Letting Go and Finding Me

Aug 17, 2017
Jennifer Arthurton, founder of Old Chicks Know Sh*t

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” ~ Lao Tzu

I’ve been wanting to share my own mid-life transformation story, but it’s taken me a while to write… well, I wrote it and re-wrote it about a thousand times. It feels a bit vulnerable to share. Not that there is anything truly earth-shattering or tragic about my experience; it’s just that it makes me a bit sad for my younger self who didn’t know what she didn’t know. She was so focused on creating a “successful” life that she totally missed out on the most important thing in life – understanding and building a relationship with herself.

I spent 25 years in a corporate marketing career that, by most accounts, was pretty successful. I was responsible for several business units, managed teams of people, travelled frequently to many of the best cities in the world, attended fancy dinners, met celebrities, and had VIP access to world-class events. In between work trips and the office, I gave my time to my family and friends and, shall we say, aggressive fitness pursuits. I was ambitious, disciplined and expected a lot from my life. I was focused on creating a “successful” life based on everything I had learned since my earliest notion of what success meant. I had arrived at what I thought was the pinnacle of my life and career, and then it began to unravel piece by piece.

My daughter left for college, and my husband and I realized, or rather finally admitted to each other, that our marriage, which had been hanging by a thread for several years, was over. It was a devasting experience. Having been high-school sweethearts, we had spent more of our life together than not. In spite of this “bump in the road”, I put a smile on my face for the outside world and soldiered on. I had sh*t to do. Shortly after that, I was diagnosed with a stress-related illness that caused insomnia, hormonal problems, weight gain and a host of other issues that left me bedridden on most days. I struggled to carry out even the most basic functions of life. Even though small tasks like grocery shopping had become a challenge, I still fought to keep up with my disciplined, though slightly modified, fitness regimen. In my mind giving up was not an option. Then my trainer fired me! Yep, fired me as a client. She could see what I was not yet ready or willing to admit to myself. I finally decided that I needed to take a short leave of absence from work to focus on my health, and then through an unexpected series of events, I ended up having to leave the career that I had invested so much of my life in.

I was 50 years old, unemployed, divorced, my daughter had left home, and I was bedridden. I was forced (read: did not go willingly) to surrender all of the identities that I had spent my whole life building. I had no idea who I was without them. There were many days and weeks spent lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, crying and asking God, the Universe and whoever else might be listening where to go from here. It felt like my life was over.

Eventually, I came to terms with the fact that I had only one option, and that was to fully surrender to stillness that had been created in my life and to figure out what it was trying to tell me. I began with slow walks in nature, developed a daily meditation and journaling practice, and I sought out coaches and spiritual advisors to help me navigate this uncharted territory. What I would come to learn over the coming months was that the “successful” life I had worked so hard to build didn’t, in fact, align with what was important to me. It did not feed my soul. I had let societal expectations and definitions of success guide my life rather than what was truly meaningful for me. To be really honest, I was far too busy ‘doing’ to spend any time figuring out what was truly important to me. I had sh*t to do!

Slowly I learned to enjoy the serenity I found in being still after a life of constant busyness. I learned to be present and to listen to the inner voice that I didn’t even know I had. Pieces of my authentic self began to emerge that had been deeply buried under the need to create a perfect life. I came to understand the power of being vs doing, and I learned trust and faith where once control and discipline had lived. And slowly, my body began to heal. It’s taken time for this to happen but ultimately, I see the gift in my struggles and that a quick fix would not have worked. It needed the time that it took for me to receive the gifts and fully absorb all of the inherent lessons. I also see now how every step of my journey has prepared me for where I am today and where I have yet to go.

I have found my passion in writing, building this community and supporting other women in midlife who may be struggling to figure out what’s next for them. Never could I have predicted this 5 years ago. I am creating a life that feels very authentically me. I act from a place of inspiration and intuition rather than a need to achieve. My vision and calling are my operating guidelines instead of a need for external validation. Faith, trust and surrender have replaced striving and discipline. That’s not to say that I don’t have big plans or need to be in action, it’s just that now I trust the timing of things, and I’m not as attached to the outcome. Have I got this all down pat? Nope! Do I ever struggle with things happening in my life? Yes, for sure! I am human, and this is the work of a lifetime. But one thing I do know is this….

“Everything I have ever needed has always been inside of me" ~ Elizabeth Dialto

… I just wasn’t listening.

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