But all that change? It can be exciting.
Forget the failed marriage. Forget the lost job. Forget the mortgage you can no longer afford. Those worries cost your life too much time already. Put a laser-like focus, instead, on: what's next?
The proverbial question was slapped in my lap a few years before I hit 40, about the time I learned my then-husband had been living a secret life.
What the...?! Secret life?!
Yeah, um, his story is a bit dramatic,and would have left me in fighting mode if I hadn't gotten sick to my stomach first -- for about a month. I lost a lot of weight trying to process that his "secret" involved activities no wife would ever condone. And, oh, yeah, toss in the secretary.
Painful as my reality was at the time, I had to laugh at the absurdity -- An escort service on your speed dial! Really? -- or I would have fallen apart. But I didn't want to fall apart. So I focused on how I could get out of this mess. There was a bike involved.
Though I hadn't ridden it in years, I was drawn to the bicycle in my garage immediately. It would become my safety net, my refuge, my release. And it would take me to the land of pretense and carefree living, where nothing else mattered but the ride. Ironically, those child-like bike rides led me back into adulthood and to my second act: inspirational public speaking.
Still in the process of advancing this part of my career (I'm also a freelance writer and author), I started sharing my BIKE STORY at Toastmaster's. It got good enough reviews by my peers -- men and woman, alike -- that I braved joining a professional speakers group to share it with them. I got a standing ovation!
And I got chills, realizing the power behind a story. To be honest, it freaked me out. But it also fed an inner truth. If professional speakers can hear my story, laugh with me, cry with me, and wildly applaud the efforts of a new speaker who dares tell the story of how she overcame what had been an unbearable life obstacle from the seat of her faithful Trek, then I had something. I had no choice now but to trust in that.
The bike gave me a philosophy that I now teach to women in transition. But I don't believe it would have happened without other past obstacles (abusive family of origin, teenage marriage with two babies, three wrecked marriages, and on and on) before this one. I had overcome other traumas, too. My bike story is just what turned the light bulb on.
So this is why I've gone through all of that!
My bike gave me the space to reflect, relearn and revise. It was my safe space where no judges or critics existed. Just me and a renewed sense of self. Women do not wind up with men who abuse them, cheat on them, or lie to them without getting permission to do it from us. And we don't give them that permission unless we learned to do that as children. Boy, did I have some relearning to do! Thankfully, spiritual guidance helped me connect instinctively to other tools that would lift me back up from despair and the years and years of unacknowledged sadness. That bike got the wheels turning.
I remember learning about my then-husband's "infidelities" on a Friday. On Saturday, he wanted to do yard work all day and plant flowers in concrete pots on the back patio. I let him drag me to a nursery where we picked out the plants that I later purposely let wilt. I think he wanted to keep me busy so I wouldn't ask too many questions. On Sunday, he left to attend a conference.
Numb, and now alone, I wandered about my two-story house like a zombie, not eating anything, barely drinking water. Other than my bike rides, I pretty much spent that first week on the couch in a daze, wondering, "What the hell just happened?" Then, "Who do I tell this to? How do I get this out of my head?"
On Friday, I got in my car and wandered the streets of my neighborhood. At one point, I remember hearing Bonnie Raitt on the radio, "Cuz I can't make you love me, if you don't. You can't make your heart feel something it won't..." and then sobbing so uncontrollably that I pulled into the first parking lot on my left. A church. It didn't matter that I'd never even attended that church, it seemed logical for me to get out of the car and go inside. At the administration desk, I barely got out the words, "I need to speak to a pastor," when I was rushed inside an office, my sobs echoing in the lobby behind me. The door closed, and I sat down on a padded chair in front of a desk, shaking but trying to compose myself. I knew exactly why I was here. The pastor came in, looked me square in the face, and said, "You're safe. How can I help?" It shouldn't surprise you that I started attending his church the following Sunday.
Just as I was drawn to get up and ride my bike every morning (it relieved my anxiety), I was drawn to this church (it relieved my wounded heart), I was drawn to write in my journals (it relieved my anxious thoughts), and I was drawn to seek professional help from a therapist, lawyer and financial advisor (it relieved my fear of the unknown).
That lightbulb kept blinking, telling me I had a story to tell and that it would be helpful to others. I'd found my purpose! It was unfolding minute by minute.
But by now, you may be thinking: exciting isn't exactly what I'd call this. But even if no one else knew, I knew this was going to be the ride of my life. And it's exciting to be in the middle of something you know is going to change you forever and to know deep inside that you're going to get through this. It's exciting to know the experience is going to take you places you never dreamed you'd be able to go. Or maybe, like me, you did dream it but didn't know what it meant till it bopped you upside the head. While I was processing how to rebuild myself on those bike rides, the change was already underway.
Then, when I gave what I considered my first paid speech and collected my first real check -- $500 to speak at a women's regional conference -- I was beyond excited. I was proud of myself. I had made it. And you can, too. If you're wondering, though, in the midst of the anxiety change often brings, how you can connect with the excitement -- and let go of the fear -- of your second act, here are a few tips:
- Accept the change. Denial only makes transitions more difficult to navigate. Tell yourself: Okay, this is where I am now. So be it. I will adapt. When you can be honest with yourself, you are more apt to notice you are not alone. When you know you're not alone, you are more apt to be open to what's next.
- Seek assistance. When you accept that you're going to have to adapt your life a bit, and that you're not alone, only then can you begin to reach out. No need to hide away. No need to shy away. Start sharing your story with friends and neighbors. Find out who knows someone who can help you adjust. Being brave enough to reach out strengthens your resilience. This is where self-trust begins.
- Focus on your natural-born talents. If you know what they are, start doing them. If you don't know, take some classes or take time to investigate. If you are getting internal messaging that suggests you should be doing something specific with your life (Mental images would always pop in my head of me standing in front of a large audience), pay attention to that. Your purpose is speaking to you. Listen. Draw positive energy from that.
- Read and read some more. When you feel knowledgeable, you gain confidence. So read up on what you believe to be your next life. If you intend to open a small boutique, start a home-based business, or write the next "great American novel," it's smart to learn how others have done it before you. Consult with similar professionals to find out what mistakes they made and how you can avoid them, and find out what's worked best. Copy other people's success, and then adapt it to fit your needs.
- Join like-minded groups. Your peer groups are your support groups. Find out who they are, and join up. Whether it's online or in-person, organizations, associations or others affiliated with the type of work you want to do (or are trying to do now), the members will provide the inspiration you'll need to get through the challenges everyone faces in business. You will never be without a challenge as long as you are alive. So see them as something to overcome, and not as something that might stop you in your tracks.
- Explore your personal interests and hobbies. Your second act should NOT be all about work. Make your second act about life, in general. This is your time to take up the painting class you always wanted to sign up for but never did. This is your time to plan that trip to Italy and learn how to make lace on the island of Burano, if that's your desire. This is your time to experience what makes you feel alive. Whatever it is, it's within you, not in somebody else. If it's your grandchildren that you want to spend more time with, go visit them. If it's your blog, commit to writing in it. If it's community service, find out where you can volunteer your time.
- Take responsibility. There's no one else better equipped to know what's right for you than you. Listen to your heart. Pay attention to the signs that might be calling out to you. Trust that you have what it takes, and then take the action that's required to move yourself forward. These are just some of the lessons that I share in my classes, workshops and keynotes. It's not rocket science. But for some of us, during the more difficult moments in life, it seems daunting. It's not, unless you make it seem so.