Photo by Jake Thacker on Unsplash
By Yvonne Heath
Have you ever been bullied, ridiculed, harassed, divorced, or so anxious you had chest pain? Have you wondered what happened to your life when you were suddenly forced to make a U-turn or change lanes when you thought you were going in the right direction? Me too!
I laugh at all the plans I had; life turned out to have other plans for me. Thank goodness that finally, in my 50s, I realize that I was lead to exactly where I’m supposed to be. Here’s a glimpse of the first act of my life:
As most young adults, I thought I knew a whole lot about life and proved myself wrong time and time again. I went to nursing school, not knowing what else to do with myself. I loved helping people with their problems. Looking back, I realize that I did indeed care about others, but it also helped me to avoid my own issues.
I craved love but constantly attracted rejection into my life. Sound familiar? I don’t think I’m alone in that! After one particularly humiliating break-up, I packed up my car and became a traveling nurse. I left Canada and lived in Louisiana for three months and then Texas for three years. I learned the two-step, discovered what chicken-fried steak was, and how big belt buckles could really be. I thought I could escape rejection by being so far away. The problem is that wherever you go, there you are. I just kept looking for love in all the wrong places and getting dumped over and over again.
After falling for a navy boy, my life changed forever. I became pregnant. I was in love with the idea of being in love, having a family, and skipping along, smelling the flowers and having a white picket fence — a well-seeded fantasy life. I ignored the signs, the red flags, and the alcoholism.
Tyler was born, my beautiful boy with jet-black hair and yellow-tinged skin. The nurses teased me and said, “Are you sure he’s not Mexican?” I became a new person. I was a mom and I wanted to give my son a good life! But I knew one day, the two of us would have to leave.
Divorcing and moving with my toddler to live in my parents’ basement in a town I didn’t know was certainly not the life I envisioned having at 31. I was broke, broken, and lost. I laugh thinking of living down in the southern states and announcing to my mom, “You might as well accept that I’ll never live where there’s snow again!” And here I was, back in northern Ontario with more snow than anywhere else.
As I tried to figure out what happened to my life and how to fix it, I sought out counsellors and mentors. I began to search inside for answers instead of blaming my external circumstances for where I had landed. It took a long time, but that’s when things started to feel like they were heading in the right direction, like I was steering. I was finally behind the wheel again.
I slowly began to forgive myself for things I wished I had done differently. I decided at a deep level that I would not settle for anything less than what I really wanted. I deserved that. Tyler deserved a mom who cared about herself.
That’s when I met Geordie, the love of my life. It started as innocent flirting; after all, he was 13 ½ years younger than me. Obviously it wasn’t going to be serious. But we sure did have fun together. In fact, we had so much fun, we got married on September 20, 2003.
Twenty days before my fortieth birthday, I delivered our twins, Jadyn and Tanner. It was one of the most frightening, amazing, fulfilling times of my life. My family was finally complete.
I couldn’t imagine what life had in store for me when my life fell apart at 31. You just never know what awaits on the other side of grief! I had a whole new life. We became The Heath Family Five! Life was good. I was a nurse in the chemotherapy clinic, married to my soulmate, and living with three children in beautiful Muskoka. We were happy. Then things changed.
Tyler now had a great father in Geordie (his biological disappeared into the ethers) and a stable family life. But he struggled in high school and was often frustrated. A great outlet and passion of his was snowboarding, but at age 16, he severely injured his knee. To add insult to injury, it happened four days before he was supposed to get his driving permit, which he was really looking forward to. Things went downhill from there.
Tyler spiraled down into a dangerous world of drinking and drugs, which nearly killed him. Watching helplessly nearly destroyed me. We sought help everywhere we could, and after navigating a long treacherous path of court dates and lawyers, we drove ten hours through the night and admitted him into a rehabilitation center. Imagine the anguish I felt as a mom, leaving my boy there. My soul throbbed. He wrote months later that we saved his life.
Fast forward to today: Tyler has found his way and is loving life in Kelowna, British Columbia. He is surrounded by mountains and he’s happy. It hasn’t been easy. In December 2019, his close friend Drew died from an opioid overdose; it was a fatal mistake while having fun at a party. He had two phrases tattooed on his chest: “Be the Evidence that Someone’s Life Made a Difference,” and “Follow the Adventure.” We keep those in mind everywhere we go.
This journey we call life is full of surprises; some good, some not so good. We can have a plan, but accepting that life may lead us somewhere else should be expected. Don’t hold on so tight that you can’t accept change. It is indeed the only thing we can truly count on. Be OK with that, because it may just lead you to greater things than you could’ve possibly imagined.
That’s what has happened to me in the first 49. Wow! For my second act of life, at age 50 in 2015, I left my 27-year nursing career and wrote a book, Love Your Life to Death. I’m a nurse-turned-author, speaker (TEDx Talk too!), and changemaker. But I’ll save that story for another time!
Considered by Ambassador Magazine as Canada’s Rising Star Yvonne shares how we can teach people to Just Show Up for themselves and others so they are empowered and resilient when grief and life’s challenges arrive. Grief being, whatever makes your heart ache, Divorce, Diagnosis, Job loss, end of life and now global pandemic.
Using heart and humour she shares her message across Canada and the USA helping people of all ages learn to take care of themselves and others.
Additional information and resources can be found at www.loveyourlifetodeath.com