Tag Archives: self-help

Universe Says: FULL STOP

Let’s start with February, shall we? It’s been the most intense and transformative month of my young 55-year-old life. I felt at times like my skin was being burnt away by the velocity of the change underway. The pace of change, conflict, resolution, conflict, opportunity, and so on, was exhausting. I stopped drinking coffee because I didn’t need any stimulants. I adjusted my psyche meds to reduce activation. And I started to manage my sleep hours in a much more directed way. All to say, the month continued to burn away my old baggage and scorch my newly exposed skin. Ouch.

What I had to keep focusing on, in order to stay sane and stay on the planet, was to pause everything and focus on a few meditative breathes. Just stop. And breathe. It worked. But it wasn’t enough. The pain of transformation and re-entry into my new life continued.

March has come with a bit more gentleness but I am still being served up for a healing in every area of my life. Most recently that massive shift has happened in my relationship to money and work. I’ve always worked for a living. And in the last 8 years, since my divorce, my ex-wife (I mean, my kids) has gotten 50% of everything I’ve earned. It makes it a bit hard to maintain living quarters. It has been a challenging 8 years. And last week, something massive changed. More on that later.

The job thing has been quite interesting for me to explore emotionally. Rationally I was of the mind, I need a big full-time job to provide the child support and healthcare my family still requires, and deserves. I was applying for a lot of jobs. Some of them above my experience and most of them below my senior-level marketing role. But the universe and recruiters see through these missteps. I never got callbacks on the “manager” or “specialist” roles, it was clear from my resume that I was a director level or perhaps ready for a VP position. So the job market in this hot tech town, Austin, Texas, was rough. I was not getting any hits. Until February. And then the job offers began raining down on me, and the jobs I was applying to all started asking me to take the first interview step.

Then two weeks ago I met Daniel.

This man changed my perspective on life and my future goals. But that’s what Daniel does. He’s an executive life coach. Helping c-level (not me) executives move from their primary careers to “what’s next.” And he’s very good at what he does. 25+ years in, and he’s also an expert in the industry. Daniel and I shared 147 connections on LinkedIn. All of my “mentors” and “goto thinkers” were also 1st level connections with Daniel.

And Daniel told me his story. And we agreed to work together, we agreed that I could help Daniel’s company do a better job of marketing itself online. A relationship was formed. But something deeper was also formed, from our first meeting. We understood each other, trusted each other, in a rare and powerful way. I knew from the first meeting, that Daniel and I were going to powerfully change each other’s lives, in a great way.

Two days after our inital meeting I asked Daniel to “coach” me on a 10-minute call. I had a lot up in the air, and I wanted to get this executive coach in on a tiny piece of my story to see if my thinking was way off, or if I was heading in the right direction. So I told Daniel of my two options, as I saw them.

Option 1: Full-time gig with a tech firm, making good money and providing full-benefits and retirement support.

Option 2: Continuing with my freelance gig (Fluent Social) and wing the benefits with my 2018 Obamacare coverage.

Daniel immediately spoke up. “You’re missing the bigger picture.” He saw something I didn’t. Again, that’s what he does. That’s his mission in life to use his Christ-centered leadership to guide people to their happiness and higher purpose.

You see, I had handed Daniel a copy of my new book (Single Dad Seeks) when we first met and explained that I was in the process of working with a new agent who was going to make me and The Whole Parent into a national forum for single parenting. She’s an online content placement agent. She’s going to get my content, my story, published all over the place. And in return for that, I will get more exposure, sell a few more books, and over the long run become more of a spokesperson for single parents in the national media. (Ask me later about when the Today Show came to my house and interviewed me about this blog and my writing and my single parenting experience.)

“You don’t need to take any full-time job,” Daniel continued. “You are being served up by the universe, and this agent came into your life for a reason. And, in fact, so did I.”

There is was. Daniel was confronting my work/money fear that goes something like this, “What if I don’t take that full-time job and my book fails? What if the freelance work dries up again? What if I get depressed? How will I survive without a good job and good health insurance.”

That was last week. This week the conversation continues. And the challenges to my old fear-based beliefs have been showing up in spades. On Thursday, I had my 2nd consulting meeting with Daniel, and we had a great session. I’m excited and energized by the work with him and his team. And I left the meeting feeling more confident and happy with my “freelance” choice than ever before. I still had a few job interviews moving forward for the week, but I was considering what it would feel like to tell them “no” and not do the interview at all. I was working on my fear. I wasn’t there yet, but Daniel was helping me challenge my fear-based belief.

On Thursday, this week I had another session with Daniel, where I am helping him market his business online. At the end of this session, he and I prayed together over some of my requests to the universe, including finding a relationship. (see book, listed above) I was humbled by Daniel’s ability to give so freely of his love and his devotion to Jesus.

