How “Bottoming Out” Can Propel us back to Top Form
Forget Harry Potter and his adventures, perhaps the single most important thing author JK Rowling has taught us, in her own words, is this: “Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” It’s a simple enough, yet profound statement – and one which many of us can relate to when we apply it to our own former circumstances… or very current ones.
When we crash and burn, we can only dust ourselves down and gently rise again.
Many people don’t ever find the strength to do so of course, that cannot be denied. But I am an optimist at heart, and in my experience – and that of most of those around me – the crumbling of foundations that inevitably comes with things going spectacularly pear-shaped, is a return to our most authentic selves. The veil is lifted, nothing that is fake can remain. We may feel weak, we may feel naked, we may feel stupid, we may feel as if we will grieve forever, but in that position where we have frankly no choice but to start afresh with a clean slate – in whatever capacity we can – lies a raw power so immense that in the end, we’re even glad for the experience.
The journey is fraught, hideous and often too painful for words on the way down…
We are unrecognisable to ourselves. This was certainly true of me when I was on the brink of a nervous breakdown seven years ago following six months of tragedy; my baby had died, I’d walked away from a high-flying career as a result of some ugly workplace issues, and to top it all off, we almost lost our house.
But it is often a very beautiful thing on the way back up, no matter how slow that “progress” may seem to be from our grass roots eye view of our world. We gain a new found appreciation for everything around us; for the big and especially the little things that we had formerly taken for granted. We love fiercely, we walk away quicker from unnecessary drama and toxic people, and we know that we can handle change and challenge. In fact, compared to what we have been through, pretty much anything is resolvable.
I know this has been my own experience after the stillbirth of my baby girl, although naturally, the healing took quite some time (it has only been this summer that I know I have truly started to emerge from that very dark tunnel, graduating to slightly lighter and brighter skies some days; smiling and laughing more than I have in years… and then turning back on myself and getting lost all over again on others). And of course I forever wish I could hold her in my arms, make right whatever it was that went wrong during my pregnancy.
But would I have been without her short life gracing mine?
Despite the heartache, the gifts my baby daughter has led me to have been indescribable, offering me a far more spiritual and fulfilling world, one that I had no idea previously existed.
The death of my daughter, whilst undoubtedly the biggest of all of these events, helped me to view the subsequent loss of my income and the potential fear of the loss of our home, quite differently. Suddenly all that mattered was that we (my then two year old daughter, my husband and I) were fit, healthy and alive – with a roof of some kind over our heads; fed, watered and clothed.
And that was it.
The bullies at work no longer factored, neither did “keeping up with The Joneses” of our then regency spa town life in the UK (much as I adored our circle of friends, did it ever feel like we were stuck in a revolving door of never quite being able to shop at Waitrose as frequently as X, never quite having as posh a house as Y, and never quite going on as “Yummy Mummy” a holiday as Z.)
“You wander from room to room. Hunting for the diamond necklace that is already around your neck.”
Eventually, as things slowly improved, our paths were lit with something new.
For which I am eternally grateful: life brought us to Spain. And here as I type amidst the sea air, the mountain vista and the sunshine, I can honestly say, I have never felt more at home or happier. The Mediterranean lifestyle suits us for so many of the obvious reasons – churros con chocolate being high on my personal list – but more than anything, I think it suits us because (Marbella and her counterparts aside!) what you see is what you get.
Everything is real in this part of Spain. There are no airs and graces. Life isn’t a competition.
People don’t really go around driving cars on loan (as we used to), rather you own a car and you drive it until it’s battered and old and it simply doesn’t matter because nobody is judging you. People don’t own so many credit cards that they could turn them into a fan – useful as that might be in the sweltering Andalucian heat.
Body shaming is non-existent. If you have a body, you are proud of it, whatever it’s shape or size and on to that beach you go in to enjoy your summer, thank you very much airbrushed glossy magazines.
And family is everything – to such an extent that the Spanish would turn down an invite to the hottest ticket for the biggest event in town… even if Antonio Banderas was going to be in attendance. All to make sure they don’t miss their 3rd cousin twice removed’s wedding.
I like that.
Spain has made me re-evaluate what is important, and what is not. And it’s an opportunity we simply wouldn’t have taken had I still been immersed in my former career. Sure, it may still have come into our line of vision courtesy of my husband, but we’d have regarded it with suspicion; our egos would have argued “better the devil you know… best to stay put in your comfort zones… what if… what if… what if…?”
In short, we’d never have made the jump to try something else.
Whilst we’re hardly living on the Costa del Sol’s “Golden Mile” or hanging out on our yacht in Puerto Banus of a weekend, we are immensely blessed, and our now nine and five year old are showered with abundance of a completely different kind. They get to swim daily like fish through the warm months in the urbanisation’s communal pool, they live front line beach and can run wild in the sand every day, they are bilingual, they have access to tennis and golf and gymnastics and basketball and dance at prices which make them viable for all children, not just the mega rich. We eat out all the time, heck, in Spain we breakfast out all the time. We stargaze at night on our balcony (the skies here are amazingly clear in the evening). We go to local fiestas (parties) – there are celebrations here for just about everything; this coming weekend it’s to celebrate the grape harvest in the village on the hill, and last weekend it was to celebrate ham.
The emphasis is on fun and relaxation.
What better life could we give not only our children but our adult selves?
And I have removed (if gingerly at first) the cloak of my former career. As exciting as being a jet set business woman was, it was a time and a place thing, hardly conducive to a happy family life, no matter how many thousands it brought to the bank, there was always the stress of meeting a budget and target. Travel is a wonderful thing, and yes, I miss doing it frequently. But travel and memory making with my family is a priceless quality over quantity.
Now I follow what authentically lights me up: I write – all those years of essay-style emails in the office should have been a clue! Sure, I may not get paid for it as handsomely as my past role (yet), but it’s my bliss. I love what I do. I get better at it day by day and by being true to myself at long last, I attract amazing opportunities to work with wonderful people. I am living proof that you CAN not only get back on track again, but create a unique and much more meaningful life journey.
So this is my re-building my life story in an absolute nutshell. And it just continues to get better and better and better the more I appreciate what I have around me, the more I smile, the more positive I get… and definitely, the less I pursue something purely for the Dollar sign.
But we are made up of countless “apparent” rock bottom to riches stories (and I don’t just mean of the gazillionaire a la JK Rowling kind). Abundance and well-being come in so many ways, from tales of people re-claiming their physical and mental health, to rising above the school bullies and turning the “obstacle” of their dyslexia or autism into their greatest gift. And of course there are many who will resonate with the JK Rowling narrative of life having also been single mums once on the poverty line, and now enjoying success beyond their wildest dreams.
Big or small, we’d love to hear some of yours…
Sharing is inspiring. Sharing is empowerment. And you just never know who could be reading and getting a hidden message from your story; a message which drives them to take that first step and rise once again from the ashes of despair.