Defining moments. We’ve all had them. For better or worse, there are moments that change the trajectory of our lives. Maybe you saw the change in the moments, or perhaps it took you several years to realize the full impact. The thing is, most of us don’t understand the power we have in these moments. I know I didn’t.  

Let’s clarify first – defining moment. These “moments” aren’t always split-second decisions like saving a person from a burning building. Moments can build over the years to the day you make that decision to change or stay where you are.  

We have many defining moments in our lives. But much like regrets, there is nothing we can do to go back and change our actions or inaction.  

I’ve had three big defining moments as an adult. Two I handled poorly, and the third I am in the middle of as I write this. These stories have many fine points and greater detail, so I will only give you a high-level view.  

The Death of My Mother 

My mom died suddenly and totally unexpectedly when I was 32. She was 63 and had barely retired from a factory job for almost 30 years.  

I took her death hard. Not that I loved her, but because I mourned the relationship we would never have, and I believed my mom could not have had a happy life. Her life took a dramatic turn when she was 12 at the death of her own mother and, a year later, the violent and traumatic death of her father. My dad (her husband) was a lazy alcoholic who sometimes became violent. While he did work on occasion as a self-employed mechanic, my mom was the major breadwinner, and we were poor. 

And I was a handful as a teenager.  

Her death made me look at my life. I was in college, working on my undergrad degree, and married with three kids. My mother-in-law was a very controlling woman.  My husband worked all the time and would not stand up for me against his mom, and I truly felt like a single parent of three very busy children.  

Not sure what year, mid 1990’s?

I decided when my mom died, I was going to be happy. So, five years later, I left and eventually divorced my husband.  

I made so many stupid mistakes at that time. I was looking for love and validation in all the wrong places. Money was so tight. It was a mess, for sure.  

Running Away from Home 

Two years after I divorced my first husband, I met my second. He and I lived together for a few years before we married. Good looking smart and a gaslighting narcissist. (Too much to unpack in a blog post!) 

One day, after I came home from brunch with a girlfriend, he sat me down and, in front of my girlfriend, told me he may have given me an STD. Three months later, I moved out, and we were divorced a year later. 

I hated leaving my beautiful enclosed patio more than I hated leaving him.

It’s hard disengaging from an abusive man. I drank heavily, was on anti-depressants, and created drama every chance I could. My most cringy moments were the drunk texts I sent him and his girlfriend.  I complained and whined all the time about him. Every conversation I had was about him. I was miserable, and I just perpetuated that misery.  

I decided I needed a complete change of scenery. After many conversations with a friend in Colorado, I quit my job, sold my stuff, and headed west with only what I could fit in my car, $1,000, and no job.  

Those eight months there completely changed my life. I started hiking mountains and running trails, stopped drinking, and lost a lot of weight. The calm and quiet beauty of Colorado healed me emotionally and physically.  

My second time to the top of Mt. Elbert, 14,443 ft, just outside of Leadville, CO.

It was there I learned the most important lesson of my life. I was the only one responsible for my life. I could no longer blame my parents, my job, my ex-mother-in-law, my ex-husbands. I was totally responsible.  

What a liberating and scary moment that was. If I had no one to blame, what next? Taking responsibility for my life gave me complete control. Over the next ten years, I had the time of my life, which I will write about later.  

Hope, Healing, and Transverse Myelitis  

Three months before his diagnosis

Within 12 hours of the onset of symptoms, he was paralyzed from the shoulders down and spent 15 days in the hospital and 24 days in outpatient rehab. He is currently doing outpatient therapy twice a week.  

During those 39 days, I had a pre-cancerous lump removed from my breast, lost my job, was denied unemployment, and a long-time friend was killed in a car accident. It was a lot.  

As I write this, it’s been almost six months since Steve’s initial hospitalization. I feel as if I am still in the middle of this defining moment. And it’s different than the others.  

I’ve promised myself that I will use this moment as the catalyst for my new motto: my life, my rules.  

It’s an ongoing tale I will continue to write about. I hope my story inspires you to use the power of your moments and translate them into the change you want in your life.