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While indulging in my guilty pleasure of reading People magazine, I learned Renee Zellweger, who’s been out of the spotlight for several years, has been dating a longtime friend for 4 years. Despite knowing each other for years, their romance didn’t begin until mid-life.

Coincidentally, a friend filled me in on her own new romance with a guy who’s been in her life platonically for at least 10 years. For whatever reason, they never connected on a romantic level until now.

Or was there a reason?

In the case of Renee Zellweger, her work schedule left little time for self-care or a personal life, which ultimately led to burnout. She exited, stage left. She removed herself from the spotlight. She reoriented.

In my friend’s case, she had suffered a painful breakup that took awhile to get over.   At the same time her platonic friend had been privately ending a troubled marriage.

Painful experiences, like a break-up, an illness, a death, a job loss, or burnout, send you into what Martha Beck calls the ring of fire.

In nature forest fires clear dead brush out of the way. Days later the sun shines through the smoke of the fires. A few months later, the earth blooms with incredibly beautiful flowers. Death and rebirth.

Whether you leave a job, a relationship, or the spotlight, the grieving process burns away the identity held by your ego and reorients you with your true nature. The person your ego identifies with changes.

Slowly you learn to let go of old identities and beliefs that no longer serve you. Things start to shift. Balance gets restored.

Eventually, you begin to see the light again and life begins to bloom once more.

Have you ever experienced this? I know I have.

Several years ago, I began this journey myself. Over an 18-month period, three people close to me passed away during the prime of their lives. Suddenly, I was feeling very alone and disoriented.

I retreated within myself. I no longer cared about many of the superficial things in life or what others expected my life to become. Experiencing death so closely taught me how I wanted to live the rest of my life.

I became more present. I stopped wondering what life would be like in the future and began appreciating what life is right now. I let go of the outcome.

When I emerged from that grieving period, I had more clarity about what I wanted in life and how I wanted to spend my time. Death and rebirth.

You want to know what happened?

I found that everything I ever wanted had been right before my eyes all along. I just couldn’t see it.

Until now.

Now, I could see that a man who’d been in my life for more than a decade had all of the characteristics I’d been seeking in a husband. Obstacles to the relationship were now gone.

Now, I knew what I wanted – I’d always known what I wanted – but this time, I didn’t have any expectations associated with what I wanted.

When that happens, you suddenly see what’s been there all along. It just doesn’t come in the form your ego imagined it would all those years when you yearned for it.

But you’ll know it’s meant for you. You’ll know you’ve found what’s right for you, because it feels more relaxing and more comfortable than any other experience like it beforehand.

And it’s been there right before your eyes all along!

Right Before Your Eyes

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