35: Lost and Found

35: Lost and Found

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reboot Your Life

Lost and Found

Help us to be ever faithful gardeners of the spirit, who know that without darkness nothing comes to birth, and without light nothing flowers.

~May Sarton

I loved my hair salon, and when I was forced to retire at the age of thirty-eight due to a health crisis, I was completely lost. It seemed I was living someone else’s life. I went from being surrounded by clients and co-workers to being totally isolated and cut off from the life I once knew. I was clueless as to how to move on. That I was physically limited after failed back surgery made everything much harder to figure out. It’s one thing to lose your career and still have your health. It’s a whole other animal when you have to navigate a new livelihood while lying flat on your back.

I didn’t want this new life, but I had to make the best of it. So I read while lying down. I read every motivational book I could get my hands on. I visited the library twice a week and scoured the shelves for everything uplifting, spiritual, and funny. The librarians got to know my routine so well that when I walked in they’d just point and say, “Hi Marijo, there’s a new book we think you’ll like.”

Day after day, week after week, year after year, I read. Three years to be exact. All I did was read, lie on the floor, and wonder how the heck I could get out of this cycle, this life of nothingness. What could I do to change my life? How could I be of use this way? I asked God, the universe, and anyone else who would listen.

I started to write. First, I wrote about how desperate I was for something new to happen to me. Then I wrote about all the people I was mad at, all the bad things that had happened to me, and all the things I hated in my life. Before long, something shifted. I started to find my own answers. Once I got all the garbage out on paper, I was left with a clear mind. I was able to understand myself better — to see myself, possibly, for the first time.

I used two notebooks initially. One notebook I named Garbage Out, and the other I named Wisdom In. I put all of my woes and heartaches in my Garbage book and all my positive insights in my Wisdom book. After a while, I didn’t need the Garbage Out journal, because my Wisdom In journal had become my mainstay.

I started my Wisdom journal with prompts like: I have no limits because…I have learned… My purpose is…

And then I wrote until I had exhausted the possibilities. I knew that journaling was supposed to be cathartic. I had read that it helps you clarify your life if you’re feeling lost. It’s even been proven to ease chronic pain conditions. I realized firsthand that it can heal you on a deep level. After filling countless notebooks with my inner thoughts, I got to know myself pretty well. I got to know my strengths and weaknesses. I was able to step back and see myself objectively.

After releasing all my negativity in my Garbage Out journal, and realizing all the weight I had been carrying, I was left with pure inspiration. I could finally see some good in my life. I began writing about how I could inspire other people. I wrote motivational material that actually motivated me.

The very same journaling exercise that I created to get myself out of a funk is now being used by a leading heath plan company in their health promotions department. It’s used to help people with chronic pain and cardiac problems. Writing out all the bad stuff on paper and then writing about all the good stuff was something I did by accident, but that technique is now helping many other people. Those years that I thought I was being nonproductive were actually a period of something larger at work within me.

It’s what I had prayed for while I was going through those dark years. I hoped I would be a light to others who were going through hard times. I just kept telling myself that I needed to find a way when it looked like there was no way. I kept seeking.

Little did I know that my reading and journaling would turn into a new livelihood. The whole time I was struggling through a horrible rut, I was actually working on myself. I was studying for my new life. My rut was in reality a time of learning, evolving, and becoming my new self.

My old life as a hair salon owner allowed me to touch lives on a personal level. I got to talk with people and share stories with them. I loved that part of my life and missed it terribly.

I now think of the time that followed as the most fruitful, graceful, and enlightening period of my life. I learned what I was made of, and it’s given me a greater confidence during dormant times. Ultimately, I found that being lost for a little while was just the thing I needed to find myself.

~Marijo Herndon

More stories from our partners