Monday, May 7, 2012

Guest Post: Susanna on Losing Perspective

Susanna Leonard is a transitioning woman. As a recent divorcee, newly returned to the United States, new health and wellness coach and up-and-coming comic, Susanna and her life are completely different from the one she knew even just six months ago. She created as an outlet, but also as a way to communicate her issues and struggles, as well as triumphs and delights, with other women who are feeling and thinking similarly. She writes for women who need to feel like their issues are addressed by someone who has experienced them and isn’t shoving some product or agenda down their gullets. She creates space for introspection. She permits the freedom of honesty. She allows for the connection of women from all over the world. All of our troubles are not the same, nor are our needs, but basically at the core, are we all not trying to find what bit of happiness we can? In addition to the blog, she hosts a weekly radio show interviewing women from a broad spectrum about a variety of topics. She works as a health and wellness coach teaching her clients about nutrition, healthy living and working one on one to help them achieve their health goals. As a comic, she tries to bring laughter into a world that sometimes doesn't feel so very funny. At the very core, she is just one women looking to do what she can to make her world happier, healthier and brighter. 
Losing perspective.

It’s easy enough to do. We’ve all done it. You get caught up in the moment, the fire, the pain, the frustration, the joy, the excitement, the struggle, the race, the shame and you forget: there is a great world out there and this thing that you’re so completely involved in isn’t the only thing that matters. We believe it does. We are so consumed by ourselves or by our responsibilities that we lose focus on what really matters. We confuse what we think we want with what we actually need. We do all sorts of things to screw up whatever it is that is good because we forget to keep in mind what is truly important.

I moved to Israel when I was 27. The country is beautiful, unique, my homeland. I feel connected to it in inexplicable ways. My first week there was like a reawakening. I felt home in a foreign land. Later on, I would feel strange in a place that is supposed to be my homeland. Eventually, I did feel like I really was a part of it. But, because I lost sight of my own journey and what it meant to me to be there, I lost sight of myself. I began to fall in love with a man there whom I eventually married. Unfortunately, I confused feelings of love for my new country with love for a man.

How did I lose perspective? How did I allow myself to make such a grand mistake?

To tell you the truth, I don’t know. I keep going over and over in my head what I did, each step I took, when I second-guessed myself and when I failed to listen to what my heart was saying. I was so confused because I was out of my element, surrounded by people who didn’t know me or my heart. I made a huge life decision without my bearings.

Then when I felt like I might have made a mistake by agreeing to marry a very good man, but a man whom I wasn’t sure that I loved, I keep going forward because I thought I was only unhappy because I missed home, because I wasn’t happy in my job, because I had gained weight. I refused to acknowledge that the cause of my unhappiness was my impending decision to commit my life to another man, a man I was not in love with.

I looked up “cold feet” for weeks before the wedding. I had a conversation with him where I said I wasn’t sure. I talked to my best friend about my fears of being a terrible wife. I even had a heart-to-heart on a Tel Aviv rooftop with a person who begged me not to get married because he could see what I could not. But, I ignored all the signs, even the pleas of a friend, and I went forward because I had lost perspective.
I had given in to what I thought was a life I was supposed to live. Who expected me to live this life is unknown. It wasn’t what I wanted, but it was what I felt was required of me. I couldn’t get a grip. After we were married, I felt even worse. I tried so hard to love him, to be a good wife, to be happy and I failed every day, again and again.

I regained perspective by moving home. I went back to the home I grew up in. I nestled into my old life. I reminded myself of who I was. My family reminded me. My friends reminded me. I started peeling off the layers of falsity I had been putting on to cover up what I didn’t want to admit: that I had made a huge mistake. Even when I left to fly back to Israel to see my husband for Passover, I had convinced myself that if I prayed hard enough and worked hard enough, I could love him again.

I gained perspective when I was sitting at lunch with him eating left over rib meat that he had grilled, canned beans and cooked carrots. It was a metaphor for the life I was going to spend with him. I’m a filet, quinoa, roasted carrots kind of girl and I had settled for rib meat, canned beans and cooked carrots. It was not the life I wanted.

The perspective I gained was that I didn’t want what I had chosen. Some people are stubborn and too ashamed to admit when they are wrong. Some people feel that the commitment they made before God and their friends and family is stronger or more important than how they feel inside. Some people need a better reason than unhappiness to make a change. None of those applied to me. I was ashamed of being so wrong, of reneging on my commitment to my husband and to God, but I didn’t need a better reason at that point. I was woefully, miserably, unfixably unhappy.

So I sat there, finally acknowledging why I was truly unhappy. Would my perspective be enough to move me to do what was right for me? I was afraid. I went to the porch to do some reading. I couldn’t focus. I just sat there feeling despair. I went back inside. I sat down. I looked at him. He was used to this look; I had made it every day since we got married.

“Are you in love with me?”

He said, yes. I asked why. He had no answer.

After a relatively short talk, we concluded that I would leave and we would divorce. He didn’t cry, he didn’t argue, he wasn’t mean, he wasn’t upset. It was surreal. The further away I get from that moment in time, the less I understand it, but I am continually grateful to him for it. Had he begged me to stay, I never would have left. But, as I look for a new place in life, I keep glancing backwards to make my new perspective clearer and I’m asking the question: Why? Why did I make that mistake? Why did I waste two years of my life being unhappy? What was the purpose?

It does become more clear every day. My new job as a health and wellness coach, my personal blog reflecting my ideas of how to be happier and healthier, becoming a stand-up comedienne and making people laugh at the harshness of life, and living daily with joy that I am doing what I need to do to pursue happiness in a way that feels like it’s no pursuit, but rather a float down the happiness stream.

Losing perspective is difficult because it causes us to see the world in a skewed way. Regaining our perspective shines light on that same world in a way that, in time, makes it look perfectly wonderful. If you’ve lost your perspective or recently regained it and are feeling like I did while looking at that bean sauce sliding onto my oily carrots, know that soon you’ll be able to look back at whatever missteps you’ve made and be comforted in the knowledge that your lost perspective will bring you experience that will give you insight into something new, different, better. 


  1. When you say she is transitioning do you mean gender wise? Not that it makes any difference, I just wanted to clarify.

    1. This is her description, so I can't speak for her, but I think she just means transitioning to a different phase in life.