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Destiny Decided: The Minute That Changed My Life—2018 in Review

January 16th, 2019

One of my clients described 2018 as annus horribilis, roughly translated this means it was an absolutely horrendous year. Perhaps you can relate to that. 

And I’d have to agree. What a beastly year! I had copyright craziness, scary moments with certain industry giants, and drama galore—including narcissistic bosses and bullying builders during our home renovation process. But, as I once read, “you need chaos to give birth to a dancing star.”

Through all the mayhem I’ve emerged stronger. Where others may have given up in despair or drowned their angst in a bottle or a sea of pills, I’ve gone through it all unmedicated and sober. I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression and even collapsed. But I bounced back and I’ve thrived and grown. And I have been blessed to have been both supported and able to support others.

I’ve benefitted from integrating and applying many of the strategies I share in my self-empowerment books—most importantly:

 Bounce: Overcoming Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy

Mind Your Drink: The Surprising Joy of Sobriety (Control Alcohol, Discover Freedom, Find Happiness and Change Your Life)

Stress Less. Love Life More: How to Stop Worrying, Reduce Anxiety, Eliminate Negative Thinking and Find Happiness

How To Find Your Passion And Purpose: Four Easy Steps to Discover A Job You Want and Live the Life You Love

and my Art of Success Series, inspired by Coco Chanel and my mentor Leonardo da Vinci.

A lot can happen in 60 seconds. The minute that altered my life forever.

“Nobody speaks to God these days.“Maybe its time to let the old ways die,” sings Bradley’s Cooper character in the lyrics of A Star is Born. 

I couldn’t agree more—emotional, mentally, spiritually, it’s time for a rebirth in 2019. In 2018 nearly dying physically was my wake up call. In his book, How to Know God: The Soul’s Journey into the Mystery of Mysteries, Deepak Chopra sums at beautifully how fate can come calling when god the protector intervenes.

“A miracle Ìs a display of power from beyond the fìve senses…Any miracle involves direct contact with spirit.” Level one of the seven levels of miracles that Chopra summarises is the Flight-or-Flight Response. “Miracles involve surviving great danger, impossible rescues, a sense of divine protection.”

This was my experience in late 2018.

I don’t know why but as I was driving back from Auckland after a particularly traumatic experience I fell asleep at the wheel. Miraculously, I woke up as my car careered across the road. I was 60 seconds away from driving down a steep ravine.

I didn’t panic as instinct would normally dictate I didn’t grab the wheel and swerve. I didn’t do anything. I recall an intense feeling of peace and a deep knowing that I should surrender.

I felt a presence, as though someone took the wheel and gently guided me back onto the main road to safety. I just allowed God to take the wheel and lead me back to the safety of the right side of the road.

I look back now and see the deeper meaning of staying in my own lane, of following my authentic path and my soul’s purpose.

I’ve had that experience once before when I nearly drowned after being encouraged by a friend to go free-floating down a river. Not long after I got into trouble. Serious trouble. Somehow I became entangled in a whirlpool.

I was being sucked under the water, trapped in the maelstrom of opposing currents. I was struggling to get free when I heard a voice say “relax it’s not your time.“

And even though every part of me instinctively wanted to fight because I was drowning, even though every cell in my body biologically kicked into the stress-response, I forced myself to relax.

I allowed my body to go limp, I talked to the memory cells in my body and recalled past knowledge of letting go, I surrendered. And when I let go and let God, when I put my faith in the Divine Intelligence, when I trusted that the Universe had my back, I floated to the top of the water.

Further downstream my friend, sensing something was wrong, lay await in a tree. As I sped past in the racing current, he reached in and pulled me out of the water. I put my faith in God and I put my faith in my friend.

It’s a moment I had forgotten until some 15 years later when I nearly drove to my death. So, 2018 was a game changer for me. This experience, and all the hurtful behaviors I have personally experienced, and those I witnessed as my counseling clients shared their wounds and their pain, transformed my life.

Perhaps, like me, you’ve become less enamored with the fear and the aggression directed at so many. Perhaps, like me, you’ve found it incredibly exhausting fighting a daily battle to ward off lower energies that incessantly attack all that is good.

