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2019 Cat Coley

I'm passionate about telling your (real) story and standing in your truth. 
To understand my why, I need to tell you my truth.
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the facade

My life has experienced a series of incredible highs and unbearable lows, but what I've learned is I am resilient, undeniably

strong and an optimist...traits that were much needed during my darkest days.

From the outside my life looked like it was picture perfect...sigh.

I had a loving partner, a thriving career, a beautiful home, close friends and a loving and supportive family. I worked hard and I enjoyed my downtime; which I filled with access to the top restaurants and VIP events in the fast paced city I lived in, outings with friends and vacations to beautiful destinations. The perception from the outside was...I had it all!

To the untrained eye, it sure looked that way. But for anyone that dug even just a few inches below the facade - I'm certain that they would have seen the foundation crumbling from underneath me. 

You see, I kept a secret that no one knew...not my partner, my closest friends, not even my amazing sister who knew me better than I knew myself at times. Don't worry I won't keep you in suspense here...after all it's true what they say, "the truth shall set you free..."

My absolute shameful secret was...I was stealing money from my place of business. I'm going to let that sink in for a second or two. Yes, there I was seemingly 'living my best life ever', yet I was stealing from the place that was allowing me to live my best life ever...the irony of that isn't lost on me.

Because of the amount of guilt I carried around with me (and rightfully so), I was in constant fear of being found out. Every phone call from my boss, every email from accounting, even an innocent glance from our head of security and my mind would begin to imagine my unraveling. When you're carrying around that much guilt (albeit very much deserving) it becomes difficult to breathe, to truly enjoy life, to hold normal conversations, to keep your story straight and to really let anyone in.  

my fall from grace

After years (yes years!) of keeping this secret, my world fell apart when I was advised that someone from my department was being investigated for fraud. Since I was a department head - I needed to be part of the investigation. Now, I know what most people would say and I get it...I was asked this question all the time. Why didn't you just tell them the truth then? And my only answer to that was, absolute FEAR. Fear of being found out, fear of being fired, fear of telling my partner, friends, family, fear of admitting I was a liar and a thief...fear of the unknown. Well, I didn't have to wait, because it wasn't long before they started looking at my entire department a lot closer and like I said my wrong doings weren't very well hidden to a trained eye. That and unbeknownst to me the person being investigated had figured out my wrong doings back when she worked in accounting (before she transferred to my department) and kept that important info in her back pocket...she eventually outed me to try to save herself. Which at the time I was extremely upset about - but after some reflection - I was grateful she did that. Because she did the one thing I was unable to do for myself, tell the truth.  She ultimately set me free.

So, on a Friday afternoon I was summoned to our security office - under the premise of looping me back into the investigation...little did I know that the tables had turned and they were there for me. 

I have had only a couple of instances in my life where I felt like I was having an out of body experience and this was one of them (the other comes later in the story). I sat there with about a dozen department heads from HR, Security, Risk Management and my own department all looking at me disgusted and in utter disbelief. I felt as if I was floating above the room and was watching my fall from grace with a birds eye view. A question I was asked repeatedly that day and for many times thereafter was - why? I didn't have an answer then and I don't honestly have an answer now. Believe me I've asked myself that question a million times. I can probably come up with reasons that make it seem plausible and excusable even. But the truth is, it was pure self gratification - self indulgence - self righteous - self serving. There's no sugar coating my lack of moral compass at the time. 

That night I went home and told more half truths of what I had done to my partner and two of our closest friends. I was in shock and absolutely afraid of what was to come. I can only relate the reason to being unable to tell the entire truth to being caught cheating on your partner. When confronted with questions like, "how long has the affair been going on" or "how many times has it happened" the guilty for fear of disclosing all of their wrong doings and further seeing the pain and hurt they caused - continue with the lies. Whether it was self preservation, denial or a bit of both, I found myself still unable to tell the whole truth that night.

