Discovering unexpected gifts on the path of surrender
When I was guided to choose my theme word for 2020, I never could have imagined this is what it would mean or how it would turn out.
Have you ever wanted something so badly in your life you were willing to do anything to get it? When I was around 5-years old, I discovered a bright, shiny beacon which became my North Star, dictating every decision I made for 30 years. This beacon became so much of who I was, that everyone who met me assumed it was already something I had achieved.
New York City was my beacon.
I blame it on Batman being one of the two VHS tapes I had access to as a child. Because at 5-years old, living in a small, rural town in Minnesota being raised by a mom who despised NYC, how else would this burning ache have transpired within me? How could I have developed such a potent longing which pulled on my heart for a full 10 years before I even set foot on the island of Manhattan?
In 2019 I finally took the leap of a lifetime, establishing myself in the only city I’d ever wanted to live.
Thirteen months later, I packed everything I owned into storage and left the city to move “back home”.
I write this sitting in the grass beside my dad’s headstone, a brief retreat from the quaint 2-bedroom home I’m currently sharing with a friend in Southern Minnesota, in the town I grew up in but left over two decades ago, vowing to never return.
How did the first 90-days of this year unfold so radically to bring me from living my life-long dream in a spacious 1-bedroom in Manhattan back to a tiny town I never wanted to return to?
It was the end of 2019 that I began noticing dissonance between what I believed and how I showed up in my life.
The exploration of my faith and my willingness to believe in something bigger than myself was set in motion 11 years earlier, in 2008. Every new year thereafter, I found a deeper layer in this journey of faith. My connection to Source was growing, thickening. I even wrote an entire book about taking leaps of faith in 2017.
And yet, I was confronted with all the ways I was holding on so tightly in an attempt to control and micromanage Source. I would say I trusted in the divine unfolding of my life in one breath, then blatantly ignored clear messages regarding the next steps on my path and repeatedly questioned why things weren’t happening fast enough.
One such instance occurred while flying across the country. Sitting in the window seat, looking out at the square blocks of land as far as the eye could see, I took a deep breath and heard my inner voice speak up.
“The midwest needs you.”
I recall this memory often. Each time, without fail, my defenses immediately arise. The midwest is not my place. I have lived in Italy, Seattle, Los Angeles and New York. No way would I ever live in the midwest again.
The final months of 2019 revealed to me a very clear new layer of faith, which began to call to me with increased urgency. I could no longer ignore or unsee it. My year culminated with a shamanic immersion in the hills of Sedona, Arizona.
What I discovered was if I truly trusted Source to be my guiding light — knowing and seeing more than I ever could as a human and arranging the path before me to be the best possible expression of that life — how could I question it?
As I dove deeper into this realization, my 2020 vision began to coalesce in my mind’s eye. I was being invited to stop micromanaging, to stop questioning the path before me, and to surrender to a bigger vision than I could perceive with my human perspective.
Of course, I never believed in a million years that path would include me letting go of the only thing I’ve ever wanted in my life.
But, alas, I’m getting ahead of myself.
My January began without a voice. I was sicker than I’ve been in a decade and relegated to my couch. A minor invitation to surrender and listen, which I approached with humor as the new year (and decade!) rang in. Of course I lost my voice and was forced into silence after asking to surrender. The beauty in my surrender from this month came in the form of a clear vision for the year ahead.
February surprised me with a chance soulmate connection which asked me to surrender not only to the flow of life unfolding, but also to trusting a man in ways I had never explored before and still haven’t fully processed. My surrender seemed to be paying off because February also solidified a business move I’d been dreaming of for years: I met with my Accountant and we strategized my official move to be a bicoastal business (or so I thought!).
Then March hit and the world shut down. Or, from my perspective, the world was forced to surrender. I felt confident in flowing with the requirements of quarantine, canceling my in-person commitments and being in the stillness, alone and separate from all human-to-human connection. I saw the Universal surrender as serendipitous and chose to dive into it with an open heart, willing spirit and clarity of sight.
