Life after Oz: Lessons from Dorothy after she returns to Kansas

It’s the heroic story that actually unfolds. And it’s nothing like the terrifying one you conjured up in your mind before the storm hit. Nor is it likely to mimic the marketable, happily ever after, fairytale. Although Dorothy’s technicolor adventure ended when she “woke up”, this was just the beginning. She may look the same to her loved ones, but she is very different.

Whether you label it a “mid-life crisis”, dark night of the soul, spiritual awakening or enlightenment, life after a pivotal decision or identity shift will require multiple layers of integration. Who you are, or more importantly, who you thought you were, can feel like peeling an onion, each layer revealing a softer, more sensitive core, accompanied by some inevitable reflexive tears.

Catalysts to grow, pivot or evolve will consistently shake your foundation. Whether they are storms brewing from the inside out or mother nature’s divine blessings, they test all aspects of who you are and how you “do” life.

Earth school requires lifelong learning, requiring multiple, potentially painful evolutions. Like the caterpillar transforming into the butterfly, the beginning is the end and the end is the beginning. Consequently, full integration of your core being requires consciousness of your life itself. As one moves more towards this point, whether in partnerships, love or career, the practice of this becomes the actual lifelong work.

Unlike building a foundation of a home, your unwritten story and evolution thus far doesn’t come from a clean slate. Your past was miles 1 through 40 (or 25 or 60) on the yellow brick road to your truth. Maybe it was just time for a necessary pit stop to rest, reevaluate and check the map. The abrupt halt could’ve stemmed from thinking you were either on the wrong path the whole time, or you didn’t have the tools, support or capacity to smell the poppies.

Now, two years after I began burning the bridge to who I thought I was, the challenge and journey to integrate myself back ‘home’ has included many unexpected lessons. Here are a few, with a splash of guidance from my Shaman brother, Charles.

Power comes from making a decision.

My default used to include massive energy focused on the potential ramifications of my decisions on other people. Weighing the pros and cons is already overwhelming and exhausting. Adding in how your family, friends or society will react can be paralyzing.

I have found that if I pause, get really quiet through any method of inducing a flow state (journal, meditate, nature, movement), the answer speaks directly from the gut. I also talk it out with trustworthy, unbiased friends so my analytical brain doesn’t overpower my compassionate heart.

Once the decision is made, the weight seemingly falls off the shoulders and it becomes much easier to travel lighter down the new path.

Your values and virtues will continually evolve.

I have found that virtues and values are quite different. Personal values, priorities and tastes buds will evolve and adapt to your present. Virtues are an underlying foundation of being, which also can be developed, clarified and strengthened with practice. Your strategic evolution of personal values, added to the consistency of your virtues, will ultimately increase value collectively.

For example, I have always valued personal growth and freedom. In my 20’s, growth meant formal education, training, job growth, achievement, productivity, increasing resources. At 40, my growth has focused on presence, inner work, spiritual growth, deeper connections, living and speaking in my truth.

Freedom looked like incessant adventures, new cities, travel, culture, multiple ways of living and being, sinking if I was standing still, temporary living, one foot in and one foot out. At 17, my quaint hometown felt like a cage. At 40, freedom now looks like simplicity, wide-open spaces in nature, boat and ATV rides, exploring deeper instead of wider, measuring presence instead of extravagant adventures.

Decisions that are difficult and life changing highlight our current values, therefore creating opportunities for deep reflection. Self-trust and character builds, overtime, when your actions consistently match your current values and virtues. It eats at your soul when you say one thing and do another. Self-betrayal is a core wound and sometimes it’s difficult to determine it’s origin. Especially when humans like to assume there is a moral hierarchy and correct expression of virtues and values.

Who you were and who you are now are ultimately defined by you. Act like you are living in your wisdom. Character is built in moments.

Become “the one” instead of searching for “the one”.

The transition back into the single life after a 12+ year relationship was a bit of a roller coaster, continuous flow between letting go and staying connected, specifically to myself. I had to follow a long, tangled string, starting from my adolescence.

After another heartbreaking disconnect, I still found myself having a hard time letting go of the story. I had convinced myself of the ultimate outcome, craving that specific outcome, then feeling unexpectedly devastated when it didn’t work out. I was mistakenly trying to control the universe and another human. Again. Letting go of specific people and outcomes was one of my final lessons in love before I could manifest what was actually meant for me.

I was prompted to write down every quality I could remember of every man I ever dated, every soulmate in my life, current and past, and my favorite personal assets. Not only did this prompt gratitude for all of the connections in my life thus far, I could visualize each of them as a mirror for myself, and vice versa.

