Not everyone is ready for your (or my) advice

If you are like me, you frequently find yourself offering advice and personal wisdom to those around you. From close friends and family members to perfect strangers, if I can offer even the tiniest nugget of useful information or emotional support, I feel something light up inside me and I feel somehow more complete as a person. I’d love it if someone walked up to me in the street with a pen and paper and said: “So, in your opinion, what is the key to worrying less what others think and getting on with living life on your own terms?” My reply would be something along the lines of: “I’m so glad you asked! I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time, and I have rather a lot of ideas on the subject. Shall we go find a coffee shop and get to work?”

It’s not that I want people to think I’m intellectually superior in some way, or that I like the sound of my own voice. On the contrary, talking about this stuff reveals an intense vulnerability inside of me, because it requires me to delve into the depths of my own personal experience, and to admit that I have spent the majority of my life in a state of terror, hiding behind as much social armour as I could possibly get my hands on (think university degrees, defence mechanisms, attempts to blend in with my outward appearance…) You know the sort of thing, I’m sure. I also find talking to people quite exhausting at times, because my brain is constantly trying to tailor what I say so that the other person in the conversation gets what they need in that moment in time. This may sound virtuous, but it’s exhausting, and I often end the day depleted of my personal store of energy.

But to be asked what I think about this most fascinating and wonderful of topics – one that is so personally relevant to me and which I have spent thousands of hours pondering. Well, that would just be an honour.

The trouble is that no one ever does ask – at least not in an obvious or forthright sort of way. And if they do, they are only able to hear what I have to say according to their own personal reference point, and that might mean ignoring things they aren’t ready to hear, or feeling offended by a simple universal truth about human nature which simply hasn’t found its way into their consciousness yet.

And yet I have this unbelievable desire inside of me to help others to worry less and to feel more freedom in their lives. Writing is one way to achieve that, and I hope that this blog goes some way to brightening a few people’s days or enabling them to see the world through new eyes. If you are here, reading this post, it is because you are ready and open to the ideas I am discussing. I am extremely grateful for that, and honoured that you are taking the time to work your way through my ramblings and find something of personal relevance in them.

Perhaps writing is the answer to my desire to help others – more so than I currently give credit to it for. Maybe I need to start to trust that there are people out there who have asked me to give my thoughts and ideas, just not in the obvious way I’m waiting around for. It certainly feels like I’m being called towards something, and saying no to that calling is not bringing me any inner peace whatsoever. Who’d have thought it?!

I think what a lot of this comes down to is feeling like a small insignificant speck in a giant universe. Our view of the world is so much more expansive now than it ever has been, and the opportunity for us to feel unworthy, invisible or insignificant is so much greater. But in my world, I am everything – as you are in yours. I don’t believe that life is meaningless or that we don’t all have something unique to contribute to the world. And if I was to take my own advice, I’d choose myself, and stop waiting for others to do it for me.

So until someone does walk up to me in the street and ask for my thoughts on how to overcome feelings of worry and inadequacy, I’m just going to keep writing and trusting that there are plenty of people out there who are in exactly the right place in their lives to begin absorbing my ideas and insights.

Finally, let’s all try not to get too offended when someone isn’t willing or able to hear the advice we have to offer. There was a time when we weren’t ready for it either.

Love always,

Kath

I’m just a teenage dirtbag

So, one of my biggest obstacles for moving forward in life and doing what I want to do (as opposed to what I suspect others want me to do) is that I have an angry, scared and confused teenage version of myself who feels stuck and controlled. I woke up this morning feeling just this – controlled and powerless – and began to have a gentle conversation with myself about it, whilst trying not to judge myself for how I’m feeling at this moment in time.

This concept of different selves has slowly emerged for me over the last few years, and I’ve become increasingly aware that my teenage years were a particularly dark phase in my life. These are the years when I decided that the only way to survive and feel safe was to work incredibly hard to get the very best grades, and to decipher what other people deemed acceptable in every interaction I had with another human being. This is a tricky and pointless endeavour, I must warn you, since everyone you meet will have a different idea of what’s ‘right’ or ‘good’.

