I was eight when I saw the Northern Lights spread across the night sky above my house on Princeton Street — speechless as the colors danced above our Illinois trees.
What was this magic?!
“Aurora Borealis.” I think one of my parents said, quickly naming and explaining them, peeling away a little layer of their mystery. I don’t remember much else from that night. Just the stars, the colors, the overwhelmingness of a moment that felt so surreal I’ve sometimes doubted that I ever really saw it at all and at the same time felt like a sacred witness to one of the most miraculous, most gorgeous, phenomenons this world has to offer.
Staring up at them, my mouth agape, I realized how much bigger the world was than little me. Seeing the Northern Lights blew the door to the world wide open. I had been to Canada and the West Coast — trips to visit family — but the purity and holiness that lit up the sky let me know how much larger everything was. Yes, I felt small (who wouldn’t when faced with something so grand as the Northern Lights), but I also felt called.
Called to explore and discover the full depth and breadth of life with all of its immensity and possibility. I felt like it was the Universe or Higher Power saying, “I see you, Deb. This is for you.”
I wanted the rest of my life to feel like that moment. That moment when something greater, more powerful than myself spoke to me. A moment of pure magic and brilliance.
But I couldn’t find that feeling for the longest time.
I suppose there were moments… like when I got lost in my scraps of writing or poetry. Or maybe when I rode in Peter Pan’s pirate ship at Disneyland for the first time. (Or every time… you got me there.) But it wasn’t quite the same. Nothing compared to that night when I was eight.
When the glass shatters because ‘someday’ isn’t guaranteed.
Decades went by as I followed paths laid out for me by other people. And I have to own that I lost myself.
Until October 2008.
I lay on the credit union floor, tummy down and fingers pressed against the rough industrial carpet as the gunman closed the door to our office. I was working as an assistant manager at the time — one more job in a long line of disappointments.
Now it seemed, as I listened to Mr. Bandana closing the door, that “Assistant Branch Manager” would be my final title. I couldn’t see him from the ground, but I imagined him locking the door, stepping back over to me, and putting a bullet into my head.
My life didn’t flash before my eyes. Instead, what I felt was regret.
Regret that I hadn’t lived my life fully, or happily. Regret that I had been full of wishes and desires for ‘someday’ but had done nothing to grab hold of them. I would die in my 20s as a bank teller, thousands of lightyears away from my actual dreams and living a life that wasn’t really mine.
When the door clicked shut and I realized he had left and I would get to live, it changed everything. Not immediately for the better.
PTSD shattered my world and life as I knew it.
It was just like that time when my brother threw a hockey stick at another brother and only succeeded in impaling the living room’s sliding glass door. Surprisingly, it hadn’t shattered the glass in an instant. Instead, it left behind a small hole and a few spidering fracture lines.
Day by day those fracture lines spread and splintered. You could actually hear the glass cracking as the fissures crept toward the edges, filling the entire pane with an intricate web-like pattern. Until finally, the whole thing gave and came crashing down to the carpet in what felt like a million pieces.
This is what trauma and transition can feel like. And it doesn’t matter whether it was caused by our own choices or forced upon us by the choices of others.
A stick gets thrown, our glass is pierced, and at some point (if not addressed) our world will feel like it literally shatters.
For me, that proverbial hockey stick took the shape of the armed robbery. It put a hole in everything I thought I knew about myself, my God, my safety, my relationships, and my world view. Over time, the hole fractured, parts of me splintered off. I felt my insides cracking bit by bit until chsssshhh…everything about me, my life, my belief system came down — cutting as it crashed to my inner “living room floor.”
Ultimately, I landed myself in a hospital ward because I couldn’t keep myself on this planet anymore.
Finding my way back to the Northern Lights.
In that space of white walls and women shaking with trauma, I learned how to pick up every little fractal of glass, inspect it, reposition it, and remake it into something I could call my own.
I learned what to keep, what to reshape, and what to release in order to be the best, most healthy version of myself — a process that still continues to this day.
I learned how to love me, embrace me, defend me, protect me, forgive me, and champion both me and my dreams.
I learned to see the real me — the me who wanted and was deserving of living by her own set of rules.
It wasn’t until I really dove inward to understand my gifts and muchness that the feeling of pure magic and wonder started to return.
Turns out I’d been looking for it in all the wrong places. School. Work. Relationships. Stuff and things.