As I left Daniel’s office that afternoon, I was looking at my email and deleting all-new “recruiter/job offer” emails until ONE caught my eye from a recruiter named Jill. I got in my car and noticed that Jill had also left me a voicemail. Rather than delete Jill’s email, I clicked on her phone number, saying to myself, “Okay, Jill (Universe) let’s see what you’ve got right now. I’m ready to be delivered.”

I left a voicemail for Jill. I deleted her voicemail without listening to it. Let’s cut to the chase, Lord, I said to myself. About 10 minutes later an excited Jill calls and begins to unpack this exciting opportunity in Austin, Texas with a small company that thinks I might just be what they need to jumpstart their growth and take care of their lead requests that the team has been too busy to respond to. (A Great problem for a company to have until it’s starting to piss off the leads and it becomes the brand of the company that they can’t handle any more business.)

Well, digital marketing is how I’ve made my living over the last 25 years, so this job sounded perfect. Jill and I talked for an hour and a half. She sent me a few documents to sign a non-disclosure agreement clearing the way for me to have an unfiltered conversation with the business owner on Monday, the Monday that is now two days away. Next Monday.

Wow, it was a whirlwind of a WIN-WIN and I went to bed excited. I wondered how Daniel would take my change of heart, but it was twice what Daniel was offering as some future date, and this was a bird in the hand. I didn’t sleep very well, I was conflicted and anxious. I’m sure the business owner, Jill, and Daniel all slept without worrying about me.

Yesterday, Friday morning, I woke up with a spiritual hangover. I felt sick. I knew that the dream job Jill was offering was no more than a fancier, better paid, 60-hour soul-killer job. Well, not all 60-hour jobs have to be soul killers, but, as I mentioned, I have just written a book, and… well… the 60-70 weeks were behind me.

I sent an email to Daniel asking for a 10-minute conversation (PERSONAL) in a mildly crisis driven panic.  And then I paused and prayed. I asked my higher power to show me the right path. I asked for God to give me his direction. And I meditated on that. Pause. Breathe. Listen.

Daniel’s voice came through my meditation loud and clear, “You can talk to Jill if you want to. You can entertain a big corporate job and putting a Tesla in your garage, but …”

I knew what he was going to say when I spoke with him later in the day.

“The universe is speaking to you.” No, Daniel would say, “The Lord is speaking to you, and showing up for you at this moment in your life. It is your job to listen and get out of his way as he transforms your life.”

I called Jill.

By the time Daniel and I spoke that afternoon, I just needed to relate my decision to him. “I heard your voice in my head, Daniel.”

“No John,” he said. “You heard the Lord answering your question.”


Pause. Breathe. Listen.

Full Stop. 

Always Love,

John McElhenney

* If you are interested in meeting Daniel, or getting a coach in your life, please let me know.

More from The Whole Parent:

Continuing Forgiveness As a Single Parent


Yesterday I got an email from the person who purchased all of my worldly possessions at a storage unit auction.

Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 10.24.53 PM

And a few days before that, the AG’s office took control of my only bank account by slapping a lien on it for triple the amount owed in late child support payments. I say late, because I have never expressed any intention of skipping the payments, but I have been struggling to replace a job that ended in February.

Finally, I am currently living with my mom.

My journey still has many twists and turns and if I can approach the day with hope, openness, and optimism, I’m sure my joy will continue to bring joy to others.

I know, that’s the one that really stings for me. How can I head out into the world with a brave face? How do I stand proud and tall and tell my kids that better days are on the horizon? They are, but how do I convince them? How do I convince my ex-wife? And most importantly how do I convince myself, that from this low I will reemerge with a new lightness and agility? I can go anywhere from here, because I’m down and out.

And yet… I am happy. I know it seems like such a contradiction, but hear me out.

I am not bitter about the divorce or the loss of my house and 95% of everything in it. My kids already know about the bank account (though they have no idea what “error” caused my -$42,000 balance, my son loves to tease me about it, he’s 13) and my daughter and I were going to the storage unit to retrieve my juicer when we discovered an old car parked inside my space. All of my stuff had been auctioned off two days prior to our visit. I have the notices from the storage unit for my late payment status. None of them said anything about auction.

In the same way I don’t hold my ex-wife responsible for the divorce, I don’t really hold her responsible for turning our affairs over to the AG’s office, nor the havoc that has brought down on my credit and my life. Nope. It’s an ongoing flow of water under the bridge. And this constant flow of patience and forgiveness is required to continue with the joint task of co-parenting. And while we parent at 50/50, I was given the standard dad deal in Texas of the non-custodial parent with the Standard Possession Order and a hefty child support payment. It’s all okay. That is just how divorce goes in this great state.

And again, I state, clearly and for the record, I am happy.

You might think I’m overstating my happiness to cover up my anger and bitterness, but I’m not very good at anger or holding a grudge. And with my kids, I don’t have any pretense of who I am beyond how I show up in the their lives.

As I walked away from my house and into my single dad life, I took up the responsibility for my own happiness in a new way.

