ABL’s Origin Story: The Sh*t Storm That Saved My Life

A man asked me how I came up with the idea for A Brave Life.

He figured, if I’m so passionate about how a life-changing crisis can inspire ball growth in people, it must be because I could personally testify to this phenomenon.

He was right. But when asked to share my experience, I responded, “Nah. My story is so cliché it’s almost embarrassing.”

Everyone’s story is cliché,” he said.

I smiled. I realized that the word cliché can be substituted with the word universal. And when a story is universal, it’s powerful. It unites people through their shared experience. It makes us feel like we’re not alone. It gives us hope that if other people have survived life’s curve balls, maybe we can too.

In short, our stories must be told for the good of the world’s healing– and our own.

So today I’ll be sharing the Origin Story of this website. It is a story that can be summarized in a single word: Daniel.

* * * *

When I was 28, a friend brought me to a “group psychic reading,” where one could receive a mini reading for a mini price tag. (Hey, when you’re in your 20′s you’ll try just about anything.)

When it was my turn, the first thing the psychic said was, “You know, not everything in life is about a man.”

He was right– your world should not revolve around the ex who broke your heart. I mean really, how lame. How…cliché. But despite the psychic’s warning, and despite knowing better, that’s who I was for a very long time.

This website exists because of a man named Daniel (whether I like it or not), but mostly because of the lessons I learned from losing him.

Loving and losing someone– whether through a break-up or death– is one of Life’s great teachers.

A Refrigerator Brought Us Together

The first time I saw Daniel was in a photo on a friend’s refrigerator.

He had a kind face and a gentle smile. And there was something about him– the glasses and button down shirt, perhaps?– that screamed Nerd Alert!. So obviously, I was interested.

My refrigerator-owning friend went into match making mode and shared all the details: Daniel was a writer (swoon!), an old soul (ooh, tell me more!), a total goofball (me too!), and just a good person right down to his core (someone pinch me!).

I went home with a phone number and a smile.

First Date: Multiple Choice Quizzes, Journals, and a Song About Underwear

My first date with Daniel was a 24-hour marathon of Awesome.

We had been talking a lot on the phone leading up to our meeting, so on the big night, we coincidentally both showed up with a surprise gift for each other.

(He wrote me a hilarious multiple choice quiz about us, and I gave him a recording of a song I wrote on my guitar about his professed preference for wearing “tighty whities”  rather than boxer shorts.)

At the end of our date, we ended up at his place, where I noticed an entire shelf in the living room filled with notebooks. They were personal journals he had been keeping since youth, each one containing the thoughts, fears, and triumphs of the man standing before me.

I ran my fingers across the spines of the notebooks, stopped at one, opened it up to a random page, and then had the audacity to ask him to read a paragraph out loud.

When you like a girl, you’ll do anything she asks, so he nervously obliged:

“Women here in New York are so different from the women back home in Idaho; they’re beautifully exotic and unique, almost intimidatingly so. It makes me wonder if women like them could ever see something in a guy like me.”

He stopped reading, closed the book, and smiled a nervous half-smile.

It was official: I was head-over-heels in LIKE with this guy.

Me, But With A Penis

Over the next several months, I noticed that Daniel and I were very similar in our strengths, weaknesses, vibe, and temperament. It was like we were both carved from the same stone or something. And the more time we spent together, the more convinced I was that he was my perfect match.

Seriously? He was me, but with a penis.

It wasn’t long before like turned into love. Daniel shared that he’d been imagining how wonderful marriage would be for us. He wasn’t the only one.

Even though there were no rings, vows, or flowers just yet, in my heart I already felt like we were husband and wife. He was like no one I had ever met, yet he felt familiar– he felt like home. I wanted my life to be intertwined with his, forever.

The Sh*t Storm Begins

April Fool’s Day landed on the only weekend in 2005 I couldn’t spend with Daniel.

He hadn’t answered any of my phone calls or text messages that weekend, so I was worried. But worry was better than what I eventually got: the Worst Phone Call Ever. Daniel confessed that had gotten drunk at a party the night before, and cheated on me with a girl in his grad school program.

I thought it was an April Fool’s joke. I waited for the long pause to be over, for his laughter to erupt. It never came.

No one– not me, not his childhood Idaho buddies, not his worst enemies (if he’d had any)– could imagine someone like him doing something like this. And since this was all so out of character for him, I had to believe it was a just a stupid but (eventually) forgivable mistake.