So yeah, teenage me is terrified. She doesn’t believe me when I tell her that she is loved and that it’s safe to follow her heart and do what feels right for her. She’s definitely more on board with my adult view of the world than she was previously, but when a big change comes along, she tends to get really angry and try her best to control the situation.

I can’t encourage this kind of personal insight enough; getting to know your many ‘selves’ can be an incredibly important and useful tool for addressing any hang-ups you might have and living the most balanced and joyful life you possibly can.

I used to see this teenage version of myself as a problem. I didn’t like her very much because she seemed so angry, and as a person who struggles to express ‘negative’ emotions, I found it difficult to accept this part of myself. Expressing anger is a dangerous business, and absolutely makes me a terrible person – or at least that’s what I’ve believed for most of my life. It’s taken me until now to realise that all emotions are acceptable, and that to not express or acknowledge huge chunks of your personal/inner experience is a recipe for misery.

Slowly but surely, I’m beginning to value and even treasure this angry adolescent version of myself, because she is only ever trying to do what she feels is the best. She’s using the tools she has at her disposal to try to keep me safe, and if it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. It’s through her experience of the world that I’ve learnt to worry less about what others think, and to place a much higher value on my own inner journey. It’s thanks to her that I’m now pursuing my dreams. And if I really wish to make the leap and live the life I suspect I’m supposed to be living, she needs to come along for the ride – both as a navigational aid, and so that she can continue her journey towards healing and learn to express the parts of herself that she’s long suspected are bad and unworthy.

I realise now that I’m almost at the end of this blog post that I haven’t explained the reason for the title: ‘I’m just a teenage dirtbag’. Well, when I was feeling all angsty and mixed up this morning, I went to turn on the radio and sent an intention out into the universe that whatever song came on would somehow give me an insight into what I was feeling. Hilarious, thanks universe.

I must go now. Me and my teenage dirtbag self have some work to do.

Sending much love and encouragement to all of you.

Bye for now x

Let’s get some clarity

Does life sometimes feel like a giant jigsaw puzzle to you? With all of the pieces laid out on the floor in front of you, and only the most basic understanding of how to make the whole thing come together? If so, you can join my club, because this seems to be my default setting at the moment. My usual tactic for dealing with this situation is to try to think and rationalise my way out of it. I add more mental clutter and noise to a head already full of ‘bits and pieces’. I don’t know how many more times I will have to go through this process before I finally realise that the only thing I really need to do is to get quiet, take a break from my usual routine and gain some much needed perspective. Sometimes we have to make this happen for ourselves. by booking some time off or taking up a daily meditation practice. At other times, life will force us to pause and take some time out from all the over-analysis, like for example if the author of a certain blog were to come down with the MOTHER OF ALL VIRUSES! I’m always nervous to use the term ‘flu’, but this ain’t no bog standard cold, I can tell you. In a strange sort of way, though, this illness has been my friend. It has made me stop trying to figure things out – constantly efforting and striving, exhausting myself in the process. Come to think of it, maybe there’s a reason why my immune system is shot to pieces at the moment…

Anyhow. A few very obvious answers have emerged during my confinement and forced resting period, and I have experienced clarity for the first time in a long time. And oh how delicious and wonderful it feels! It’s like, having swum for days through muddy waters, I can finally see what I’m moving towards, and why I bothered to set out on this journey in the first place. I don’t want to risk boring you with too many personal details, but I’m sure you’re just a teeny bit intrigued to know what insights I’ve had over the last few days. If not, you can always skip to the next paragraph, and I won’t ever know about it! So here goes. The following are now BLATANTLY obvious to me:

