Treasure Map to Joy

By Maren Day Woods

While on a weekend road trip across the HEARTland of ND & MN in the fall of 2000 I was presented with a playful perspective of life as a celebration of the soul. Being an event planner, this concept caught my attention and surprisingly, shifted me from a fear-based life to a more soulful journey. I caught a glimpse of the event of a lifetime as a spirit-mind-body event that takes place within a universal, all-inclusive, celebration of ALL souls (past, present, future). The Creator of this Cosmic Gig is our Divine Host (God, higher power, wise self, Buddha, etc.) and our co-host is Mother Nature or Mother Tao.

The guest count is around 7 billion human attendees present at our venue, Planet Earth. Each is a guest of honor who made their debut in the costume of a human body. To be fully present for the main event, we are invited to show up to the inner celebration our soul is throwing in our honor. This gig is designed with countless ways for us to enjoy this multi-sensory and multi-dimensional experience. We’re here to evolve in consciousness and love to realize and share our authentic gifts. By doing so, we will support others in discovering and sharing their gifts; together uniting for the higher purpose of an eternal gift exchange at a Heaven on Earth Theme party.

This awareness came to me in a 4-hour drive to visit my mom and sister at a time I really needed support. Before I left, I asked my angels for a plan to help me find my way to higher ground. My divorce was looming and life as a single parent of three sons, ages 18 months, 8 and 11, with health challenges felt insurmountable.

By the spring of 2001 I was taking the necessary steps to leave my marriage while still living under the same roof as my soon to be former spouse. Buying a home and finding a job were two big things I had crossed off my to-do list.

The line between my professional life as an event planner and my personal life had become blurred by a self-imposed challenge. I’d decided to see what would happen if I applied the steps I used professionally to create meaningful experiences for my clients to enhancing my own life.

I was learning to trust that Divine assistance was available to me. All I had to do was ask for it. I had read many books in the spiritual genre and most recently Healing with the Angels, by Doreen Virtue. At that time, I was in a continued dialogue with them. Yes, I had become part of the estimated 50% of the population that believed in the existence of angels. I wondered what percentage of that 50% was asking for daily assistance and watching the angels answer one prayer after the next, sometimes in real time.

The angels were easily accessible, affordable (just the cost of free will) and reliable. Plus, they came highly recommended. From watching over my boys, finding a close parking spot when I was in a hurry to bestowing me with the next miracle I desired. Angels had become my own personal A-Team.

The limitations of living from personality instead of from soul became very evident. So, I checked my ego at the door as much as humanly possible. But after spending most of my life in survival mode, this new territory of living with a higher level of trust and the feeling more connected to the divine stretched my spiritual navigation skills, and it felt good.

Previously, I had judged experiences as black and white, good (joyful), status quo (boring) or bad (painful). Fortunately, I discovered a new standard of measurement that helped me assign a more equitable value on my life experiences, based on the wisdom gained verses the emotions I felt. Meaning And Purpose can be found in ALL experiences, even the most painful ones. This process became my Treasure MAP to JOY. Of course, my intentions were to enjoy as much of my life as possible, but I no longer wanted to regret the times where I had struggled. I wanted to look for positives, after I had allowed myself to feel my way through an experience.

Breaking down the event planning process I used professionally was an important next step. This concept seemed simple enough on paper but I wondered how successful the real life application would be.

Acting in the dual role as co-creator/event planner and guest of honor of my life was an interesting concept; especially considering my self-esteem was at a low point. I got thoughtful about the event planning process I used professionally. I knew that the first thing I did after I was hired to plan a personal celebration, was to learn what the guest of honor loves from a multi-sensory perspective. This ensures that the party will be authentic and capture their true essence of the guest of honor.

Being the center of my own attention was going to be new for me. I’d spent the previous 11 years focusing on being the best wife and mom I could be. Prior to that I’d spent 25+ years being the dutiful daughter. I’d learned early on that love was conditional. It was based on what you do, not just for being.

My journey from self-hatred to self-love will make more sense if I share how my relationship with my dad evolved over the years. This one section of my story may be a bit heavy. But in order for me to show that the entirety of our life is a celebration no matter what has, is or will happen.

My dad, Tom Day (aka The Big Guy) met and married Lynda Coghlan, in Southern California in the early 1960’s. She was everything he wanted in a spouse. An attractive, athletic, Catholic, nurse from the Midwest (2 hours west of where he grew up) who played tennis!

