Your Happiness is in Another Castle: 5 Ways to Find your Way when Everything Seems Blocked

I’m just going to preface this by saying that I honestly don’t think anyone is an expert at this stuff. You know why Tony Robbins is a GOOD life coach? It's not because of his millions of dollars, and it's certainly not because he has his shit together - I assure you that none of us do. It's because he's able to talk about his own experiences in a really compelling way. That’s all that we, as humans, really have: our shared experiences and how we talk about them. That’s my first piece of wisdom: how you talk about yourself and what you do is incredibly important. So, start thinking about that. 

Anyway, I’m hopeful that I can share my experience of entirely flipping my life around, and intersperse a few bits of eloquent wisdom enough to make you feel like maybe you’re not so alone in the journey. I hope that I can help you fear less by teaching yourself about the things that are inside of you through the mirror of my own experience.

I’ve done a whole heck of a lot in the years leading up, but in the past three years I have: switched career paths again (partially, I started teaching yoga and flipped my entire life perspective upside down), had a baby, moved across the country to a place where I have no family for a job, left that job for another one (back where I moved from, ironically), and started the process for separating from my husband. Most of those actually occurred within the past year. I guess I am the type of person that thrives in chaos.

There were many times during all of those decisions where I was worried that I’d gone the wrong way. That things would never get better. That I would never feel as good as I had felt before when I was comfortable and safe. I spent hours berating myself for always picking the hard path and always thinking that the grass was greener on the other side. Like in the Mario games, my princess, or in this case my happiness was always in another castle. Or, at least it felt that way. And it felt stuck. Well, here are some tried and true ways that I’ve found to get around that stuck feeling and basically slingshot myself towards a more joyful, more grounded existence.

Do what makes you say fuck yeah!

I credit Mark Manson with this phrase, but it’s one that I use in my everyday life now. If you haven’t read his book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, you probably should. Originally it was made for dating, but I’ve applied the philosophy to every part of my life to great effect.

Anyway, if you’re feeling stuck and like you need a change or you aren’t sure where to go, orient yourself towards the things that make you say fuck yeah.

For me, this looked like yoga teacher training. I started practicing yoga in high school as a way to get out of having to do “actual” work for PE, and had always had a pretty basic practice at best. When I started working remotely for the first time ever for an Australian company in the dead of winter in Boston, I had a depression cocktail of epic proportions: seasonal depression due to the perpetually grey skies, the transition of switching from going into a social office to staying alone at home, and a majority of my coworkers working in the opposite time-zone from me, so I didn’t even get to talk to them that much. I felt miserable and isolated, I had no direction and no hope. I felt stuck in just doing what I’d always done: slogging through it, waiting for something to happen to me, rather than making something happen.

But, I had to make something happen, so I followed my fuck yea: I threw myself into my yoga practice, and subsequently teacher training. I’d never thought I’d be a yoga teacher. On the first night of class, I looked around me and felt other. I didn’t look like them, I didn’t have as extensive a practice, I was wearing Harry Potter leggings, for crying out loud. The rest of them looked like something straight out of a Lululemon ad.

But what I did know is that teaching and taking yoga made me say fuck yeah. It gave me something that I was missing in my normal life, though at that point I didn’t quite know what. But, following my gut and following something that lit me up inside ended up changing my life for the infinite better, and getting me to a place where I can talk to you from today.

Once you’ve found something that makes you say “Fuck yeah,” I want you to go all in on it. Don’t listen to the people that are saying “but just three months ago the only exercise you got was eating tacos and watching Doctor Who.” Screw them. Also, sobbing to Doctor Who is FOR SURE cardio, and depending on how much Cholula you put on your tacos, you might be sweating. Soooo…

Throw yourself into learning

The next time I started to feel stuck and scared was when I was pregnant, or was talking about getting pregnant with my then-husband. I remember this conversation vividly. We’d been trying for a few months and arguing the whole time. I looked at him and said “I don’t think we should do this. I don’t think we’re ready. I don’t know that we can take care of a whole other little life if we can’t even communicate with each other about how to take care of us.” A week later, I found out I was pregnant.

