Choose Your Joy Over Fear

In March 2017 I woke up one day and I finally was able to say it. "Shit, I married the wrong person." Now I was at a crossroads and I had a decision to make. Never in a million years did I think I would get a divorce. I had married a good man. 

Our marriage had been falling apart for 3 years at the point. We had been going to therapy, reading books, having talks that would last 5 hours long at a time trying to figure out the "root" of our dismay. We kept making progress. A lot of our triggers were old wounds from childhood crap, and we were rehashing it out with each other. We were making progress, but something was still "off"...

The year before (January of 2016) was a pivotal time for me, as I was kickstarted into my own inward journey. I had been introduced to Mind Body Medicine when I was doing my last clinical semester in LA. I was blown away at the accuracy of the spiritual and emotional contributions of these disease processes. I was so blown away that I decided, "This is what I want to do someday." I fell in love with the principles and healing practices of Mind Body Medicine and wanted to do it. Someday...

 In typical Erika fashion at the time (I am a recovering mama hen from codependency, taking care of everyone else first and then neglecting my own needs and nurturance), I was applying it to everyone else. But it didn't take long for me to start to get curious about the spiritual and emotional contributions to my own health woes. I had all kinds of various gut and autoimmune issues at the time, which were much improved thanks to nutrition and a clean lifestyle, however still haunting me at different times in different ways.

The spiritual and emotional themes I noticed consistent in my health issues were, "Fear," Self blame," and, "Being overly responsible." I immediately resonated with the, "Being overly responsible," as I had a lifelong track record of taking on other people's bullshit, however I was not yet conscious of the, "Fear," and, "Self-blame," piece. I started asking questions like, "What am I afraid of?" "What did I blame myself for?" "Why do I get so angry and bitter at times? What is that all about?" 

I started looking at myself instead of figuring someone else out. It was time to figure me out. Who is Erika Suzanne? What does she want? Why does she feel the way she feels? Why the hell is her body so out of whack?!!??!? The answers to these questions are what sent my marriage into its final stages, and ultimately its end. 

 I eventually figured out who I was. I had figured out what I needed, what I wanted, why I felt the way I felt. And it had become clear as day that the person who was my husband could never meet those needs, was not chemically and vibrationally a match with me, and there was nothing we could do to "fix" it...only accept it. That was a tough pill to swallow. I had been in a deep friendship for 11 years that we tried to make into a marriage. We were each other's firsts... I was still a teenager (18) when I met him. All I had ever known was him. I did not know adult life on my own. We had built an entire life together; and I was about to end all of it. All I had was the unknown and fear ahead of me. But I also saw the relief and potential for joy. So I jumped.

I did not want to live a lie. I did not want to continue living a life where my needs were on the back burner and where I was making myself small to survive.

It was not healthy. It was no one's fault; it simply was what it was. We were both compromising parts of ourselves to try and fit this mold that was not authentic for either of us. So I came home after a camping weekend in the mountains and told him, "I do not want to be married to you anymore." Amidst the sobs, we were still friends. And for that I continue to be grateful for.

The thing that was getting me through that point was my job. I loved seeing my patients and what I was doing.  Then two weeks after I left him, my boss sits me down and tells me she is not growing the business like she thought (which is why she brought me on the year prior in the first place).

So... she let me go.

I went home and sobbed. I was consumed with fear. I thought, "OMG, what am I going to do?" Luckily my former husband was very supportive and I was not homeless, but still. OMG! WTF??!?!?! I was now sans husband AND sans job! So I scrambled...

Fear Fear Fear Fear Fear.

I started networking with another integrative clinic in town, and two months later got another job as a Nurse Practitioner. I started the job a few weeks later. I really liked the patients and what I was doing there. However, I had this funny feeling the whole time. The chemistry didn't feel right between me and my coworkers, although they were very nice to me. Almost TOO nice. But I brushed that gut feeling aside. I was getting compliments, positive feedback, and I thought things are turning around. Until he sits me down when I come into work one month after being there. 

Him: "I don't think this is going to work."

Me:"What?!" 

I felt like I had been hit by a mack truck. My jaw dropped, my palms were sweating, my heart was racing. I asked him, "Why? You have been giving me nothing but positive feedback." I could tell he was kind of winging it, but then he started criticizing my hair, the way I dressed, questioning my professionalism (say what?!), and then proceeded to tell me he was concerned about the initial personality test I had taken. He said I scored super high on being independent, and that concerned him. Um, really? It sunk in at the moment what a disingenuous person he really was, and that I just dodged a bullet. I realized he wanted a Stepford Wife Nurse Practitioner, and he thought maybe I was that. But the thing is, other than a pretty face and a fit body, I am the opposite of that. I dress bohemian, I let my hair grow long and wild, I laugh and cackle at inappropriate but hilarious jokes, I make inappropriate and hilarious jokes (at the right place and time with the right people alas), I have tattoos and piercings, I have a unique and quirky personality, I am loud and opinionated, and I am vulnerable and authentic into who I am and what I have been through. This leaves some people, for lack of a better word, uncomfortable. I realized, "You're right, this is never going to work."

I was not willing to compromise any part of myself to "fit in" somewhere where there was no space made for me to be me.

So I shook his hand, thanked him for the opportunity, and walked out with my things. I was grateful that he saw it before I did, but it didn't change the fact that I was now consumed by fear again, single and jobless. I closed the door to my car and started bawling. I called my former husband and told him that I was unemployed yet again. 

