Maria 2.0, or Out of the Mud Comes the Lotus
At age 50, I drank my way out of my 25-year marriage. I had, against advice I knew, put all my eggs in the motherhood basket, willfully derailing my successful law career. As teenagers, my precious children did not need me in the hands-on way they had previously. In fact, they were “dirtying the nest” in preparation for going off to college and beyond. My husband and I had grown apart because, among other things that were entirely my fault, we failed to nurture that important relationship. I was depressed and stuck. As I turned 50, I had the distinct feeling that I was on the downward slope of my life. Actuarially speaking, I was. So when I turned 50, my gift to myself was to go on a crusade to make the most of whatever time I had left. I set out to do 50 new things that were, perhaps, significant only to me. The list spanned physical challenges, adventure, travel, spiritual work, and lifestyle changes. Each taught me something about myself and how I wanted to live the next decade and more of my life.
We all have challenges in life and cards we are dealt that we would rather not face. Life does not go as planned. But each of us can adapt and reshape our circumstances moving forward.
I had a lot of darkness in my past. It was painful to come to terms with some of that. But I took the necessary steps for me to heal. I have heard that the lotus flower grows out of mud. It took me a long time to appreciate my mud. . . .
I had always been a bit of a dilettante. I was fairly good at many things, but expert at none. Part of that had to do with my desire to evade introspection. I spent much of my life running away from myself—running so fast so that I would not have time to look within. When my therapist asked me what made me happy, aside from my children, I had no answer. When I reflect on this now, I am astounded. I suppose I really did not know who I was in any meaningful way. For the most part, I just took on roles that were expected of me and subjugated my desires unless they coincided or meshed with the given role. Pursuing 50 new things was part of my quest to determine who I was at my core and what cultivated joy for me.
The definition of happiness is debatable. In my youth, it meant pleasure and excitement. Those things can contribute to happiness, but I was looking for something less fleeting. At 50, happiness for me means contentment, serenity, and peace—with some spice mixed in. I set off on a spiritual retreat, to search for clues about the authentic me and the meaning of my life. I actually went to rehab first, which was spiritual—so spiritual that I went five times. What planted the seeds of my transformation was a retreat led by don Miguel Ruiz in Teotihuacan, Mexico. I now strive to live my life according to the tenets of his book, The Four Agreements. These “Four Agreements” and the Twelve Steps for recovering alcoholics provided the road map for the next chapter of my life.
So eager was I to share my new way of living that I joined forces with friend, Dr. Nicole Cutts, and led some writers’ spiritual/empowerment retreats. Our tribe of women writers and seekers continues to support each other and check in on our writing and other projects. Participants have called our Vision Quest Writing Retreats “healing and affirming,” and “full of love, authenticity, and breakthrough.” I came to terms with being middle-aged. I didn’t actually like the way I looked in the mirror, so I looked in the mirror less. I had been a lifelong athlete of some sort, and had run three marathons. The fire for running had dimmed since nearing and turning 50, and my knees rebelled at the beatings they had taken. I took up walking, and run-walking. I took more time appreciating nature as I moved along. I did daily gratitude lists in my mind and on paper. I prayed, sometimes reciting rosaries in my mind. After I made some headway in my spiritual path, I set out to try new adventures. One of the more radical things I chose in this new chapter of my life—and most horrifying to my children—was to get my motorcycle license and a motorcycle after training at a local Harley-Davidson dealership. My now ex-husband got himself a Maserati at about the same time (but that’s a different story). This is my story. I have some trepidation over revealing so much of my own dirty laundry, but part of my quest is to be open, to have no secrets, and to live in the light. Secrets can keep us sick. It is also cathartic for me to get everything out and to channel my learning in positive ways. I can now acknowledge that all mistakes and experiences present opportunities for learning if we are honest, open, and willing.
I hope my journey inspires you and other women to drink fully from the cup of life, maybe even earlier than I did. Time is a precious and finite commodity. Don’t waste it. After decades of simmering self-hatred, I can honestly say that I like Maria 2.0. May you find your next version now.