The days and weeks that followed were a blur. I was advised that the company I worked for was planning on prosecuting me and that I should retain a lawyer. I found who I thought was the best person to represent me (that's a whole other story in it of itself - I'll save for a future post) and tried to get back to some sort of normalcy. My partner was supportive, kind and loving. When you're sent a gigantic curve ball such as this - you do everything in your power to keep your head above water. We kept our fears, disappointments, sadness, anxiety and guilt hidden well and projected a united front of solidarity and hope. 

runaway with me

That hope came in a form of an incredible job offer for my partner from out of state

(this was my first inkling into the world of manifestation) -

to a place that we both believed we would eventually end up living in (near the beach in Southern California).

Although the job was universally sent, we both knew that we were both trying to escape our current dreadful reality.

We made the big move and on New Years Day just a few months after I was escorted off my place of work -

we drove off to start a new. For a while our exiting new jobs (I started a new career), our new

home steps from the beach and newly formed friendships distracted us from what was happening behind the scenes.

After a couple of years in our surroundings however - the cracks began to show. 

Within the two year time frame - two major events happened in our lives, we got married and we started a family.

The arrival of our daughter was incredibly joyous. I never yearned to be a mother. I loved children and had always

felt a bond with babies, but the urge to have children of my own was not strong for me. But it seemed the right

next step in our lives - we had started a new life in a new city - marriage and children seemed the obvious next steps.

The day my daughter was born I realized, now I couldn't imagine a day without her in it. 

Behind the cloak however, I was still secretly dealing with my past. No one knew of what had happened to me when we left our old lives behind. We were waiting with baited breaths on an outcome to the court proceedings, but tip toed around the elephant in the room as if it didn't exist. It was as if not talking about it would make it just go away. 

if i only i knew

Close to a year after my daughter was born, I received a phone call that my sentencing day was approaching and I needed to be in court on a Monday morning at 8:00 am. As I had done a few times before this final step - on a Sunday afternoon I said goodbye to my husband and daughter and drove the four hours from our home to the place that we had hastily left behind. The morning of my sentencing I was beyond petrified. Although my sister and brother asked if I wanted them to be there, I declined. I figured I had gotten myself into this mess, I could get myself out (but more important I was ashamed of myself and facing this with anyone else was more than I could handle). With my husband back home safe and sound with my daughter, I parked in the court valet and texted my family that I would call them when my court proceedings were over.

Seeing how terrified I was before we walked into the courtroom, my lawyer tried unsuccessfully to calm my nerves. He tried to distract my overactive mind with court jargon and right before we walked in together he looked me and said, "If you don't receive probation today, I will stop practicing law tomorrow!" His words of assurance put a much needed smile on my face. 

What came after we walked into court was a whirlwind. I tried to listen intently to what the prosecutors were saying, to the mood of the judge and to the people that were in the audience (who were from my old place of work). At one point I was asked to stand and face the judge and as he spoke he told me what the court thought of me and my case (lets just say he wasn't mincing any words). Two words I was told by my lawyer to listen for from the judge was "Suspended Sentence" which meant that I was to receive probation. I could see my lawyer feverishly jotting down notes as the judge spoke in a stern but monotone voice - as I darted my attention between my lawyer and the judge - I began to wonder when he was going to say those words? It seemed like I was standing there for hours, but I know it was only minutes. In the midst of being an (unwilling) participant of the well orchestrated machine of our justice system - I watched with bewildered curiosity as the bailiff walked slowly from the front of the court room towards the back - at the time, that move seemed insignificant - a few minutes later that move became quite poignant. 

The words I was praying for never came...

Instead the words..."You are being sentenced to 19 months minimum to State Prison...effective today, the 11th day of March..." were the words that echoed in the room. This was my second out of body experience...

