“What I’m looking for is not out there, it is in me.” ~Helen Keller

I used to think that life should be easy, and if it wasn’t easy, then I was doing it wrong.

I’m older and wiser now, and I’ve learned that if it is hard, that means I am probably doing something right.

I had a good childhood. I had a loving family, plenty of opportunity, and I excelled at whatever I put my mind to. But I was a high-anxiety kid, and a relentless perfectionist. As I grew older, that need to have everything flawless impeded my ability to be happy because I didn’t like myself very much.

When I got married, I felt like I had added a notch to my self-worth belt. As someone who didn’t have a whole lot of self-esteem or love for herself, when someone else loved me, it was just what I needed to feel validated, or so I thought.

But that wore off too.

Then, I had kids, which was amazing—I love being a mom. But there was still something missing. I was happy enough, but I didn’t feel alive. There was this little whisper the whole time that said you are not where you’re supposed to be.  

I felt this urgency to figure out how to be happy, but at the same time, I didn’t. I was happy enough, and there was that guilt. I should be happy. I was so blessed with two beautiful children, a husband, a gorgeous home—you know, the American dream. I’m a terrible, selfish person if I’m not thankful for everything I’ve been blessed with.

And life was comfortable. It wasn’t what I had dreamed of, or as beautiful as I had thought it would be, but everything was “fine.” And the comfort of “fine” and certainty seemed better than the unknown.

And then it happened.

That whisper turned into a very hard and abrupt shove into another lane, as if I didn’t get the hint the first time.

I could have taken it as a punishment for not being one hundred percent happy with where I was at, and, I suppose I did for a while. But now, I know it was the universe trying to tell me something, and it wasn’t whispering anymore.

The universe was now yelling at me, loudly.

The lane-changer happened the day I discovered my husband of seventeen years had been cheating on me with another man.

The life I knew—the life that I was happy enough with—was gone in an instant on a hot, sweaty July day.

I did not handle it gracefully. I was an utter hot mess for months and months. The better part of a couple of years, really.

But I made it through the other side into my “new lane.” and I want to share a little bit about what helped me get here, and what helped me be truly happy here.

The reason I was so devastated when I was thrust into my new lane is that I had been clinging to this vision of the life I thought that I should be living—the life that was “normal.”

I was attached to so much—having a husband, having children, having a home, doing married-people-with-kids things. I could have never imagined my life a different way. In fact, it was scary to imagine my life differently.

As I got older, my world shrunk. My comfort zone got bigger.

When the crisis with my marriage happened, I tried to hold on tightly to everything that had just crumbled in front of me. But there was nothing left to hold on to –I was experiencing complete groundlessness.

That attachment to the way things had been was all I had. I didn’t have a ton of self-love, or “I’m okay on my own” mentality. My identity was “we” with my partner for nearly twenty years, and I didn’t know how to function as a “me.”

I had taken the little things, and the big things for granted.

So what helped me survive this?

Someone asked me this after I was feeling like my life was back on track, and after really thinking hard about it, three things came to me.

Gratitude, mindfulness, and self-love.

I’m often amazed at how succinctly I was able to boil down these lessons into a few things that were the tipping point for me to find myself, and my happiness again.