A woman’s journey takes her from fairytale to utter collapse and life in a tent, but she discovers her power to reclaim her authentic self and rebuild her life
I seriously had cold feet again… and not because I was about to get into a relationship or baulking at some massive life milestone. I had cold feet because they were standing on wet grass outside the door of my tent early in the twilight hours of the morning.
While I was sipping a warm tea that I had just made on the portable campfire. I was contemplating my day by running through a sort of “to-do” list in my head. Given that I was homeless and living in a tent with my toddler son and relying on food bank hand-outs to feed us, my situation was not something that I had ever in my wildest dreams imagined.
That’s why my feet were cold… and wet, too.
How had things gotten so bad? I had a degree, was from good middle-class stock, went to a good school, my father was a doctor. So, how had I ended up here?
I have been asked on many occasions what my trigger point was — how I lost my home, my business, my marriage and my mind. Upon reflection, I go back to that day when I put my key in the door to my home, turned the latch and as I walked in, and then saw a flash of pink as my husband ran across the hallway. I remember thinking to myself: “That’s strange.”
When I turned the corner, there was my husband in my sexy black wedding lingerie and my pink heels finishing a job interview over the phone. When he finished, he put the phone down, walked over to me, held my hands and said : “I have always wanted to be a girl.” That is when the shock kicked in and my life started to spiral down down, way way down.
After I asked my husband to leave, my life started to slowly come unstuck.
I was totally incapable of making even the simplest decision. I had a small son who was completely unaware of the situation, because I turned it into a big adventure even though inside, I was completely broken, knowing that this “adventure” was only a paper-thin cover up.
Over the next three years, we ended up moving from house to house as I took on 40 house sit jobs. Eventually we ended up in a tent relying on food bank handouts. On one rainy night, I looked out through the tent flap and thought with a little smile on my face: “Just think girl, what is the most ridiculous amount of money that you could ever earn in a month, so we don’t have to live like this?”
I got a small strip of paper, and with my smile still in place, I wrote down $40,000. That was the amount I told myself I needed to change the course of my life.
Believe it or not, within 18 months of writing down this seemingly impossible amount, I ended up making $40,811 in a single month!
So, how did I get there? I got there because there was a second trigger point that happened when I decided to pack up completely and move to Australia to be with my mum, who was not well. Having spent three years going around and round on a treadmill, praying to God to help me get out of this situation, once I had a bigger incentive to move, I was able to “fix” our homelessness in four days. Yes, four days.
How? I called all my friends and asked them to either give me their airline points for a plane ticket and/or money to go back to Australia with my small son.
After almost half a lifetime of very hard work running a successful business working 15-hour days, 7 days a week, I arrived in Australia with 2 dirty bags full of clothes… plus a 6-figure debt.
My mum had tears in her eyes when she saw what state we were in. This is where the journey to the top of Mount Everest in my sandals started — with very slow baby steps. The first tiny step occurred after what seemed like a miracle. Once my mum got better, I realized that I needed to look at myself.
How was I going to move forward? What was I going to do for work?
As questions like these started to arise, I was listening to the “small voice” inside me and I didn’t like what I was hearing. I didn’t want to be told that I needed to pay $35,000 for a 10-day training course to become a life coach when all I wanted to do was get a job and a regular paycheck. Yet, no matter how hard I tried, I could hear that little voice telling me that “Coaching was the way forward.”
As if the prospect of making 7 years’ worth of annual salary appear in 6 short weeks was not miracle enough, it was what the participants said about me at the coaching training course that really catapulted my life and future success.
At the end of the course, all of the CEO’s attending were asked, “Who was the most inspirational person in the course?” Without even hesitating, they all said that I was.
I clung to this affirmation like you cling to a life raft. It became like a ‘snitch’ out of Harry Potter; as long as I clung to it, being inspirational would take me far, very far. And that is exactly what happened.