As I heard the Bailiff, who was now standing directly behind me, ask me to drop my purse on the floor - in my state of utter confusion, I turned around and asked him why I needed to do that?  He didn't explain, but instead just repeated himself again, only the second time it was less friendly. He had known the whole time that I was not walking out of that court that day - not the way I walked in at least. He knew that eventually he was going to ask me to put my hands behind my back. He knew the words I was praying to hear would never actually be said in court. He knew. The judge knew. The prosecution knew. It seemed the whole world knew, but me. 

my new reality

As I write this I am taken back to that moment. That moment I saw my world come crashing down around me. That moment where I thought the judge surely made a mistake and read the wrong sentence. That moment that I was led from the courtroom to the jail in handcuffs. That moment I called my husband from jail scared and in hysterics. That moment I slept on the floor of the county jail for the first time. That moment I had to change out of my civilian clothes into a blue jail jumpsuit. That moment I saw my daughter and husband for the first time in days via the jail monitor. That moment I was transferred from the county jail to the state prison in handcuffs and shackles around my ankle. That moment I stepped foot inside prison for the first time. That moment the cell door slammed behind me. That moment I thought silently that death might be the only answer for me. 

My sentence was a minimum of nineteen months (which at the time seemed like 19 years) and it could be have been as long as forty eight months. I was determined to figure out a way home sooner than 19 months (legally of course) or stay for the absolutely minimum time required.  By solely counting on my lawyers reputation and assurances (and avoiding facing my own reality), I willingly placed my life in someone else's hands.  It was only while I was in prison that I learned the inner workings of the criminal justice system.  Within the first two weeks of being transferred to state prison, (with access to a law library within the prison and encountering a few incredibly amazing women) I requested the court for a new hearing (which was denied), I requested the courts for a re-sentencing procedure (which was denied) and as a last ditch effort, I requested the court for house arrest (which was also denied). It was only after the last denial that I realized I wasn't going to be going home any sooner than the 19 months.

Due to the nature of my crime being labeled "white collar" and I had no criminal record and this was my first ever offense - I found myself being moved quickly through the "system". This meant that less than two months after being sent to state prison, I was transferred to a medium level facility which worked in liaison with the bureau of land management. There I spent my time assigned to crews that cleaned up state run parks and facilities. After 3 months, I was again transferred to an even lower facility labeled as community level. This is where I spent the bulk of my time...about 15 months. This facility housed both men and women (in separate units) who the state deemed safe to interact with the community. I was tasked with finding a job where I could get to using only public transportation. I was not allowed to have a cell phone or have any outside contact with family and/friends. During my days off I was allowed to volunteer at a second hand thrift store that was affiliated with the state and a local church. 

My time in prison was gut wrenching, humbling, lonely, eye opening, humiliating and desolate. I missed my husband and my daughter immensely. In fact, I only allowed myself to look at photos of my daughter on Sundays. This allowed me to keep my sanity, because I knew that if I looked at it anymore than that, I wouldn't be able to find the will to get up from the unbearable heartache of missing her. I saw my husband and daughter a total of five times while I was away. I would receive photos of her from her first and second birthday, as well as any milestones that she reached - her first tooth, her first words and taking her first steps. I will carry with me the guilt of missing all those first for the rest of my life. She became my north star - my guiding light - my everything.  My relationship with my husband was initially amazing, considering what we were up against. But little by little as the days turned into months and those months turned into a year plus - the strain of our time apart - of us living completely different and separate lives began to take its toll. But we kept hope alive and didn't let go - knowing that we could work on our relationship when I came home. 

During the days I volunteered at the thrift store I spent most of my time in the book room. There I began the task of re-organizing thousands upon thousands of donated books. It was here that I found myself being engrossed in books about personal development. Surprisingly, I had never looked at self-help books as a way to help me deal with any part of my life (subconsciously I ignored it because it would mean I had to be really honest with myself - and the thought of that didn't sit well with me at the time). At first I started with the more popular selections like Tony Robbins and Oprah -  they scratched the surface with trying to understand and take responsibility for our lives. As I dug deeper I discovered the incredible work of Echart Toole, Wayne Dyer, Bob Proctor, Earl Nightingale and Napolean Hill - I became a student of all their teachings. I began to fully understand myself in ways that I had never even considered before. The times I wasn't working or volunteering I spent in my room - reading and taking copious notes. 