In 2018 I made a decision to let go of the wheel. I made a commitment to stop trying to control everything and allow. This is not allowing in a victimized, passive sense. This is allowing in a spiritual sense. In some ways you may consider, as I have, loving what shows up. Because what shows up guides us back to our soul purpose—to heal our wounds and help others in return.

As I share in my soon to be released book Anxiety Rescue: How to Overcome Anxiety, Panic, and Stress and Reclaim Joy, trying to control everything is a learned behavior I have somewhat unsuccessfully employed to keep myself sane. But I have discovered that the greater power is to let go and let God.

Two months ago, in November of 2018, I reinforced this commitment to allowing the old ways to die in a session with renowned Psych-k therapist, Jane Bromley. I stated my intention, “I’m just going to allow, I’m just going to stop needing to be in control, and I’d like your help getting rid of old programs that are preventing that.”

That exact day, less than three hours after our session a contract that I thought would be mine for several years was terminated. My manager’s behavior was vindictive, malicious, and clearly designed to destroy me. I won’t go into this in too much detail here. In fact, it may well become a book on its own because I know how many of my followers and readers of my Mid-Life Career Rescue series of books suffer at the hands of narcissistic bullying bosses.

Enough is enough. 

I see it now, with the benefit of time and therapy, as divine providence. After all, hadn’t I asked for the old ways to die? I wasn’t meant to be there. I had allowed myself to be dishonored the moment she reneged on our agreed terms of employment. The people pleaser and the victim was still in residence.

I was forced to accept that which felt unacceptable.

The Archbishop Desmond Tutu speaks beautifully about of the power of acceptance in The Book of Joy, co-written with The Dalai Lama. Below is an excerpt from this book:

Prayer practice involves reading quotations from the scriptures as well as quotes from the saints and spiritual masters throughout history. One of his favorites is the Christian mystic Julian of Norwich, whose Revelations of Divine Love, penned shortly after she recovered from a life-threatening illness in 1373, is believed to be the first book written by a woman in the English language. In it, she writes, . . .

“Deeds are done which appear so evil to us and people suffer such terrible evils that it does not seem as though any good will ever come of them; and we consider this, sorrowing and grieving over it so that we cannot find peace in the blessed contemplation of God as we should do; and this is why: our reasoning powers are so blind now, so humble and so simple, that we cannot know the high, marvelous wisdom, the might and the goodness of the Holy Trinity. And this is what he means where he says, “You shall see for yourself that all manner of things shall be well.”

As if he said, Pay attention to this now, faithfully and confidently, and at the end of time, you will truly see it in the fullness of joy. Acceptance—whether we believe in God or not—allows us to move into the fullness of joy. It allows us to engage with life on its own terms rather than rail against the fact that life is not as we would wish. It allows us not to struggle against the day-to-day current. The Dalai Lama had told us that stress and anxiety come from our expectations of how life should be. When we are able to accept that life is how it is, not as we think it should be, we are able to ease the ride, to go from that bumpy axle (dukkha), with all its suffering, stress, anxiety, and dissatisfaction, to the smooth axle (sukha), with its greater ease, comfort, and happiness.

The experience, or rather my treatment by others was hurtful and traumatic. Healing my wounds lead me back to therapy.

I discovered the teachings of Dr. Jordan Peterson and through him rediscovered the teachings of Carl Jung. I earned about the shadow side and the importance of healing trauma, especially releasing it from the body.

I also learned about the power of community and reaching out to others and talking, just talking, and of honesty. Sharing my vulnerabilities, my wounds, and my sorrows. (You may also like my post, Does talk therapy actually work?)

I also placed value on the importance of taking responsibility. I had asked God to lead me. I had affirmed, “thy will be done.”

And I was clearly shown the door. Coincidentally I came across the below which I had written in the tiny book of wisdom I keep by my bed

I was reminded that I hadn’t trusted my intuition. From the beginning, God had told me something was wrong. I write more about  spotting narcissists and overcoming narcissistic abuse in my book, Anxiety Rescue: How to Overcome Anxiety, Panic, and Stress and Reclaim Joy

People told me to stand up. Important people came to my aid and told me they wanted to support me. Where once I had just thought I don’t need the drama or allowed myself to be victimized I decided, in spite of the intense feelings of stress that I was still working through, that I had to take a stand.

