My Personal Journey

Your life will be transformed when you make peace with your shadow. The caterpillar will become a breathtakingly beautiful butterfly. You will no longer have to pretend to be someone you’re not. You will no longer have to prove you’re good enough. When you embrace your shadow you will no longer have to life in fear. Find the gifts of your shadow and you will finally revel in all the glory of your true self. Then you will have the freedom to create the life you have always desired.
— Debbie Ford
 
 

How I arrived . . .

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I was born the first child of a young and poor couple in Seoul, South Korea in December of 1973 as Ji-Sook Hwang.  My family lived in one room with an outhouse shared with the other tenants. My mother cooked over a large piece of charcoal which also happened to heat the floor of our room.  We either washed up at an outdoor faucet in the courtyard of the home with the other tenants or went to the public path houses. This was not uncommon in those times and we lived better than most.

I grew up believing I was unwanted and was an unwelcome addition to the family, especially once my younger sister arrived two years after me who happened to be sickly and perfectly beautiful in my mother’s eyes.

I, on the other hand, was the child that kept her tied to the realities of being a women during the 1970s as the country was coming out of the struggles of its long history and the Korean War.  I was what imprisoned her in a difficult marriage unable to follow her own ideals and thirst for freedom to follow her desires and talents. I was the reminder of the limitation of her place in the world.

My mother used to tell stories of how stubborn I was and how I cried non-stop when I was a baby.  She recounts, that as a young child, I got into everything. I was unacceptably independent, mischievous, unruly, and always dirty.  And that as a young child I would roam the streets with a gang of kids who I bossed around and took it upon myself to be responsible for, protecting them from the much bigger and older boys in the neighborhood who bullied them.  I did not behave as a girl should behave, I was uncontrollable and embarrassing.

I felt as if I was a constant burden on resources, space and time.  I felt as if I was not good enough, that I was alone in the world, insignificant and on my own.  I love and have the highest respect for my parents. They did the best they could with what they had and my distorted memories, feelings, and emotions are that of my own remembrance of the early years of my life.

The American Dream

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In the fall of 1981 when I was just shy of turning 8, my parents, my uncle, my little sister, and I flew across the world to immigrate to the United States of America and settled in the state of Maryland in the Washington DC area.

My parents bravely came to this country in their early 30s with two young daughters, two large bags, a couple thousand dollars and spoke no English.  They however, had the desire to work hard and open up possibilities for their daughters so we could have opportunities for a better life in our future.  My parents were pioneers and fought through fears, poverty, and what were impossible obstacles. It was a difficult time but the lessons I learned and the experiences I endured allow me to be the resilient, passionate, and spiritually devoted individual I am today.  

The first decade in this country was filled with examples of hard work, community, humanity, integrity, faith and grit.  For me, it was also filled with a lot of emotional pain, traumatic physical and verbal abuse. It has taken me equally long to heal, have compassion and understanding of the path and journey I was meant to walk to get where I am today.  Today, I see the life I endured as a gift and I am truly grateful for all of I have and all that I am.

The earliest memory I have of having a conscious and deliberate meditation practice was when I was eleven, although I did not realize what it was until years later.  It was a survival practice after a beating or a fight with my mother. When I was in silence I felt safe and protected. I would hear and feel kind loving words letting me know everything was going to be okay and nothing was truly wrong.  At a very early age, I had always had an intuitive knowing and connection to the unknown and the unseen but this was the first and the beginning of my regular conversation with the universe, GOD, spirit, angels, guides, and ancestors.

Struggling to grow up

I spent my teen years obsessed with being thin.  I over exercised and lived off of diet soda. I was uncomfortable in my body and struggled with being accepted for who I was at home and the outside world.  I was caught in two cultures, not Korean but also not American. I had no idea where I belonged. In high school, I belonged everywhere because of my ability to connect to others with my energetic personality but belonged nowhere because I was never allowed to hang out with friends and was always either taking care of my younger siblings (by then I had become the oldest of four children), doing housework, or I was working at my mom’s beer and deli shop.

