You know how romantic comedies typically start by establishing the cluelessness of the female lead?
There’s the montage of her meticulously re-grouting her bathtub, shepherding a flock of guinea pigs across a ten lane highway, waiting her rightful turn for a parking space only to have it snagged by a guy in a sports car whose midlife crisis isn’t panning out. I could regale you with my own montage. But suffice it to say, I, too, was clueless.
And then my marriage ended very abruptly and my cluelessness was revealed. Suddenly I had to go mano a mano with the person who promised to be in my corner till the end of time. And he read The Art of War and stuff. I was hooked on the classics, like Jayne Seymour’s Guide to Romantic Living. Things did not look good for this heroine. I was very scared at the start of this journey.
Basically I did not know how to do things. Like a lot of things. My way of dealing with life was your basic good girl formula. Try really hard. Put your head in the sand about any of life’s harsh realities. Smile, have good posture, fawn over difficult people. Cover anything scary in denial and glitter. Then try harder.
But my divorce threw a big old wrench in my program.
My master plan of being careful and not making too many “mistakes” (using the aforementioned good girl formula) blew up in my face. What’s great about something blowing up in your face is that it really gets your attention. My old way of managing my life stopped working and I found myself spontaneously saying, “What in the world is wrong with me?” usually as I drove the streets of Los Angeles.
At some point, I realized this was not a rhetorical question. So, I went to therapy, read a bazillion self-help books, got coaching, bawled my head off while I hugged a bunch of pillows, and wrote about my experience. Becoming so untethered from my life made it very natural to explore other ways of doing things. My whole self busted apart and I was able to reexamine the pieces and put them back together in a more deliberate way. Or at least admit that the pieces existed.
In Act II of the romantic comedy, the heroine begins to act on her own behalf.
I call this getting in the driver’s seat of your own life. It’s not that this process was or is flawless. Almost the opposite. The obstacles and challenges that came my way were often breathtaking in their embarrassment-factor. They still are. But that’s okay. What was important was that I took on the responsibility for my life in a way that I never had before.
My experience has made me a real believer in people’s ability to transform. I know that it’s possible to get good or at least better at things you have a history of being really bad at. Overcoming crushing perfectionism and developing a user-friendly relationship with myself are two changes that have had the biggest impact. Even when I am clueless, even when I am suffering it feels okay now.
Choosing to grow and change is a path fraught with moments of being scared.
I find this the best most relieving memo ever. It means you can totally start where you are, with what you’ve got, and pursue your own happily-ever-after like nobody’s business. It’s super fun. Okay, not always. Sometimes it is mortifying. Either way, I highly recommend it.
I am a Southern California native, single mom, actress, and now (in a surprise twist) a life coach. I love sharing what I have learned about how to navigate change, have a good relationship with yourself, and become the boss of your life. I did my life coach training with Martha Beck, and she writes for Oprah every month, so you know I’m legit.