Unfortunately, it was more than that. Daniel admitted to having been slowly and secretly falling in love with this woman over the last few months. They were friends who desperately wanted to be more, and I was the only thing standing in their way.

He cried along with me as he confessed, almost as if he, too, was shocked and confused by how he felt, what he’d done, and what it would mean.

Fake Funeral

For the next several days I didn’t eat, sleep, or even drink a sip of water. How could I? I was in shock.

When I finally did emerge from hiding– puffy-eyed, exhausted, and distant– I told everyone that my best friend from college had suddenly died.

I hoped this was a specific enough lie to get people to excuse my behavior, but an awful enough story for them to leave me alone for a while. It worked.

This Is What Crazy Looks Like

Here’s the thing about Loss: it turns you into someone you don’t even recognize.

Aside from the typical post-break up behavior (talking with friends, seeing a counselor, reading self-help books, seeking spiritual support, etc.), I was also desperately seeking answers from unusual places. I was:

  • paying to see psychics, angelic channels, and “energy healers,” wondering if Daniel would come back to me.
  • on a television talk show and a radio talk show, spilling my guts and seeking guidance.

Whether I was standing in a crowded subway car, or on a bathroom break at work, or pumping gas, or eating a sandwich, you would find me distraught and sobbing.

Oh, and these random crying spells lasted for about 3 years.

Questions

After your world is turned upside down, and you realize that your future will be nothing like how you imagined it, your mind gets flooded with questions like:

  • How did this happen?
  • What could I have done to prevent this?
  • Why wasn’t I good enough?
  • How long will this pain last?
  • Will I ever be happy again?
  • What does my future hold?
  • Who will I be without this person?
  • How could I be such an idiot???

…and many more.

But mostly, I realized that Love and Life are nothing like I once naively thought they were. Nothing was “fair”. You can lose everything in an instant.

And if I was to accept that life is unpredictably painful, and that others cannot be relied upon to complete your life, I had to find some other way to experience happiness, fulfillment and stability, no matter my circumstances. But how?

Balls

The best thing about wrestling with so many difficult questions is it moves you to seek answers, to seek meaning, to seek Peace.

For me, this happened in 3 phases, each with a central theme, and each moving me one step closer to healing:

Phase 1: Why didn’t Daniel and I last– what was it about his wants, wounds and needs that didn’t mesh well with what I had to offer?

Phase 2: How did I become someone susceptible to such deep and long-lasting despair over a break-up?

Phase 3: What is this loss here to teach me? How can I become better, not bitter?

In the midst of these 3 phases, I realized I had to stop wasting my time wishing that my circumstances were different. Instead, I had to change my actions, attitudes and perceptions.

At first I was angry and resentful about this. In fact, I was less angry about Daniel cheating and leaving than about the fact that this crisis was forcing me to become a grown-up.

A crisis forces people to assess their place in life. And when I looked around at mine, I noticed that I had been more invested in Daniel’s happiness and well-being than my own; I was settling for a career I didn’t love; I was making poor financial choices; I was avoiding conflict– and difficult but important conversations– whenever possible; and I wasn’t taking care of my health. My life choices were made from a place of Fear instead of from a place of Wisdom and Love.

So I sprung into action. Tons of books, journal writing, therapy sessions, and conversations helped me find the courage to make major changes in my life. Over the next 5 years, I:

  • went back to school and made a career change.
  • developed a healthier view of food and of my body. (As a result, I moved from being medically overweight to having a much healthier BMI.)
  • got my finances in order and paid off all credit card debt.
  • improved at communicating my needs, expressing my anger, and speaking my truth. (When you’re conflict-avoidant like I am, you’re VERY bad at these things.)

But of all the benefits that ballsy living has granted me, the most rewarding ones are:

  • knowing what it is to truly forgive.
  • being able to consciously let go of suffering.
  • having Faith in that which cannot be seen when stumbling through the Dark.
  • knowing that I survived a sh*t storm, and that I’ll be strong enough to do it again in the future.

Daniel, the sh*t storm, my subsequent depression– they were my Great Teachers. But this was only possible when I gave up control and chose to become their student.

Final Thoughts

Everywhere I go, I encounter people whose lives were changed for the better because of the inner strength that emerged as a result of a personal crisis in their past.

Sure, it’s a cliché storyline. But it’s a good one that MUST be shared, processed, and celebrated. Why? Because no one is safe from experiencing a sh*t storm at some point in life, but everyone is capable of surviving and thriving after one. That is, if you are brave enough to be an excellent student.

