Julie’s story is one that shows how we all have a choice in life in terms of how we choose to think and act, regardless of what “circumstances” come our way. It is a story that teaches us that change is always possible. But most importantly, it is a story that teaches us that love and light always triumph.

My journey of awakening and personal expansion

What didn’t I want to change? I was very unhappy. On the outside, I was my normal cheerful self, yet on the inside I was struggling to keep myself sane. All I could think of was, “What is wrong with me?” It was like I was two people living inside one body: the person I was and the stranger I’d become.

A little background might be helpful. I was raised in a tiny Midwestern town of 850 people, smack in the middle of nowhere very important except to those who lived there. Everyone knew everyone, and it was safe and orderly and actually quite a beautiful place to be raised. I swear I had the best childhood ever! We never locked our doors, not even when gone on two-week vacations. In fact, it wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned to lock up.

Children had free rein, exploring to their hearts’ content; the community was a true community, with potluck picnics and games, all-town parades, all-school holiday concerts and ice-cream socials, kids running free all over town on Halloween. Imagine every “Mayberry” tale you’ve heard; that’s what it was like.

Everyone watched out for everyone and the highest compliment paid was that someone was “just so nice.” It covered all the superlatives for the best qualities and characteristics one could ever hope to find in a person.

Mine was an idyllic childhood, filled with honesty and goodness and innocence. It was safe in every respect and I was able to truly just be me. What a gift! …to have all those years to learn about myself, who I am, without any pressures and ensuing struggles or angst getting in the way. One of the things I realized is that I liked myself.

From that tiny village, my family moved to what is now one of the largest metropolitan areas of the country; I was in what amounted to a foreign country.

In very short time, I learned to lock my doors, to watch for ulterior motives, and not readily believe everything I was told. I learned to become suspicious. I learned, too, that fears were suddenly taking control of me: fear of being taken advantage of, fear of rejection, of abandonment… A gently simmering cauldron of fear bubbled within, and I was developing a hard shell of protection. I was gradually becoming someone else someone I ultimately wouldn’t recognize.

Then my father committed suicide.

My close-knit family fell apart and although each of us tried to help the others, we were also trying to cope with our own grief. Our unraveling continued and we scattered, going our own ways as families do, but in a very harsh and abrupt way. (Eventually, we came together; just one sibling remains estranged.)

Time passed, though, and my healing began. I fell in love and married and bought a house and life was beautiful again. SO beautiful!

Until I learned I was infertile. I was consumed with grief, again, and as happens so often in marriages during stressful times, ours became strained. Eventually much later, we separated.

Devastated, my world turned black. It felt as if everyone had left me: my father, my family, my husband… Feeling lost, abandoned, valueless, I questioned my purpose, why I was even here. Lacking that, of what use was I? In my misery, I became selfish and controlling and unforgiving and judgemental, and wholly unworthy of the “nice” label. I felt I was the ugliest, most mean-spirited person on earth. Why would anyone want me in their life? But I hated behaving as I was and felt powerless to change it, even though I knew deep inside I was still the “me” I’d always known and loved.

So, to answer your question-I’m sorry to be so long-winded!-what I decided to change was all my awful behavior. All of it. I wanted to integrate my internal, true self with the outward expression. Simply put, I wanted to become whole, again. Clean. Worthy. I wanted to be nice.

I craved the ability to show compassion, again, and to lose myself in someone else’s needs and wants, to be sensitive and aware and loving and kind, thoughtful and gracious and considerate. I wanted to relearn how to put another person first. To live a life of purpose, one filled with hope and promise and joy and dreams and laughter and happiness. I wanted to live the life I’d known before. I wanted to love, again-to live love. To give it and be it, feel it and share it. There is no greater, no more harmonious way to live, I believe, than to be love.

My Inspirations and Influences

I undertook a tremendous exercise in self-love. I found comfort in tiny things, pampering and nurturing myself as if I were a mother coddling her daughter. It was the nurturing I needed.

Then, I took a friend’s advice: to look to my childhood to remember that one thing I truly enjoyed, no matter what it was. From that was born my volunteer work at a no-kill pet shelter. The animals needed me. My life had value, again.

Books helped me, too. Someone recommended A Course in Miracles, but I found it too difficult; at the time, I didn’t have the mental wherewithal to stick with it. Marianne Williamson’s  A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles” was wonderful. Although I can’t recall any of the content, I do remember it was this book that broke the ice in my heart. There were many other books I read without recall, because I was just so numb, but they were all influential in calming me: James Van Praagh, Eckhart Tolle, the Dalai Lama, Deepak Chopra, books about psychic communication with animals… All these were returning me to solid emotional footing.

Then I saw Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life: Special Edition Box Set (Book & DVD Box Set). The book’s colors jumped right out at me and I bought it without even peeking inside. This whole book spoke to me with such open warmth and honesty, such simplicity. It offered the kind of thinking and probing and hopeful encouraging questioning that was reminiscent of my family’s dinnertime conversations: its wisdom and curiosity making me feel light and hopeful and happy, again. I didn’t feel hopeless, anymore.

