My Dad always said, “The beauty of a rose is not in the color of its petal, but in the prick of its thorn.”
When my first book came out in 2014, I was at the top of my world. Life was good. I was driving my little silver Volvo, held a membership at the elite social club and the press loved me. I thought I was living the dream.
A few months down the road silence covered my world. The press interviews stopped, books didn’t sell and clients stopped calling. The only thing you could hear within the silence was money being sucked out of my bank account. I lost everything.
I did everything I could to hold it together; preserving every ounce of ego I had by continuing to show up and be seen as the successful business woman everyone thought I was. Meanwhile, my utilities were being shut off, my cell phone service disconnected, I had no money for food and not a dime for my mortgage. I was dead broke. The only way I could make a phone call was though Google Voice, and even then no one would answer my call because it was an unidentified number.
One day during the height of my dismay, a friend of mine said, “Gina, sometimes you have to ask yourself: is this an odd thing or a God thing.” I knew in that moment this was a God thing. I had a significant lesson to learn. I just didn’t know what that lesson was…yet.
About a week later D-Day fell upon me. Sitting in my office that I would soon move out of, I broke into a million pieces after realizing I was out of toilet paper. Yes, toilet paper! The Universe will use anything to get your attention.
A friend of mine was coming over that evening, and I realized that I was completely out of toilet paper, and I had no no money, not even a dime to my name to buy more. This little realization cracked me right open, and I found myself down on my knees with tears erupting from my eyes as I begged God for mercy.
I just kept saying over and over: “Mercy. I can’t do this anymore, God. I can’t do it. Everything is crumbling down around me. I need help! Help me! Why won’t you help me! I’ve done everything I’m suppose to do. Why won’t you help me.” This was the first time I asked God for help. The request came from the depth of my soul. My whole body was melted onto the floor in complete exhaustion.
Once I could finally breathe again, I mustered up enough energy to walk downstairs. Turning the corner, I noticed my friend Rick sitting in the coffee shop. A usual hangout for this comedian professor, he was sitting in the front window as though he was waiting for me.
So for the first time I swallowed my pride and walked inside to ask Rick for help. I told him what was going on and asked if he had $2.00 I could have to buy some toilet paper. Without question, he reached into his pocket and gave me the $2.00. And then I went to Walgreens and bought 4 rolls of toilet paper!
That night I headed to the elite social club in my little silver Volvo to have drinks with my friends. Friends who had no idea what I was going through. In one of my darkest moments, there I was, in the midst of a financial crises drinking wine (that someone else purchased) on a patio surrounded by more money than God. The irony was not wasted on me.
The next morning I told another friend what I was going through. No money for food or gas, and having no idea how I would feed my then 7-year-old daughter, I was beside myself and in tears. My friend graciously gave me $100. That $100, along with the $2.00 Rick gave me for toilet paper, seeded my turning point.
With that $100 I learned to love Walmart. Historically an active anti Walmart protester, I now got it. It was the only place I could go where $100 would allow me to scrape by. That day at Walmart I was able to get food, a very inexpensive cell phone plan using my old Blackberry (a huge dose of humble pie for this girl) and bare essentials for just living.
Then I called my Mom. Oh, the dread! Not because my Mom isn’t wonderful, but because my ego was getting smashed with Thor’s hammer at the very thought of having to ask for the money. I asked, and she graciously loaned me $3,000 so I could turn on my utilities and at least pay a month’s worth of basic expenses. Even after the $3,000 loan I still didn’t have enough to pay for my mortgage or keep my car payment current.
Now let’s be clear, for months I was looking for work with no success. Every gig that I got close to starting fell though for strange reasons. Even my corporate friends couldn’t figure out why I hadn’t landed a job. They would say things like, “Gina, you’re the most employable person we know. Companies would be crazy not to hire you.” Maybe the Universe didn’t think I was ready? Or maybe it was because my ego was still paralyzed in fear because I believed my book failed. I believed that I was a failure who didn’t deserve a job, and I was creating a dark reality for myself and my daughter. This fact was not yet part of my awareness, but I know now I was unconsciously creating my own hell.
One day a friend took me grocery shopping. Filled a cart with cans, frozen food and dry goods so my daughter and I could eat. That night during dinner he recommended I get a temp job. I couldn’t believe I didn’t think of that myself! I thought: temping! I can do that. At this point I would do anything…flip burgers, clean toilets…anything (but not anything).
The following day I applied for every temp job I was remotely qualified to do. I was used to getting consulting rates of up to $250 per hour (said the ego), and I was now desperately applying for $12 per hour temp jobs. The $3,000 my Mom gave me was gone, my Craigslist inventory had run dry, and getting approved for state assistance was moving slower than molasses. It was either a lower wage temp job, a homeless shelter or living under a bridge.
Around this time something shifted. I kept thinking about how grateful I was for my community of friends and family. A luxury many people don’t have. Without that community I truly would have been homeless. At the very least, I always knew I could move in with my Mom. And for that I was grateful. In fact, I began taking this gratitude thing very seriously and decided to focus my energy on being grateful for all that I had, rather than living in the dark story that I was allowing to consume my life. After all, at this point the only thing I could control was my state of mind.