Your Turn: Has a sh*t storm ever kicked your butt, grown your balls, and saved your life?

 

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to ABL’s Origin Story: The Sh*t Storm That Saved My Life

  1. Pingback: Feeling Miserable On a “Happy” Day | a brave life

  2. Pingback: On Cynicism: The Wisdom of My Other Husband, Stephen Colbert | a brave life

  3. Pingback: Are You On Your Way To Believing? | a brave life

  4. Pingback: 6 Ways Creativity Can Grow Your Balls | a brave life

  5. Pingback: What Embarrassing Typos Can Teach You About Preserving Your Sanity | a brave life

  6. Martin says:

    Kim..ur personal story hs really inspired me…tnx so much for sharin..en like Adrea..sharin history back sometime..requires one to be brave enuf..especially wht u ,ve jus done..I mean dis iz powerful..iz nah easy…Gr8t stuff…do not seize to keep inspirin.

    • Kimberly Eclipse says:

      Hi, Martin! Glad my story resonated with you. Thank you so much for your kind words, positivity and support. :)

  7. Kaffee says:

    I’ve had some time to reflect on my sh*tstorms recently due to unemployment, a week stay in VT (thanks to winning a raffle), and loving and supportive friends/family who listen and reframe my thoughts instead of giving advice. (And oh boy do I get advice after telling people I’m unemployed.) During this time, I’ve been working on giving myself permission to really be me, to share my opinions rather than smile and nod just to be agreeable and receive other people’s approval (i.e. un=pretzeling myself). I identify with your issues with conflict avoidance. Sigh. Something I continue to work on and hope to get better at.

    Regarding my career… I’ve realized that I put myself in a lot of growing situations but have not anticipated/prepared myself for growing *pains*. My first internship, I volunteered at a domestic violence shelter in the seedy side of Cleveland (where the staff had to ‘hit the deck’ when they heard gunshots in the area the day or two before I started my internship). Thankfully when I was there, I never had an issue. Being around young children who had been in domestic violence situations. Whew! That was a growing experience. Then, moving to NY for grad school. Hello culture shock (aka conflict seeking culture). If I end up changing my career, I can look back on it all (the time and the school loan) as way I have broadened my horizons and challenged the xenophobic views I was taught growing up. If I do stick with my career, I have certainly seen severe mental illness and have a lot of ‘war stories’ that I can reference in client care and supervising new AT’s and mental health professionals. I also am trying to grow some career balls and not get myself into another job with such a difficult population (and low pay), which needs ‘tough love’ and my ‘gentle nudge’ approach isn’t going to cut it.

    Also, my time in VT has made me really feel in my heart that LI is not for me and given me courage to be ok with moving. I’m really more of a country mouse that’s been wearing city clothes the past 8 yrs. And seeing a state that values local products so highly makes the earthy crunchy side of me all warm and fuzzy. I hope to love among people who values these things, too, and to incorporate more of them into my life. Going to a more rural place for a week has reminded me that I don’t have to be ‘busy’ to be ‘worthy’; a simple life is an honorable way to live. This also helps me view budgeting as a challenge rather than another thing to trudge through on my ‘to do’ list.

    So there’s my 2 cents :) And thanks for sharing your story. Your balls grow with each blog post! ;)

    • Kimberly Eclipse says:

      Kaffee!! Damn woman, you sure did dive into some challenging situations that stretched the heck out of you! Yes, the growing pains suck and are unavoidable. But I know you’ve learned so much from your experiences– not just what your true interests and strengths are, but also what’s NOT the right fit for you. Funny, on the phone talking about hospice care we touched on some of this, and I hadn’t even read your comment yet.

      “I don’t have to be busy to be worthy.” Wow. So powerful. (And boy do a lot of us out there need to internalize that!)

      Glad to hear that you have an even clearer sense of who you are, who you’re not, and what you want. Go off into the world and be your awesome earthy-crunchy-warm-n-fuzzy self! :)

    • KMD says:

      ‘Kaffee’-

      If you are seriously considering moving to VT…just know that I’ve seen a good amount of social work/mental health jobs across the state in the 7Days (alternative newsweekly up here) classified ads. Plus, you get to enjoy nature & good food. :)

      Just a tip :)

  8. KMD says:

    Glad to hear more behind this & the story behind ABL. :)

  9. Sheryl says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I’ve always wanted to know more about the elusive sh*t storm you referred to, but didn’t feel like it would have been my place to ask. What a huge and heavy experience that must have been for you – but you’ve come out of it so wonderfully. :)

    • Kimberly Eclipse says:

      I’m glad this satisfied your curiosity. ;) Wanted to write about the details of my sh*t storm for the longest time, but held off until I had the mental energy to do it. Thank you, as always, for reading and for your support!

