, we survived, and allowing myself the permission at 35 to explore the depths of my being was priceless. I had four children and various responsibilities, but I was getting to do something that not everyone has an opportunity to do. Even though there were some very hard financial times, I consider it all a blessing—after all, change is the only constant.

There were many insights and breakthroughs that came. To be honest, I haven’t necessarily arrived anywhere, as many spiritual texts say. What I do have is a level of freedom and a relief from external pressures—be they from society or familial expectations that I’d either inherited or absorbed. Many of these things I had believed to be who I was, not even cognizant of the fact that I had never had a choice in the matter. I was mindlessly going with the flow, which brings me to another precious piece of knowledge I obtained: mindfulness.

I define mindfulness as walking, moving, thinking, and interacting with a sense of purpose, no matter the situation. Allowing myself time to digest information and to ponder a decision, or any movement in my life. Allowing myself to be in the presence of anyone and know I have no idea who this person is, regardless of how I or society may have categorized them. This is what opens up possibilities and beauty.

I now take my time. I listen, I sense how my body responds to energy, I pray, I pull cards, I light candles, or I meditate. Damn it—I have the right! This is my life, and whether it’s my next career or relationship, I can move as I see fit. And as long as I bring no harm to others, and treat the janitor with the same respect as the CEO, I can do whatever I please.

There is no better way to wake up every day than knowing, at any given moment, I can hit the reset button. I’m not saying it’s always going to be easy but I can promise you, it will be worth it…because you’re worth it.

Alexis Cancel

About the Author | Alexis Cancel

Alexis Cancel is a native New Yorker through and through, and a mother to four amazing children. She studied healthcare management at New York University and proceeded to spend 23 years as a healthcare administrator in both the public and private sector. Passionate about human rights and a self-described revolutionary, Alexis is currently working as a healthcare consultant, Reiki practitioner, and writer. The epitome of transformation in human form, Alexis is constantly reinventing herself and working to reach her fullest potential while fulfilling what she deems her main purpose in this life: to serve and inspire others.

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