Of course, I was excited and overjoyed, but there was still a little bit of me that felt like I was stuck in this new life that I wasn’t sure I was ready for. So, I leaned into it. Instead of sci-fi, I started reading parenting books. Instead of going to DnD meet-ups, I joined mom groups. I started Slack channels to talk with other parents and read about their experiences. I figured the more I knew about something the less scared I would be, and the better equipped I would be to make the right choice when it came to it.

I didn’t know if my partner and I would be good parents. But I also knew that I couldn’t control the actions of anyone else but myself. It wasn’t my job to make my partner be a good parent, just to make myself a good parent. And so, I threw myself into learning as much about that, and striving as much towards that as I possibly could. Spoiler alert: two years later and my little dude is doing a pretty great job, and my ex is an amazing, loving father.

When something scares you, or when you aren’t sure of what direction to go in, try to find as much information as you can about whatever you’re struggling with and move forward with that information. If you aren’t sure of what you’re scared of or what you’re stuck on, throw yourself into seeking something out. This can go hand-in-hand with the “fuck yea” point from above. It’s awful to not have direction, to be walking up against a wall and not sure how to climb it or get around it, but if you figure out what the wall is made of, how tall it is, and find out where the hand-holds are, you’ll be able to get up and around it in no time.

 Take the Leap

Sometimes opportunities will come up into your life that you will have some control over, but not much. This was the case with my opportunity to move to Texas. Jerry, my then-husband, and I had been thinking for a long time about moving to Austin. We’d been struggling with our relationship, and I hoped that being closer to his family and friends in Texas would help him to be a happier person with himself, and hence in our partnership. So, when Atlassian said they wanted to move me, with a 9 month old baby and my partner in tow from Boston to Austin, I said yes. I had a month to prepare and say goodbye. 

For a long time, I’d called Boston home, but said that I never actually felt attached to the city. As I got prepared to leave, I started to wonder (once again) if it was the right choice to leave—I realized that I loved the assholeishness of the city, I loved having the same restaurants near my house, I loved all of my students in my yoga classes and the friends that I’d finally made. But, I’d already committed to taking the jump, so the time was to plug my nose and shut my eyes and go for it.

Austin was sad at first. I was lonely without friends, it was hard being in an office after working remotely for four years. But, I started to love it. I have yoga students in Austin too. I have breakfast tacos in Austin. I had no winter in Austin, which was probably the best part of the whole thing, honestly. I wore Birkenstocks the whole first year I was there. But, despite loving where I lived, I had stopped loving the job that brought me there. I was sniffing around for something else to do when a full-time job with a company I’d been consulting for fell into my lap. Only problem: they wanted me to move back to Boston.

This is my dream, right? I thought? I’ve missed my friends and family. I’m homesick. Don’t I want to move back? But the more I thought about it, the less I liked the idea. But I couldn’t just tell them “No,” right?

Actually, I could. And you can too. You are never obligated to tell anyone anything that you don’t really feel. While it can be scary to be totally honest, it can also be one of the most fulfilling things to do. So, with an anxious heart, I wrote up an email to the company declining their offer to move to Boston and telling them that, if they ever decided to open remote positions, I would be ready and able to accept. They came back saying that now wasn’t the right time…but then two months later they decided to extend me an offer as their first remote employee. Now, I get to have all of the benefits of living in Texas, while still seeing my friends family and loved ones in Boston once a quarter. None of that would have happened if I hadn’t been bold enough to take the first jump to moving to Texas and into the unknown as the first remote employee at a small start up.

Chances are, if you’re feeling stuck, there’s a jump—either big or small—to take into your life. Remember that by taking that courageous first leap, you’ve already won the battle towards control over your own life and happiness.

Talk to your friends

You never realize who your true friends are until you are going through a rough time. Trouble and sadness easily weed out the good from the bad. So, if ever you are having a hard time and find yourself frustrated with the lack of support that you have, recognize that maybe you’re not noticing some of the other places that it might be showing up.