In this respect, I took strength from the teachings of Jordan Peterson who urges us all to “Grow some teeth and bite. Bite hard.” Peterson is not urging us to attack with violence, he is urging us to integrate the shadow side so many of us kinder souls may have been taught to disown. Check out his lecture here—https://youtu.be/iDQ8DiP_Y_A.

When you allow bullying you become a victim and you set yourself up to be bullied again. In a perverse twist, you effectively bully yourself into believing you are worthless and powerless, and you’re colluding in this mistruth and this abuse with the perpetrator.

I also took wisdom from the Dalai Lama, “You must not hate those who do harmful things,” he has explained. “The compassionate thing is to do what you can to stop them—for they are harming themselves as well as those who suffer from their actions.”

I put the matter to the attention of my professional ethics committee, to my local member of Parliament, and the perpetrator’s professional supervisor. It’s what my intuition guided me to do.

Again, as the Dalai Lama sagely teaches in The Book of Joy, “We stand firm against the wrong not only to protect those who are being harmed but also to protect the person who is harming others, because eventually they, too, will suffer. So it’s out of a sense of concern for their own long-term well-being that we stop their wrongdoing. This is exactly what we are doing. We do not let anger and negative feelings develop toward the Chinese hard-liners, but in the meantime, we strongly oppose their actions.”

And so rather than allow a wrong to continue I have begun the journey of seeking justice… for myself and for those who may follow.

My energy and intention is not born from vindictiveness or a desire to punish my narcissistic manager. My desire is to stand up for myself, to honor the truth and bring light to darkness.

Bullying affects self-esteem, your identity, your perception of, “am I safe in the world?” It affects how you view yourself, your skills and abilities, it cripples your growth and diminishes your ability to shine brightly in a world that needs your light.

 

Bullying and narcissistic abuse and other hateful, hurtful behaviors needn’t be a life sentence, But it does require you to show up, stand up, speak out. Something we all witnessed in 2018 as the pandemic of sexual assaults was finally called “time” in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

Enough is enough. More than enough!

A similar thing happened when I received an email out of the blue accusing me of trying to leverage off another woman’s brand when I released my title Sexy Sobriety containing sobriety recipes.  The email was aggressive, intimidating… designed to strike fear.

I sought advice from my writing community. Many authors told me there were no grounds and told me this was just bullying.

“Aggressive grandstanding,“ one best-selling author wrote. “They should have trademarked the name if they wanted to lay claim to it..(I imagine they are in the process of doing that). Otherwise, you could probably fight and win this—if it was important to you.”

But the aggressive emails threatening financial penalties, keep coming. I asked them if the term, “Sexy Sobriety” was trademarked. They told me it wasn’t. Several weeks later they filed for copyright.

I decided this wasn’t important enough for me to fight. Unlike, the issues arising from the narcissistic boss.

 

Income wise, for sure, the road was rocky. With the benefit of being able to look back in review, this was understandable for several key reasons.

Firstly, our home renovation was a nightmare. The tradespeople were great, the finish fantastic, the end result, a dream come true. But the cost, both personally and professionally, fuelled by the budget blowout was beyond belief. Our troubles lay largely at the feet of the main contractor—of course, he didn’t see it that way. Another bully. Another narcissist—as others who had the misfortune of working with him also revealed. But he seemed so nice. So agreeable. Narcissists always do—until you’re screwed.

As I share in Anxiety Rescue: “Narcissistics are fear-based people. They tell a lot of lies and they put a lot of these lies onto you”, says psychotherapist Dr. Les Carter. “As you engage with a narcissist, you quickly realize that person has an agenda for you.”

Things unexpectantly took a turn for worse toward the very end of the rebuild. Thankfully we were back in the house and were in this respect back under control. We only just narrowly avoided a nasty and potentially costly litigious battle (I’ve learned, as you may have, that the only people who really win are the lawyers). We arrived at an uneasy compromise. Better uneasy peace than the stress of warfare waging on.

If only some of our world leaders would act similarly.

Needless to say, all this chaos made it nearly impossible to write and I was nowhere nearly as industrious and prolific as I was in the previous years.

Secondly, USA Today bestselling author Kristine Kathryn Rusch summed up some of the changes which affected many authors like me.

