In all honesty, cancer, and Eckhart Tolle, MBSR, Davidji, my meditation guru, my therapist, Susan Ewing, a horse named JW, and myself joined forces and saved my soul. They say it takes a village. When people ask what my life was like, I tell them after cancer, during Covid, I felt like Rapunzel locked in my padded sewing room. I had a master’s degree. I was a public-school principal. Before cancer (BC) I went from “Principal M” to “SusanDrM’swife” overnight. I ran the shit out of my-now-ex-husband’s practice when we moved from Atlanta to Chattanooga. I networked, I marketed, I ran staff meetings and made big decisions all day long. Back to the present, and I wondered how I’d gotten to this place of fear, isolation, and loss of purpose. I spent weeks and months reflecting about how my existence was reduced to interacting with my housekeeper and fear of going out to lunch or to Pilates.
I tried harder and harder to create peace across our unblended families. The more I tried, the more it all eluded me. I lived to make those around me happy and in doing so I lost myself, my soul was dying bit by bit living in a world of plastic surgery, name-dropping, over- consumption, egocentricity, and ultimately, totally out of alignment with my true nature. My ex-husband is extremely critical, assigns high urgency to everything, equally, and is impatient, arrogant, uptight and actually just plain mean. Gaslighting was a constant and I spent years wondering why I had no peace, assuming it was lacking was within me. My therapist taught me that chaos was what I grew up in, when all along I thought that was the norm. And while, yes, we can all attain inner peace if we know the necessary ingredients, I did not know the secret formula. It turns out I was living in a state of constant distress, in unhealthy relationships with no boundaries, which combined together and caused my cancer. Add to this, new body image issues after double mastectomies and reconstruction, (I come from extremely shallow lineage), and self-doubt that results from being around mean and angry people as my closest family members and it all added up to an existential crisis.
Out of my desire to thrive, rather than survive, I began my own Eat. Pray. Love. Journey by starting to attend equine therapy and then leaving my husband, to heal at our lake home. An old horse, named JW, taught me that I had no boundaries, and it was an incredible moment for me. It was, in fact, a game changer. I went to equine therapy to heal the death of my sister, who died 20 years ago in an accident with her horse. I thought that was a good and safe place to begin my work. She was an alcoholic spiraling. I had always blamed the horse, but since then I learned that the horse may have just helped her out of her misery. Horses reflect our behavior back to us. When I realized I had no boundaries it became evident that I needed to put some in place with my husband and daughter. This was not well received.
As part of my healing journey, I read and listened to many, many self-help books. I applied to grad school for clinical mental health counseling, with my therapist assuring me I was not crazy, she helped me self-actualize, and I realized at 53 that I was living out dysfunctional transgenerational family patterns of behavior. I finally understood chaos was the norm I was raised in, and it was acceptable to me with my ex because it was all I knew. I wanted peace and was convinced I was the cause of my own lack of peace. I realized that my childhood traumas had held me back for way too long and that I was suffering in a second marriage family that I did not mesh with and compromised way too much for. My (now 2 nd ) ex-husband is an eye surgeon. He spoke to me as if he was bullying his younger sister. He humiliated me in front of our staff, and he threw me under the bus with his angry-old-ass daughter. Earlier on, before cancer, (BC) he would track my location through google maps, and he make me quit what I was doing for the new needs of his business or because my work was interfering with HIS time with me. He expected me to place his cell phone in his hand as if it were a surgical instrument and could see nothing at all wrong with that and got angry if I did not comply. Did I mention, my kids, especially my son never, ever liked him? Yet, I married him anyway. My son was 13 and my daughter was 9. My son ended up in rehab in his junior year of high school, the year I moved from their dad in Atlanta to Chattanooga to chase the American MONEY dream. My daughter is currently harboring anger that I raised her in a stressful home.
After cancer, I knew I needed to heal, but I never realized I would totally transform. Clearly, my marriage was a nightmare and I have not even mentioned stepdaughter and her mother…OYE! My life had lost purpose, and I was living in fear of doing the one thing that would change everything. I had to battle with all my fears! Fear of financial insecurity, fear of covid, fear of cancer returning, fear of leaving my lifestyle, fear of the judgement of a second divorce, fear of being alone.
It was the end of 2020, and I knew I needed to do all the things possible to bring myself back. I remember that my mother was miserable her whole life, and my deceased sister was in almost the same exact situation. She hated her husband but also feared him. I was so afraid I was going to turn into my sister, that I started therapy, saw a psychiatrist, and started an anti-depressant, did yoga, signed up for Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction training and tai chi, all via Zoom. I paid for coaching and downloaded many, many books. I went to meditation and yoga retreats. I cried three rivers full of tears after every time I spoke to or saw my then husband. THAT WAS MY INTUITION, but I was too afraid to listen to it, still living in my ego, and worried about what others thought of me. Once I began meditating, I would lay down on my matt and take deep breaths rather than Xanax when I had these crying episodes. For several years I took Xanax when he was on his way home from the office. After cancer, he agreed to allow me not to have to do anymore work for the business because it was running so well. I would brace myself for his mood, and sometimes have a snack and a scotch ready for him to soften his edge. Eventually I hid up in my sewing room to avoid him, but he would get annoyed.
