The television reporter grabbed his videocamera and headed for the front door of our 97-year-old men’s clothing store. “Give me a couple of minutes to set up,” he said. “Then I’ll signal to let you know when you can turn the lights out on the sign.”
As the door closed behind him, my husband Steve and I looked around. Our Going Out of Business sale was over. Our third-generation store was about to move into the history books of our Midwestern town. We had been in this business for more than half our lives as owners, and my husband had been helping in the family store since he was a child. His grandfather had started it; his father had grown it; we had once thrived in it, and now we were closing it forever.
I expected to feel sad, or at least wistful. But for some reason, the part of me that I was leaving behind as the doors closed was one I was happy to give up. I looked around at the carnage of the sale and felt no regrets. No tears welled up; no chill ran down my spine.
Just years before, I had heard speaker Rosita Perez say there are seven words that will change your life: “When the horse is dead, get off.” This horse had been dead for years, and we had actually been dragging it along as we tried to move forward. As you can imagine, we weren’t going very far or fast doing that.
Although there were numerous reasons in the marketplace for why our business had declined, the real one is that neither my husband Steve nor I had our heart in it. Whatever creative energy we had once felt for it was gone. Instead, each of our work souls had found a new mate: his in photography; mine in showing others how to access new levels of energy and power. The store had not only become a drag on our time and finances; it was holding us back from being all we knew we could be.
Still, it took us 10 years from the time we made the decision to the actual closing of the store. We had all kinds of reasons for our slowness. Our kids needed to graduate from high school. His father wouldn’t approve. We hadn’t paid off all its debts. We didn’t have any other reliable source of income. But the real reason was that we didn’t know who we’d be without it. In spite of the fact that we didn’t like who we were with it—negative, scared, angry people—we had a hard time imagining ourselves as happy or whole without it. It wasn’t so much that the townspeople couldn’t imagine us without it; it was that we couldn’t. Whenever we thought “this is the year,” we found ourselves seized with fear and what came out was, “Maybe next year.”
Finally, we realized that we weren’t just losing money or time. It was our spirits that were running out. Every bit of joy we were finding in our other pursuits was being tempered by a “yes, but…” An edginess pervaded all of our conversations. Our first reactions to any topic were cynical or negative. We used the word “but” all the time. So it was clear that if the horse wasn’t dying, we were, at least spiritually.
So in spite of the store’s unresolved problems and in spite of not having our own ducks clearly in a new row, we let it go. I wasn’t sure what lay ahead, but I did know that I would never discover it if I was always looking behind me.
We were both going with the only things we did know. We knew we wanted to be happy. We knew we wanted every day to be satisfying. We knew that there were subjects we wanted to know more about. We knew there were people who would be fun to get to know. And we finally knew that it didn’t matter what other people thought about what we were doing, including his father.
So I decided to add on 3 more words that will change your life to Rosita’s original seven:
“Be your Self.”
I recently read a great line that said, “When they say ‘be true to yourself,’ which self do they mean?” For what I learned in our store experience is that in all the years I was resisting closing it, I was listening to my small, scared self (little s), the one that some people call the ego. The one that regretted all my mistakes of the past and was terrified about the future
My true Self had no such doubts or fears. That’s the one I heard when my stomach wasn’t in knots. The one that tossed just enough coincidences my way to convince me that we were on the right track. The one that didn’t have any questions at all about what was right or wrong for me and us.
When we tried to run the store while pursuing our other passions, we were listening to both selves. And you can’t be both positive and negative at the same time. It had to be one or the other, So we took a quantum leap and chose happiness, even though we weren’t sure how things would ultimately work out.
I would love to tell you that we’re living happily ever after, but that’s not accurate. We are just living happily, day by day, not in spite of or because of anything, but just because we now know that no other approach works. We still have no idea at all about how some of our legal and financial issues will resolve. But this we do know: We have told ourselves, and the universe, that we’re ready to be happy by releasing our fear and unhappiness. And since we did that, both of our phones have been ringing with offers.
There’s a great line in the movie “The Natural” that Robert Redford says to Glenn Close. “There’s the life you learn with, and then the life you live after that.”
The life I’m living now is using what I learned, which includes: never be bullied by other peoples’ demands or opinions of you. Never let money be a reason that you do or don’t do anything. Forget your story, and whatever “reality” you think you’re stuck in. Don’t waste a single day of your life being unhappy. Listen to your gut. Acknowledge when you feel peaceful, and let go of anything or anyone that doesn’t make you feel that way. Wake up and be conscious of what you’re thinking, saying and doing so that you don’t create any more unhappiness for yourself. Accept conditions as they are, and then decide what you want to do about them. But mostly, be true to your Self, the higher self that comes forward when you’re not looking anywhere but here.
I didn’t need to wait to see the store’s sign lights go out. I had already turned my back on them, and was turned towards the light of my own heart. I just wish I had done it sooner.
I grabbed my purse and coat, gave Steve a quick kiss and said, “See you at home,” and turned towards the door. I knew that the whole world was waiting on the other side.
By Robin L. Silverman
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