For college, I moved myself out of state to Indianapolis to study Pharmacy, a major chosen by my mother because I was not smart enough to study medicine like all the other good children of Korean immigrants.  What I had wanted to do is move to NYC and study fashion design at FIT or join the Peace Corps to be of service in the world, both totally unacceptable to my parents. I attempted to be a good girl and follow my parents wishes.  School was easy and also difficult because I had an overwhelming guilt for the money my parents were wasting on me. I went through bouts of deep depression then followed by mania and suicide attempts no one was aware.

Through my struggle, I reconnected with meditation and conversations with GOD.  I began exercising and eating clean which helped with my over all mood and then I met the love of my life at the age of 20.  We moved in together just a few months after dating, I told myself it was for practical budgeting reasons but lying to my parents of my secret life hundreds of miles away ate at me inside.

Playing Grown Up

I got married without the support of my parents to my best friend, the one person who accepted me as I was at the age of 23.  Shortly after my wedding, I attempted suicide due to the stress of the wedding and the disappointment I was to my parents for marry a white American man.  I struggled through treatment, had several more suicide attempts which finally forced me into a month long outpatient treatment program at a local hospital.  This was when I was diagnosed with rapid cycling bipolar disorder. This was when I met a psychiatrist that reconnected me to meditation once again when I shared that it had been my saving grace most of my life.  It was a struggle working through my internal demons. It was a painful time for me, my family and my new husband and marriage. What came out of it all was my renewed passion for meditation, mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health.

Within a few years I was able to get off my medication under my doctors supervision so that I could conceive our first child.  This was the start of the vision I had for having a family, a husband, a home - my version of the American family I had always desired.  Over the next few years, we bought our first home, had our son, then moved into a second larger home.

During this time I suffered horribly with various illnesses and struggled with my health.  I was told at my 6 week follow-up that I had cervical cancer which after months of follow-up turned out not to be.  Then I had a ovarian cancer scare leading to the removal of an ovary. Then a number of unexplained symptoms, a brain aneurysm scare, then finally being diagnosed with Chronic Lyme disease.  At the same time, my daughter, who was only 8, was also diagnosed. This started me on a path of learning all I could about nutrition and the body’s ability to heal. I spent 7 years in chronic pain and almost lost the battle.  In the end, I came out of it knowing more about myself, my body and with a deeper spiritual connection.

In 2012, we moved our family to Boulder, Colorado from Virginia suburbs of the Washington DC metro area after my daughter and I became healthy.  I wanted a better life for my kids and our family, one that truly embraced the important things in life. This required my husband to travel and be away from home frequently and for long periods of time.  It was hard being the only parent but it was a necessary sacrifice for the quality of life we desired and it seems to be a wonderful decision. Living in Boulder, brought me deeper into my spiritual practice and my own personal transformation which would serve me well for what was ahead, the toughest lesson yet.

Just a couple of weeks shy of our 20th wedding anniversary, my husband, my partner, my best friend, the love of my life of 23 years, told me he was leaving our marriage over a telephone call.  He told me he was no longer in love with me and could no longer keep going because he was unhappy. For nearly three years he had been traveling back and forth, only home for 3-5 days a month. He had become more detached from our family, canceling trips back home repeatedly without notice, the daily phone calls had stopped and I no longer was I even receiving texts to check on me or the children. He would be away 5-6 weeks at a time and I would not hear from him for days or a week at a time.  I was truly a single parent and it was such a struggle to do it all alone.

Hearing his words on the other line, I was in shock and hurt.  I knew things had been rough but this was never something I would have anticipated. Just two months prior he kissed me at the airport with my friend commenting how wonderful it was to see a man love a woman in such a way after being together for over two decades.  

Although painful, I was relieved that he was finally letting me go because I had been so lonely, not just when he was away but even when he was home. I had been struggling with the roller coaster ride that our marriage had been.  There had been an energetic shift in him which I felt for months and tried to discuss with him that always ended up in massive screaming fights about my insecurities and woo woo nonsense. I loved this man, we had two beautiful children together, he was my best friend and I wanted him to be happy. . .  I wanted to be happy too.

I struggled with his decision mainly because he did not want to try to mend anything, there was no opportunity to discuss or talk things through. He had made up his mind and I was to just accept it. He said he was miserable everyday and it was because of the marriage and me. This truly hit all of  my intuitive alarms and I had done enough work on myself to love, have self respect, and know my own worth. I was able to stand up for myself and firmly state I could respect his decision but that I was not responsible and would not take ownership for his personal misery.

