It seems I made it to adulthood with a rather enormous stack of self limiting beliefs to shuffle through. For a lot of years, I wasn’t even aware of it. I was so used to these beliefs that, in my mind, they were just truths. I always had all my ducks in a nice, neat row… and they were all well-fed and had an ample security system around them at all times to ensure safety. There wasn't any big risk taking going on, nothing much unexpected. Drew was more of a “leap and build your wings on the way down” sort of person.
In the years when I met and dated him, I started to become more aware of my negative beliefs, and started to challenge some of them. He was always a big supporter of me pushing past my own perceived limits. He got me to go skydiving, something I never imagined I’d ever do. And fly a plane. And submit my first photographs to an exhibit. He was the first person I truly felt took me under their wing and attempted to nudge me gently upward and forward.
When he died, I didn’t want that to die along with him. It was a part of myself that I had been with him that I didn’t want to lose. I think, it gave me something that I could choose to keep during a time when so much was taken away without my having a say.
So I kept doing things to push my limits. It was harder without him there, but also, his death made me more determined… more fearless.
I quit my corporate job. I moved for the first time in 8 years. I got a job at an art gallery, which had always been a dream of mine. I opened up a shop online to sell my photography, and found that people loved my images. I began a blog to write about grief and loss, and discovered that people actually wanted to read my words.
I met a widower and said yes to falling in love again, and then met his daughter and said yes to the totally terrifying journey of motherhood… only to find I still had an enormous capacity to love and to mother. I was asked to present at a conference on death and dying, halfway across the country, and found healing in sharing my story with a crowd of others. I was invited by Soaring Spirits to present a creative grief workshop at their Camp Widow conference in Toronto. Yet again I was terrified, but I said yes, and found that I could help other people in new ways I never thought I could.
This leads me to now. Almost 7 years after his death...
I have now lived twice as long without him as I did with him, and with every scary new thing that I have said yes to, I have taken a leap - and built my wings on the way down. Just the way he taught me.
Over time, I’ve come to adopt a bit of a personal mantra from this journey… Always Surprise Yourself. Because my absolute favorite moments in this new life since he died have been the ones where I have done just that… surprised myself with my own abilities. My ability to love, to take risks, to be vulnerable, to be a friend, to be brave, and probably most of all, to be scared shitless of all kinds of things and to do them anyway. I think that is the thing I am the most proud of.
Every day, every month, every year, as I see it, I pick up a new limiting belief from top of the stack and I begin my work on it. I begin whatever process I need to in order to question that belief and work past it. Sometimes it takes months, or even years, to work through a belief. Sometimes I have to put certain beliefs into another, smaller stack for a while. This is the stack of things I WANT to work on but don’t feel quite ready for yet. I find that putting them in this stack helps me begin to ready myself to tackle them down the road, when the timing feels right. Sort of like a pending file.
It’s a slow process, but it works. Gradually, the stack is getting smaller. And now, seven years after his death and so much other life, I can actually see the difference when I look at that stack of self limiting beliefs. I can see a different in who I am. The stack is smaller now, and it’s taking up less space in my heart and leaving more room for trust. The smaller it gets, the easier it becomes for me to do things the way he did… taking the leap first, and building my wings on the way down. I think it’s the most beautiful kind of legacy anyone could leave behind in our hearts… that even in death they continue to make us a more beautiful version of ourselves to share with the world.
Photo Credit: Brooke Shaden