Four years ago today, the day after I turned 40, I boarded a plane to Maui.

I went to Maui in the middle of one of the darkest periods of my life. At the time, I was separated from my husband, planning to file for divorce when I returned. My two boys, ages 4 and 7 at the time, were devastated, constantly questioning why I “wouldn’t let daddy come home” which both gutted me and infuriated me. I had built up so much resentment that I hardened my heart against any hope that we might reconcile, and I blamed him for everything (and I do mean EVERYTHING) that had gone wrong in our relationship, up to and including “making me the bad guy” with our kids.

In addition, I’d been diagnosed with delayed onset postpartum depression and was taking antidepressants that, while addressing my symptoms, were not helping me with what I most wanted which was to figure my own “stuff” out. Despite two decades of soul-searching, I felt trapped in a job that I didn’t love, but had no idea what I would love or even how to go about figuring it out. My kids were physically healthy, but we were going through some behavioral challenges that had me running at full-tilt most of the time and, despite desperately needing it, I was unwilling or unable to ask for help. I was physically and emotionally exhausted, mentally overwhelmed, and – despite having the support of friends and family – I felt utterly and completely alone.

(If you’d like a clearer picture of how depleted I felt, I used to invent games for the boys that I could play from the couch. I also secretly fantasized about getting into a minor car accident – nothing that would cause permanent damage, but bad enough that I could check into the hospital for a few days and get some REST. Horrible, I know, but it’s true.)

Somewhere in the midst of all of this and despite not wanting to do much of anything, I felt a sudden call to do art. Although I had loved art as a child, over years of “adulting” I had shoved this part of myself so far down for so many years that it literally felt like this urge was coming from some other place. I didn’t know why, I just knew I needed to draw or paint or… something.

So for my 40th birthday, I decided to treat myself to an art retreat on Maui. My expectation was I would spend my days painting, definitely NOT thinking about my imploding marriage, and definitely NOT thinking about how miserable I had become, or what I might do to change that. I wanted to press pause on reality for a while, escape from my circumstances, and take a break from the unhappy person I knew at home.

You’ve undoubtedly heard people say “No matter where you go, there you are.” Well, I can attest that this holds true on Maui, same as anyplace else. In a twist of fate (who am I kidding, there were Divine fingerprints all over this one), the art retreat was being hosted by a relationship expert and spiritual teacher who, over the course of 5 days, lovingly blew the doors off the stories I’d constructed, and gave me my first glimpse in many years of who I really was.

I could write volumes about that experience, and what I learned about myself, and how I was showing up in the world. (It was so pivotal, I now describe life in terms of “before Maui” and “after Maui”.) Suffice to say, that week on Maui was unlike any other, and I will never be the same again.

That trip ultimately set in motion a course of events that led to the restoration of my marriage, enrolling in Life Coach training, starting a coaching practice, leaving my corporate job, deciding to homeschool our boys, enrolling in Equus training, and so many more things that literally feel like magic.

So much has happened since then that, in telling the story, there might be a tendency on my part to elevate Maui’s power to mythical proportions.

But here’s the reality. I did this. Not Maui, not coach training, not my husband or my family or my friends. Although they all had a part to play, in the end, I changed myself.

I used to believe that if my circumstances changed, I would be happy (or, at the very least, feel better). The reality is, my circumstances didn’t need to change, I needed to change my thoughts about them, and how I showed up in response to them.

(Of course, as soon as I changed how I was showing up, my circumstances naturally had to change. The Universe is funny that way.)

In the past 4 years, I’ve literally turned my life around, from the inside out. I didn’t do it overnight, I didn’t do it by the force of my will, and I didn’t do it perfectly or confidently or even gracefully.

I did it mostly by remembering who I am – not who the world says I should be, but who I REALLY am – and by trying to show up as authentically as I know how.

I did it (and continue to do it) by falling down and screwing up a million times, and choosing to pick myself up and keep trying. Most of the time, I’m doing it terrified, with butterflies in my belly and a quaver in my voice (because that’s what courage looks like for me). I’m doing it by making thousands of mistakes followed by thousands of tiny choices to return back to my intention, which is always, ALWAYS to align myself with Love.

I’m sharing this because yesterday I turned 44, and all day the thought kept popping into my mind “4 years ago today, I was getting ready to leave for Maui.” I still cannot wrap my mind around how much has changed in these 4 trips around the sun.

Yesterday may have been my birthday, but I’ve decided that today is my re-birthday, and I’m so over-the-moon grateful, for all of it. All the beauty and the kindness and the opportunities and the shit and the tears and the rage and the pain. I’m grateful for all of it because without it I wouldn’t have made it here, and I wouldn’t know many of you.

Even more than inviting you into my rebirthday celebration, I’m sharing because there may be someone out there right now who feels like their world is falling apart, who feels lost and alone and confused about what they want or even who they ARE anymore.

And if that happens to be you, please know that I am sending you so much love and fierce, FIERCE hugs. You are not alone, and you are so, so, SO much more than your circumstances.

And if ever you need help remembering this, I’ll be right here.