“Amazon shook up the industry first by a shift to favoring paid advertising over organic search results, then with policy changes that led to decreased revenue

Other interesting turns included dubious trademark claims, leading to the addition of terms like Cockygate being added to every indie author’s lexicon. Some authors attempted to trademark generic cover layouts and common words to (allegedly) protect their intellectual property. In general, it was a year filled with questionable practices on the IP front.”  

Many lessons were learned, and I have attempted to adapt with the times.

However, December was my best ever month, ending the year on a high as my best year yet author-wise.

It wasn’t always like this, and like any new endeavour, there was a lot to learn. Baby steps, passion and perserverennce and a big wallop of tenacity and self-belief  (often feigned) were key.

2016, my first year as an indie author. I remember being thrilled with my first royalty payment—$136. I was so cuffed, I pasted the notifcation in my Passion Journal. I’m still proud of that result. 

2018, also heralded a greater focus on my counseling work, and it was an absolute honor and joy to have worked with so many varied and beautiful people—some as young as eight. I developed a new passion for working with trauma and child therapy, as long as the other areas of passion I have—all unified by my purpose to help create more love in this crazy world.

As you’ll discover from reading Anxiety Rescue, I believe the best solutions integrate mind, body, and soul. Whichever way you define spirituality you’ll benefit from tailored approaches that feed and nourish and empower your spirit.

As Kiri*, one of my New Zealand-based clients shared with me recently,

“In Maoridom for me, I will relate to you as a  Kaitiaki, meaning ‘guardian’. How I became to have you in my path was purely by spiritual contact—a nudge an inner tiny voice directing me to you. Cass, you don’t realize the great healing you have in the pit of your soul and you were born to spread compassion. You have those who watch over you, and mine in return, and yet they all speak the same language to us who are willing to hear and feel.  In such a long time have I never met a beautiful soul who finally understood me who went within and helped me grow from our sessions.”

 

This feedback made my heart glad—especially when I was going through such a toxic work situation.

Therapy needn’t be gloomy. A lot of healthy healing can be achieved using playfulness and fun. Personally and professionally I believe in magic and the power of beauty, joy, love, purpose, and creativity to transform peoples’ lives.

Kiri, who came to see me following a period of grief and trauma, had become so unwell she could no longer work, and struggled to find meaning in her life. In just one session, where we ‘played’ with crayons in a session of Interactive Drawing Therapy, she experienced a complete transformation. In her picture, she drew vibrant threads of colorful energy and empowering words that encouraged her to seek joy.

As the sessions continued I introduced her to the healing power of meditation. And of course, we talked. Or she talked, and I listened. Very often, all we need is someone to listen to our story and help us reintegrate who we truly are.

Or, you may find, as many of my clients have, that working with a life coach, rather than a counselor is the most effective strategy.

A problem shared can lead to a problem solved. Talking with someone objective is often what you need to gain a fresh perspective, overcome obstacles, heal wounds and expand your life.

To learn more about my approach or to schedule a session I invite you to visit—http://www.cassandragaisford.com/wellness-therapies/

 

If there is only one insight you take away from my year in review, I hope it is a newfound belief in the importance of being yourself. This often requires embracing the shadowy aspects of our personality and shedding alll the layers of debri that prevent you from being authentically you. It also involves clearing away the crap that may have been thrown at you, and baring some teeth at those who try to attack you. But even more importantly it means remembering who you truly are.

The doorway to this is co-creating with spirit in the energies of passion, purpose, and love.

I can personally testify for the life-transforming effects of this philosophy.

With hard work and inspired products and services created with passion and purpose, miraculous things are possible.

Good luck in 2019.

Did you enjoy this article? Sign up for Cassandra’s newsletters to get more stories like this and be the first to know when her new book, Anxiety Rescue: How to Overcome Anxiety, Panic, and Stress and Reclaim Joy, will be released.

You might like:

Why Pursuing Your Passion Not Your Pension is The Ultimate Mid-Life Career Change Strategy

6 Things Successful People Do To Become & Stay Motivated & Happy

The anxiety cure: How I avoid depression, get energized, find joy, and stay inspired

 Why Being Inspired Matters: The Spontaneous Fulfillment and Healing Power of Joy

How to say no to abusive workplaces, schools, homes, and circumstances

Why passion is a powerful healing tool

 

* named changed to protect privacy.

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