In this regular feature, we share stories of women who followed a new passion or reinvented themselves. We hope these stories may provide the insight and encouragement for others to try new paths.
Today, we’re happy to highlight the work and passion of Patty Blue Hayes who lives in Panama.
What kind of work or passion are you pursuing now?
Changes in my finances after a divorce led me on a path of truly evaluating what was most important to me. Time freedom, peace of mind, and the opportunity to explore were the shining stars that led me to the decision to move from California to the country of Panama and to continue writing and publishing journals of my life experiences.
Before that, I tried taking the “safe” route and got a job working at a mental health agency, and it was awful for my own mental health. My self-employment income in Panama allows me to have my time freedom and pursue my curiosities about life and the stories that are out there waiting for me.
How old were you when you began in this new direction?
46. I didn’t know it at the time, but the end of my marriage was the catalyst for me to become “me.” I wasn’t myself in the marriage. I’d made my whole identity around being my husband’s wife, and I only viewed my worth and value as what he thought of me. I didn’t have autonomy, and my self esteem was nil.
What did you do before you made this change?
I had been married for 17 years and loved being the support for my executive husband, taking care of our home, social life and family events. I worked part-time during our marriage but not in areas that were fulfilling my heart and soul. The toxic years when he was having affairs led me to self destructive behavior. I became a shell of a person I used to be.
What prompted you to make this change?
Life events! My husband’s confession to affairs and his statement that he didn’t want to be married anymore made me feel extremely out of control, that life was happening “to” me. What I realize now is that those events happened “for” me to heal and evolve into the woman I am today. It took many years of intentional self-introspection, therapy, coaching, spiritual quests, hypnotherapy, books, articles, and a retreat in order for me to heal past wounds in order to be free.
What from your previous work or life situation helped you in your reinvention?
Writing. Since I was a young girl, I had a dream to write a book that would help adults. This idea was born from the challenges of my young years in my family. I’d written journals consistently since I was in high school, but never thought I’d end up publishing. Then when I was sitting alone at an airport, headed home early from a vacation after my husband’s confession of infidelity, a strong inner voice told me to pick up a pen—this is your first book. It took several years to edit because it was so painful to re-read, but I published my first book, Wine, Sex and Suicide—My Near Death Divorce, in 2015. And the greatest gift is that I hear from adults who tell me it’s helped them.
What were the biggest obstacles you had to overcome?
The biggest obstacles to becoming a new self were the beliefs I had and how tightly I held onto them for security. I was someone who believed in forever and wanted things to stay the same. I wanted to celebrate Christmas with his family like we’d done for 17 years; forever. I wanted to live in our home; forever. I kept track of traditions we’d created of hosting Thanksgiving, 4th of July and some epic parties that were often extremely booze-infused. That was another huge issue to address; my abuse of alcohol.
My life was changing and in order to adapt, I needed to learn to embrace change and not fear it. Now, I absolutely love change and fear the very security I grasped at so desperately! The very nature of change creates the freedom for me to be me.
I had to update my brain’s operating system to a program of positivity, possibility, healthy self-talk, confidence-boosting, self compassion, problem-solving. I learned to tune into my heart and soul and not give so much authority to my mind and thoughts.
How are you overcoming them?
When I look back on my healing journey, it started with a simple gratitude practice. I needed to keep perspective that my pain was not the worst thing in the world. Over the years, there were hundreds of practices I engaged in to heal and grow. The path was quite rocky, as self reinvention typically is.
Regarding the alcohol, a few years ago I decided I didn’t like the feeling of shame if I drank too much when I’d intended on having “a glass or two.” After embarrassing myself in front of an author I admired, I decided the next day to remove alcohol from my life. What made that easier was a five-week volunteer trip to Romania where I completed my Teaching English as a Foreign Language practicum. I worked with the children at an orphanage where I’d volunteered 10 years earlier during my first Christmas alone.
Even writing this now generates a feeling of awe at the geometric magic of my life’s events.
What fears have you faced?
Absolutely everything! I feared being alone for the rest of my life. I believed I wasn’t good enough or lovable and that’s why my husband cheated and went on to start a new life. I feared I wouldn’t survive—and I almost didn’t. I feared becoming angry and bitter like I saw my mother do after her divorce. I was afraid I wouldn’t make enough money to support myself, and I’d end up homeless. I was afraid no one would love me again. But I discovered I have love for myself, and I no longer need to look outside of myself for anything.
What kind of support did you receive in your reinvention?
I had supportive family and friends but I don’t think they knew the depths of pain I was in and the self-destructive and suicidal behavior I had. I felt very ashamed for the numbing behaviors I was engaging in and didn’t fully disclose to my loved ones.
Through my journey, I found like-minded people whose shared stories and resource referrals were quite valuable. Sometimes it was the kindness of a stranger who gave me great insight into my own healing.
I had a dear cousin who was six months ahead of me in the divorce process, and we bonded strongly during that time. She said listening to me showed her how far she’d come, and I said talking with her showed me what was possible.
How have you grown or how has your life improved as a result of taking on this new pursuit?
I’ve grown into the person I was meant to be. It was a painful long labor resulting in a beautiful birth of my renewed spirit!
What advice would you give to other women at this age who are looking to reinvent themselves?
I would advise a few key things:
First, I think it’s crucial to heal past wounds or wounds of origin if there are some, and typically we have them. One way to get at the root of an old wound is to identify the feelings you currently have that are sad, weighted and empty. For example, I’m not lovable, I’m not good enough, I don’t matter, I’m invisible, etc. Then, trail back to when in your life may have been the origin of when this feeling started. It may have been a prior life event, like my parent’s divorce. It could be messaging we received from parents, people we respected, teachers, or friends.
The second thing I advise people is to reacquaint themselves with their joys from childhood. When we’re kids, we have the sense of play and curiosity that we often lose as we grow up and merge into the expectations of the adult world. But the curiosity and playfulness is exactly what we need in order to re-create ourselves. We have to be willing to step out and try new things, risk being silly, risk being wrong and embrace all the peaks and valleys on the journey.