He was an amazing all around athlete. After they had their first child, Michael, they moved to Fargo, North Dakota so he could pursue his college degree at North Dakota State University and she could find a job as a nurse. They ended up having 4 more children, Maureen, Kathleen, Joseph and Timothy. Dad became a very successful Life Insurance Agent. But the self-loathing that was brewing within him caused a volatile temper that was directed primarily at his family.

Insomnia, anxiety, uncontrollable rage, multiple addictions to gambling, sleeping pills, Vantage Cigarettes, working and golfing didn’t wake him up. He was on the run from himself. He went from one get rich quick scheme to the next, played golf (with high stake bets), and traveled back and forth to Las Vegas to gamble. He somehow found the time to have an extramarital affair. But none of these distractions could out wit the wisdom of his soul. Our Divine Host had sent him countless invitations to show up to his spiritual life. He was an avid churchgoer, but his quest for validation and a sense of worthiness and lifelong obsession with money (ego focus) overrode any possibility to live from soul.

There were times he drove 100 miles an hour with our family in the car. He often became enraged at other drivers or the goings on of the 6 unbelted passengers he had with him in his 76’ Maroon, Buick Park Avenue.

On July 20, 1977 I remember standing in our back porch watching as my dad said goodbye to my mom. I normally wouldn’t have intentionally stuck around to see him off, but I felt very uneasy for some reason. Was it because he was driving a yellow Pontiac rental car while his car was in the shop? After watching him kiss my mom goodbye (which felt so good to see), I remember pushing my face up to the back door window as I watched him walk out to the rental car. Something felt terribly wrong. Did I realize on some level that this would be the last time I saw my dad walk? My feelings as a child pretty much ranged between unsettled, worried and panicked. I may have laughed once in a while and seemed okay, but my sidekick, fear was always close by if not sitting on my chest.

I prayed every night for a way out of the nightmare existence we were living. Dad wasn’t home very much but when he was, home became a very scary place to be. I’d run through every scenario I could think of to find the peaceful, happy life I desired. From telling someone I thought could help us to figuring out another place we could live without him to praying for a miracle that would stop the physical and emotional abuse.

That particular night I went to bed with the feeling of dread. I lay awake until the phone rang at 5 am. I felt frozen as I counted the number of rings until finally finding the courage to pick up on the 21st ring on the 21st day of the 7th month of 1977. As I walked into my parent’s bedroom to answer the phone, neither of them was in bed.

I answered, “hello.”

“Maureen, its your mother, please get Mike to come to the phone.”

“What happened, where are you?!” I demanded to know.

“Please, just get Mike up and get him to the phone right away.”

“No,” I said, “not until you tell me what happened.”

“Your dad was in a bad car accident and severely injured his back.”I asked, “How bad is he hurt?”“Maureen, your father may never walk again if he even survives, now please get your brother.” I dropped the phone and ran to get my brother Mike and I kept running until I got to my best friend Stephanie’s house, about a block away. And in many ways, I kept running from my feelings, and myself until I was finally stopped some 25 years later when I had the road trip revelation. I always felt defective and disconnected. But this awareness miraculously gave me a window into a new possibility where I was as much a guest of honor as anyone else. This brought many of the border pieces of my life puzzle together.

After my dads accident it seemed obvious that I was to blame. I had wished for something to happen that would stop him from hurting us. I hadn’t prayed for him to be safe when I felt something bad was going to happen. I didn’t have the courage to speak up and tell him not to go. The guilt, buried anger and resentment set me up for a nice long stay at a heroic martyr theme party.

Fast forward to the mid 1980’s. I was in college at the time, packing for a trip to Los Angeles the next day to visit a guy friend. Suddenly, my Grandpa Joe came to mind. I had a strong feeling that I should go see him. When I got there, he was eating supper. He was glad to see me, but didn’t seem all that surprised with my drop in visit. I asked him how he was feeling as he was recovering from a mild heart attack he had a few months prior.

After he finished his meal we went in the living room to talk. He said, “don’t go chasing after boys. If you have to, they aren’t the one for you.” I told him how much I loved him. Then he paused and said, “Please take good care of your dad for me.” I promised I would. But, I wondered why our conversation sounded like a final goodbye? We hugged and kissed and I left. As I got in my car, I looked up at my grandparents waiving to me from their balcony longer than usual. I drove away before they saw me cry. It was as if I knew it would be the last time I’d see them together.