I’d mistakenly believed that because the Northern Lights had been this external force of creation and intensity, I could only find it through external means. But each one of these was just another roadblock. Another place where someone else was saying what was ‘right’ or ‘enough’ or ‘acceptable’ and how I should behave, show up, perform the duties of (insert role here).
It took the coming undone after the robbery, and this incredible continuous journey of finding my center, to understand that the magic I felt in the Northern Lights as a little girl, was actually INSIDE me.
The magic I’d looked for — and eventually gave up on in adulthood — had already been mine the whole time.
And that magic (once it’s realized and wielded) offers the same expansion and infinity and possibility as the Northern Lights.
Taking the inner journey.
But we must understand that, like the Aurora Borealis, our growth and healing are not a one-and-done event. “Sign up today, be healed tomorrow!” Nope. There will be ebbs and flows. Seasons of intense solar storms intermixed with seasons of “normalcy.” And when the storms hit, it is not because we didn’t do it right or weren’t enough, but because there is simply another layer of ourselves for us to understand and another night of darkness to traverse.
Just last year I was “forced” into neurofeedback — one more therapy to try to untangle the malformed synapses caused by trauma, both old and new. My PTSD was surging beyond my control again, a solar storm of epic proportions. Everything I had worked for ten years to rebuild was starting to come undone and I found myself back at the beginning, trying to keep myself on the planet. This would be my last stand.
In those first few sessions, without being guided, the technician chose a Northern Lights video for my brain training.
For the first time in years I remembered what life could feel like: weightless, no pressure, no stress, no anxiety.
It was like being 8 all over again (but better) with my head tilted toward the sky, soaking in the magic of the Northern Lights, believing they were for me, feeling their magic.
I felt freedom. I felt wonder. I felt hope and possibility.
I felt relief and release.
Again the Universe or Higher Power was sending the clear signal, “I see you, Deb. And I got you.”
The process of putting all my pieces back together has been tender and long and can feel super chaotic and conflicting. There’s excitement because I have had the ability to pick up the pieces and refashion something to my own design. With that excitement, there has been freedom. The freedom to choose. To decide.
And then, there’s been terror. Because now it’s all on me to rebuild without that pre-defined and “perfect” plan, without someone else calling the shots and telling me how to get there, and without any guarantee that what I create will function or thrive.
This means, when we truly make our life our own, we have to take complete and full responsibility for it.
If we mess it up it’s on us. We are the only ones now accountable. Which means we are the only ones who can set us free.
Redefinition and restructuring are scary, but what I know is that when we are standing in our inner power and understand our inner magic and how to wield it, the glass we put back together will be better than it ever was before. And this new glass we’ve designed — in our careful consideration of each piece’s placement — will be our greatest masterpiece.
Not a door or window to keep us safe and separate from the world, or a glass case to keep us locked behind others’ rules and expectations, but a work of art that inspires the world, influences it, and reflects the real us in every shimmering piece.
Reflecting the magic inside you.
Now, it’s my mission to lead others through their own awakenings, helping them build the confidence to live true to themselves, the courage to take the tough stands, and the connections to not just impact the world, but influence it as they claim their magic and create the life and biz of their dreams. It’s the Happily EPIC After beyond the rule books where we get to live in our most authentic expression, freedom, fulfillment, and joy today (not someday). All defined by our own sets of rules and all by discovering our inner magic.
Because following someone else’s ideas of what we should be doing with our lives, what should make us happy, and what will make us successful will only leave us wandering in circles, unhappy and unfulfilled.
Sure…we might have checked all the “right” boxes…but that empty, stuck feeling inside is telling us they weren’t the “right for us” boxes we were looking for.
Fulfillment and freedom don’t come from the outside.
They come from embracing and reclaiming all that incredible truth, magic, power, and brilliance waiting on the inside.
I see it all the time…people holding themselves back, keeping themselves small because they don’t know that inside of them is the same magic and wonder that the universe displays to us every day.
If they’ll just look. If they’ll take the journey.
If they’ll choose the courage to throw away the prescribed rules and narratives given to them, and walk toward the belief and hope that everything they need and desire is already inside them.
Finding your magic is the most powerful journey you’ll ever take.
It’s the inward journey to your Northern Lights. Because all our external expeditions? They are meaningless if we don’t claim our inner source of wonderment and truth. We may have acquired more stuff, more letters after our name, more picture-perfect homes, more checkboxes marked, but if we don’t embrace us, then we are missing out on the most magical experience we can have in this life.
There are Northern Lights inside each of us…waiting beyond the fractured glass of outside rules and expectations.
We just have to find them.