I cried the rest of the day in a ball in my room holding my cats (Quite the sight, I know. Cat lady at her finest). I went to bed early that night. I woke up the next morning around 630 AM. My heart was screaming MIND BODY MEDICINE!!! I was like... well, I guess there is no better time than now? What did I have to lose? I went on google to see if there were any trainings coming up through The Centers of Mind Body Medicine. Lo and behold, THAT NEXT MONDAY THEY WERE HAVING THEIR BEGINNERS TRAINING IN CALIFORNIA. No shit. I booked my Airbnb, my flight, and my rental car and immediately. And 48 hours later, I was in California.

Everyone at the training was like, "So what are you doing here?" I said, "Well, I just got fired for being too cool apparently, and I just inherently know this is where I am supposed to be." Lol. I got so much love that week, and it was so refreshing. Those people saw me. They saw my heart. They liked my hair and the way I dressed. They loved my cackle laugh and my jokes. They loved my vulnerability and my stories. I was truly with my tribe. I felt joy. In that space... I had access to my joy. 

I decided... I wanted to have access to my joy consistently. I wanted to live a life where I shine my light, I do not hide, I live authentic and big. I decided this was going to be from now on. 

So after the beginners training I knew I HAD to do Mind Body Medicine. It is my calling. However, I did not know what that was going to look like. I did not know where I was going to work. Instead of shooting from the hip, I wanted to let it manifest. But what was I going to do in the meantime?

Travel.

 Oh yes, how I did so love to travel. In my early 20's I did a lot because I worked part time for the airline on the ramp. It was honestly the most fun job I ever had. I flew for free and went to Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Mexico, Hawaii, Costa Rica, Chile, Peru, Brazil, Italy, and Egypt. Not too shabby for a piss poor young 20 year old! I made it work. And I missed that job and the freedom of traveling like that so much. Plus it enabled me to visit friends throughout the US and my family in Ohio without the financial burden. 

So I decided to apply to the airlines again. After several months of applying and applying, I FINALLY got an interview and a job! And it was minimum wage almost, but I did not care. I was so full of joy I was about to burst. It felt so good, so authentic, so me. When I got on my first free flight again, I was consumed with euphoria. This was the space where I belonged... being a traveling gypsy queen. I was meant to be a traveling gypsy. It is how I learn, grow, and experience this world. 

I kept looking for a place in Charlotte where I could do Mind Body Medicine. I couldn't find any. Then in December it hit me; Oh my goodness, I am the place. I am what is going to bring Mind Body Medicine here. I have to start my own practice.

That was the beginning of manifesting it. Again, I let it marinate...

Inner Fire Wellness.

But how was I going to do this? What was it going to look like. That spring I filed the paperwork for a LLC and tax ID just trusting this was what I was supposed to do, and everything was going to come together. I intuitively knew I just needed to start the process of starting my business, build my website, and let it happen. 

In the meantime..

 I do Airbnb out of my house and that pays the mortgage and then some. It is what has enabled me for the last year to survive and pay the bills. We had sold our one home in Arizona the year before and made a good chunk of change off of it. I decided I was going to invest my portion into another property to Airbnb out. Airbnb had been working so well for me out of my house that I figured this would help me financially to invest it this way. I needed income. 

I kept looking at homes and nothing was clicking. Then in December I traveled to Phoenix for a wedding. At this wedding I stayed at this Airbnb called "The Space Hut Time Machine." This thing was a frickin' trip. It was amongst an Airbnb village in this person's backyard. They had turned an abandoned school bus into an Airbnb. My creativity juices were awakened (they had been shut down for so long). I didn't need to buy another house... I needed to build a place where people would be inspired. 

Tiny house.

It came to me like a bolt of lightening. I needed to take the money I had earned and build a tiny home where people could retreat to and feel rejuvenated and welcomed. Where they could feel inspired. Little things make big impacts. I started looking. I found a builder in Atlanta who could build me a brand new tiny home for the almost exact amount that I had earned in the sale of my other home. That was no coincidence. My gypsy soul had come out of her spiritual coma. It was time to manifest this bundle of joy. I was scared because I was about to spend ALL of my savings on this house. With no job other than my minimum wage side gig to support me. I decided to jump, heart pounding and palms sweating...

Over the next four months, Gypsy Soul Tiny House was built. They drove her up in April of this year. I spent all of May putting her together, decorating, getting her vibe right. I wanted to welcome people and inspire. I know what it feels like to feel like I have nowhere to go and what it feels like to be creatively dead. I wanted to give a safe space for people to find a home and a creative spark. 

The joy of having people inspired by this and having people stay at my place has my heart overfill with joy. I feel like I am connected to a greater purpose, a bigger picture. Gypsy Soul Tiny House is booked almost every night every month. I did not choose my fear... I chose my joy. And what is happening is nothing short of a miracle. 

Back to my business. I am still manifesting that. Putting myself out there is sometimes terrifying. What money I am making on it I am mostly investing back into it at the moment. However, I am joyful. I am doing EXACTLY what I was meant to do. 

So, last night I sobbed for a good 30 minutes because I was scared. When is my business going to grow more? When will I start making more than I am spending on it. And then I stopped crying. And realized I didn't know, nor was I going to.

But I realized that it was going to work, cause every time I have trusted my joy, it has EVENTUALLY WORKED OUT. 

It has not always been pretty. It has been hard work at times. But dammit, it has worked out. 

I am inviting all of you to find the opportunity in your adversity. To realize life is happening for you and not to you. And to TRUST YOUR JOY. It is your compass that you are moving in the right direction. Know that the universe or whatever higher power you believe in is going to support you. I am telling my story so you can see that and connect to that. 

TRUST the path. And choose joy over fear. 

 

 

 

Erika Shepard2 Comments