I think it’s important for me to say that I’ve never been a bliss ninny. I’ve never been a seeker. I’ve never been interested in the next best fad diet or anything like that. I think I’ve always been a pretty together person, having worked as a business owner and consultant since I was 18. In fact, I would describe myself as a Type-A personality who is driven to succeed.
Success is a journey, not a destination. I wish I had realized that sooner.
More success usually equals more responsibility and when you don’t have the tools to hit the reset button, toxic stress can take over your life. It took over mine.
Twelve years ago, my dermatologist husband completed a Mohs and Reconstructive Surgery Fellowship, where he learned a very specific technique for skin cancer removal. We bought an existing Mohs practice from another husband-and-wife team in Pensacola, Florida. When we started, I ran the office with nine employees and Will was the only doctor.
Will turned out to be extremely talented as a reconstructive surgeon, and the practice grew and grew. We now have over 60 employees and ten providers in different locations. Five years ago, we started building an Ambulatory Surgery Center. At age 43, I had just given birth to our daughter and I managed all of the planning and construction.
On the outside, it was a tremendous success story. On the inside, the stress of building that empire took a toll on us personally, and took a real toll on our marriage. The practice basically outgrew what we could handle.
My husband was so consumed with patient care and the outer world of working and expanding our business that he hadn’t looked within for years. And I had stopped looking within too. I was wrapped up in his world and trying to make him happy, which was an impossible task. I was the CEO of his company; I lived his dream. None of it was anything that I ever wanted to do, but I did it to be with him, to help him and his patients. He’s a fantastic doctor, so I knew we could grow the practice into something special, which we did.
But it sucked the life out of us because we weren’t prepared for the pressure and all the things life can throw at you.
In an attempt to get our lives back on track, I resigned in 2015 and replaced myself with a competent CEO. That was a good decision. But I couldn’t help my husband get centered again. I watched him become more and more disconnected and stressed out until he was almost unrecognizable.
When Will told me he was planning to work two days a week in Alabama in order to merge with another company and build an even bigger business empire there, I felt we were going further down a black hole. I didn’t see the end in sight.
Something had to give.
The Turning Point
In January, I came to the realization that I couldn’t go on. I took my daughter to our home in Hawaii and enrolled her in school there.
Thank God Will ended up joining us there after six weeks, taking a much-needed sabbatical from his work. With the help of a therapist, we started to rebuild our lives together.
I kept thinking about what’s next. All I knew is that I couldn’t move back to Pensacola because I didn’t want to fall back into the same pattern that was so easy for us to do—working hard to get to the top and burning out all over again.
The problem was, at that point I really only knew one way to operate. Even though the therapy was helpful in clearing the cobwebs from the past, I knew I needed to go inward more. I thought it would help to go to school, take some classes, learn new things that were fun and interesting and would help me with personal growth.
I don’t know if Google can read your mind, or possibly I’d searched something that led to Transcendental Meditation (TM) showing up on my Facebook page, which I’d never heard about before, but it really intrigued me. I was especially drawn to the statistics of how it helps students perform better in sports and academics. As a mother of a five-year old, performance in school is really important to me.
On a Sunday morning I called the number for the TM center in Honolulu and Stellavera Kilcher answered. She invited me to an introductory lecture that day, and when I mentioned I couldn’t get a sitter for my daughter, Stellavera graciously invited her too. And that was that.
For the first few months, it was like sitting on the bottom of the ocean, calm and still. And that was just what I needed for my personality type. I’m very high energy, very driven, and I get energy coursing through my blood—all forms, good and bad.
TM balances me out. It’s unbelievable. It’s better than any medication that could be prescribed. It really softens the edge.
So I love TM. I can’t say enough about it. Now I know why people have been doing this twice a day for the last 40 years. It’s as natural and necessary as breathing and eating, and I will never not do it. You can ask me when I’m 90, and I’ll still be doing it.
One thing I didn’t want to do was tell my husband that he needed to do TM. I didn’t want to project it onto him.
And of course Will, being an M.D., loves to read about scientific research. When he read the book, he asked me for the phone number to the TM Center. He learned on his own, and he does it regularly twice a day.
I see a dramatic change in him. He is the man I married again. He writes me a beautiful email every day that we’re apart, and I can read his heart and hear his compassion and all those tender emotions that had been closed up in him for so long.
To me he had been completely lost. He had lost his center; he had lost his connection to God. Transcendental Meditation has brought it all back.
Even though we are not planning to continue the medical practice in Pensacola, now I feel that if we had known about and practiced TM from the start we could have at least enjoyed the journey.
When you’re mentally clear, you can more effectively deal with the fear and stress that comes your way. You can make decisions with a clear mind, using the best parts of your brain.
We were so stressed, our prefrontal cortexes had gone off line. It had gotten to a point where I was extremely busy doing nothing. Will’s TM teacher, Mike, described our situation perfectly. “You were busy rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic,” he said. I really thought about that and took it to heart. That’s exactly what I spent years of my life doing.
I realized that I spent a lot of time rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic when I should have been holding my baby. She slept a lot in our nanny’s arms because I was running around like a gerbil on a wheel. I couldn’t get off. Had I been meditating, I could have done my work a lot more efficiently and still had plenty of time for my child.
So I’m not saying that you should quit your job when you start TM. Rather, I believe that if I had been doing TM all along, I would have been more calm and grounded. I would have been able to fit in my family life and accomplish everything I wanted to do in a much more balanced way.
So now I have a chance to try that out, as my husband and I embark on our next adventure, without the stress.