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Growing through Challenges: How Intentions Shape Our Lives

“Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.” ~Bernice Johnson Reagon

The last five years of my life involved a lot of self-inflicted stress and tremendous spiritual growth.

In 2003 I made a decision that would have a major impact on my life without realizing my true intentions.

While knowing the financial safety net was not securely in place, I decided to remain at home with my daughter instead of returning to work. Previously, when I left our first child in the care of someone else at ten months old, I felt anxious the entire time I was away from him.

I didn’t want to experience those feelings of discomfort again, and I didn’t wanted my children to feel as alone as I did as a child, so I ignored all external factors and decided not to place our daughter in childcare.

I wanted to be the primary caregiver for my children and to show them that, above all else, they were the most important parts of my life. I wanted my daughter to experience maternal bonding and the consistent physical presence of someone who absolutely adored her.

However, this wasn’t my only motivation; I just didn’t fully understand my complete intentions.

I explained the obvious motivations to my husband, but I did not explore the hidden pain that lingered beneath my unyielding position.

I didn’t explain this aspect because, simply put, I couldn’t. I didn’t yet realize there was a subconscious emotional need underlying my decision—that a deeply wounded part of myself was guiding me in an effort to be healed.

This moment was the catalyst for what would become one of the most difficult periods of my life, and yet the most profoundly liberating and healing.

Two years later, my husband was hospitalized due to the onset of conditions for a stroke. He was thirty-three years old, and the primary provider for our family. Since he couldn’t return to work for a few months, we depleted our savings.

We were unprepared for this loss of income, and the situation became very dire, very quickly.

It got so bad that I swallowed my pride and asked for loans from my closest friends. I never anticipated being in this position. To be educated and destitute seemed like the most dreadful oxymoron one could imagine.

I never thought I’d create a situation so desperate and humiliating that I might potentially jeopardize my closest friendships.

I constantly asked myself, “How could anyone who is relatively intelligent be in a predicament where basic needs are difficult to meet? How could we, or I have made so many bad choices? How could I have been so selfish?”

I now see that I’d dug my heels deeply into the abyss of self-pity, and these were the wrong questions to ask. This was a limited way to view the situation.

By asking questions that perpetuated my role as the victim, it prolonged my feelings of helplessness.

I sat with a continual state of contempt for myself and the conditions of my life. I quietly panicked. I hid from everyone. I remained in a perpetual state of worry. I stopped calling family and friends and stopped laughing. It was like I stopped participating in life.

Dealing with the extreme stress of financial hardship, I felt completely alone and misunderstood. So in September of 2006, I returned to work.

Since I’d been a stay-at-home mom for a few years, my hourly pay was shockingly reduced. The bills were now so out of control that the thought of paying them seemed like a fantasy from a previous life.

One afternoon, during yet another prolonged session of feeling sorry for myself, I lay on the sofa aimlessly flipping through the channels. I came across Elizabeth Gilbert speaking about her book Eat, Pray, Love.

I wasn’t in the mood to hear yet another story of how wonderful life is coming from someone so far removed from where I sat.

As I listened, I began to feel simultaneously excited to read the book, yet saddened. After a few minutes, I realized I was no longer listening to a word she said. It was as if the television was on mute.

I couldn’t help notice the radiance in this woman’s eyes. It was like her entire spirit was beaming out from her eyes and piercing the television screen!

How could it be that I was sitting thousands of miles away, in another part of the country, yet I knew that this woman was completely filled with absolute love and inner peace?

This sent a disturbing wake-up call through my system. I tried to recall a moment, any moment in recent times when my eyes shone with joy of this magnitude. The truth was that there wasn’t a memory when I displayed such happiness, because simply put, I wasn’t happy.

I had become unrecognizable to myself. I was wandering aimlessly through my life while feeling overwhelmed with work, the financial situation, the strain on my marriage, the lack of direction in my life, and the immense shock of it all.

I felt lethargically uninspired, angry, and simply put off with the entire deal. With the weight of all of this on my mind, I wanted desperately to feel relief, to feel inspired. So, I started saying aloud, “I just want to be inspired,” over and over again.

Without realizing what was happening and by voicing aloud that I wanted to feel inspired, I made a proclamation to the universe that I was finally ready to receive help.

A few days later, my mother stopped by our house with a book—The Power of Intention, by Dr. Wayne Dyer.

This book wasn’t the answer to all of my problems, but asking for inspiration and then starting to receive it opened me up to new way of thinking, a new way of perceiving life and a new approach to living it.