  10. You Know Me says:

    Sometimes, one’s chosen path in life can become a series of sh*t storms. If one takes the wrong approach or the wrong emotional and tactical response when the sh*t hits the proverbial fan, one’s life can spin crazily out of control. I have experienced, I believe, tremendous growth. Much of the growth can be traced to a long learning curve that has brought me to the point where I have have very little regard for how people perceive and or judge me. In the past I have cared far too much about the opinions of others and their judgements. Today, I am comfortable enough in my own skin that I expect people, even people who disagree with me or dislike my manner, to accept me for who I am and the role I play in their live.. And of course, I extend the same to those who populate my universe (at least I try fervently). This means that as a pastor, I no longer set myself or the church up to continue to destroy relationships with unnecessary drama, passive aggressive behaviors and character assassination. And trust me, that does take balls.

    • Kimberly Eclipse says:

      Awesome. Really. I definitely know what it’s like to take the wrong approach or emotional/ tactical response in a bad situation, then have it blow up in my face. But you’re right– this can be avoided if you are truly comfortable in your own skin, thus eliminating the need to act with hostility towards those who dislike you and ain’t afraid to show it. Funny how accepting and loving yourself leads to a greater capacity to do the same for others.

      Good for you for setting a healthy tone in your church. As a seasoned pastor, you’re able to lead your church well because you’ve grown so much as an individual through the years. Balls indeed. (Pastor balls!!!) What a journey you’ve had. I have much to learn from you. :)

  11. Steph says:

    I’ve come back here several times trying to figure out what I wanted to say, beyond my initial feeling of “wow…” and “damn!!!!”

    Having met you through Brian, I knew some of the story but not all of it. I definitely felt anger and betrayl for you as I read, but also I was inspired by your strength. Even though it didn’t happen all at once, in the end YOU made the choice to use this experience as a stepping off point for growth. Many others might have taken the exact same (or at least similar) experience and gone in an entirely different (negative) direction. While an experience can be universal, our individual responses to a similar experience are far from it. I guess that goes back to your whole better vs. bitter discussion.

    Hearing your whole story also helped me better understand how you were able to make the leap from your first career to your second one with less fear. Having the emotional upheaval in your love life put you in a position to say “why not go after what I really want!” in other areas of your life (traveling to Africa and changing careers).

    The part that amazed me the most about your expereince was your capacity to completely forgive. I view myself as reatively strong (though also lucky in having not experienced any true adversity) and can’t think of any experience I”ve had that has truly “broken” me. But I can think of several where I”ve come out “better” in the long run but still “bitter” about the situation, even though it taught me something. I’d like to be able in the future to be “better NOT bitter” instead of “better AND bitter.”

    Thanks for sharing your origin story!

    • Kimberly Eclipse says:

      That’s funny…when I read your comments I’m always like, “Wow!” and “Damn!!!“. ;)

      I won’t lie, it was a LONG road to forgiveness. It’s been 7 years since the incident, and I’ve spent more of those years in self-doubt/ self-pity/ fear/ anger/ despair than I have as a “strong” or “better” person. Also, even when I began to feel notably stronger and better (about 3 years after the incident), I was still struggling with random bouts of sadness. All this to say that deep healing and grief are long processes (life-long, for some), and throughout the journey you can feel like you’re taking 2 steps forward, 1 step back. But I’m grateful for all the lessons I learned along the way, despite the time it took to learn them. I think they’ll help me heal in a faster and healthier way in the future, when I inevitably experience more loss.

      That’s a great observation you made about being better NOT bitter vs. better AND bitter. For me personally, I don’t consider myself fully better unless I’m no longer bitter about the situation. I’ve found that healing bitterness after a difficult situation is MUCH harder than coming out of it better. That’s because becoming better typically involves action, while healing bitterness involves letting go. Taking action is easier than developing the internal, intangible qualities necessary for true forgiveness.

      Thanks for your comment and insight. You’ve inspired 2-3 new blog posts ideas!

      • Steph says:

        Sweet! Glad I could help :)

        And I definitely agree that letting go of something is MUCH harder than taking action. Just like being angry is sometimes easier than feeling sad etc.

