Wendy Bunnell is a guest contributor to Meridian Magazine.
The following is an excerpt from the book Success Through Failing.
It has been said that “your decisions determine your destiny,” and I was creating future chaos. Each poor decision led to a poorer life and self-image. I came to believe I was not “good enough.” At 18, I was unmarried and pregnant. Before I married the baby’s father, friends and family members told me I was marrying the wrong guy, reinforcing my sense that I made only “bad choices.”
Eventually, I decided if I could become a perfect mother and wife, it would wipe my tainted slate clean. Perhaps I could still “redeem” my earlier wrongdoings. I ultimately gave birth to four beautiful, healthy children, and fostered 13 others in our home. I worked for the Utah Foster Care Foundation, where I enjoyed business success and honed my marketing and networking skills while helping the children of the state. It all verified that I was doing okay.
Evidence of my success would of course be gauged by how well my family was doing. Were my children doing well in school, with peers, in life? Were our relationships strong and were we spending precious time with our family? What did others think of my family? Did we look like we had it all together?
In 2007, that view of success was shredded. I had endured numerous low points in my life that presented huge challenges. But watching my family crumble apart was the lowest point. That was where I had placed my personal value, and I felt I couldn’t go on if I had failed in that part of my life. My family was in complete crisis, although no one around me would have even known. This was the point that brought me to my knees:
“Dear Heavenly Father, I am so sorry for failing you. I’m sorry I didn’t succeed in taking care of the children you entrusted to me. I have failed at the biggest responsibility of my life. You trusted me, and I have let you down.”
I whispered this prayer with tears streaming down my face. I couldn’t sink much lower than how I felt at that moment. The quote kept running through my head over and over: “No success can compensate for failure in the home.” My whole sense of identity was tied up in being a mother and wife, and I had failed them miserably.
Nick, my firstborn, was full of happiness early on. But now at 18 he hated himself. At around 11 he struggled with finding friends and decided he wasn’t of value. He followed my path of turning to alcohol, followed by heroin, cocaine, and marijuana—anything to numb himself to reality. It broke my heart to see this gifted, intelligent child treat himself so poorly, with such hatred and anger.
My daughter Kelsey was 16 when she discovered she was pregnant with a special needs baby. The doctors told her that her only option was to abort the baby. It had been exposed to a drug called Accutane and would ultimately result in a baby so deformed that it wouldn’t be possible for her to keep this child. She was unmarried, lacking even a high school education. The world looked pretty bleak at that point to her.
Raising Leah, my free-spirited second daughter, was like living with a human yo-yo. We could be having fun listening to the radio and dancing one second in the vehicle, and then suddenly she would have screaming rages and I couldn’t help her calm down. I am pretty sure I am the only mother who ever left a parent/teacher conference bawling, as I found out my daughter was the school bully. She would target someone and organize bullying treatment with her friends. How could she do this? We took in children through foster care; she knew how it felt to be treated differently. Why did she impose this same treatment on others?
I then looked at my youngest child, four years old. I agonized over how I was going to negatively impact this one. How was I going to screw up the last one? When would it happen? It was inevitable. I ached in my heart, knowing that he was so pure but that the worst was going to happen eventually.
As I was on my knees, finishing my prayer, I heard the same word over and over: “Gratitude.”
“Gratitude?” I thought. “I have poured my heart out, told you how I am a failure, and that’s my answer?”
It took me a while to get over being angry at myself and at my Creator. But incredibly, this one principle would be the catalyst for my healing and my change.
I started to take note of my surroundings first. “Wow! Isn’t it amazing how beautiful the mountains are around me? Thank you, thank you for mountains. Thank you for the beautiful trees, the colorful flowers, the birds in the sky, thank you.”
I turned inward to my incredible body. I thought of my heart and my lungs that beat and take in air every second, every day. I thought of my mind that can absorb information and come up with solutions. My heart soared as I thought of my ears, how they can hear incredible music and hear my children’s laughter. I was thankful for my eyes that can see vibrant colors in the sky, and the smile on my husband’s face.
Next, I noticed the joy on my youngest child’s face. He literally tells me he loves me at least 25 times a day. I hear him say, “Mom, I love you.” Sigh. Oh how that touches my heart!
There is so much that I had been given, I truly am blessed.
That day was when my life truly started to turn around. This one simple step changed everything. The simple act of giving thanks created a space for my heart and my soul to heal. When you are in a place of gratitude you have to remain present. When you are present you are generally not depressed or anxious, as you are when you are preoccupied with the past or with the future. Learning to just “be” was the key to my rise to success.
I learned that gratitude is the highest frequency or vibration in which we can exist. When we are deeply grateful, we are closer to our higher power, or creative source, than at any other time. As I practiced this gratitude, I started to see myself for who I truly was, and allowed myself to start loving me—little by little, step by step. I started to feel and hear inspiration. I no longer felt I was alone in this world because I had another source who could comfort me, direct me, and guide me to my greatness and purpose.
