Answering the Call
“Let life happen to you. Life is in the right, always.” ~ Rilke
2012 was a very turbulent but important year for me. Many things happened that slowly led me to start sensing the rumblings of major change ahead. It was the year the I first heard the call.
In February 2012 I lost two women who very dear and near to my heart, one week apart. In December I lost another one who was a confidant, teacher and mentor. All 3 of these women died and they were important in my life.
During the spring, I started to go into a deep, deep fear about money and about the direction my life was taking. I was growing my coaching practice as a business coach while still helping people live A Life Uncluttered. I was trying anything and everything to see what worked for me and what took off.
My lease was to be up in the fall and I decided I wanted to move out and closer in town to where I had my own office.
I became tired and worn out from running my organizing business and it was starting to reflect in the business itself and it became glaringly obvious that I needed some sort of change and respite.
Even after making the decision to move, life was excruciatingly difficult to get through and all I knew was that I needed change. I craved it in fact. Having always been afraid of everything and especially afraid of change, this felt remarkably different.
I started to feel this part of me inside, in my gut more specifically, that wanted movement and was calling me forward. It wanted revolution. And so I decided I would take a 6 month sabbatical and go back to Portugal after not living there since 1994, and I had no clue how I was going to do it. All I knew was that I needed a change. A big one. Living in Portugal would give me access to a different life, one with more travel and more movement and more adventure in some ways.
I made this decision but it almost felt more like a decision that was made for me by the powers that be and I was just going along with it. Like I was being called/led there for some reason unbeknownst to me.
I’d planned to stay in Houston for one more year to save money and plan ahead for this move/life change. I thought a year would buy me time until October-ish 2013, would allow me to get what I needed in place and be ready to make the move.
So I decided to move. And then…the shit hit the fan. Because when you want revolution the chaos that’s hidden can begin to unravel…
There were many signs that unfolded that later led me to believe I shouldn’t have left my current apartment and moved into the next one.
Between the lengthy, arduous and resistance-filled process of finding a place to live, not being able to see the unit I’d move into because the current tenants were being evicted, the apartment not being ready when I was supposed to move in. And then 6 hours upon moving in being attacked by fleas and finding the apartment infested…you get the picture. I got out of my lease, put my stuff in storage and moved in with my mom temporarily.
It was then clear that staying in Houston for another year just wasn’t in the cards and things had to get drastic for me to listen and hear the message. So I got the message and planned to move to Portugal 6 months later.
By the end of 2012 I wondered at all why I decided to go anywhere because things seemed so turbulent and bleak.
It was a hard end to that year but I learned 2 very valuable lessons :
Never go left when you are called to go right.
I went left when I decided to stay in Houston for another year, even though I really wanted to go right and move to Portugal sooner. Fear kept me from truly leaping and setting things in motion right away and that is what ultimately led me to leasing that yucky apartment and all that blowing up in my face. Lesson learned.
The other lesson is that I should have stuck with my intuition, trusted myself more and not leased that particular apartment. I’d done the walk-through and had this sneaky, icky feeling and couldn’t tell why. I even said out loud “I don’t think this is my apartment” but having no other place to move, I gave in. I’ve long relied on my intuition. It has never steered me wrong and this one time I didn’t do what it told me to. Lesson learned.
However, if I hadn’t leased that apartment, I wouldn’t have gotten the message that it was time to go, so clearly. Because I used to be quite hard-headed, it had to be loud, blatant and drastic for me to notice it. I did notice and took subsequent action and so, my threads of gratitude are easy to weave for that experience.
“Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.” ~ Dalai Lama
Onto to Portugal
By June of 2013, I left for Portugal, but I didn’t really actually move yet. I decided it would be a sabbatical for 5 months. I left my car, left my stuff in storage and decided I would try things out in Portugal before making the big leap. It felt safe to do it this way.
I was burned out from running my business for the last 7 years, I wanted change and I just needed a break.