        Looking forward to reading more awesome posts :)

  12. Allie says:

    Thank you for a brave post! And yes, it’s universal…

  13. You Know Me says:

    For many reasons, this may be your most important post to date. Kudos. Unfortunately, I am on my way out but will return with a more explicit response.

  14. MES says:

    Thank you for your post. I’m going through one of these shit storms right now in my career. I had a high paying job that looked great on paper, but which was making me completely miserable. In this horrible economy, I felt so guilty about leaving. One day, I just couldn’t take it any more and quit. I’m still working out where I’m headed next, and the tough job market and my current unemployment is actually forcing me to take time to think about what I want to do — as opposed to what I am supposed to do and rushing to the next available job. Time for me to grow some career balls!

    • Kimberly Eclipse says:

      Hi, MES! So sorry to hear about your career sh*t storm. But it sounds like you’re handling this setback in a healthy way by allowing it to bring more focus and “big picture” thinking into your life. Also, it’s pretty scary to experiment with growing career balls in this economy, so I give you bonus points for your bravery. :) My husband experienced something similar to you (read about it in this post), and despite initial feelings of guilt, he’s now very happy with his decision.

      Good luck and keep me posted!

      • MES says:

        Thanks – I enjoyed the post about your husband’s experience and identified with it for sure. Even though it is hard, good comes out of change. For example, I have become amazing at budgeting. I can’t believe now how much money my husband and I wasted when we were both working. Once I find a new job, I know we’ll save so much more money than if we had never been forced to watch our budget. I am also realizing there is so much more to who I am than my job. Again, love the blog and thanks for sharing your experiences.

        • Kimberly Eclipse says:

          That’s awesome! Learning how to budget and realizing your full worth are truly priceless. (They’re also pretty powerful and permanent shifts in one’s thinking, so congrats!) I’m glad you’ve chosen to make your unemployment about these things. Thanks again for reading and commenting. :)

  15. Adriane says:

    To answer your question, Has a sh*t storm ever kicked your butt, grown your balls, and saved your life? Yes. But I’m more fascinated at the moment with how open you and your husband must be in order for you to be honest (not only with him but with all those who read what you write) about your past. I’m curious what being married to you is like. Wait, that came out wrong lol. I’m curious what it is like being married to someone who blogs about deep, personal events. Does he ever not want to hear it? Just my random thoughts at the moment :)

    • Kimberly Eclipse says:

      Hi, Adriane! This is a great question.

      The short answer is that everything works out fine because my husband, Brian, is awesome. :)

      The long answer is that when Brian and I were just dating, long before this website was even a glimmer in my eye, I was already doing tons of public speaking about my sh*t storm at personal development/ spiritual retreats. In that sense, he’s used to this kind of thing.

      But I think what makes Brian able to tolerate hearing about my past over and over again (because of my career and the nature of this site), is that our relationship is so stable now. I have zero lingering romantic feelings for “Daniel”, and I’ve worked through my demons. Brian knows this. So when I write or talk about my ex in such an emotional way, as I’ve done in this post, Brian knows it’s only for the sake of telling my story well– and to help others.

      As for blogging about other very personal topics, I run certain blog posts by Brian (the ones that involve him or our marriage, and even the ones where I simply make light-hearted jokes about him), to make sure he’s comfortable. When he hasn’t been cool with the content, I’ve made appropriate changes because it’s important that he’s proud of my work, not hurt by it. In the end, it all works because of complete transparency, mutual respect, and negotiation.

      Thanks for your question. I’m sure others were wondering the same thing!

      • Amy says:

        Incredible. Thank you for sharing this story. As for myself… well, I’d say my divorce did that for me. I was blessed to go through the hell of not being enough for someone regardless of how I twisted myself into the pretzel of what I believed his expectations were, so I could see what it was like to be enough without any pretzel impersonation tricks.

        It’s been a journey – it certainly wasn’t overnight. There were kids to put first, and responsibilities to meet… but over the years, with a fantastic best friend to verbally express what God was internally expressing… there exists a life that is my own, not an appendage to someone else’s identity.

        • Kimberly Eclipse says:

          Hi, Amy! Doing “pretzel impersonation tricks” (ha!) is no way to live, and I’m so glad to hear that you’ve created a more fulfilling life for yourself. You brought up some important factors in your growth– your faith and the support of good friends. Those are factors that can be the difference between staying broken vs. healing.

          Thanks for reading and for sharing a snippet of your story. And congrats on finding your way despite the hardship!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>