The Tear Down Rebuild

by Christine Suva
From “Journey to Joy

I sat on the bed in the hotel room, tears streaming down my face, exhausted, depressed, and defeated, repeating “I can’t do this anymore!” over and over again. During that long night, alone in my hotel room, I barely slept. In and out of wakefulness, I had two incredibly vivid visions. Each lasted only seconds, but they were so powerful and so telling I was literally rocked to my very core.

In the first vision I boarded an airplane and stood near the cockpit next to the pilot. My husband Tom waited on the tarmac outside the door of the plane surrounded by enormous bags of luggage, looking desperate. It was clear he couldn’t figure out how to get all of his bags onto the plane to accompany me.

“I’m sorry sir, we’d love to have you onboard, but we can’t accommodate all of your bags on this trip,” the pilot said calmly. “You have too much weight there.”

Immobilized, my feet seemingly cemented to the plane’s floor, tears streamed down my face as I pleaded with Tom.

”Please, drop the bags and come with me!” I implored him. “I want you with me, and there’s no place for them! You don’t need them where we’re going! Please…drop the bags!”

“Don’t leave me!” begged Tom as tears slid down his cheeks. But he couldn’t let go of the bags and step onto the plane.

In the second vision, I neared the top side of a mountain energized, alive, passionate, and tired from the work of the climb—but determined to keep moving upward. I stopped and looked down to the landing where Tom lay on top of bags of gear. Too heavy for him to carry anymore, he was flat on his back with the bags beneath and around him. His hand outstretched toward me, he cried “please don’t leave me!” as tears rolled down his face.
I clung to the side of the mountain, exhausted, determined, frozen, and unable to bring myself to go back down though my heart ached. Through the tears, I begged him “please, just leave the bags and come with me! You don’t need them up here and I don’t have the strength to carry you and them anymore. Please, just come with me—I want you with me!”

The Oxygen Mask

Tom and I met when I was twenty-nine and he was thirty-two. It wasn’t only that he was physically attractive and athletic, or that we shared similar interests and that he possessed the drive to create financial success. I fell in love with his heart, integrity, and his rock solid family values. An extremely hard working, humble guy with a strong head for business and a deep desire to be successful, his values matched my own.

“He’s a great guy from a wonderful family, but I have to warn you—he hates his job,” a mutual friend told me. No big deal, I thought, so he’ll change it! After all, that’s what I’d do…already years into a career I loved and happy with myself (imperfections and all), I was ready to set the world on fire!

After we married, I realized that—far from lazy, Tom spent a lot of time listening to his inner bully who beat him up for not being perfect. Coming from the family belief that humbleness is a prized quality, it was difficult for him to acknowledge his true strengths. His poorly handled dyslexia made his early school years difficult, which damaged his self-confidence. Despite this, however, he became a skilled investor and manifested wealth as a young man. But fear of exposure of his dyslexia perpetuated his victim mindset, paralyzed him, and filled him with deep despair. Unaware still of his true life purpose, his current job’s poor fit spilled over like poison into our relationship.

Tom placed family before everything else. My rock during four miscarriages, he kept alive hope that we’d be able to have a child when I had difficulty believing it myself. He welcomed my sister and her children into our home during a painful divorce without complaint, and worked long hours to support us at a job that left him exhausted, defeated, and depressed.

Tom’s industry was one of the hardest hit at the start of the economic downturn. He went from one of his company’s top employees to feeling like the barrel of a gun was pointed directly at his head and he could do no right. Nervous and embarrassed to tell me he feared losing his job—I was a stay at home mom with our two young children by then—I told him I supported him come what may. Shortly after, he lost his job.

At the same time, I experienced an overwhelming flow of energy around my own sense of purpose—a deep calling—and decided to reinvent myself as a certified life and career coach. The daughter of a United Methodist Minister and a teacher, caring for others is in my blood. I learned early on how to use my strengths and talents to help others and realized my purpose at a young age. However, along the way I’d absorbed the notion that “business” was only about making money—but I believed it should be more about helping people. This made it difficult for me to charge what I was truly worth.

Tom and other mentors helped open my eyes to this limiting belief. They allowed me to realize that charging what I was worth would not change who I am, but rather allow me to be more of who I am and serve a wider clientele. Divinely guided toward my future, I threw myself passionately into a year-long training program while Tom took over primary care of our household and children.