My biggest lesson and greatest gift

Once the divorce process was set in motion, I uncovered the truth about the man I had devoted more than half of my life.  I was faced with the realities of him, my own self and our marriage. It was a brutal lesson and the hardest wake up call, something that was totally necessary and a true gift.

It was a divine gift from the universe and it showed up when it did because I was strong enough to handle it, needed the lesson, was finally opened to receiving it and above all ready to be set free from the chains of what I have come to understand as an emotionally toxic and abusive man.

In my ex husband’s eyes, I am the bitch that physically abused him our entire marriage, was controlling, spent all his money, was lazy, refused to work, and now was taking even more of his money away from him.  I did not support him so he could grow his career from not even having a high school diploma to reaching his highest career goal of becoming the CTO of a $2.5 Billion consulting company just a month prior. I did not manage our family life or take care of all our home finances or raised our incredible children or keep a beautiful home or take care of all his needs so he could focus his attention on his career and provide for our family.  I am the cause of his misery, his unhappiness, and the end of the marriage.

These are qualities and characteristics he believes are me.  These were a drastic contrast to what he even told me the week he announced he was leaving our marriage.  Divorce can truly bring out the darkest sides of people. It took a lot of work for me to fully accept his perception of me.  It took a lot of work to face the toxic words and attacks on me. It took a lot of help from family, friends, light workers, therapists, guides, angels, ancestors, teachers, coaches, my trust in love of the universe, and my spiritual practice to carry me through.  

I began, for the first time, to truly love myself above him, put my needs first, stand up for the truth, believe in my own worth, set boundaries and fearless learned to say no.  I had done this in all aspects of my life over the previous decade but he was the final barrier to overcome. I no longer accepted his distorted views as reality, I no longer accepted his toxic actions towards me, and I listened to my intuition which had always been present but I had chosen to ignore to my own detriment.  I no longer was his emotional punching bag and I accepted the truth of who I am. His perceptions of me, I knew was not about me but about himself. My perceptions of him is truly all about me, my disowned qualities and shadow beliefs which sit deep in my subconscious. I had been in at the edge of this transformation and understanding for several years and toxic divorce allowed me to jump and arrive where I needed to be.

What could not be hidden, distorted and what I no longer ignored were the facts. . .  the real tangible facts. I had to get real no matter how painful or how much I had believed in, loved and trusted in the goodness of this man or our marriage.  What unfolded and became exposed were existence of lies, deceit, the betrayal of our marriage on his part, the absence of integrity, respect for me and honor for what we built together.

What I know for sure is that no matter how disappointed I may have been at the failure of my marriage or embarrassed that my husband left me, or the toxic struggles I still deal with. . .

I am good and all is well in my world
It all happened the way it needed and at the divine time
I am truly happy and grateful
It is all for my highest good and those affected
I have been opened to receive something better and unlimited possibilities

What I know for sure is that I am truly proud of the way I showed up in my marriage, as wife to my husband, as a mother to our children, as a homemaker, and as a human being.  I learned that I am responsible for what I accept into my life. I learned that I have the choice in how I allow or not allow people in my life speak to or treat me. I learned that I deserve way better then what I had in my marriage. I learned to set boundaries with myself, others and in my life. I learned that I am resilient, unconditionally loving, giving to a fault, truly forgiving, stronger than I think, and worthy of everything I desire.

Transformation forward

I have always had an inner knowing and a connection to the known, the unknown, and the unseen.  Even with the twist and turns, getting lost along the way, I have always found my way back. Through each experience, the good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly and the toxic, I have been able to always trust it was for my highest good.  It has allowed me to keep moving forward, has helped me to see the good in all and has kept me smiling inside, truly grateful for the journey I have been on and continue to be on. I am constantly learning, evolving and transforming. I am fully accepting of my authentic truth.  I truly and completely love and accept myself. I know I am not broken. I show up unapologetically as myself and know that I am enough for just being me. And I truly know I have unconditional love for myself and in my life.

I share my story in the hopes that it may be of service to others and that I may help guide them on their journey to self acceptance, love and true bliss.