This year marks an important milestone for me: I am turning fifty. I am so graced to be commemorating my half-century of living with a wonderful twelve-day trip to Ireland accompanied by my husband and four couples, some of our closest friends. We will be renting a house together, adventuring out into the countryside each day and likely enjoying good music and a pint in the evening in one of Ireland’s many pubs. Having gone on a similar sojourn to celebrate my husband’s 50th just two years ago, I’m anticipating a wonderful experience.
What a stark contrast to my younger years and in fact, much of my life. For my first thirty-odd years, life was characterized by loneliness and a seemingly endless series of failed relationships, weight problems, and hard-earned career success, with no happiness in the latter. For the first twenty years or so, I really didn’t understand life could be anything different than my experience. Then in my early thirties something changed. I remember being quite startled by what I wrote when a friend asked us to inscribe our heartfelt desire on his homemade rock climbing wall. I wrote simply “Let me find peace.” Despite the simplicity of the words, the statement felt profound to me. Somehow it encapsulated what I realized was a quest I had been on for many years: to find inner peace.

Born into a childhood of chaos and alcoholism, I grew up insecure, angry and full of self-loathing. I believed myself worthless and spent much of my time taking actions that proved myself right. Common amongst my self-defeating behaviors was the process I later termed “serial monogamy,” wherein I began a series of significant relationships – I’ve been engaged 5 times in my life – which I would ultimately leave when they failed to fill the gaping hole inside me which longed for love and acceptance.

Before carrying on with my story, I need to add here that today I understand the chaos of my childhood never stemmed from malice or ill intent. My parents were simply ill-equipped, as they had grown up without tools themselves, to instill confidence in their children.

So mine is not a pretty story. I lived a life full of broken hearts: mine and theirs, as I moved from one serious relationship to another.  Sometimes I left the man and other times the entire family, children and all, oblivious to their pain in my quest to fill the hole. Family, like career, school and every other undertaking, ultimately served the same master: my unquenchable need to feel good about myself.

A long time, years, passed as I continued the quest. I sought counsellors. I read self-help books. I attended workshops. And while I discovered many good ideas and received excellent suggestions, I failed to achieve any meaningful change. And I continued to be hounded by the emptiness that defies satiation.

My salvation, if you can pardon the word, ultimately became possible through desperation. When I finally twisted my life, the life of two men and my daughter’s life into such a mess that I saw death as the only way out, I became truly willing to surrender and to find a solution.  More accurately, I became wiling to begin a path toward the life I have today.

I found tools and fellowship and through sometimes painful self-reflection, combined with honesty and a willingness to surrender, I began to evolve. I have continued that journey faithfully now for almost fourteen years and my life has been transformed. With persistence and support, I have been able to replace negative self-talk with positive beliefs that offer me hope, and to forestall negative behaviors with the ability to pause and think before acting.

Today I can say honestly I like myself, foibles and all. I am able to make mistakes and see them as tools for growth.  No longer do I spend hours or days beating myself up over errors, finding blame.  Instead, I look for my part, address that, and move on.  In other words, I have stopped trying to steer my boat by looking backwards.  It’s remarkable how much further and more quickly I progress.

For me – self-sufficient, over-achieving, perfectionist that I was – the answer came, quite surprisingly, from learning to believe there was some Power greater than myself. This was a hard concept for me because it involved trust. Ironically, despite my repeated failings, I still felt more confident believing in myself than anything or anyone else, until I became desperate. Until the day I realized the problems which kept repeating in my life – the workaholism, eating disorders, and the serial monogamy – could all be traced back to me and I didn’t have any clue how to fix me. Knowing I couldn’t fix myself left me hopeless and that was the desperation I needed to reach out for help.Lifes Grace Small Pic

The results of my decision to trust, to try a little faith, has been the unexpected filling of the hole, open and empty from when I was a little girl. I have come to know that I am loved and I am lovable.  I have had the opportunity to give love to another little girl, growing up in different and yet similar circumstances, and to see her life transformed as well.  Today she is working as a play therapy counsellor, continuing to pass on the grace that came first to me and has extended on to her.

My life today is entirely different than it was fourteen years ago when I started my quest. I have a happy marriage, one where my husband and I are friends.  We laugh at and with each other on a daily basis. We have grown to share a faith in that Power greater than ourselves, although neither of us would consider ourselves religious. We regularly experience a peace which surpasses all understanding.

Based on our confidence in that Power greater than ourselves, my husband and I recently embarked on a grand adventure, saving our heritage: a farm which has been in my family for 220 years. Despite layoffs and endless creature and plumbing challenges in the 80-year old farmhouse, we continue to believe we are where we are supposed to be. So we are able to embrace each challenge with gratitude and resilience.

Along my journey, I have found many angels. One encouraged me to find my voice: to transform the ideas and inspiration I sometimes feel from that Power into words. She fortified me to write this article and it is through her support, I have become willing to write a blog of our adventures at the farm.

Today, I call myself a writer. I’m a writer because I write. I am loved because I am lovable and also because I love. I have learned that life is simple and wonderful and that I am complex and equally wonderful. I no longer seek perfection – well, okay, sometimes I do but when I do I’m able to return to my humanness and be grateful for it, because I know in being human that no perfection is possible and therefore it is wasteful to expect it.

In the drama and restlessness of my earlier life, I would never have imagined it possible to experience the peace I feel today with myself and others. I never would have envisioned myself as a compassionate person or a leader. Yet I am now both of those things.  I’m enormously grateful for the Power I have come to trust with my life. Life is graced!

Vali Fayen Headshot

Vali Fayen is a life adventurer; successful business woman; mum to many children (adopted, step and her own), as well as to three adored rescue dogs; and recently became a published author.  Vali is passionate about preserving land for our children to enjoy and is currently working with her husband to restore their Northern Virginia farm, Bonnie Bourne, which has been in the family for 220 years. She posts regularly about their seemingly endless adventures, as they repair the farmhouse her grandfather built 82-years ago and return the farm to sustainable productivity.

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