We both wanted it to work for whatever reasons. He says I was the love of his life and I say he is incapable of true love because love is kind. We tried three different marriage counselors. And then went to the home of the Gottman’s, the researchers and empirically based marriage counselors, on Orcas Island for a last effort to work on things. In the workshop my ex asked, “but what if her perception is wrong?” When we arrived home, we went to our lake house. By this time, I had moved back into our home with him for the second or third time. We were at our lake house, 8 months after I first moved there on my own. And the same old issue arose, and he became immediately irate. After anger management training and after the Gottman’s he proved that he was unwilling to make any effort to change. I used the words we were taught, “you are flooding,” “take a time out.” “let’s meet in an hour.” None of these options helped him. He became enraged. After that I spent 3 days crying and breathing. I was back at our regular home, after the weekend, and was listening to Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now for the 20th time. A verse he said changed the trajectory of my life. In that instant I made the decision to leave for my peace and my soul and in that moment, I began the process of detachment. I detached from what I thought was my dream home, my lifestyle, my fake friends, and even a few pets. I told him game over. He was PISSED!
While he agreed to buy me a house, I bought one nearby him because my son and his fiancé lived in an adjacent house that we bought and were giving them. My new place was lovely, I updated the kitchen and the master batch, added plantation shutters, new lighting, full paint job, brand new furniture. And then, he made my kids move because he did not want them in his backyard. They ended up moving a couple of hours away to Atlanta. I lived in that house while I went through the worst months of my divorce, and though I had been meditating after taking MBSR a year earlier and joining insight timer, the divorce and grad school plus moving took a lot out of me.
I listened to Wayne Dyer on the Tao and took a year’s-worth of Tai Chi classes and was starting to feel the feel of moment to moment living and being in flow in many facets of my life, but the struggle was real. I knew I needed to find a way to let go of my anger. I signed up for a yoga retreat in Mexico and for Davidji teacher training on the same day! The yoga retreat was delightful and nurturing on many levels. Mind, body, and soul were tended to while overlooking the beach with yoga twice a day and amazing home cooked, healthy Mexican meals. I met an inspirational woman who lives on her own in Idaho with 20 acres and 6 horses. She was cool! I started to dream my dream. I had recently been riding recently with a friend. Horses were drawing me to them. While on my yoga retreat, I was thinking about who I am and how I can serve in a meaningful way that I connect with. The synagogue work, the Jewish Federation, and private school fundraising just never fit me, (Just like being a dr.’s wife-life never fit me). I was reading the yoga sutras and remembered the nonprofit farm where I did equine therapy. I went onto her website and reached out, also offering tutoring in reading and writing because I knew she had a bunch of kids.
I came back from the retreat feeling incredibly rested and healed and started volunteering 2 days per week at Solia Farm feeding and turning out the horses, cleaning up and getting to know Kristyn and her family. They adopted three kids that they fostered and already had three of their own. I tutored one of her son’s and he became one of the highlights of my week, as was just being around the family. Kristyn has encouraged me to get equine therapy certification, and I went to my first training over spring break. I help her with one of her groups and found a deep sense of satisfaction in helping these people.
I realized I needed sell my like house to help with my daughter’s expenses. I did so well on that sale that I was able to buy a 12-acre farm with a great house, pool. twwo horses were in the attached pasture with a barn and that was part of the package. Every day I get to see and feed and work with my horses helping me feel grounded and connected. I am talking to a new guy, from Upstate NY, who happened to grow up on a farm and he has been through his own hell to find his way, raising 3 kids on his own. We are meeting soon but whatever happens is cool with me. I am flowing with the universe. I have faced my existential fear of being alone and was able to buy my farm and live my dream without a man. That is incredibly liberating and badass! Especially for a NYC girl!
Throughout the Master’s of Meditation Training, it has felt like the universe was guiding me, my intuition is tuned in to my brain, or vice versa, and as I live in the moment my fears have dissipated. I am extremely busy, but I am engaged in all the things I am doing and unwilling to give any of them up. I have found me again, and my soul is so happy and I have peace for the firt time in as long as I can remember….possibly the first time ever. What a difference from the frightened woman that was afraid to go out to lunch! I am continuing to intentionally let go of my anger and reactivity towards my ex as I lean into flowing with the universe. THANK YOU DAVIDJI!
I am working on my master’s degree and working with my horses as well as my friend’s. I am building a mixed-model online business help people on their healing journeys to thrive rather than survive. My goal is to offer retreats at my farm for healing that include meditation, yoga, reiki, equine therapy and of course, counseling to help all types of survivors actualize their very own dreams! I had lost myself but I am found and I have learned to live life as if time is running out as my truly my authentic self!