I was ready to acknowledge that I had orchestrated a mess. I was ready to understand what intentions brought me to the chaos that now encompassed every aspect of my life.

As I continued to read The Power of Intention, I began to understand the following:

  • If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change.
  • Before any action is taken, decide what it is you really want and set the intention.
  • Be reflective and stop all judgment of yourself and others.
  • Meditate consistently to re-connect with yourself.
  • Be appreciative. Showing gratitude begins the internal shift that allows you to see love and connection to all things.

Considering these ideas, I realized that I hadn’t been completely genuine in my decision to stay at home, and that doomed it from the beginning. What I really wanted was to force my husband to take care of us so I would feel loved.

This ultimately left me feeling powerless; pushed me into fear-based decision-making as I clutched to regain control in my life; and left me feeling angry with my husband since I questioned whether I was lovable.

It was very easy to blame all the problems I experienced on my husband, my family, and my situation—all things outside of me. It was, however, extremely difficult to accept that I really needed to take a deeply thorough look at myself and my role in creating the ugliness.

I subconsciously created an experience in my life that felt so bad that the only place I could go was within—exactly where I needed to go.

I needed to stop looking outside of myself for love and to release my fear of abandonment by clinging to a stay-at-home situation that we could not afford.

I was forced to begin to ask the more profound questions:

  • What is the lesson in this? And how can I grow?
  • How is this perceived problem an opportunity for spiritual growth?
  • What is my true intention behind this choice?
  • Is the dominant belief that motivates my action healthy, or one of self-sabotage?

Only in examining my true intentions did I realize that taking care of my family meant setting my intention to benefit everyone, not just myself.

Over the next few years, I quietly devoted myself to emotional healing. I quieted my mind through meditation and prayer, I found a spiritual support system, I journaled to observe my spiritual progress, I cleansed my physical body with water, and I read more than 100 books related to spiritual growth.

I now feel immense gratitude for the adversity that led me to a place of humility and compassion for myself, as well those around me; and I commit myself to helping others find opportunities for growth in everyday struggles.

To know your intentions is to know yourself. When we remember that life’s challenges provide us with an opportunity to do that, suddenly they seem a lot less paralyzing and a lot more valuable.

Photo here.

About Bridgitte Jackson-Buckley

Whether it’s growing through challenges, watching spiritual growthdocumentaries or contemplating the qualities of a personal calling, Bridgitte maintains her passion for personal transformation through finding a catalyst for spiritual growth in the most ordinary of circumstances.  You can contact Bridgitte at littlevisioneers@gmail.com.

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  • Sophia Roberts

    What an extraordinarily helpful posting. Thank you.

  • I have come to understand that our intentions always manifest. I got to understand intentions better because of the secret. Law of Attraction always works upon intentions and the feelings behind them.

  • What a clear and honest post. I deeply admire the commitment it took to see things so clearly and examine them in the light of day. You are a tremendous example.

  • “To know your intentions is to know yourself.” That’s a good ending.

  • Erin Lanahan

    Hey Bridgitte…thanks for this post. I too gained SOOOO much direction from Wayne’s Power of Intention Book, and from Elizabeth Gilbert’s journey. I had a very similar experience as you, and I too had opened up to inspiration and insight, and the books just started pouring in. The Power of Intention was one of my first books, and it really shifted my thinking and ultimately my entire life. I am forever grateful to Mr. Dyer and follow all is work. I love how you shared with us, your real life experiences and how you applied these tools of spiritual wisdom. I am really happy things have turned around for you, especially on the inside:) Happy New Year!

  • Bridgitte, this is EXACTLY what I needed to read today! In a similar situation for different reasons, I too have gone more deeply within — to surrender and return. But the words to formuate all of what I was feeling were gone until I read this post this morning and these words leapt out a me: “What I really wanted was to force my husband to take care of us so I would feel loved.”
    Oh, the truth in that for me as well. It’s not about knowing better, we all know we need to love ourselves, but there is so much power in the recognition of not doing so.

    Thank you for helping me put more pieces together on my own journey!

  • Cjuljam

    This hit so close to home I feel as if I could have written it myself. What a wonderfully inspired way for me to start the New Year! Thank you for posting this today….

  • Bridgitte

    You are so very welcome!!

  • Bridgitte

    Thank you, Erin! Happy New Year to you as well!!

