Coldcocked by a Morning Epiphany

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Cover image: Mary Lou Sandler of www.3cubedstudios.com

There was a time when my life was easy, or so I thought. I was happily living in my shoe-consciousness — where I was all about the shoes I was wearing, the car I was driving, and the boyfriend I was dating (and his car and his shoes)—and avoiding like the plague any existential quest that might lead me into the deep, dark bowels of my soul. Such a quest would involve passing through some shit and, well, hanging out in my soul-bowels seemed less than appealing.

And I suppose that’s the story of most twentysomethings, but as my thirties approached, the clock started ticking, and the search for the meaning to anything and everything kicked into gear. Miraculously, I was handed the golden egg, the holy grail of spiritual understanding on a silver platter, or rather on the silver screen, in the form of What the Bleep Do We Know!?, the movie I co-created with Will Arntz and Mark Vicente. Chock-full of spiritual know-how gathered from magical movie making, I knew it all and owned some great shoes.

Enlightenment? Check! 

I quickly followed up on my spiritual mastery and manifested the perfect husband, beautiful children, and a gorgeous home. Finally, everything clicked. My inner and outer selves were accessorized, matched, and decked out in deep-ish thoughts and somewhat-understandings. It was a perfect balance of beliefs that allowed me to coast along, riding high on my newfound enlightenment.

So there I was. I had my “spirituality” all laid out for me, picked up from the latest and greatest minds I’d conned my way into meeting. My beliefs lazed like cows standing in a pasture of protection, all blinged out, while I worked really hard to keep them all sparkly, running from cow to cow in my awesome new boots.

And let me tell you, I frolicked the hell out of that pasture, leaping through the air, twirling, and all the other stuff you do when you frolic. I frolicked right up until I slipped on something smelly and fell, and really, what was I expecting? I was in a freaking cow pasture, for God’s sake.

Splat, squish, my boots! I actually heard cartoon sounds when I landed. Okay, I didn’t, but I should have, it was that kind of absurd. I lay there, all sprawled out, seeing my pasture and my cows from a hoof-level perspective. I saw the ground on which was built my understanding of the world and who I was in my little part of time and space. In that moment, I came to one profound realization: my pasture of perfection was full of shit, and it reeked. It was a wake-you-up kind of smell. My life imploded, and it stank. Cue life-altering epiphany, ready or not (most likely not, because who’s really ready to completely throw out everything you thought you knew and start from scratch?).

I’d heard about such things—great epiphanies that illuminate some kind of knowledge and understanding into a higher state of being, an evolution of the spirit and/or mind. I had heard the stories about how, after fasting or meditating or pilgrimaging or a combo of the three (or helping at a homeless shelter or doing work with the sick or some other selfless activity or maybe even seeing someone else perform an act of kindness or reading about it in the paper), a person felt compelled to evaluate their life.

Then, in the story, the person comes to some kind of spiritual jackpot and goes about the business of saving the world, or at least a section of it, while brimming with joy and spreading compassion like creamy peanut butter on a perfect PB&J.

My cow pie epiphany was so far removed from the miraculous one of landing smack-dab in the middle of a New Age phenomenon of quantum mysticism, complete with a walk on the red carpet, princess dress, and handsome prince (I mean, how does a girl who has never even spelled the words quantum physics end up making a movie about how it’s the end-all-be-all of the meaning of life?) that the mind boggles. When you soar that high, your epiphany is bound to be messy.

Probably because I was no June Cleaver and never mastered the art of the perfect PB&J; mine always have jelly dripping out the bottom, staining my kids’ shirts and making their hands all sticky, with my own shirt being quickly used as a napkin by my little problem solvers, because of course I forgot to give them one of those. In my life, I never seemed to have a napkin when I needed one, even though looking at me, you would probably think to yourself, how does she do it?

I was an excellent faker.

I produced illusionary napkins at will, all smoke and mirrors. People will see what they want to see, especially if the magician is really good, and I was. Unfortunately, my superpower of producing an endless supply of immaterial napkins was less than awesome. At this moment, with this epiphany, catastrophic as it was going to be when the full implications spilled out into my life, I needed the real deal because it would take every napkin on the planet to clean up the mess.

My awesome epiphany was like this: imagine yourself waking up next to your sleeping husband and feeling this over-whelming urge to scream BURGLAR! Only, I was the burglar in the scenario, and I had stolen someone’s entire life and then, ironically, realized that I had stolen fake goods.