  • I am craving a sense of community and a group of people with whom to share common goals
  • Having spent most of my life in fear of other people, I now realise that ‘people’ are absolutely 100% what I want to focus my life on. By which I mean, I feel that a major driving force in my life is to help others to heal, and in doing so to heal myself. Whether that’s by writing, spending time together or learning how to give Indian head massages, I don’t really know. The answer didn’t come to me with much small print, so I guess I’ll work the detail out later. I just know that I have something to offer, and that the longer I sit on this ‘something’ and tell myself that I’m being ridiculous, the more time I waste.
  • I need to actually start doing the things that float through my head on a daily basis. Writing, meditating, going on more adventures, connecting with more people through exercise groups or other social activities, creating unique pieces of craft and art with my hand-spun wool… I mean, I LOVE wool, I love colours, I love creating and crafting and experimenting and making things with my hands. So what the hell am I waiting for?

What am I waiting for? That’s a good question, and I suspect I know the answer. Permission. I’m waiting for someone from the administrative department of the universe to turn up on my doorstep and tell me that my dreams and desires have been approved. I’m waiting for everyone I know to suddenly be on my wavelength and 100% understand who I am and what makes me tick, despite the fact that they have completely different dreams and life experiences. I’m waiting for the day I wake up and believe in myself wholeheartedly and without any fear whatsoever that what I’m doing is invalid or wrong or stupid.

So yeah. I’m waiting for a bunch of things that will never happen, and if I keep waiting, I risk not bestowing my gifts and talents upon the world. Because I truly do believe that we are all needed, and that showing up as our true selves in the greatest gift we could ever give to the world. Anyone who follows this blog on a regular basis may have noticed that I’m becoming more spiritual by the day, and one of my favourite authors, Gill Edwards, once wrote that we are all pieces in a giant jigsaw, and that we are all needed to make the whole. This idea literally revolutionised my life when I first encountered it a few years ago. Having spent all my life trying to prove myself to be a worthy human being, to discover that I was not only worthy but also needed gave me the greatest sense of joy and freedom. It was also an idea that felt like coming home – I think, despite my insecurities, I had always suspected that I was good enough, and that I maybe even had a specific purpose for being here in this lifetime.

Unfortunately, the only way to get to my life’s purpose is to do what feels right, and I’ve come to realise over the last few years that things that feel right for me stand a good chance of being a bit scary/outside of my comfort zone and of ruffling a few feathers among friends and family. Not to mention the fact that in order to work out what feels right, you have to dedicate time to getting quiet and letting the answers come to you.

Before I close out this blog post, I just want to make a couple of things clear. Firstly, I believe we all have a certain purpose to fulfil. Whether you are spiritually inclined or not, you can still come to see yourself as the owner of several unique skills, insights, talents etc. and that the world benefits from having you around.

Secondly, by ‘life’s purpose’ I don’t mean something grand like changing international law, helping to save the rain forest or healing millions of people by becoming a well-known spiritual author. My ego would love to think that my purpose looks extremely important and grand, but I think I may have to settle for a little more run of the mill existence. Which actually suits me, since I like a quiet life.

So that’s it. That’s my wisdom for today (and yesterday – I started writing this last night!). I don’t know how wise or useful it will prove to be, but I’m starting to realise that having ideas and not doing anything with them is a recipe for misery.

Bye for now folks.

Reflections on life and our place within it

Tell me life isn’t beautiful and meaningful

And I will say you are blind

Open your eyes and heart to the present moment

And you will see all the beauty life has to offer

Life, love and beauty don’t exist outside of you

They exist within you

You are life

You are love

You are beauty

Say yes to who you truly are

The world needs you

___________________________________________________

This small snippet was written whilst on hold to an insurance company earlier today. A strange moment to feel inspired, I realise, although the sun was shining in through the living room window and I had a lilting programme on the TV about the journey barges make along canals in the UK. So I guess on balance it was most likely that and not the insurance company that caused me to become reflective and whimsical.