I had in mind that I would go on a spiritual quest of sorts to find more of myself, a la “Eat Pray Love” if you will. I would also take the time to transition from organizing and develop my online business (web design/business coaching at the time) that would hopefully enable me to build a life in Portugal and be location independent. I would come back, get my stuff and move there permanently. However yet again, the Divine timing for this permanent move would only happen later.
During my 5 months in Porto, I kept spinning around in creating ideas for my online business, and ended up never really launching something that felt good to me. I slept a lot. I didn’t leave the house as much as I could have. I felt myself changing slowly but couldn’t figure out what was happening to me. I was shrouded in fear about what my next step was and I felt I couldn’t stay there because I couldn’t find a way to support myself in the way that I wanted. I kept pushing and forcing this online business into being and it was exhausting, frustrating and totally unsuccessful because it was the wrong time for it to happen and also because it was motivated by need and not by inspiration or flow.
Up until this point in time, I lived most of my life as an expert DOer. I got things done. I made shit happen. I was in control. I was in charge. My desire/persistence kept me going. But this way of living was at times forceful. It was productive but pushy. It was busy but depleting. I later learned it didn’t necessarily feed me but I was too busy going to notice.
“BE – don’t try to become.” ~ Osho
The First Encounter with Surrender
By then I had 3 weeks left in Portugal, I was at my aunt’s property in the mountains, on a hike, and I sat on this boulder to meditate. I got quiet and still. I heard the sounds of nature around me and I started to relax and unwind. I heard myself say “Enough! Enough with this shit. I am tired of trying to make shit happen!” I let go of the idea of making this business happen this way and I was determined to enjoy my last weeks in Portugal to the fullest.
In that moment, I felt myself let go. I let go so much that I cried tears of relief for how much I had just unburdened myself by letting this idea go. And I felt for the first time in a long time, completely enveloped by this amazing presence that I call Source/Goddess/All That Is. I felt like I was being wrapped in the Universe’s arms and that now I could hear what I needed to do next.
In that moment, I surrendered. I let go.
I heard the guidance clearly but softly.
“Stop pushing” it said. “Please, stop pushing. Stop forcing it. It’s not the time right now.” I cried more and I felt how much pressure I had put myself under.
I heard more “Please be gentle with yourself. Breathe deeply and know that you are not alone. We are with you. We are here for you.” I took deep breaths, I looked around at the beauty of the mountains surrounding me, I wiped the tears off my face and I can safely say, I was never the same after that.
These my dears, were the first whispers of true surrender…I will never forget being on that boulder, in that moment, the subsequent feelings I had or the universal support I felt.
I knew life would be lived differently now except I had no clue what the fuck that meant…
Returning to Houston
I returned to Houston and immediately felt like it was not my home anymore but I didn’t know what to do about it yet.
The only thing I knew to do first was to pick up my organizing business again and start trying to figure out what my next step was.
I wasn’t the same as when I’d left so anything I did before I’d left felt different as I did. I felt empty and like I had no road map and for a while, I didn’t. It was again a test of how to let go enough to hear what needed and wanted to happen next.
I put to rest the idea of the online business. I rebranded my organizing business from Sofia’s Organizing Solutions to A Life Uncluttered so I could embrace running my business from a more holistic perspective. I got a new phone number after 11 years with the same one. I’d chopped off my hair two months prior so I already looked different. I gave away clothes, jewelry and other things that no longer resonated with me. I started working on getting myself ready to date, after a long hiatus of not. And I tried as best as I could to stop attaching myself to a specific outcome.
I did whatever I could that would make life in Houston feel as different as possible even though I knew I wouldn’t stay long. For a while, I even contemplated moving to Philadelphia but wasn’t in the right frame of mind to do another move again.
So I firmly decided to anchor my energy and stay and said, “Ok Universe, show me what’s next”.
What came next was the most important thing that could have ever happened to me and it was then that I became intimately aware of what surrender looked like.