  • Ledouxcherie

    That was so beautiful, thank you for sharing your story so honestly! Your story reminded me of the following passage about lotus flowers:

    The lotus flower is one of the most ancient and deepest symbols of our planet. The lotus flower grows in muddy water and rises above the surface to bloom with remarkable beauty. At night the flower closes and sinks underwater, at dawn it rises and opens again. Untouched by the impurity, lotus symbolizes the purity of heart and mind.

    The roots of a lotus are in the mud, the stem grows up through the water, and the heavily scented flower lies pristinely above the water, basking in the sunlight. This pattern of growth signifies the progress of the soul from the primeval mud of materialism, through the waters of experience, and into the bright sunshine of enlightenment.

  • Scarkan

    I went through something very similar! Three years of pain and despair and through it I found peace, love for myself and others and grattitude for all things in life. I learned so much and I am still receptive to learning even more! Thank you for reminding me of the importance of our own intentions. Love and Namaste!

  • Jezzi_M

    The universe gives us just what we need even though we dont know it always, I need to read this and understand that today is a special day to focus on my intentions to move forward into this new year and my life. I feel so blessed. Thank you

  • Becky

    I feel as though I was reading what could have been my own words. I may read it again every day until I am sufficiently reminder of what you have said here. I am so grateful you have shared this.

  • Michele

    Wow! It is truly amazing how “the teacher will appear” at the right moment! I bumped into this on Facebook this am and after being in bed for a few days wondering how this year will be, I am going to get up , make a vision board and find solutions instead of focusing on what is wrong. This inspired me so much today! Thank you for being vunerable and real!
    You made my day!
    ~Michele

  • Karen

    This is such an amazing post. Although our circumstances are different, I see so much of my past 7 years in this. I left a corporate position to “follow my heart” without acknowledging that I really wanted to feel loved, taken care of, released from what I felt was crushing responsibility. And then suffered shame in silence as my financial hole became deeper and deeper.
    I really thought I had looked all of this in the face and dealt with it, but as I read this, I see that there are still layers unresolved. Thank you so much for this beautiful transparency – for the strength to be open and let others look into your heart. It helps me to look deeply into my truest intentions and to know myself. My deepest intention.

  • Bridgitte

    I also maintain a vision board, as well as a small notebook containing my goals. I carry the notebook with me. Best to you, and Happy New Year!

  • Bridgitte

    Best to you, Karen. Happy New Year!

  • What a lovely and inspiring piece! This reminds me of how I felt when I read “Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow” by Elizabeth Lesser. Sometimes the way to the truth is by burning down to the ashes and seeing what’s left.

    – Shannon

  • careermama

    I still am going through something similar, I am “inspired” that you have come so far. Thank you for putting in words what I have and continue to journey through some hard times.

  • Bridgitte

    Take care and keep going.

  • char

    this is exactly what i needed to realize why I too was so uninspired and demotivated and wanting to stay home with my child….or wanting to stay home and not work period. it had become the downfall of my marriage and your story came right in time for me to realize that i too had a need to be taken care of in order to feel loved….so powerful when you realize your core issues.
    GOD BLESS YOU! I Pray all is not lost for my marriage!

  • Bridgitte

    Char, it’s extremely helpful when you realize what led to the behavior. It helps you to be very clear about what you want to do and how to move forward from where you are. Once you’re at that point, it feels like you’re beginning the process of regaining your own power. You’ll know what to do. It might feel as though you’ve lost a lot, but really you gained a lot more.

  • I really liked reading your story. In fact, I bookmarked it on my browser and have read it a few times. Each time I’ve read it, something new is clearer to me about my own story. Thanks for this. From, lulu

  • Bridgitte

    You are so very welcome, Lulu! I’ve read it several times myself!! Each time I read it, I feel happy that I chose to share a story that was cathartic for so many of us.

    Take care.

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  • Azulmarcenaro

    i loved it thanks for sharing, im actually going thru some stuff right now and reading this really helps me and it’s so beautiful i decided to share it by email with some friends and family. it’s a great reminder of how is all up to us and life is what we make it

  • Bjacksonbuckley3

    Thank you so much.  Yes life is what we make it.  Look for the lesson in the “problem” and know you are well.

  • Jess

    I think we all have had struggles in our lives where we could not find the right place in our minds and or hearts to get through the storm. The beauty is those moments for us who want answers are the fertile ground where our spirits grow. Thank you for sharing such an inspirational story. I think we can all learn from it and better our own selves before the next storm roles through. Be Well