I have spent my whole life (up until recent years) believing wholeheartedly that life (whatever that means) existed outside of me. It was ‘out there’ somewhere, which left me with a constant sense of ‘not enough’, since no matter what I did there was always something else I should be doing. I’d leave the house wearing a nice scarf I’d bought, only to see someone wearing a better scarf – “that’s the one I should have bought”, I would think to myself. The same feeling of inadequacy would occur in all aspects of my life, leaving me constantly striving but never quite managing to feel that I was enough.

I still struggle with feelings of inadequacy. Of course I do – I’m human after all! But I’m slowly beginning to realise that an entire universe lives inside of me, and that I am free to make choices that feel good for me – rather than trying to do everything perfectly or fit in with other people’s ideas of who I should be.

It’s a long old journey, but a journey towards joy is well worth making. I happen to be a big fan of Martha Beck, and I recently saw a quote that really resonated with me:

“Your job, now and for the rest of your life, is to heal your true nature and let it thrive” – Martha Beck (https://tinyurl.com/y9rzrpdx)

What a wonderful thought!

Here’s to you and all the life, love and beauty that lives inside of you.

Kath

What do you see?

What do you see, when you look at me?

Do I look shiny and sparkly and radiant with life?

Troubled, perhaps?

Looking for answers…

What I would like you to see, is all of me.

The truth; regardless of what that may look like

I cannot hide anymore

I have discovered who I am

Please, come and meet me.

Come and dance and sing with me

Let’s play together, in this most beautiful of playgrounds.

Let’s dare to look each other in the eyes and see what we may see

Knowing that perfection lies inside of us

A magic spark;

Waiting to set the world on fire

Know you are loved

All my life, I have worried that I wasn’t loved, or lovable. I wasn’t really aware of this deep-seated concern of mine. I knew – in theory – that my family loved me. I was so sure of this fact that it never occurred to me to ask myself if I really felt loved. To know something in theory is very different to knowing it in your heart and soul, and when I look back, so many of my problems (if not all of them) stem from a feeling of unworthiness. I suppose another way of describing this is to say that I felt I was only worthy or lovable or acceptable etc… if I met other people’s expectations, which are such a flimsy and changeable thing to try to grasp onto. You might finally decide you’ve cracked it and know how to please a particular relative of yours – let’s say your mum – only to discover that her mood and opinions the next day seem completely different. You realise with horror that all your sister/dad/son really want is to have the final say or to express the loudest opinion. I have certainly experienced the frustration of echoing someone’s ideas in the faint hopes of pleasing them, only to discover that they would rather contradict themselves than agree with you on anything. Other people’s behaviour will always be their own responsibility, and no matter how hard we try, we can’t find a sense of peace by altering ourselves to please them. On the contrary, this will always take us further and further away from a sense of love, since we are moving away from our true selves.

So if you can learn to feel how loved you are – not with your head, but with your heart – and to accept that you can’t ever please everyone all of the time, you can reach a place in your life where you can enter a room without fear of not being good enough. The best version of yourself will always be the truest one, and that can and will involve upsetting a few people on occasion.

But how can we know that we are loved, even if sometimes it doesn’t feel that way? Well, ask yourself this: do you love your family, even though they aren’t perfect and sometimes/often upset you? Do you love your cat even though it’s scratched a new piece of furniture? Do you love your husband/wife even though they constantly forget to take the rubbish bins out? Yes, of course you do! And in fact, as much as certain people may get on your nerves, would you really want them to be any different? Well, to be fair, it would be nice if your mum was less judgemental or your dad didn’t still treat you like a child, but at the end of the day, that’s part of who they are, and that’s OK. If you resist these aspects of your family and loved ones, you are placing conditions on your love in the same way they do when they call into question some aspect of your being. So yes, you are loved. Very much so, in fact. And if you are open to the idea of a benevolent universe that knows each of us in great detail (as Gill Edwards describes in her book ‘Life is a Gift’), then you should know that your worthiness has never been in question. It is only our false beliefs about ourselves and the world that make us feel that we are less than we should be.

