What You Can Learn from Learning about My Life

I have a wonderful life today, but as many of you know who have followed my work, it wasn’t always this way! I had a pretty tumultuous life filled with what many people would call “tragedy.”

On top of that, I’ve had lots of “issues” with mental health, domestic violence, homelessness, addiction and poverty and…

… and here is the coolest thing. Now I am completely fine. More than fine. I’m happy, healthy, healed, fulfilled and oh so grateful.

It wasn’t an easy road from there to here, by any means.

I spent my 20’s in a domestic battering relationship. I was depressed, and wrecked with anxiety. I had just moved from upstate New York to Boston, Massachusetts. I was lost, overwhelmed and insecure. I had no money, no possessions and felt I “had to make things work” in this new city and new life. The only problem was that my partner at the time was going through manic episodes. The move to Boston unhinged her in a way that she was unprepared for (as was I) and she ended up being psychiatrically hospitalized – after numerous bouts of losing control and pummelling me in fights we had. It wasn’t pretty. A physician pulled me in his office and told me he had a daughter my age and if someone was doing to her what he knew someone was doing to me, he would want someone to intervene. He told me to get out, get help and leave the situation. I was too young, too naïve, and honestly just too frightened to heed his advice. It got worse until finally she just left the state, leaving me homeless and alone.

As a result of the turmoil of my 20’s next decade of my life I was wrapped up in the pain and struggle of addiction. I was going to graduate school and working full time on top of that. My days often started with 9 o’clock classes, and then I would get home in the afternoon, do some schoolwork and then go to my job working overnight shifts. I would finish work at 7 AM and head back to class. It was intense to say the least. I had very little money, so I would often skip classes to go to some of the Boston area teaching hospitals to participate in paid research studies (read: be a lab rat!).

My addiction left me with a string of broken relationships, high stress and marginal health, but I am nothing if not a fighter, so while managing all of that drama, I managed to get a masters degree and began a career in mental health none the less! (I’m sure we can all appreciate the irony here!).

Looking back, first half of my life I was on the downhill slope where I was rapidly careening out of control. I finally hit bottom in my early 40’s, as I was just on the verge of losing everything I cared most about: my marriage, my home, my son and my career.

To say I was a mess would be understatement. But, I knew it. I knew I was in trouble and that I needed to change.

The question I needed to answer first was, how was I going to pick myself up, go from train wreck to triumph and get my life back on track?

I remember sitting on the couch in my living room with tears streaming down my face, my spouse looking on with as much compassion as she could muster given all I had put her through, telling her that I knew what I needed to do in order to get better, but I was not well enough to do those things. I felt hopeless and so afraid. I had dropped 20 pounds and looked emaciated and beaten down by my own poor choices. But I was also determined. Again, I am nothing if not a hard worker. I saw what was at stake and I knew I had to gut it out and bring my life and myself back to some semblance of health and well-being.

So I recommitted to healing and was going to individual therapy, couples’ therapy, and spiritual counselling once a week, I went to church every Sunday, 12-step meetings 3 times a week, and meetings with my 12-step sponsor once or twice a week, and was on psychiatric medications as well – all while working full time and parenting my son! Whew! Remembering that now makes me realize just how far gone I was before starting my long climb back to recovery.

As I reflect back on those years, it seems like it happened to a different person. I was lost, asleep, and wrecked with the pain and tension of being a human being. Now I am focused, centered, awaken and excited about the future.

After all I have been through, I call everything that happened to me a blessing.

I truly believe it was all for my good, it all made me who I am.

Why am I telling you all of this?

For two reasons.

First of all – there is a worrying pattern among most of human beings. We have life backwards. We make all possible mistakes we can in first half of our lives and start really living towards the end of it.

Isn’t that a bit of a waste of time?

Even though all those mistakes were made before us, by our parents, grandparents, by almost every other human being that lived before us, we seem to not being able to help ourselves and repeat them as if there was not other way.

What even more strange [not surprising though] is that we make all those mistakes and live first half of our lives backwards despite the fact that knowledge and information about how to live life to the fullest is widely available [with Internet over the last decade even more widely!]

Second reason to share some of my life story with you is with the hope to uplift and inspire you!

Whatever point of life you are right now, whenever you feel trapped, whenever struggles seem too heavy to carry and whether you believe me or not – you can have meaningful, happy and fulfilling life and you can start at any point.

And let me tell you that – the sooner you decide to do it, the longer you will have to enjoy days that are still ahead of you.

I know how you may feel. I’ve been there with a heavy heart and confused mind.

I wasn’t sure, I did not believe, I was scared.

And despite all of that, I acted against my fear and resignation, I made a decision and I never looked back.

I am not going to tell you it wasn’t hard or that once I made this decision to transform my life, everything became simple and easy. No, it wasn’t anything like that. It was hard and bumpy, filled with doubt and hesitation, but looking back – I would make that decision about transforming my life again in a heartbeat.

You have probably heard me say that life will give you a plenty of circumstances. I had circumstances in my 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. I still deal with circumstances now, and I will have to deal with circumstances in the future. Just like you or any of us.

What changed is the fact that I have grown in consciousness. I am more powerful and better equipped to deal any circumstance that comes my way. For the most part, circumstances don’t affect how I feel and what I do. I discovered and employed wisdom that is available to all of us and rigorously and consistently applied that wisdom to my life. I discovered that there is a power within me that can help orchestrate my life in ways that I never understood or thought possible. It is astounding.

It’s never too late to live a life by design, filled with clarity, intention, peace, fulfillment and joy. “It’s never too late.” Yes, that is true, but it can also just be a foolish quote for a meme and definitely not wisdom to live our life by if it means you wait and wait and wait because it’s never too late.

I have a better one for you. Carpe diem! (Seize the day!)

The sooner you start believing in yourself and what is possible for your life and your future, the sooner you will be able to truly enjoy life and the longer you will have to be amazed by how powerful you really are.

So, if you are in difficult situation in your life, if you seem to have more problems than satisfaction, if you think your life should not be the way it is – today can be your day to make the radical decision to transform it. Why wait?

There is one more side benefit of taking control of your life and start designing it today. The sooner you learn how to do it, the more people you will influence to do the same.

Children follow footsteps of their parents for better or worse. Imagine your kids and their kids copying your character, your attitude and learning all there is about life and love from you. Imagine yourself being a role model to whom little people look up to.

Now realize this – it’s already happening.

You are a role model whether you like it or not.

Starting today you can be the role model and mentor you always wanted to have in your life. Show your kids and future generations what a happy, fulfilled and meaningful life means and how to get there.

I will be watching you from the sidelines and supporting you no matter what decision you make.

PS… If you need help, guidance, support, or just want to talk about what’s possible and where to start – send me an email to jackie@jackiewoodside.com and let’s have an honest conversation about life and other things.