William couldn’t understand what had gone wrong. Four straight years in a row of promotions, a big house, three high-class European cars in the garage, kids in the right school, and all the money that he and his family had ever wanted. He even enjoyed his work. Sure it was fast-paced and demanding, and his boss was a self-serving egomaniac, but running a collections organization for a large Fortune 100 company was extremely rewarding for a go-getter like William. There was no end in sight to the potential.
Then his wife told him that she wanted a divorce. When William asked why, she couldn’t even give him a solid answer. The most she could definitively say was, “You know, I don’t really know.” But her mind was made up.
In one instant, William’s world fell apart.
On a long and tearful midnight drive, he started to add up everything that was coming to an end. But then he found it was becoming hard to figure out what he was actually giving up. He pulled off at the edge of a cornfield and began to walk down the road. The headlights of his brand-new BMW shown on him because he forgot to turn them off, but he didn’t even notice. Barely catching enough breath to speak, he turned his head to the sky and shouted, “I have nothing!”
It was then that William understood that he didn’t even know his family. He didn’t know his son or daughter anymore, and he certainly didn’t know his wife. But as if he was viewing himself from above, he didn’t even know who he was anymore. A memory of a Sunday school teacher flashed in his mind as clear as day, lauding William for “helping Jennifer by putting away the Bibles.” He remembered that he liked to see people be happy by helping them. That was one of the last times that he could remember that he actually genuinely helped someone.
Fast-forward 3 years. Some of the extra cash that William had after paying alimony was going towards his weekly therapy sessions. A work friend of his had suggested that he go and talk with someone. It was rocky at first, and he was ashamed. He wouldn’t give up a lot in his sessions. But one day, he told his therapist that his memories of his father were of him working long hours for big money. Once William left for college, he didn’t hear from his father much. He had divorced William’s mom and moved to another country. No one was really sure where he was at any given moment.
“I couldn’t believe the changes that occurred inside of me when I started to give a name to my pain. I didn’t even know it was there. It was like I had it locked in a safe inside me that I didn’t know was there. And even when I discovered it, I didn’t know where the key was.”
He reflects on the part of his life spent with his family. “It wasn’t like I was an alcoholic! But after months of talking with someone else about the previously unknown pain in my life, I realized that I was addicted to me and what I thought life was supposed to be like. I hadn’t even paused my aspirations for one moment to serve my family.” William pauses for a moment and says, “I really miss that part of myself that likes to serve.
“One night after having a small dinner alone in my apartment, I reached out to my best friend from high school. After I became successful, I thought he was a dead-beat for sticking around our home town and having a job fixing pools. I spent several hours catching up with him. He was so joyful in his life, and he didn’t have a lot of material possessions to show for it.
“Over the next several months, I exchanged a lot of emails with him, and I wrote things to him that sometimes seemed to just leap out of the tips of my fingers. I’m thankful to have him, and I’m glad that he is spiritual and doesn’t judge me. It’s like I can give my pain to him, and then I can walk away from it for a while.”
William’s life isn’t better by societal standards. He sees his kids every other week. His ex-wife’s new husband fools around on her, and spends William’s hard-earned money on gambling. His boss’s ego is really starting to take its toll on him. He thinks about his kids a lot, and hopes that they will turn out okay.
“My life is so different now. Financially, it sucks. But I don’t find that I care about my money as much as I used to. I’ve laid down so much of what I thought was real, and the more that is gone, the more that I have. I don’t understand it, but I’m grateful for it. And I’m grateful that I have a friend, even at a long-distance, that I can share with. It’s making all the difference.
“And now, every once in a while, I notice that I like myself again. It’s not all the time, but it’s enough that I finally feel like I’m on a good path. I wouldn’t give it up for all the money in the world.”