After fourteen long months, the time came for me to appear in front of the parole board. This is where the state determines if you need to stay longer than the minimum months originally stated. As I mentioned my sentence was 19 - 48 months, which meant that I could be released only after I had served a minimum of 19 months (this is due in part to the plea bargain I willingly signed without realizing what exactly I was signing) and anytime before 48 months, the maximum time per the sentencing guidelines. I found out about a week after that meeting that I was granted my minimum release time (insert celebratory emoji here!) and would be leaving exactly 19 months from the day of my court sentencing!!

Those last four months couldn't come any quicker for me! I couldn't wait to see, hold, hug and kiss my daughter (who was 2 1/2 when I came home) begin to salvage my marriage and get back to some normalcy in my life again.  Within those 19 months I was able to speak to my daughter on the phone - she knew that I was her mommy, she saw pictures of me and I saw her a couple of times at the community facility. She knew my voice of course because I left when she was already 11 months old - but I had missed a significant time in her young life. I couldn't wait to also hug and kiss my husband. I knew we had a lot to repair, and I knew it wasn't going to be easy. But I was coming home - so for me, nothing was impossible.

The day finally came of my release and I was beyond excited, nervous and apprehensive. Technically my sentence didn't expire for another couple of months after my release, so I was due to continue to stay in town for 2 more months - until I was able to finally move back home out of state. But I was free. That was all that mattered. My friends threw a party for me the day after I came home - it was surreal to be standing there with my family, friends, daughter and husband. I was overwhelmed and didn't quite know how to react to everyone - but I knew one thing...my nightmare was over!

My husband went home within a day of my release - because he had to get back to work - and I was able to spend two amazing weeks with my daughter. Who when she first saw me - came running towards me and screamed"Mommy!!!" which honestly - hands down the best 30 seconds of my life - next to her being born! The night before my husband had to leave to go back home...he asked for a divorce. 

what the...

I thought I had already endured extreme emotional pain and suffering whilst I was away (albeit due to my own wrong doing) - him asking for a divorce was the straw that broke the camels back. But my suffering had to be put on hold because there was this little person that I needed and wanted to focus all my energy and time on. Now that I was home I was determined to make things right and it started with not giving up on my husband. I felt deep down that his asking for the divorce was a knee-jerk reaction and that we need not rush into any major decisions - at least not until I was back in the same town. After the two weeks - I was granted by my parole officer (who I still had to see until my sentence expired for another month and half) to go back home with my daughter for two weeks. I was certain that this was going to be the time that I could start to repair my marriage and get my family back.

My husband had to move apartments while I was away because he couldn't afford our old place with only his salary (this was So. Cal after all and we had been renting a 3 bedroom condo steps from the beach when I left). So when I was granted 2 weeks to go home - I stayed with him and my daughter - in his new place. I can't ever explain the feeling I felt the moment I walked into their apartment. It was as if I didn't exist. Their were only photos of my daughter on display - and one photo of my daughter and my husband together. None of me. All of my stuff was in storage and when we walked into his garage - I found a couple of paper bags in the corner stuffed haphazardly with the letters I wrote to him (almost daily) while I was away. It was quite symbolic of where we were in our relationship. 

I realized before those two weeks were over - that the life I left a year and a half before no longer existed. I found myself without a home, without a job, without a husband and without money - my only saving grace was my wonderful sweet and amazing daughter.  While I waited for my sentence to fully expire - I stayed with my sister. I felt that I had reached rock bottom during my time away - but it seemed I had hit a new low. I couldn't eat and their were days I couldn't get out of bed. I had forgotten all about the teachings I had read - the words that had given me strength before didn't mean as much now that I was facing yet another gut wrenching blow. 

So, now you're probably asking yourself - how did I end up here? 