When I first started thinking about divorcing my husband, it was four years ago. Every year since then, the thoughts have occurred, and I’ve just pushed down the feeling that something wasn’t right in favor of keeping with the status quo. I made excuses about my son needing to have both parents in the house to be happy. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to find another partner as a thirty year old single mom. And, so, I started talking to my friends about it—something that I’d never done before.

While of course they were there to tell me that being afraid of being single isn’t a good reason to do anything, they also were chock full of perception and support and shoulders for crying on. In fact, this incredibly trying time in my life opened my eyes to all of the amazing human beings that I did have in my life, that did support me and love me. I never would have realized or recognized how many people cared about me and loved me without it. I have been filled with gratitude every day, even though sometimes it seems like everything is falling apart.

Your friends are there for a reason. They will be willing to listen to you and talk to you about what’s going on in your head. Sometimes, you just have to talk to the duck in order to sort all of the stuff out—it’s not even a matter of them being smarter or better at life than you are. Lean on them to give you guidance and make sure that you’re sailing in the right direction. Also lean on them if you just wanna watch shitty tv and eat ice cream. The one thing I will say is: make sure that you let your friend know what you need. Sometimes you just need to vent, and that’s okay. Just let them know that you don’t expect them to fix anything and you don’t need anything other than an ear to talk to. Because they are your friends, their default mode might be to try to help you fix things, and it will be frustrating for both of you if that’s not what you were looking for. Try saying “I appreciate you trying to help, but I just need to vent right now. When I need help, I will tell you.” But if you do communicate your needs it helps to strengthen both of your bonds, and maybe even let them know that you’ll be there in the future if they need you. 

Break it down into small chunks

While I was going through the process of my separation, I kept feeling like I was gaslighting myself. I’d feel happy and wonder if it was really happy or just my bipolar mania acting up. If I felt sad, I would wonder if I was really sad, or if I just had a bad hangover, or slept poorly the night before. I was tired of feeling like I wasn’t in control over my feelings or myself, and I was tired of feeling guilty every morning for drinking the night before. I recognized that I was leaning on alcohol as a crutch to feel fewer of my feelings, and that I had been for a while.

Long story short, I went to a few AA meetings, and now I have three months sober. Which is pretty bonkers and amazing, and something that I didn’t really expect.

But, sobriety is not for everyone, and it isn’t what I am telling you that you need to do to get past the blocks in your life. The good thing that AA does for alcoholics is that it teaches you the principal of one day at a time. For example: I’m not trying to stop drinking forever, I’m just trying to stop drinking today. The idea of breaking things up into smaller more digestible pieces is so important when you feel like you’re staring down the barrel of a gun not knowing which way to go.

Whatever it is that you are perceiving as being in your way: identify it. Then, identify all of the things that you would need to do to overcome or accomplish it. Once you have those, pick one of them, and make that your goal for the next week, month, whatever. Break down that small tasks into even smaller tasks and set them with due dates. Of course, when you look at an incredibly beautiful layer cake you think to yourself “Wow, that’s beautiful. But I could never make something like that!” But you actually can if you just bake it piece by piece and follow the instructions. Make your own instructions and bake your own cake.

Get quiet

There will always be the stage right after you’ve accomplished The Thing until you move on to the next The Thing that feels a little weird. Maybe it feels like the calm before the storm, or the calm after the storm. Maybe you feel like you don’t know what to do with all of your energy now, because you were so used to using it all on that one thing that you no longer have to do any more. The best recommendation that I have for that it to just sit with yourself for a little while. Maybe, if you’re a journaller, take some time to write in a journal how it feels now that you are done. Take some time to integrate the feelings and the learnings about yourself and feel the feelings. Sometimes, in the quiet eye of the storm, surrounded but not touched by all of our brain chatter, we can find the most clarity.

Either way, take time to enjoy the fact that you have moved onwards from The Thing. Maybe mourn some aspects of The Thing that you are going to miss, or evaluate some things you were afraid of that maybe did happen, You are right and entitled to feel feelings of all kinds, and just because you will be happy in the long run doesn’t mean that you aren’t allowed to feel feelings now. Revel in your humanity everyday, and serve up gratitude for your mind, your space and your beautiful self every chance you get. You’re amazing.