As winter set in, so did self-doubt, frustration, and anger at his situation. Tom simultaneously withdrew and clung to his family. I sensed this and desperately attempted to keep him from falling deeper. While the weight of his situation, responsibility for our children, and financial strain bore down heavily, I lived a dichotomy: Absolute passion for my own purpose, and fear and worry for Tom, who was slipping into a deep, dark depression.

All I Need Is The Air That I Breathe…

Three weeks after my visions in that hotel, the crisis hit. My passion for my new field and desire to jump in wholeheartedly prevented me from getting the rest I so desperately needed. Within two weeks, I gutted and painted my office, secured my domain name, filed papers to incorporate my business, and purchased office equipment and furniture. Then our Labrador Retriever died suddenly the following week, adding the burden of grief.

Diagnosed with allergy-induced asthma three years before, I’d never had an actual asthma attack. When my normal medications proved useless, I found myself on round-the-clock steroids and nebulizer breathing treatments. I slept sitting up just to breathe. Meanwhile, I dove into online training for my new business and sat at my laptop with headphones, a breathing mask, and my nebulizer machine for two months until I wound up in the emergency room on intravenous steroids and oxygen.

I needed nine days in the hospital to bring it under control. Told not to talk because I also suffered from frequent laryngitis, it was forced rest. I’d pushed for so long, carried so much stress and worry for Tom, and driven myself headlong and passionately into my new business that I literally crashed and burned! Ironically, my self-censure about the true toll Tom’s struggle had taken on me manifested in my inability to speak!

Always deeply connected to my body, I’d completely disconnected from its signals and kept pushing. I did this despite knowing exactly what it felt like to breathe through a cocktail straw and to experience the sheer exhaustion of simply trying to breathe! My perseverance and drive to get past this time in our lives and on to a better future circumvented the reality that my body needed rest and nurturing.

Even though I’d taught stress management and relaxation therapy and studied the mind/body connection, I failed to heed the warnings until my body ended up screaming “enough!” and I found myself lying in that hospital bed.

Lesson Learned

That was my final wakeup call. I had to surrender and turn Tom over to God, pray for his health and peace of mind—and the willingness to do the work to change the thoughts and beliefs that kept him stuck. I realized that, although I maintained healthy boundaries with clients, I took on too much responsibility in my own relationship with Tom.

Intellectually I knew it wasn’t wise to absorb so much of his pain and to try to repair what wasn’t mine to fix, but emotionally I was driven to help him! My very best friend, I adore Tom and it pained me to see him in such despair. I was determined to push him out of his own way so we could move on! I understood clearly that nothing would change until he surrendered and took responsibility for his own thoughts and beliefs. No amount of pushing or cajoling would change that.

My impatience and desire to help prevented me from taking my own advice, which threw me into a tailspin. It was literally killing me that he stayed stuck for so long! I’d lost my sense of healthy boundaries which resulted in my body breaking down under the stress.

Tom finally reached the point where he knew he had to change…to do the hard work on himself, and let go of his limiting beliefs. He began to shift how he viewed himself and the world around him. The difference was amazing as he genuinely embraced the process of raising his level of consciousness, energy, and the law of attraction that I’d tried to teach him for years! My prayers were finally answered!

Tom grew healthier and more empowered, and began to take risks and create a new life, which in turn saved him and our marriage. Our finances had taken a huge hit, but the tradeoff for his health was worth it! Now he’s rebuilding his life from the inside out and I’m proud and grateful, as our marriage is stronger and healthier than ever.

I learned the hard way that what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger. Lying in that hospital bed, I knew I couldn’t give up on myself—I had too much left to give! I see now I needed to respect my own boundaries—especially with those I love—and remember to always put on my own oxygen mask first! Doing so allows me to bring to my coaching all of my love, compassion, training, and experience to help others lead happier, healthier, and more fulfilling lives. I know now with conviction that sometimes a tear down is necessary in order to rebuild something far stronger…

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Christine Suva, a Certified Life and Career Coach (CPC), Energy Leadership Master Practitioner, and Founder of THRIVE Coach Services, Inc., is deeply committed to helping others find passion, purpose and success in their lives! She has over 15 years experience guiding thousands across the country to achieve career and personal goals as an Outplacement Consultant and Wellness Professional. Expert certified in state-of-the-art assessment tools; Christine provides customizable group/one-on-one coaching, motivational speaking, training and consulting. She has a talent for getting to the core of who a person is, what they want, what holds them back, and provides tools and strategies for success!

Christine Suva, President
THRIVE Coach Services, Inc.