“I like your cowgirl boots,” gushed the beautiful bubbly brunette woman who had just climbed into the back of the limo with me.
I thanked her, while quietly reflecting on how these boots symbolize my Seeking Shama journey of the past two years. The road, my beloved open road, had led me to these boots. Somehow, someway, my time living on the road led me through the darkest period of my life. And somehow, someway I was emerging as a new, different, more happy version of me. I found myself smiling at this friendly woman sitting next to me as we drove through Beverly Hills towards Culver Studios, while I quietly contemplated how the road had now taken another wild turn. The road had led me to the intersection of my old life meets new.
Twenty-four hours earlier I had received a call from a production assistant on The Ricki Lake Show saying, “Pack your bags. Your flight leaves in six hours.” I had known for a couple days that this was a possibility. The show had called me on Friday night and asked me if I would be free the following Monday to come to LA to be a guest on a show about stress if my segment was approved. Although I heard updates from the producers throughout the weekend, when it still wasn’t greenlit by Monday morning, I had resigned myself to the idea that it wasn’t going to happen. So, when the call came, I didn’t have time to fully process what was happening. I quickly packed a bag, flew to LA, and was delivered to my hotel around 11pm the night before.
Before flopping into bed, I had opened my curtains to look out on the street below and found myself looking down over the patio of Trattoria Amici, a small Italian restaurant where I would meet agents and other executives in my previous life as a Hollywood business & legal affairs executive. Not ready to process the emotions of the how and why I was back in Los Angeles in a hotel looking over one of my former favorite power lunch spots, I turned on the TV to distract myself. There playing was the movie “200 CIGARETTES.” This was one of the very first movies I had ever worked on in 1996. It was back in the days when I was still in awe that I was helping make movies. It was back in the days when I was still trying to convince myself that working in Hollywood was my dream come true.
Yet it wasn’t my dream, and the years of trying to convince myself that it was had nearly destroyed me. I finally found the strength to leave that world and am now carving out a new life for myself in Austin, Texas. Yet here Los Angeles was pulling me back in, dangling reminders of my past in front of me. However this time I was in front of the camera, not behind it. This time the limo, hair, make-up and private dressing room were for me, not for someone whose contract I had negotiated. This was all too surreal to comprehend. So I turned my attention to the delightful woman next to me.
She introduced herself as Dr. Susan Biali, who was also a guest on the show. Susan and I had one of those rare instant sisterly connections. From the moment we met, neither of us stopped talking. She understood the significance of my cowgirl boots even before I explained that I had learned from the road that the secret to happiness in life is living life with the cowgirl spirit. These boots are a reminder to live a life authentic to me and to never again compromise who I am in order to fulfill society’s mythical recipe for a “successful” life.
It turns out Susan’s journey eerily paralleled mine. Years earlier she had hit rock bottom during her ER residency in Vancouver, B.C. Instead of leaving her career and driving around the country with her dog, she did something equally as crazy wonderful: She left her career and moved to Mexico and became a professional flamenco dancer. Through her inspiring journey, chronicled in her best selling book, she learned that the secret to living with happiness and passion is being true to your most authentic self. She’s now dedicated her life to helping others learn to live a life that they love. She does this through her medical practice, her life coach work, public speaking, her best-selling book, and of course, balancing it out with plenty of flamenco dancing.
The next morning on the flight back to Austin I read the book written by my new cowgirl sister, Dr. Susan: Live A Life You Love: 7 Steps to a Healthier, Happier, More Passionate You. I couldn’t put it down. And neither should you. It just may start you on your way to living your own life with the spirit of a cowgirl or cowboy. As the cowboys say: “Hey y’all, get a wiggle on and give it a read!”
For the curious, I’m including a link to my segment on the show. I need to clarify that I do indeed have stress in my life. I think certain levels of stress are important to motivate us and to keep us from living like vegetables. The difference between now and before my road trip is that I’ve shed massive amounts of the bad stress from my life. I’ve also learned healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with the stress that still remains. Most of the time I’m successful at implementing those mechanisms, but sometimes I’m not. I’m human after all…
Read me on The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christine-buckley/