With each morning of gratitude I began to feel better. I even started to say thank you for the things I wanted in life that had not yet arrived. My favorite mantra became: thank you, thank you, thank you that I have a job I love that pays my bills! I must have said this mantra 100 times a day.
Then one day I received a phone call from an angel. Her name was Lisa from the temp agency. She said with a laugh, “I received your resume 30 times for 30 different jobs. I thought, this woman applies for jobs like I do! Let me tell you something, Gina….no one is going to hire you. If you want a job, you need to dumb yourself down. On paper you’re too intimidating to the hiring managers. And you look too smart for the job.” I said, “Seriously? I thought I did.”
Lisa rewrote my resume. I never saw that “revised” piece of wonderful. All I know is that it worked. She landed me an interview for a contract analyst job. Between you and me, I had no idea what an analyst even did. But I was going to be the best damn analyst this world had ever seen!
The day of my interview I work up early, prepared my notes and headed out the door two hours before I actually needed to leave. I figured I would just hang out in my car meditating or rehearse self-motivating mantras before the meeting. Ready to take on the world, I walked outside, looked around, and my car was gone. Nowhere in sight.
I stood there numb and then just started laughing. No idea what to do, I just walked around my house in hope that I parked somewhere else; trying to convince myself that maybe I parked in front of the house and forgot. It didn’t take too long for the realization to sink in…my little silver Volvo had been repossessed.
With my interview now less then two hours away, I walked next door to my neighbor’s house while pleading with the Universe to have someone, anyone home who would allow me to use their car. I knocked with success! My neighbor Justin lent me his car no questions asked.
My pleading with the Universe continued on the drive to the interview. “Please God, have this woman offer me the job right on the spot. I know that never happens nowadays, but please just give me this. Please, please, please.” I’ll spare you the rest of my plea.
I arrived to the interview on time, and found myself sitting across another angel that would change my life. This angel’s name was Barb. We hit it off, and then I was given a gift. After the interview she immediately offered me the job. Miracles do happen.
Over the next month I rode the city bus into work. A 90-minute journey every morning and every night that I soon learned to love. I also learned how to rent hourly “cars to go” if I ever found myself in a pinch. A genius idea.
In my pass time my daughter and I walked everywhere. And we began to look forward to our adventures together. We’d walk the city streets talking, window shop at neighborhood boutiques and hitting all the garage sales on the way to the park. Everyone thought she was so cute, and her seven year old cuteness won free stuff at what seemed like every little stop we made.
One day on another adventure we decided to check out a near by park a few miles away. It was a fabulous meca of jungle gyms, slides and swings. But the “old school” kind made of metal. I was swimming in nostalgia…remembering who I was and where I came from.
That day, once again found myself on my knees with tears running down my face. But this time it was different, I was different. With absolute gratitude I started to talk to God again, “Thank you for taking it all away. Thank you for taking away the money, the car, and stripping my life of all the material items I had been hiding behind for so long. I lost what I thought was everything, but what I gained was everything in this world I could ever want or need. Thank you.” I finally got it.
From that moment on my finances began to improve. The following week I met with my boss and recommended that she needed a change and communications consultant to help her with the team. Barb said, “You’re right. That’s exactly what we need.” I replied, “Lucky for you that’s exactly what I am.” Without skipping a beat Barb smiled and said, “I thought you were cheap.” She had me back up to a fair consulting wage within two weeks.
I spent the next few weeks digging out of debt and loving every moment of it. I was able to get my house out of foreclosure. And I even got my little silver Volvo back from the “repo man”–moments before it was being sent to auction. When I told my daughter we were getting the car back she cried. Unlike her tears when she found out we lost the car and she would have to walk everywhere, these tears were because she was worried that we wouldn’t be able to go on our walking adventures anyone. This experience changed her just as much as it changed me. I assured her that our walking adventures would continue…and years later we’re still walking.
My financial depression of 2014 taught me an unbelievable amount of life lessons. Money management. Practicality. Asking for help. Humility. Self-worth. And how to be grateful and show gratitude for all that I am. Most important: I learned how open my heart and have complete trust in God and the Universe. To have faith that everything is happening for a reason. And that no matter what, I would always be taken care off.
For nine months, as hard as it was to go through this gut wrenching experience, I never lost my house, always had food on the table, had just enough items to sell on Craiglist to take care of those out-of-the-blue expenses, and I had an amazing community supporting me along the way.
I’m often asked how I kept my sanity through those nine months. The answer is breath, gratitude and compassion onto myself–all equally important. I had to learn how to sit down and breathe, continuous breathing through the darkest hours. I had to train my mind to focus only on what I was grateful for having in my current state and the positive experiences I would be receiving in the future. Lastly, I had to start treating myself with compassion. Which meant I had to remember that I was a human being deserving of love and grace.
ModWoman, I don’t know what you’re going though, but I do know the beauty of the rose is not in the color of its petal, but in the prick of its thorn. Your darkest moments provide you the opportunity to grow into the woman you’re meant to become. A woman who’s here to change the world. Breathe. Give gratitude. And most of all have compassion onto yourself. You got this.