If I get this client. If do this launch. If I throw this event. If I make X amount of money. If I expand my business. Didn’t matter what the markers were. I had convinced myself that once I hit the goal, I’d be happy. But then I did. And did again. And it didn’t matter how many goals I hit, they were quickly replaced by the next.

On paper, I checked off all the goals that I had given myself. Why then, wasn’t I happy? While I wasn’t miserable by any means, I didn’t feel happy either. Why? Something did not sit right. I had plenty of reasons to be happy, but the feeling lacked depth. It felt like surface happiness that never reached my core.In 2015 two of my friends Maddy & Natasha organized a women’s retreat. Everything in the promo resonated with me. I needed an out of the box solution to my life, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to gain perspective doing the same things I always did… so I took a leap of faith and signed up. I did not invite anyone to join me, this was something I just had to do for myself.

The first night, after a beautiful dinner seemingly set for royalty, we were asked to each share a bit of ourselves and our reason for being there. Ugh. I hate public speaking. Okay, there were less than 20 of us but still, the thought of talking about myself made me instantly nauseous. I sank deep into my chair in hopes that no one would notice and call upon me. One by one each woman spoke. They shared heartfelt stories, challenges they faced. Real issues. Sickness, caring for ailing family, death, drug abuse, divorce. Heavy stuff. Then of course there was me….with no “real” problems. Just overwhelmed with life. I can’t tell you how stupid and unworthy I felt to be there. My mind started to race, “why am I here? I don’t deserve a seat at this table! OMG, my problems are nonexistent in comparison!” I sunk even deeper into my chair. I thought about hiding under the table. I did a real good job too because I escaped being called on until the very end. The woman who spoke before me had us all in tears. We all felt her pain, and was inspired by her courage and conviction to take control of her life and turn the narrative. I was still wiping my tears when I walked to the head of the table to speak. Well, THIS was about to take a hard turn.

I felt incredibly stupid as I opened my mouth and the words came out. I can’t remember my exact words, but as I spoke I felt ashamed because it sounded like I was ungrateful for this wonderful life I have. “Hi! I’m Tuti and I’m mom to 2 amazing, healthy kids…but I sometimes want to sell them on Kijiji. I’ve been with my husband for 22 years, married for 16 years of them. He’s great, but there are days I want to kill him. I’ve been running my own marketing & PR agency for 10 years and business is good…” Ugh. Shut up already. Poor me, have more business than I can handle, husband and kids all fantastic, my nice house is a mess? It all sounded so stupid and flaky. What’s my f**kin’ problem? Even I was rolling my eyes at myself in this moment. And I’m not ungrateful, I fully realized then as I do now, all the blessings I have – but the feeling of being overwhelmed and lost was real. I felt like I had everything but yet was failing at everything at the same time. I was being pulled in all directions and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t keep everyone happy and I lost sense of what made me happy. 

The rest of the evening was a blur. When I went back to my room, I cried. I did not deserve to be there and felt my so-called issues were unjustified. Was I some entitled brat who could not appreciate life’s blessings? I wanted to go home. I felt worse about myself and totally unworthy to be there.  In a panic, I called my husband who matter-of-factly told me just get in my car and come home. “But there’s a no return policy,” I half-jokingly wailed. “It doesn’t matter, just come home.”

I decided to stay. Not because of a return policy, but because I had made a commitment to myself and this experience. And I do not quit things just because I feel like crap. So I stayed, and wholeheartedly participated in each and every activity. There were motivational speakers, workshops, early morning yoga, zip lining, long dinners and yes, wine by the fire. And somewhere during all of this, something shifted. I came to the realization that I too was worthy of being part of this. The women I met gave me a valuable gift. They gave me a new perspective and greater appreciation of life. So is my life picture perfect now? Did the retreat deliver all the answers I was looking for on a silver platter?  No, but I had a newfound sense of calm and the belief that the answers I was searching for, although not clear yet, were on the horizon.Fast forward to today, 6 years later. I now realize that experience was a defining moment as it was the first time I truly did something for myself. I took time and money and invested in ME. It’s not about going on a retreat per se (yes, it was great but this isn’t a promo piece), it’s about taking the initiative to do something for yourself. I had been so busy checking things off my list that I never realized that I wasn’t even on the list. Considering I do PR for a living, and spend an ridiculous amount of time putting people on VIP lists, it’s quite ironic that I never thought of putting MYSELF on the most important list of all. I spent years making sure everything and everyone else was taken care of, but I never gave myself the same consideration. By making the conscious effort to do something for myself, it became a turning point in bringing joy to my life.  It’s the first step of many that I’ve taken over the years. It’s been a “two steps forward, three steps back” kind of journey but at least I’m moving in the right direction.

Today my goals list looks completely different from my former one. My definition of success has also changed dramatically. The road ahead is still long, but I’ve added lots of joy along the journey. Taking it step by step, and I hope that by sharing my bit of “Joy & Joie” will bring joy your way too.