I could go on for pages more - but I'll save that for a later posts and my podcast where I really dig deep into all of this. 

accepting my new normal

With the guidance and support of my sister, brother, parents, family and close friends - I willed myself to come back home. I found a job with the help of my old boss - I found a place to live - I became a mom again. It was also during this time that I finally gave in (kicking screaming and pleading for the opposite) to my husbands request for a divorce.  It was shortly before this time that I realized that while I was away, decisions and choices were made that didn't involve me, and for all parties involved, they could not be undone...

A few months after my return home, I tried to get used to my new normal. To begin my new life, I had decided that I was going to leave my experience behind and never speak of it again. What was done was done and I needed to move on. However, I couldn't shake the feeling that something was amiss. After regaining my footing I went back to diving even deeper in the world of the subconscious mind, mindsets and manifestation. Now that my soon to be ex and I shared equal custody of our daughter, on the days I didn't have her I would spend nights reading and getting lost on the internet watching videos and listening to podcasts. Even though I was beyond grateful for my job - I knew it wasn't what I wanted to do - but I also needed to pay the bills and take care of myself and my daughter. As hard as I tried to leave my past in the past, my time away continued to find its way back in my life, I pushed it away as much as I could. 

One day (because the universe is always listening) I was told that my position was being eliminated. At first I was in a state of panic - how do I pay my bills, how do I take care of my daughter - the worry and overwhelm was deafening. But as the days progressed I settled into a place of calm. I decided I needed to find a new career - something that was completely out of my comfort zone - something that was of great interest to me - something that I could grow in. I decided to seek out a career coach - who ended up becoming the my game changer. A week or so of working with her and looking at different careers we both thought I would excel in - I finally had the nerve to tell her my story...the entire true story. After about an hour of talking non-stop, I finally came to the end of my story and said " So, that's why I'm here - because I need a new career..." to which she said excitedly..."You don't need a new career - Your Life Story is your new career!" I looked at her utterly confused at first thinking 'my life story is why I need a new career...". After several more hours of talking (and some convincing) - my career coach became the segue into why I'm here today!

It wasn't until after this that I fully grasped that I didn't need to be ashamed of my past failures. I realized then that by not being honest and telling my truth - I was missing the biggest lesson from my experience - and that's when I realized I had found my purpose. 

From this day forward I stopped feeling ashamed of my story.  I stopped believing that because of my past I didn't deserve a happy and successful life. I stopped trying to hide from my past. I stopped apologizing for events that I couldn't change. I stopped trying to come up with excuses for what I did - and just took responsibility for my actions. I stopped thinking so little of myself. I stopped letting other peoples opinion of me matter so much in my life. I started to make my own rules. I began to find my footing again. 

I went back to all the things I learned from the hundreds of books I read while I was away and I began to apply them into my life. I found hundreds of more books, attended dozens upon dozens of events, I found several coaches of my own to help me understand coaching and also to help me in my own transformation. In my journey I happened upon some incredible mentors and slowly I began my journey into coaching. It took time to find my voice - and I took some wrong turns for sure. But I know that all of wrong decisions all led me to 

what i know for sure...

I'm here because I know what rock bottom feels like and I can show you how to begin to climb yourself out of it

I'm here because I know that the answer doesn't come from the outside but it starts on the inside

I'm here because I know what major failure looks like and I can show how to use your failures as your stepping stone

I'm here to tell you that your past doesn't have to determine your future

I'm here to tell you that despite your mistakes you are meant to live and create an amazing life

I'm here to tell you that you deserve a life better than the one you have

I'm here to show you that you too can rise above all the noise to find peace, love and a purpose

I'm here to show you to not just dream BIG but to give you the tools to achieve those goals and more

I believe that I'm here to make a massive impact and to remind people that they have limitless potential!

 

 

Thank you for walking through my story with me! I'm grateful that our paths crossed! I would love to continue to connect with you - if you'd like to sign up to my newsletter sign up here! If you would like to see how we can work together send me an email here