Everything I Had Lived for Was Gone: My Journey To Feel Alive

My toes gripped the ledge as I looked down at what I was about to do. I couldn’t go back. I made the decision, and I was going to follow through.

Just a year earlier, I had laid on my small cottage floor, unable to get up from the ball I had pulled myself into. My head and lungs hurt. I couldn’t breathe. I had been there before, living in the middle of not wanting to live but not wanting to die, but I always had a reason to take one small step toward life.

That day, I didn’t. My marriage had crumbled before my eyes, my daughters were launched valiantly into their college worlds, and I lay motionless, unable to think, decide, or even choose.

The circus made me feel alive. (Photo credit Nikki Bowers)

I realized I had to do something that made me feel alive

You have to get up. Move. You can’t lay here. No, just lay here. Just be still. For once, be still. What makes you feel alive? My therapy homework had been to answer that question besides answering (my kids). I wasn’t fine. I wasn’t okay. I decided to lay there until I could decide on one positive action.

I had given it all to my kids. They were my life. I had pulled back on my career to make their lives better than mine ever was. I had no regrets. I had given everything to a marriage that didn’t succeed. Everything I had lived for was gone. Now what?

What makes you feel alive?

I do not know what makes me feel alive. I forget what that feels like.

I made a list of things that made me happy

I started to make a list. I wrote:


Then I left it blank and stared at it for hours.

I heard my daughter’s voice in my head, “Mom, you can’t listen to sad songs forever; choose one happy song to listen to instead.” I rolled my eyes back in my head, just like she would.

#1. Walking on Sunshine Too peppy…

#1. Boogie Shoes Yes, that is it.

I did not get up right away. But it was an action. One small action can take a step in the right direction.

I need to feel alive. This is for me, and I have no idea how to do this, but alive is where I need to be. For once, it was going to be for me.

My list began to grow slowly over weeks that turned into months. I carried a spiral notebook around with me.

1. Boogie Shoes
2. Chew bubble gum, BLOW the biggest BUBBLE.

3. Get a hula hoop. Learn to do it.
4. TikTok Dance
5. Create a new margarita
6. Take a dance class
7. Try a new recipe a week
8. Buy sparklers and light them… outside.
9. Learn how to do a smoky eye from YouTube.
10. Play darts
11. Create a HAPPY playlist.
12. Try all the ice cream flavors you want.

13. Sprinkles

The list grew, and so did I. Every day, I did something to make myself feel alive. I texted my girls.

I joined the circus

Guess what? I joined the circus. What? The circus?

Yes! I am taking trapeze classes. There is a circus show at the end, but I am not doing it. I am the oldest there. I have some cuts on my face from not listening well, but I am learning.

MOM! You are doing the circus show. No, I am not. Yes, you have to. You are brave. You are amazing. You have to do it.

But I thought, What if I did? Would it make me feel alive?

I asked my circus classmates, What does one wear to a circus show? The bright-eyed, bushy-tailed 30-year-old said, “We are wearing unitards! And we are bedazzling them.”

Oh gosh, crafts do not make me feel alive.

That night, I sat with my new margarita recipe on Amazon. I muttered to myself, Unitards should have an age limit. But they did not, and my margarita whispered, “Buy the red one. That will be lively.”

Joining the circus made me feel truly alive

Two weeks later, my toes gripped the ledge as I looked down at what I was about to do. I reached out to grasp the bar. I listened for the command, then jumped forward and trusted my strength as I swung through the air. I performed my straddle trick, then listened for the command to release and hoped that the timing was right as I reached out to catch be caught in the air.

My daughters took a video, and my face matched the color of my unitard. My heart beat wildly as I took a bow.

Joining the circus symbolized my resilience, capacity for growth, and commitment to living a life that felt truly alive. It was about finding myself for the first time, finding happiness in the smallest moments with myself, and having the courage to take some very big risks.

I may have started with a blank page and a single question, but a vibrant list of experiences breathed life back into me. I will never forget what it felt like to be on the road to bringing myself back to life, and I will never live dead again.

More Great Reading:

How I Weathered a Perfect Midlife Storm: My 50th Birthday and Daughter Leaving for College

About Nikki Bowers

Nik Bowers is a writer, speaker, and parent educator who has taught students from elementary to college age. She has mentored women with eating disorders (after recovering from her own), designed mentoring and social-emotional programs for girls ages 9–18, and raised her own daughters to be strong and independent women.

Read more posts by Nikki

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