I started to get very small wins — like my first client who paid me $500 a month. Before that, I hadn’t realised that I had a poverty/victim/scarcity mindset, and that this was the cause of my seriously cold feet. It took quite a bit of cognitive work to shift this mindset, yet, for the sake of my son, I was determined. Try stopping me!
It’s funny how life works isn’t it? I thought I was happily married with a gorgeous 1-year-old son. I was living in one of the prettiest places in the world, Whistler, British Columbia, married to a very handsome firefighter. I had my own business and a staff of 35. How could life get better?
Who knew that the harrowing and heart-wrenching years living on the edge of poverty, with not even the certainty of a warm bed to sleep in for my son and myself, would end up being the greatest gift I could ever receive in terms of catapulting my career and my success.
I certainly couldn’t imagine how these difficult times would end up being a fertile ground for me to find the pearls in this mess to transform my life and the lives of many others.
The painful times in our life are often the basis for the most fertile foundation. I’ve learned that we have to fully transform the beliefs and behaviours we have so these situations never happen again. When we do not transform them, we simply keep going around and round until we do. Our greatness cannot be realized without friction, without the test of something that seems impossible.
This is not a reason to chase hardship or difficult, but as the Buddhists believe: Only the ‘chosen’ have the opportunity of true tragedy as it is only through this tragedy that the soul is deeply stretched and transformed and only then can one enjoy happiness and fulfilment in every cell in their body as the difference between the pain and the joy is so great. The joy one will feel will be inversely proportional to the pain that you have experienced. So the teaching says. And as it does, we, too, rise out of our old and outdated understanding of who we are.
I look back on those years of difficulty and pain, to the nights that I cried myself to sleep with no idea of how to change my circumstances, as the greatest gift I could ever have received. Apart from my son, of course.
I have recently been awarded the ‘Global Visionary of the Year 2021’ and ‘Best Business Coach in 2019’. These awards were not even remotely on my horizon a decade ago. What was on my horizon was something other than beans and rice for dinner and a more permanent place to live.
When you look at your situation through the same lens over and over, your reaction will also be the same over and over — until you can look at in in a different way and see that the trouble is where? Many of us believe that we are already doing this, but the proof is in the pudding. And the truth is that pretty much any problem can be solved or resolved. We just need to find the ‘resources’ to become more fully resourced. This is where the creativity of thought needs to take place. This is where our identity needs to shift by going to the core of who we are.
When I was down and out, there was no space or energy for creative thought. My concerns were more focused on my immediacy — did we have enough food and where were we sleeping tonight? But once I took the time to shift my focus, I started to really observe the energetic attraction of things and experiences. Once you harness this, then you can grow good things and learn from the things that are not working in your life.
For me, once I had been through something like this, it became so very clear what I would and would not tolerate in my life. And then I did everything in my power in every way possible to never again be homeless or under resourced. Sure, it’s taken a decade to rebuild my life, but some things always take more time than we expected.
No matter how long it takes you to shift something in your life, trust that thing happen for a reason.
The decisions I made in the wake of my homelessness were the best decisions I could make at that time — even though the fallout took years to resurrect my life. The process of this resurrection was entirely cathartic, though, revealing to me not only my true inner greatness, but also my absolute steely determination and inner strength. For the rest of my life, I will treasure these parts of me that I might not have otherwise discovered.
Would I do it all again? In a heartbeat!
That’s because my tough times taught me how strong I am, that I can do it alone, and that I don’t need to make any apologies for where I am or who I am. I have come to appreciate that my gift in this life is to help as many people as I can — including myself — see the true inner greatness that awaits us… once we step out of our shadows and into our light.
Do you want to find and harness the keys to your greatness? Rhiannon is offering an online Mastermind called BusinessFX – to help you build the business and life of your dreams! Register at: rhiannonrees.com/businessfx
You may also enjoy reading #VanLife: Facing Off With Depression and Discovering Freedom on the Road, by Carol Fisher