The Rest is still Unwritten
I was stressed at work, stressed in my marriage and my daughter who was the one bright light in my life, was preparing to go off to college. I felt lost and empty. I stopped and asked the ocean, ‘Is this the rest of my life?’ It’s waves rolled and twisted and crashed and dared me to step out of my comfort zone. I knew in that moment that I could change if I really wanted to
One of my favorite songs is Natasha Bedingfield’s song, ‘Unwritten.’ For so long I thought that my life was already all mapped out. I thought I would stay married and stay living in Portland Oregon for the rest of my life, even though neither of those things brought me the joy that they originally had. I would daydream about living a different life, but I thought it was just that, a daydream. I would listen to that song and think, ‘Yes that is true, but not for me.’
But that slowly changed. I love the ocean, I feel like it revitalizes me. I remember being at the Oregon Coast for the weekend and I went for a run early on a Sunday morning. I had my music blaring in my ears as I usually do when I work out, and that song came on. That morning I slowed down and really listened to the words; ‘No one else can speak the words on your lips, drench yourself in words unspoken, live your life with arms wide open, today is where your book begins, the rest is still unwritten.’ That morning running in the soft sand to try and run off my sadness, her words finally included me. I slowed down to a walk and stared out into the tumbling waves, and the misty clouds covering the sun. I was stressed at work, stressed in my marriage and my daughter who was the one bright light in my life, was preparing to go off to college. I felt lost and empty. I stopped and asked the ocean, ‘Is this the rest of my life?’ It’s waves rolled and twisted and crashed and dared me to step out of my comfort zone. I knew in that moment that I could change if I really wanted to.
Having a peek into a different future is sometimes all you need. From that moment on, my mindset shifted and I realized that the rest of my life was not mapped out. I felt a surge of energy, and a thirst for knowledge. I wanted to talk about possibilities, and meet new people that had made changes in their own lives. I started talking to a co-worker about shifting my mindset and she suggested listening to Tony Robbins. I had listened to his videos long ago, but hadn’t listened to anything motivational in a good 10 years. So, every day after work I would go to the gym and select an old Tony Robbins youtube video and listen. His voice was deep and determined, and called me out on my present situation. ‘Most people stay in bad relationships waaaayyyy too long!’ I felt my face flush. That was me, but I wasn’t ready to hear that yet, so I switched to a different episode. ‘You can change your life in one moment!’ He said in this episode. ‘Yes, I can!’ This left the possibility open that my husband would change too. That WE could change together. I wasn’t ready to admit to myself that wasn’t going to happen.
As my energy and curiosity increased I started signing up for MeetUps, and women’s networking groups. I made a commitment to myself that once it was on my calendar that I was going to show up, even if I had a crappy attitude the day of the meeting and wanted to cancel. And the other commitment I made to myself was to really listen. To stop the voice and the judgements in my head, and really listen to what others were saying. I would literally say to myself in the meetings, ‘Peta, don’t say anything, just listen.’ I was so used to justifying my current life, and I did this by judging others and not letting new information in. How could I create a new future, with my thoughts from the past? I couldn’t!
It was a slow process of putting myself out there, and then running back to my comfort zone. But just like the waves of the ocean, with every rush into the shore I gathered something new and swept it into my consciousness. I made new friends that saw a different side of me, the side that had been dormant for so long. The side that I had in my 20’s when I believed that anything was possible if you worked hard enough. I had left that behind, I had given up on myself, I had started to believe that life was just hard with no underlying meaning.
In the midst of this journey, my mother suddenly passed away. Her passing shocked me at first, and then sent me into a tailspin. A few months after her death, we gathered at our family home and went through my parents belongings, as my father had passed away a few years before. My siblings and I walked through a house that for me held memories of my mom being sad and withdrawn and my dad physically being there but emotionally unavailable. I couldn’t take much because I had flown down and had to get back on a plane. I was in a daze as my sister handed me pieces of jewelry, and small items that I could travel with. It took all my focus to remain standing, and not collapse amongst all my mom’s belongings.
The rest of the items that none of us wanted or could take went to Goodwill, which was most of what was in the house. I couldn’t wrap my brain around everything just being basically thrown away after being saved for over 50 years. What was the point? I felt so vulnerable, confused and unsure of how to process all of it. I drank heavily for 3 months, then after a boozy Champagne Easter Brunch, I decided to stop drinking, for good. I threw up, and spent a week on the couch as my body processed all the toxins.
Without the alcohol to numb me, I felt like I didn’t have any skin. I was sensitive to everything, and started turning inward. But I still listened to the podcasts, and discussed the future with my good friends. In doing this, I remembered my passion for writing. I always turned to writing when I was confused. The words that would come out, would seem from someone else sometimes. But I would read it back, and things would start to make sense.
In October 2017, I started attending the MeetUps again, and I went to one that was about Midlife transition. One of the ladies in the group wanted to start a blog, and they all agreed that it was too hard to figure out. The women in this group were smart career women who wanted to better themselves, and for some reason the fact they thought it was too hard made me want to figure it out. It was a thought that came to me, that I couldn’t shake. I was going to start a blog. What was I going to write about? I had no idea! But I decided that on January1st 2018 I was going to publish my first blog post. So, the next few months I researched how to create a website and publish a blog.
I did publish that first post and I have written every week since. My writing led me to rediscover my love for drawing women, which led me to open a store and sell my art. It led me to have an art show the following year in Portland, and then another art show in Los Angeles. When I was in Los Angeles for my art show, I interviewed with my employer to move to LA. I got the job! I got a divorce. And truly the rest is still unwritten.