By April I wasn’t feeling so confident. The uncertainty of what everyone thought would be a few short weeks of pausing, had turned into a way of life and it was beginning to weigh on me. The cherry blossoms were blooming in Manhattan. My calendar was booked with trainings, meetings and connection calls. My business was thriving. I had just been invited into the Forbes Coaches Council and the Female Founders Collective. My health and fitness was better than ever before. But everything was overshadowed by a pending decision regarding my lease renewal, coupled with a persistent water leak in my apartment.
I could feel myself overthinking the decision and doubting the path in front of me. I was playing out all the worst and best case scenarios, imagining staying in the same place despite not loving it and generally getting tied up in the myriad of thoughts about how to move forward. I had learned enough from the previous months to know I wasn’t approaching it the right way. So instead of forcing my will onto the situation, I decided to surrender.
I know you have a better view of things than I ever possibly could.
Can you help me out?
I don’t care what the answer is about my next step, please just make it really, really f*cking clear.”
Three short days later, I received my very clear message in the form of two very different communications. The first was a text from my mom to let me know their second house, usually an Airbnb, would be empty for four months. The second was a sewer overflow into my kitchen sink coupled with the fifth ceiling leak in my bathroom in as many months.
My next step became crystal clear: I was being guided to leave New York City.
The interesting thing about surrender is that it doesn’t eliminate the desire to hold on and control. Despite asking for guidance and having a willingness to follow this guidance, I struggled for weeks with doubts and disappointment. I had only just arrived. Was Source really asking me to give up the only thing I’d ever wanted?
Box upon box upon box piled up in my living room as I prepared to pack my entire life into a 5’ by 10’ storage unit. As much as I wanted to surrender and trust, I found it difficult to assuage the persistent nagging thoughts. Was I a failure for leaving? What did this mean about me?
On the outside I was calm and collected, easily following the path I’d been given. On the inside, it was a very different story. Instead of leaning on my faith, I found myself justifying things and attempting to micromanage Source again and again. My only solace came in knowing I’d be back to Manhattan in four months time to resume my life as usual, as if leaving had never happened.
Since New York City was the only city which had ever called to my soul, not returning was not an option… right?
I held tightly onto the knowing that this “move home” was only temporary, deeming it a “summer sabbatical,” before coming back to my city. Yet there was a faint whisper inside of me that provided slight glimpses here and there of a different reality-one which didn’t involve my return to Manhattan.
Which is why when my friend Mark texted me that he was applying for a temporary relocation program for remote workers in Tulsa, Oklahoma, I fired up my laptop and submitted an application as well. Not because I wanted to live in Tulsa, but because I knew something else was awaiting me once I surrendered how I thought my life was supposed to look.
May rushed in with gusto… and four movers wearing masks who swept away all my belongings before I hopped in a huge rental car with my 14-year old tabby cat, my friend Nikki and a very small selection of clothes. Looking back now, I can see that I was neither in surrender nor in control. I was operating on auto-pilot, simply doing what I needed to do in order to keep moving forward.
Arriving back in my hometown provided respite from the intense energy of Manhattan during lockdown. The spaciousness of small town life echoed throughout my days, giving me no choice but to be in a state of surrender.
I began to explore what might life entail if I didn’t return to Manhattan. I faced the stories I was telling myself and the fears I had packed away — literally and metaphorically.
Who am I without New York City as part of my identity? Who would I be if I never moved back? Why am I so attached to it anyway? How am I allowing this accomplishment (or lack thereof) to define my success?
That’s when it came to me. What if I have been holding on too tightly to the way I think it should look, rather than being open to the infinite possibilities of how it could be? Maybe life isn’t so much about forcing your will onto things, but rather trusting that the most unlikely path is the one filled with the greatest adventures of all.
Ten days after arriving in Minnesota, I learned I was a semi-finalist for the relocation program. Ten days after that, I learned I was a finalist. Two weeks from now, I will be a resident of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
I’m unsure what is awaiting me in Tulsa. I have no idea if I will ever move back to Manhattan. I’ve found peace in not knowing what’s next, in trusting a force bigger than me and in surrendering to guidance from that force.
Because, as it turns out, while Tulsa was never on the menu, it’s exactly what I ordered.