My epiphany came on like hives—a slow burn of discomfort between the carpool and cleaning up cat vomit. It culminated one morning when all of my beliefs, my understanding of my carefully built system of daily agreements about the way life is, tipped and fell domino-like, leaving me with the task of trying to stand them all up again.

I did not know how I ended up in that situation that morning, not then. It just happened like life does. Whammo—mornings and existential angst, slipping into my bedroom window, poking at me.

I did not receive this wake-up call well; I am not a morning person. I need time before I move, time to lie there and bemoan the fact that I have to do things, like open my eyes and clean the litter box.

On that morning, I lay in the wandering-void-of-not-willing-to-be-awake, that gray space between silent room and loud thoughts, and found the first cow to which the title of this book refers, and it was definitely tipped. The cow called I am. I know this because in that in-between moment, I realized I wasn’t who I thought I was. I was a fraud, an alien. Illegal, a stranger in a strange land, with a husband, and kids down the hall.

I watched the pieces of my life come together like a mosaic above me, little shards of colored glass, each representing a belief I held sacred, an idea about what was real and what was true about myself and everything I thought made sense, everything I thought about what it meant to live a spiritual life. I watched my understanding of what the word spiritual meant, what anything meant, the minutia of the moments that brought me here, to this suddenly unfamiliar life, and I was filled with an unwelcome sense of hurt and sadness.

I felt as if I had been abandoned by my cows, left to survive in this house filled with children, a spouse, a dog, and a couple of cats. All of them felt alien to me. How was it possible, with all I had in my life, that I could feel so profoundly unhappy and unfulfilled? And it went beyond a feeling. I became it in every fiber of myself—my skin and hair, my muscle and bone—they all became this unbearable feeling until it felt as if it was in my cells, changing me, making me heavy in a way I had never thought I could be. And worse, I did not understand it; I did not know how I had gotten to this moment. I had no sense of where it would go. I had no sense of any other way to be. All of this washed over me, the weight of it. How much my heart hurt took my breath away.

We’ve all had those moments in our lives when we feel stripped naked and empty, when a sudden realization about our life has pulverized us. Not knowing what else to do that morning, I first checked in on the usual suspect when we women sink into a pit of utter despair: could it be PMS? Bleeding for several days without dying can cause anyone to want to check out to another dimension. Nope, no such luck. Perhaps a cup of coffee and a smoke would snap me out of my soul-destroying moodiness. There is nothing like a morning visit from Juan Valdez and the Marlboro Man to bring a girl back from the brink.

What the bleep did I know?

Up until this moment, I had believed the story I was living; I had based myself, my identity, on being the expert, the mom, the wife, and the cat and dog owner. I had based myself on a story I told myself. I built my life around a belief that I had to be perfect, that no one could ever know the doubt and pain inside me. My career was built upon being in the know—if anyone saw that I didn’t know, I would be left with nothing, sort of like how I felt at that very moment. I had told myself that I should be happy at all costs, that I was seeking enlightenment, that screaming positive affirmations at the top of my lungs would eventually drown out the negative ones I whispered. I told myself that eventually that thing called the Law of Attraction would kick in, that I could indeed manifest all the gold I could imagine if only I meditated long enough, even if I never actually believed I deserved it. That didn’t matter. Just be it, and it will be—right?

I would fake it until I made it.

It was all a lie; I was the fool, fooling me.

 ©2013 Betsey Chasse.  This excerpt was adapted from Tipping Sacred Cows by Betsy Chasse and reprinted with permission of Beyond Words/Atria Books, Hillsboro, Oregon

Betsy Chasse About Betsy Chasse

Betsy Chasse is an internationally known author, filmmaker, and speaker. She is the co-creator of the film What The Bleep Do We Know?! and the author of 3 books, including Tipping Sacred Cows, Metanoia – A Transformative Change of Heart, and the companion book to What the Bleep..., Discovering the Endless Possibilities for Altering Your Everyday Reality. She also blogs for Huffington Post, Intent.com, and other empowering sites. Chasse continues to make provocative films exploring human potential and the nature of reality—or whatever it is we humans are hanging out in. Please visit www.betsychasse.net
for more information. Purchase Tipping Sacred Cows on Amazon, BN.com, or
www.beyondword.com

Cover image of Betsy: Mary Lou Sandler of www.3cubedstudios.com

  • This is such a great article. Lovely to see you join the Aspire family. Your work exploring the human potential is received with mountains of gratitude.