Meanwhile, I did a lot of internal exploration. In fact, the internal work was my greatest tool in advancement. In fact, I believe it’s where it all happens, with powerfully objective thinking and being very honest.

There were three main tools I used for this: dreams, questioning, and observations.

I studied my dreams by keeping dream journals and re-reading them many times on lunch breaks and in the evenings, seeing ever-new awareness and meaning each time, making connections between the dream symbolisms and the events of my waking life. It’s absolutely amazing the things our dreams show us! Dream guidance is one of the most useful communication tools we have, and I still use it to this day. I hope I always will. (I’ve not needed a journal for many years; my recall and understanding have become relatively effortless.)

Questioning “why” in response to everything I did and everything I thought became second nature. My behavior, interactions with others, the things I thought about and told myself… No area of my life was spared scrutiny. I observed myself everywhere. “Why do I do what I do, say what I say, and think what I think?” “Why do the hard behaviors leap to the forefront and soft, loving ways fall to the back?” “If I’m angry, sad, insecure, judgemental, lacking compassion or forgiveness, why?” “What within me preceded these emotions and behaviors?” “What is the cause, of each of them?” Always, I was seeking the root cause. Knowing that, I would know the solution.

In piecing together the observations I made, I realized two incredibly important things: I was offering judgements in ways I’d never before realized were judgements and those judgements were triggering emotions I wasn’t even aware of feeling, resulting in unwanted behaviors. And I found the simple formula that what we think is how we feel which is then reflected in how we behave.

From that point on, it was simply a matter of monitoring my behaviors to find the emotions so I could reframe my judgements. By changing how I thought, I was changing my world. It’s really very simple! It just takes practice. The more stubborn we are (like me), the longer it may take, but becoming the people we want to become is doable.

My Positive Life Changes

First of all, I want you to know that love does prevail! My husband and I reunited, and I’m delighted to say we love each other more than ever. One only ever needs to remember that love can heal everything and then set aside ego so love can flourish.

As for just everyday daily living? I’ve still a few things to relinquish, but every day I awake with joy in my heart, excited about life, and excited to know, once again, that this life we’re given is filled with treasures awaiting our asking. Goodness is everywhere. It’s just a matter of perception.

I laugh all the time, mostly at myself, and I find delight in the simplest things, like the little bug that rode to work with me on my forefinger as I drove. Something tickled, and when I looked down I saw it sitting there. I chuckled to think of the adventure it must be having!

Life is good and life is fun and life is for enjoying. I see no reason for the alternative. The whole world has expanded! … far more than I ever dreamed! Overall? I am so incredibly happy. I am Pollyanna, and I love it.

My Next Steps as an Evolving Being

Oh my, there are so many! First, I continue to monitor my thoughts and emotions, always trying to improve myself, to shed the remnants of that stranger I was. I will monitor myself until goodness and selflessness permeate all I do and am, until perpetual goodness is effortless, just the natural state of being.

We’re all spiritual beings having a human experience, and I want my behavior to emphasize the “spiritual” aspect. The basis to spirituality and life is Love. My goal is to be open to the flow of Spirit’s love at all times, that I am not the hindrance to that bounty given to our world.

Whenever I am a little blue, instead of looking for outward causes, I look inward and I always find my mood is because I’m closed, again. I’ve learned some sort of fear is the cause of all I do that I dislike. A few moments of reflection, and the fear is usually exposed.

Meditation, yoga, and my dietary choices are nurturing and healing practices that I adopted and plan on making a permanent part of my lifestyle. I’ve made significant headway, and want to continue to improve.

And I’ve finally found a tangible purpose that really excites me. I’ve started a book! My first, actually, as I’ve several in mind. I’m hoping that whatever I share is a message of hope for others. Purpose-real, meaningful purpose-had been lacking in my life and now I’m so focused and energized! I know that as I write, I’ll continue to discover new things about myself, and the thought just thrills me to no end.

My Advice to Others

First, remember that everything we experience is simply a matter of perception. I know this is hard, but the truth is, whatever is simply is. Things and experiences aren’t inherently good or bad; it’s our perception of them that determines how we feel about them.

I’d also like to remind everyone that the present place is the most important. We can and should learn from the past, and have fondness for it, but we shouldn’t live there. If we live in the past, we aren’t fully living. Also, we can look forward to the future with a lot of bright hope and dreams and enthusiasm, but it’s now where we should place all our emphasis. We don’t just float through life. We create it.

One day while journaling this statement came to me: “The manner in which we greet every breath of every day determines our level of peace and happiness.” I’ve placed it on my blog’s footer so I’m continually reminded that now is when my living begins, that I’m shaping my immediate moments, my relationships and interactions with others, and even my own future.

Love is a choice. To see love everywhere is a choice, to feel it is a choice, and to give it is a choice. If we aren’t choosing love, our rejection of it brings some degree of struggle, even pain. Why not choose love?