I show up in my kids lives at the maximum level I am permitted. And when I went into the divorce negotiations asking for and expecting 50/50 custody, I was not arguing about the child support, I was genuinely certain that we would parent after divorce as we had while married. That’s not what happened, and I was given the script, “if you go to court here is what you’re going to get,” as the reason we took my joint-custody plan off the negotiating table.

I’m no so sure that was the appropriate response from a paid divorce counselor, but it was certainly efficient. We moved through the divorce negotiation process with flying colors and a very small legal bill. Of course, I didn’t get what I wanted, and I am struggling to get back on my feet, even with the additional house payment, that doesn’t include a house for me. But I’m not so sure I got a bad deal. I’ve used my time off to build back areas of my life and passion that were being shutdown in my marriage.

Each day I refocus my attention on my kids. Like a mantra in meditation or a prayer. As I am able to focus on my children, I can release my ex-wife from all blame in the transactions of the past. And even as many of those actions continue to have negative consequences, I am able to look at her with compassion and not resentment.

I am not angry with my ex-wife. I have faith that she is doing the best she can, at all times. And I am aware of how stretched she is with the full-time job and single parenting role. And without the court-ordered child support, right now while I’m essentially unemployed, the burden is even more difficult. I care for my kids more than I care for her, but in loving my kids more I can only hope that her life is happy and fulfilled. Any downturn for her is a downturn for the three of them as they sail on in the house that we built.

In some ways the divorce has been the biggest life challenge I’ve ever hit. At first it was a wall I had to go over, as I struggled with the loss, depression, and frustration of losing so much of my world. But as I recovered my center, as I began to see the light on this side of the wall, the divorced side, I realized that my next journey was just beginning. She hadn’t kicked me out of our marital bed and house, she had set me back on the path of self-discovery, alone.

I have been through almost all of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s stages of grief since being relieved of my full-time parenting role. And the hardest part of the entire process is losing so much of my kid’s lives and experience. Daily life connections that I am no longer part of. Summer beach vacations and travels that are emailed to me as pictures rather than experiences.

As I walked away from my house and into my single dad life, I took up the responsibility for my own happiness in a new way. Even with the grief and growth that was necessary to recover from the divorce, I knew that at some point I would be happy again. It was the hope that kept me strong. And today it is the hope that keeps me looking at the path ahead rather than at my shuffling feet, or back at the losses of things, and time, and old dreams.

My dream today is a happy one. I am well-fed, healthy, and heading to a late-round job interview. It has been a long summer of job interviews. And it’s the hope of what’s next that keeps me joyful in this state of nothingness. Other than my kids and the positive and loving relationship I am building with them, I have a simple agenda. Find the next job to support them and their mom, rebuild my credit, don’t worry about “things” and move forward with my own life work.

I have nothing but love for my ex-wife as she soldiers on without me beside her. And anything I can do to make our co-parenting experience better for her and the kids, I will do.

That’s the final piece of the puzzle, for me. The writing. I have always envisioned myself as a writer. I got my degree from the university with the imagination that I would write the great American novel. And maybe I have, but it’s not ready for publication. I think my second novel is going to be much better.

Since leaving Dell in 2009 with the collapse of the US economy I have been writing a blog about social marketing. And in that process I developed my voice, my rhythm, my discipline of writing. I can stand proud at this moment and say, “I am a writer.” Or the even more risky, “I am a poet.”

And somewhere down deep, the divorce process uncorked a different vein of writing that I had not anticipated. As I have struggled to find my center again, I used my writing and journaling to share the process with others. Often hard, often angry and defeated, but occasionally triumphant, I have chronicled the entire process of my divorce. Or more, accurately, the process of becoming an awesome single dad.

And my kids are happy. That’s the greatest gift. They are not worried about me or their mom, the are focused on the challenges of 6th and 8th grade. These are high times. And I have nothing but love for my ex-wife as she soldiers on without me beside her. And anything I can do to make our co-parenting experience better for her and the kids, I will do.

Last summer I was pretty sure I had solved the puzzle. I was living in a small house near a bright lake, and I would walk everyday and end my hot journey with a jump into the lake. It was the same lake that I grew up on, that I lived with my parents as their marriage came apart in angry and violent sparks. But as I jumped in every day across the entire summer, I felt like I was being baptized. In some way I was letting go of all the things that were holding me back.

And I was sure that I had solved the work/life/happiness balance thing too. But I was almost to a fork in the road that I had not anticipated. And that massive change has brought me here, to this moment, on the couch at my mother’s house, at 5am.

I am happy. The life ahead for me is grand. And the new school year has just begun and I will do my best to tune-in to my kids as much as they will let me. When they are not here I will text and call and email and show up as often as I am allowed. And beyond that I will tend to my own happiness, my own daily forgiveness, my own meditation and walk. My journey still has many twists and turns and if I can approach the day with hope, openness, and optimism, I’m sure my joy will continue to bring joy to others.

Always Love,

John McElhenney

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image: sunrise from the deck of my house last summer, john mcelhenney, (cc) 2014