It was 1:30 a.m.
I was startled awake by a loud knocking on the door. My friend’s roommate had returned a week earlier than planned, and would be needing the room.
Yes, the very room I was sleeping in. That very night.
I hurriedly packed my things, cleaned up, and moved to the comforts of the nearby living room where a beaten-up sofa welcomed me.
I have been couch-surfing ever since.
After sleeping in spare rooms – and on couches – for the past 6 months, I’ve started reflecting on my life.
Can it get any worse?
I now own sufficiently few possessions that they can all fit in my car. I’m equipped to travel with all my worldly possessions in tow: clothes, dishes, laundry basket, ironing board, lamps…
I’m also technically homeless, as I no longer have a permanent residence. My brother has been generous enough to provide a temporary room (and a mailing address) when I need it. My friend Diane kindly let me stay at her home on my last job.
I became jobless the day my last campaign ended in November. Although I should be accustomed to the fact that my employed life ends on election days due to the nature of my work in grassroots activism, it’s still unsettling and terrifying for the period of unemployment that follows.
I also became legally single more than a year ago after a sad – if amicable – divorce. Divorce changed everything I had known about my place in the world and my future and left me lost and searching for meaning.
During this time, I grew increasingly isolated. I eventually stopped contacting my unsupportive parents, who couldn’t see past a wounded family name to be supportive during difficult circumstances.
So, yes, to sum up my life at the moment: homeless, unemployed, divorced and isolated. And don’t forget couch-surfing, with all my worldly belongings in my vehicle.
Can it get any better?
Upon further reflection, I also realized that the four months I spent traveling in Central America last year were some of the best I’d had.
I lived on a luxurious Costa Rican farm, ate tantalizing organic food, and spent two months at my friend’s idyllic Costa Rican paradise.
When I returned, I started working on a series of independent and freelance jobs, work which I put very little effort into finding. In fact, a recent project that came out of nowhere might actually turn into a full-fledged business.
Not having a home has allowed me to travel up and down the beautiful state of California. I’ve been grateful to reconnect with friends of new and old who’ve take me in, treated me like an honored guest, fed me, and opened their homes to me.
Not having a spouse has allowed me time to seek out many old friends, family friends, new friends, and blogger friends. So many relationships which have been rekindled, refreshed and renewed.
I’ve immersed myself in weeks of Spanish classes, lived in homes with beautiful views….
I also attended nearly a month of Sunday church services at the Cavalry Chapel in Chino Hills, Baptist church services in San Diego and a visit to the Zen Center in San Francisco.
Are these the best of times? Or the worst of times?
I find it hard to think of myself as unemployed, homeless, divorced and alienated from my parents. I’ve found, instead, that the people in my life now bring me infinite happiness, the temporary housing has brought me into contact with wonderful people and places to live, unemployment has brought forth exciting opportunities, and spiritual discoveries have helped me uncover lessons of a lifetime!
Here are 6 life lessons I’ve learned in the process.
1) Change happens. Embrace it. I once hated change like you hate being pick-pocketed. It can be intrusive and inconvenient. One minute you have something, the next minute you don’t.
But I’ve realized that being able to adapt to changing circumstances makes you stronger, wiser and calmer. Change can be unsettling, but it also spurs growth. I’ve learned to embrace change, rather than shy away from it. Now, I welcome it.
2) The universe knows better than you. Trust it. I used to demand that my life work out a certain way, always trying to be in control of the circumstances. When life took its own twists and turns, I realized I could no longer do that. And the universe was infinitely wise in bringing me opportunities that were a perfect fit for me.
Do your part, then trust the universe to take care of the rest.
3) Friendship is a choice. Cherish it. While I am no longer with my spouse, or in touch with my parents, I’ve created much stronger bonds with everyone else in my life. My brother, who I fought with growing up, has been both supportive and helpful. I’ve strengthened relationships with many friends from my past, and reconnected with many people who fell out of touch.
Since friendships are a choice, you can make a choice to value them and work on them.
4) Gratefulness is a practice. Thank it. Although so many bad things have happened, so many great things have also swooped in. I’m grateful for the positive people, circumstances and energy I have found.
When you notice, acknowledge and appreciate the positive events in your life, you invite more of the same in.
5) Happiness is a choice. Choose it. Here’s the thing about happiness: you’re confronted with many opportunities to be happy each day. I have come to realize that I can choose happiness in every decision. So, I choose to be happy in both the simple and big events in my life. The people you’re with, the places you go, the work you do – all are laden with choices.
You have the power to choose happiness, and that’s a compelling feeling.
6) Happiness comes from within. Be it. You don’t have to go very far to be happy. No one person or event or job will make you happy. Happiness is an everyday practice. And more importantly, it comes from within. You have the ability to be happy exactly where you are, without doing one thing more.
Find the happiness in what you have, where you are, in the moment.
“I could chose to see this differently.” – A course in miracles*
I used to feel like I had so much control over my life. Now I feel like I’ve surrendered my life to the universe, and it leads ME.
I used to be so averse to change. Now I welcome it, accepting that it’s a part of life.
I used to strive towards happiness someday. Now, I simply choose to find it every day.
I used to hate falling. But now I realize that, the more I fall, the more I learn and the quicker I get back up.
Where you are in life has a lot to do with perspective. If you’re willing to change your perspective, the world around you changes.
Have you had life experiences that were both positive and negative at the same time? Something that was painful, but spurred personal and spiritual growth in the end? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
* If you would like to share your story through a guest post, please reach out to me. * Thanks for sharing this wonderful quote Galen.