Some of you may have heard, “It is not happy people who are thankful. It is thankful people who are happy.” Many of us get this completely backwards. As a result we feel we aren’t fulfilled—that we have something missing in our lives—when in fact everything we need, have, or require is all around us, every moment of every day.
Deepak Chopra states, “Gratitude opens the door to … the power, the wisdom, the creativity of the universe. You open the door through gratitude.” As I placed myself in this so-called “attitude of gratitude,” I found myself finding more inspiration for ways that would improve my situation, and I started dreaming again. I felt better about myself, and I began the journey of appreciating myself and some of my talents……..
Now my emotional fitness is strong, so I can push through my fears and challenges. When those old voices pop into my head, I push them down. I feel I am a walking testimonial to the fact that you can achieve success only after failing—perhaps even many times. I know I will continue to fail sometimes, but I look forward to the growth and insight I will gain from each “failure.” I choose not to suffer anymore. I choose not to find my identity through anyone else, including my children. I feel peace and joy because I am of value, and I have gifts that only I can provide this world. This is what I have come to call “success.”
Let’s revisit my amazing children once again. My oldest, Nick, lives in Colorado and is starting to learn how amazing and whole he is without the need for drugs and alcohol to fill his spirit. He is finally starting to realize that he is in control of his destiny. He is a man of deep emotions, fiercely loyal to those he connects with, and probably the smartest person I have ever met.
He has been one of my greatest teachers. I have learned to love my son unconditionally, with no expectations as he goes through his story, his trials, his journey. My only job? To love him without conditions. I can love him, and I can love myself despite what he is going through. My success as a mother comes from letting him learn for himself, as my journey taught me. He gets to learn this through “failing” and picking himself up, and maybe “failing” again. That is okay— that is what life is all about.
Kelsey? Well, she chose to be courageous and strong, and decided to place that beautiful baby with a loving family that couldn’t have children. The doctors were absolutely wrong, because although the baby has some special needs, she is a light and joy to everyone who knows her. Our family expanded as this couple adopted my grandbaby Olivia. We are all better people for knowing them, and having them in our lives. Olivia knows Kelsey as her “tummy mummy” and Kelsey gets together regularly with Olivia’s beautiful mother. Kelsey gets to bring her two little girls in tow. All three of the girls are full blood sisters, so they get to know and love each other throughout life.
Kelsey grew so much during this time. She is a “wise soul.” She touches everyone around her with light and joy. I am honored and proud to have her in my family. She is my best friend, and she has taught me strength and true courage.
Cute little Leah is still a firecracker and is living on her own, independent as ever. Probably the craziest part of this story is that she works at a care center for the elderly. I jokingly told her when she got the job that her story would end up on Dateline, so maybe she should choose something different, but she did what she wanted anyway (yep, still the same child), and has fallen in love with those beautiful elderly people. With them, she can let down that tough exterior and become vulnerable, loving, and beautiful. And through it all I get to watch her learn, grow, cry, struggle, and succeed. My only job? To love her through her journey. Oh boy, do I ever love her. She is one of my greatest teachers, my biggest advocate and cheerleader. I am blessed because she is a part of my life.
My youngest, Luke? Let’s just say that he is the “icing” on the cake. He has a depth and understanding that is wise beyond his years. Recently my mother came into town and I wanted everything to be “perfect.” I was a little frazzled and stressed when everything didn’t line up when she first arrived in town. Luke picked up on this, and asked me what was wrong. I shared with him my concern, and his response? “Mom, you get to choose how you feel. You need to be happy that she is here and enjoy her while she is staying.” What an amazing 12-year-old. Even if he chooses a path that brings him pain and challenges, I know that he has everything he needs to overcome those adversities. I get to watch, learn, love, and grow alongside of him. But at the end of the day, I can love myself regardless of his choices and keep cheering him on until the end.
So now, after healing my heart, I believe that I can be successful without using the definition that the world defines as “success.” I have learned that true success is internal. Living in my purpose and using my strengths has allowed me to go to bed at night knowing that I have made a difference. I am excited to wake up each morning as I wake to the realization that it is another opportunity to share my gifts with the world.
Wendy Bunnell is an mentor, presenter, author and confidence coach. She is CEO of Critical 2 Confidence which helps individuals learn to raise their personal value so that they can form the life, income, business, and relationships that they have always dreamed about but never knew how to create.
Wendy has the unique gift of helping find personal and professional roadblocks and reconnect people to themselves, and their Higher Power, and as a result, her clients see a dramatic increase in personal happiness and income level.
Wendy is also the driving force behind the book and movement, “Success through Failing”, recruiting 24 other powerful and inspiring women who are combining forces to change the hearts and minds of thousands of women.
She has several successful businesses including a thriving real estate career, network marketing background, as well as her busy mentoring and speaking career. Her diverse background and life experience help her to understand the unique needs of each of her clients.
Even with all of her busy endeavors, her family is frontrunner in her life and include six children and eight grandchildren.
You can find out more about Wendy at www.critical2confident.com or www..wendybunnell.com.