Both being in or out of a relationship can create growth opportunities. I have definitely learned many lessons about life and connection through the mirrors of being with others. However, the growth of being just me (“alone”) and using all people and experiences as a mirror has brought much more clarity. I am continually striving to “be the one” and when I did that consistently, I became a magnet to people, relationships and experiences that match my energy. Everything I dreamed of just seemed to magically fall out of the sky.

Ultimately, I have found a more authentic love experience because I am already complete and worthy. I have been very lucky in love AND I committed to intense shadow and inner child work. I found you when I found me.

Treasures may be hidden in plain sight.

What you’re looking for may be right in front of your face and you can’t see it because it may not come in a package you’re expecting. Relationships, love, career, joy, truth…may look like diamonds in the rough.

Deep, inner work is the long game.

I have noticed that, as a societal collective, people devalue the “inner work” because it’s likely not the stuff you get paid for. Financially at least. We see businesses consistently pause, reflect, analyze, brainstorm and seek executive coaching support. Why not invest in the humans too? It pays off in the long run when the foundation doesn’t crumble when the next storm inevitably comes.

It also feels more feminine in nature. The being versus the doing. On top of that, the deep work is really hard. It’s not for the weary. It builds character in and of itself. And there’s no playbook or academic guide to follow along with. You will also have to hold yourself accountable. Arguably part of the definition of maturity.

The more energy (and time) you spend performing shallow work, easily distracted and multitasking, the more difficult it is to create capacity for the deep work. That’s when life just passes by and you wake up wondering how you got where you are. You couldn’t hear or ignored the whispers or feel the nudges. The crack to let light in may start subtle. If the call isn’t answered, eventually it can shock like a lightening bolt.

Whether you haven’t have the opportunity or resources to navigate the deep end, it’s never too late to learn a new skill. There are a variety of teachers who can guide and support you. Only you can do the work. Investing in becoming the person your 14 year old self needed is a lifelong journey.

Be of service and open to alternative streams of income.

I returned home with an expansive tool box of skills, perspective and experience, including grand plans to share them with my community. The classic formula of Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey”. I have lingered on the final leg of the 12 steps, seeing the big picture in a clearer view with more wisdom to hopefully cause less harm. My ego has continued to surface and dissolve while I find my purpose in a new environment.

It’s become even more obvious that people need more tools, resources and skills, not motivational quotes or unsolicited advice. Being of service has no room for ego or expectations and it looks very different than I imagined. What seems like no big deal to me, has been immensely valuable to another. I’m continuing to struggle integrating my life coaching skills into my “work”, mostly because I suck at selling those skills. On the other hand, my income and skills have diversified from health and fitness coaching to include:

-Dog sitting/walking, tile, home demo and remodeling, detailing cars, bartending/waitress, painting houses, picking up Grandma’s car in Florida, shipping packages, and retail.

Purge to make room for what is truly meant for you.

As the seasons transition, it’s a natural time to channel your inner Marie Kondo and clean out the closets. Sparking more joy also includes clearing out energetically. Easier said than done, letting go of people, places, beliefs and ways of being that are no longer serving or match your heightened vibration can feel overwhelming.

Follow Marie’s steps:

  1. Commit to the purge: Because you are worthy of joy and happiness.

2. Imagine your ideal life: Although you may not always be able to SEE the potential benefits of tidying up and cutting the cords of these attachments, you can start by visualizing how you would like to FEEL with your uncluttered shelves and bare drawers.

3. Finishing discarding first: Focus on the work and the integration will naturally follow.

4. Tidy by category, not location: Ex. Relationships vs one particular person, Purpose vs. career/work, Character vs habits.

5. Follow the right order: Marie says to start with the easiest so you can build your skills, manage your energy and maintain enthusiasm. Emotional triage could look like creating and maintaining consistent boundaries or even saying no when you regrettably say yes. You are in charge of the order!

6. Ask yourself if it sparks joy: Or is it taking up valuable real estate in your heart, mind and soul?

Simplicity and presence create abundance.

I LOVE the anticipation of something big as much as I enjoy the actual ride. The anticipation of multi-location travel, a move across the country, interviewing for a new job, the ride up on the plane to skydive, buying tickets to a concert, constantly moving so I don’t sink from standing in one place. It has been my default for living an abundant life and how I have measured the value of freedom.

It has kept in me in a perpetual state of planning the next big adventure, usually compromising my long-term security for building my everyday life resume. Being spontaneous is a joyful part of life, as long as I’m not running away from my problems. It took me a long time to stop running and just BE and enjoy the ride.

