Sometimes your deepest disappointment can become your greatest joy
I’ve been feeling nostalgic lately. It was ten years ago this month that something happened in my life that launched what I now consider to be the best decade of my life so far. But it didn’t feel good at the time. Many of you are new here and may not be familiar with my back story so let me give you the highlights. I’ll try to keep it succinct.
In January 2010 my husband was fired from the church he had pastored for 15 years. If you aren’t part of the evangelical world it may be hard for you to understand. We lost our community. People who had been in our home, raised their kids with our kids and we considered to be close friends never spoke to us again. We lost our future. (Churches tend to hire young pastors and we knew a man in his fifties with health challenges AND had been fired was going to be a hard sell!) We lost our place of worship. We lost our identity. We even eventually lost our home when we couldn’t replace my husband’s salary. I lost my faith. At the time I felt like I had lost everything. I was devastated.
One friend told me that I acted like someone with “PTSD”. And she was close. It is now recognized as ‘Religious Trauma Syndrome.’ It develops as a result of the chronic abuses of harmful religion and the impact of severing one's connection with one’s faith and faith community. It is compared to Complex PTSD.
We now admit that we had been tolerating mistreatment for years before the actual dismissal. I believe we were victims of gaslighting. We were told again and again that we were the problem and we needed to find a way to get it right. We tried for years to twist ourselves into what people wanted. If there was a Cirque du Soleil for clergy we could have been the main act. We finally reached a breaking point and said, “Enough, if you aren’t happy with us then for God’s sake fire us. Stop mistreating us.” We disappointed a lot of people when we took a stand for our own wellbeing and asked for 'constructive dismissal.'
Ten years ago I thought my life was done. I’ve told you what I lost. Let me tell you what I gained. I gained an authentic community where I can be truthful. The year after the firing I went back to school and got my MA in Leadership. During that two year program, I found a community of people that allowed me to be myself. I didn’t have to put on my Sunday face. I didn’t have to say the right words or show up in a certain way to be accepted. It was liberating. I gained a healthy and vibrant spirituality that works for me. I gained real friendships that aren’t tied to a position held in a church. I gained the freedom to tell my story and speak my truth. I gained my soul back.
Looking back I feel like I lost very little compared to how much I gained. I now see being fired as being set free. Ten years gives perspective. Have you ever revisited your primary school? Do you remember how big it seemed when you were a child? Were you surprised to see that now the drinking fountains are at your knee level or you were too big for the desk? That is how I feel about my experience. I’m not who I was ten years ago and I certainly couldn’t fit back in that world. My life expanded in ways I couldn’t have dreamed of when I was staying small.
I’ve learned that if you are in an environment where you can’t show up as yourself, you are going to suffer. If you struggle with people-pleasing and setting boundaries you will lose sight of who you really are. Your story might not be the same as mine. You may find yourself in relationships or a work situation where you are constantly doubting yourself. You may be ready to do something new with your life but you are afraid of stepping out of the box. You might be in a tough predicament right now that has knocked you down and you don’t feel like you can get back up. Many of us were not taught how to listen to ourselves. We've spent our lives putting everyone else first. As women, we have been conditioned to take care of everyone else and make other people happy.
Starting over, at any stage of life, is difficult. I shed a lot of tears in those early days. I felt lonely and lost. I felt abandoned. I felt cheated out of the future I thought we had. Slowly I began to realize that there was a better future. And the journey has brought me here. I get to work with women who are on a journey to reclaim themselves. Women who are exploring who they are and what they want. Women who are on the threshold of stepping into a new decade where they live their truth.
I do one on one coaching to help you on the journey of reclaiming your life. I’m just an email away. It takes courage to pursue what you want and I'm here to guide you and support you on the path to freedom.