By Patricia Danflous
“Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”
Vanessa Joy Walker is more thoughtful and caring when she delivers a warning similar to that famed Bette Davis movie line. When the author, adversity coach and life strategist tells her loved ones that “I’m not okay today,” she’s is preparing them for an off-kilter day while reaching out for understanding and support. It’s one of the ways she’s learned to manage lifelong anxiety and depression without destroying those around her.
Taking control of life’s roadblocks, detours and the unexpected doesn’t come easy for Walker. With a strong spiritual foundation, self-reflection and significant life experiences, however, she’s cleared the way for hope and joy. Her innovative method of learning from crisis is now a nurtured talent that she graciously and professionally shares with individuals and industries throughout the world. “Life can be incredibly difficult, but it is the difficult things that strengthen us,” said 46-year-old Walker from her North Carolina home.
“The training process for a marathon, for example, is hard,” she continued. “Yet on the day of the race you are prepared for the course and can enjoy that great feeling of crossing the finish line.”
Walker’s energetic, joyful outlook contradicts her life’s history filled with crisis after crisis in addition to her battle with anxiety and depression. Abandoned shortly after birth, the two-time cancer survivor has also encountered infertility, a husband’s betrayal, early menopause and more.
Imagine, your ovaries and fallopian tubes are removed at the age of 35. You accept that you can’t have children but celebrate the pregnancy of the “perfect” surrogate. Then grieve when miscarriage news arrives.
Imagine, the God-loving husband who complements your spiritual believes and faith suddenly decides that Christianity is not for him any longer.
Imagine, preparing yourself to meet the woman who abandoned you at birth after years of wondering only to learn she has died shortly after reaching out to you?
Now imagine that you have not only survived one life-altering catastrophe after another but are now thriving. Hard to imagine, isn’t it? That’s only a glimpse into Walker’s precarious past.
“I needed those experiences,” emphasized Walker, demonstrating clear strength and conviction in her statement. “When I look back on those years, I was actually growing my career and initiating a purpose to inspire others to achieve a life of authentic joy. I needed all those moments when I was teetering on the edge of depression, grief or confronting another crisis to shape myself and define a career that reflects life’s torn edges that each of us experience in different ways. I’ve learned to see a connection between joy and sorrow and use that connection as a bridge to hope. Seeking out the dark parts of life can help you find the light.”
“Whenever you go through disaster, it changes your emotional DNA. If you can pivot and change your dreams or the way you see the world, you can embrace the new,” she said. “Life is a journey of experiences in response to curiosity,” she says. “In my writings and speaking engagements I encourage and guide others to take the road less traveled to discover life’s surprises.”
Think about it Walker advises. “The things we are most proud of are those things that were the hardest to achieve–like completing a marathon,” she smiled.
The daughter of a pastor who spoke in sermonettes whether in church or at the kitchen table, Walker credits him for the gift of storytelling, her strong faith and hope. Her mother provides her daily inspiration for learning and growing with every experience. “My mom learns something new every day and shares her knowledge with me.”
Despite a crisis tally that most would consider unfair, Walker displays a sense of humor. Yes, she’s learned to transition from grief to hope and joy, but really, how can she be funny, too? You will find that light-hearted side of Walker from the very first page of her recently released book, “Make Room for Joy,” to the touching letter to God on the last page. Designed with pull out inspirational quotes and messages, the book is both an autobiography of trials and sorrows and an explanation of how to transition from despair to joy. A Make It Personal section at the end of each chapter asks a soul-searching question to challenge readers to embrace their lives with joy, faith and hope.
To learn more about Walker visit her website at: vanessajoywalker.com.