Now I focus more on:

Feeling instead of repressing. Sitting alone instead of partying with acquaintances and strangers. Presence instead of fantasy. Contributing instead of consuming. Speaking the truth instead of rationalizing. Gratitude instead of limiting.

Learning new skills will simultaneously create new experiences.

Skills don’t necessarily need to provide income or productivity, they ultimately strengthen your foundation and increase confidence and quality of life.

I learned how to shoot a bow and experienced my first hunt. I connected to nature on a deeper level and provided food. I learned how to fish and connected to the water on a deeper level, year round. I learned how to properly clean cars and connected to the family business. I can be humble and stay focused on the details. I learned how to bartend and serve so I could support my sister and her family. I met an entire community of people. I learned how to use new tools to demo and rebuild homes, which increased the functionality of my mind and physical body.

People and experiences may come into your life for a season and a reason.

Whether it’s a whirlwind trip to Italy for a wedding in a castle with a beautiful soul sister, exploring love with a long-time friend, learning about ancient star mythologies from a Star Lore historian at a dark sky park, or bike cruising the car-free streets of Mackinaw Island with Chaka Kahn and laughs on replay…I am forever grateful.

Some people change your life because they mirrored aspects of yourself you never would have seen otherwise. Or they introduced you to special friends, experiences or a new restaurant. Focus more on how they are connected to your authentic and delightful self as opposed to being attached to what they may mean to you in the future. Not everyone or everything is meant to stay.

Just like fishing, there are some people, place and things that need to be released for the grander plan. It’s bigger than you. Wish them well and say thank you for being part of your journey. Eventually the heavy, deep sighs will bring a sense of peace and clarity. Your (heart) and soul will be softened and ready for the magic that’s on its way.

Surround yourself with people who bring out your magic and become magical with your contribution.

You will feel stuck but eventually the energy with shift if you let it.

Before I could close my most recent life book, I had to make one of the most difficult decisions of my life thus far. Leaving my dog, my soulmate, behind. It was not only devastating to even look at it being an option, it was keeping me stuck in a life that was no longer mine. After weeks of crying and with my ex, the therapist and close friends, my attempts to rationalize my options were painstaking.

I still get stuck. Mostly because I still find myself attaching to the story of my fated path instead of trusting the destined one. Also, learning or transitioning into anything new can take more time than anticipated to get to know the new self. The challenge is to surrender, gracefully move through the doubt, and trust my inner knowing and the greater plan.

Your new life will cost you your old one. You’ve done this before. Patience.

Masculinity and femininity are not genders.

I have been learning more about feminine and masculine energy and how I express my authentic self without shame or fear. It has been very helpful to understand that these energies are not gender specific and are expressed in all humans. The practice of finding flow may come from walking a tightrope between the two, evolving, with connection and meaning as the guide.

As a collective, we put a large value on productivity, work and contribution. The obsession with the perpetual grind, front and side hustles and elbow strikes for financial abundance steered us down a stressful dead-end path. We’ve missed the proverbial forest amongst the trees.

I was a bottomed-out teeter totter, with my default heavy on the masculine, focusing on “doing” and accomplishment as the measure of my worth and purpose. In the last few years, I began to open the feminine floodgates and absorb the energy like a dry sponge.

Hot damn!! The deep dive into the shadows of repressed emotions, love, light, creativity and intuitive expression was mesmerizing chaos. I wish I could bottle it up and share even just a sip of the elixir that I’ve become intoxicated by.

I have been fully embracing a lady of leisure lifestyle and it’s probably time to refocus on the integration of the two. How can I continue to build a purposeful and resilient foundation, while balancing my masculine and feminine energies, trusting in the “being” while I’m “doing”?

Be a chocolate fondue fountain instead of a pot.

Flow within your boundaries. Seek opportunities to give and receive at the same time. Dip your marshmallow and the fountain keeps flowing. Dip in a pot and it quickly becomes empty. Take care of yourself first so your cup overflows and you can give to others without losing yourself.

Moving back in with your parents is a privilege, not failure.

Probably should be listed this lesson first because I am very lucky and grateful to have a safe, loving home and family to come home to. We have slightly different ideas of success and happiness and I’m now at peace with that. It took a lot of gritty, inner work to better define those terms for myself. I’ve slowly ‘unlearned’ making decisions predicated on what my parents may want for me or what they tell their friends about me. I’m sure they love having me home again!

Keep choosing kindness and believing in magic!

Be present and of service, travel light, don’t ignore those little whispers coming from odd places, who you are is not just what you “do” and what you went through doesn’t define you.

“I’m so glad to be at home again!’”

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum

Following the Yellow Brick Road

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