The next day as I made a half assed attempt to pack, I finally just quit and sat back on the couch with my close scattered around me. My roommate Kathy walked in and said, “don’t you leave soon?” I told her, I didn’t think so. About an hour later, the phone rang. It was my dad informing me that my Grandpa had just died.

For the next 20+ years, I kept my promise to my Grandpa Joe and took on caring for my dad like a nun takes her vows. Even though he relied on me less after I got married in 1990, my name continued to be up in neon lights when he was in a crisis. The problem was, he was constantly in crisis.

Fast forward to the year 2000. I was 8 months pregnant with my third son Jack. I was sporting a broken foot, high blood pressure, a migraine headache and was experiencing severe jaw pain. You must be wondering how my husband couldn’t find me adorable and charming? Well he didn’t. And our marital issues were becoming increasingly unmanageable.

As I stood at the stove with my crutches making a meal for my boys and I, the phone rang. It was no surprise that it my dad was calling around the dinner hour. He asked, “What are you making the boys for dinner?” I told him and invited him over. Then he said, “Would you mind also making me something else for my diabetic diet?” In that moment I’m pretty sure I could feel something in my brain snap. And I was clubbed over the head with the realization that this man was oblivious to anyone else’s needs but his own.

My jaw issue was caused when my dad backhanded me across the face when I was about 10 or 11 years old. He hit me so hard that I was lifted off my feet, slid up the wall and dropped to the floor on my butt. I never mentioned this incident to my mom. I think my jaw was broken and without medical attention, it healed incorrectly. So whenever my jaw hurt, I know that on some level I was reminded of his hate and disrespect for me.

I realized in that moment that if I didn’t take care of myself, no one was going to do it for me. And I was responsible for the care of 3 other lives now.

I immediately set a boundary with my dad and kept my distance from him for one year, but never kept him from seeing my kids. It’s amazing that as much as I liked English class, I had somehow missed learning the word

b o u n d a r y while attending K-12th grade and 4 years of college. Fortunately, as a young adult, my therapist told me this word, explained what it meant and encouraged me to use it.

I held the line with my dad until I figured out where my needs ended and his needs began. Our relationship ran the gamut from intensely painful to moments of gut wrenching laughter with a few occasional loving gestures in between a whole lot of business of life. The boundary I set became the catalyst and foundation for a healthier relationship between us.

On April fools day, 2009 my dad told me that he believed he was a better person because of his accident and felt it might have saved his life. We both agreed that it might also have saved the lives of our entire family.

Hindsight clearly showed that my dad was desperate for validation and feeling worthy. He accomplished amazing feats as a child to earn his father’s praise, but his dad had his own limitations. It has been my experience that people who feel unworthy are more likely to cause pain and drama in their relationships. It’s a negative cycle that can only be interrupted through a realization and acceptance of ones own value. When you feel worthy of love, you don’t need to go in search of it.

My dad wasn’t all-bad. No one is. He was an amazing human being who possessed many redeeming qualities. Many people (including our family) loved him. He was generous, resilient, creative, and passionate about his faith, friends, family, work, sports, his Irish heritage, business, cooking, hosting parties, watching his kids and grandkids participate in sports.

He loved selling ideas and products. And he was so proud to have written a book to help others accept their limitations. His book was entitled, Hidden Handicaps, Redemption & Triumph.

He never gave up on his goal to stay at home and avoid ever having to go to nursing home. He was proud to have paid his own way for 33 years, saving the taxpayers of North Dakota millions of dollars it would have cost to provide round three decades of round the clock care. He passed away February 28, 2010 with his entire family by his side. The epitaph on his gravestone reads, Champion your life with Perseverance. And he most certainly did that.

I hope you find your Treasure MAP to JOY. By looking for Meaning And Purpose in all of your experiences, JOY will be found in the Blessons (blessings & lessons) gleaned from everyday life. Wisdom is accumulative and gradually raises your energy (chi) and heightens your awareness of how magical life is. There is Divine Assistance and Assistants standing by waiting for an invitation to help you co-create a life you can’t wait to show up to. Everything you need is inside you. And I hope the coming blog posts support you in your desire to plan your life as the celebration of you it was intended.

Join me next Monday as we take the 1st Step as the event planner of your life where we will  – Discovery who you are based on what you love NOW.