Happiness Takes a Hiatus


(Photo: What a difference a year makes…)

A little more than a year ago, when I wondered where my writing–and my life–would take me, I couldn’t have guessed what the following twelve months would have in store. Today, I return to Chicago Carless from a self-imposed month-long hiatus awed by the changes 365 days can bring.

Like being unexpectedly hired as the Assistant Director of a leading political strategy public affairs firm that works exclusively on social-justice issues across Chicago.

Did ya get all that?

Ah, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Yet 2006 seems so long ago, now. My life was a bundle of contradictions same time last year. My communications consultancy hit the big time in Washington, while I withered and dithered away at a dead-end nonprofit day job here at home. I re-discovered the spiritual element of my life, as I continued to live a life based around fear of loss and failure.

I remained deeply devoted to my then-partner of two years, while refusing to admit his severe emotional limitations that were utterly apparent to everyone else in my life.

It was a shell of a life, a smelly, rotten egg of apparent happiness and palpable woe. And as time would tell, 2007 was about cracking all hell out of it.

As a new year dawned, it was up with the consultancy, but out of the day job. Reunited with long-lost New York friends, but potentially leaving my beloved Chicago.

About to move across country with the man I thought I’d spend my life with, then suddenly told, in May, that in 30 minutes time Devyn and I would never speak to each other again.

There is little new dialogue ever spoken when a relationship ends like a car crash. “It’s not you, it’s me,” came as no surprise. Neither did, “it’s killing me to end this.” “I just need to learn more about my relationship to the world around me”? Who comes up with lines like that?

However, I do have to say being told, “My friend from Phoenix is waiting downstairs, so would you please let go and get out so we can spend the rest of the day together or I’ll have someone remove you,” while I’m sitting there, stunned, my possessions dumped into shopping bags, and doing an involuntary impression of Jennifer Hudson’s hysterical meltdown from Dreamgirls, really did add to the genre.

How do you follow up an act like that? In my case, by spending a summer trying to leave behind Second City heartache, relocate to New York, and return to my old friends.

But when was the last time trying to escape into the past worked for you?

That’s how well it worked for me, too. Sure, I got a good job offer from a prominent Gotham nonprofit (in some other universe, right now I’m the communications director for West Harlem Environmental Action). But as the summer wore on, all the old, bad dynamics started to reassert themselves into my re-forged 1980s-era friendships. New York City didn’t feel like home anymore. And I was damned if I was going to pay $1,400 for a basement studio in Queens.

And, suddenly, somehow, spontaneously, I did what Devyn had told me to do in the first place. I let go.

One of my favorite Buddhist authors, Pema Chodron, would tell anyone trying to wend their way out of a difficult emotional situation to “hold your seat”, avoid running. Start where you are (as she counseled in her book of the same name).

Really, what more did I have to lose?

So I mixed together equal parts of mea culpishness, bravery, remembrance of things present, and St. Johns Wort, and took Devyn up on his advice. (Adding in a healthy dose of the best emotional releasing technique I’ve ever learned, the Sedona Method, a tool whose worth has proven itself to me over and over again in the past few months).

I let go of fear, faced squarely into my life with an open, if broken, heart, and committed to a future where I was–in Chicago. And in a very short while I came to a stunning realization.

I was happier than I’d ever been in my life.

Getting fear and the limiting expectations of limited others out of your way, it’s amazing the joy that exists in the middle of the mundane. And it’s astounding how much easier it is to attract more of it.

As 2007 ends, I recognize the substantial, if at first painful, gifts that this year has brought. A transformation from the discontented life I led 12 months before, allowing many new and wonderful things, finally, to come my way.

This holiday season, I am grateful for a lot. That I got through the year without jumping off my balcony for one. That I finally found my self-worth, my center, and my groove, for another.

I’m grateful for a bountiful universe that I have finally come to work with instead of at cross purposes to.

I’m grateful for a supportive network of friends, including several wonderful Chicagoans whose acquaintances I have been blessed to make this year (and to host for Thanksgiving!).

I’m grateful for a dynamic network of business colleagues whose advice, tutelage, and recommendations helped me make the best career change of my life.

I’m overwhelmed at the belief shown in me by the leadership and staff of Thinkinc., a leading, social justice-minded public affairs firm in Chicago (not to mention by our incredible clients).

And I can’t stop smiling about one very special acquaintance who, against all odds, has managed to show me in no uncertain that there is, indeed, life beyond Devyn.

This is not where I expected my life to be a year ago. Instead, it’s better than I could have imagined. I’m happy, engaged with my everyday, and entrenched in Chicago. I have great friends, the job of my dreams, and a guy to be bashful with.

To be quite clear, I’m not happy because of any of that. I was able to allow all of that into my life because, first, I finally let myself be happy. It’s an important distinction and one it took me 37 years to discern.

Happy as a cause, not a symptom. It’s a world gone mad, I tell you. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep up with all the changes. But if all else fails, Goddammit, at least I’m management now.

So if the roof falls in again, this time I’ll delegate on the cleanup.

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