All of this isn’t easy. It takes time to warm up to the idea that we are all loved and worthy in our own right, and that we are free to be who we are regardless of whose feathers we might ruffle. And the next time your get hurt, you will probably feel tempted to retreat back into a sense of loneliness and fear. And if you do – that’s fine! You’re only human after all. Take your time and practice feeling loved and loving others in return. Entering a room knowing that you are loved – whether by the people in front of you or the universe at large – is completely different to walking into a room already fearing that you’ve fallen short in some way.

OK, this has been quite a whimsical post, but I’m in kind of a whimsical mood! I think it’s Christmas and spending so much time with family and friends. It isn’t always the easiest time of the year, but knowing we are loved can make all those social gatherings a lot more bearable – or maybe it will give you the courage you need to say no to something when you’d rather be somewhere else.

I hope you’ve all had a warm and cosy Christmas.

Bye for now!

Kath

p.s. Image courtesy of riccardo f.m. via Flickr Creative Commons: https://tinyurl.com/ybp3b2jw

The most magical time of the year?

Hello people of the internet. I hope this blog post finds you well.

I have decided to keep a record of all of the magical/out of the ordinary experiences I have had throughout my life. I’m going through a process of awakening at the moment, in which I’m coming to see what the human existence is really all about, and deciding if I have the strength and conviction to trust what I believe to be true. Since my beliefs are largely a result of what life and experience have taught me thus far, where better to start than with the things that I have personally seen and felt?

You see, all this spiritual stuff and personal development was OK when I placed ownership on anyone but myself. Spiritualism and the lessons self-help literature can teach us seemed like concrete things that I could grasp on to when I needed an anchor, but the whole point of all these teachings is that they enable us to connect with something inside of us. They are the catalyst for transformation, but the transformation is very much our own. This is scary for someone like me, who has always lacked her own voice and looked to others for what is right and wrong.

I hope some of this sounds familiar to one or two of you – surely I’m not the only one going through an existential crisis?!!

So here we go – a complete list of all the magical moments in my life (that I can remember and which are interesting enough to include in this blog post!). Because I need to start trusting my own inner voice, which has always led me to believe that there is more to life than atoms and molecules.

  1. Crying myself to sleep one night as a teenager, and begging for a sign that everything would be OK. My mum had told me to ask for a white feather, so this is what I did. On my way to college the next morning, a large white feather slowly drifted in waves and landed right by my feet.
  2. Again as a teenager, I was on my way home from college one cold winter afternoon, and for some unknown reason decided to walk back and use the payphone to ask for a lift. When I called it turned out I didn’t have my keys with me and no one was in the house, so walking home would have meant standing out in the cold waiting for someone to get home. I remember thinking as I walked back to college to use the payphone that it made no sense to do this, since I’d already been half-way home. I waited in the warmth of the college until I was able to confirm that someone was home.
  3. One night my sister and I played a game where she looked at random cards from a pack of playing cards and I had to see what number she was looking at. I got 10 right in a row and we got so spooked that we stopped doing it!
  4. I used to be able to predict lottery numbers – unfortunately, only when the numbers had been selected by the machine but before the number was revealed to the viewing public. I regularly used to get three of four numbers correct.
  5. On my way to college one day, I saw someone walking on the opposite side of the pavement out of the corner of my eye. I turned to look at them, and saw the lower part of a torso slowly fade out to nothing.
  6. Quite a few years ago now I worked for the NHS and used to make a fairly regular trip over to where some colleagues worked in a nearby hospital library. The library was supposedly haunted. One day, I was sat at my computer behind the library desk, and I heard a female voice singing, crystal clear and quite tuneful. It suddenly occurred to me that there was only myself and a colleague in the library, so I asked her if she had been singing. No, she had not. I also checked what the sounds from outside sounded like, since it was summer and the windows were open. I could certainly hear muffled voices and conversations from outside, but nothing as clear as the singing. When I later recalled this event to another colleague, she explained that one of the ghosts in the library was supposedly a lady in hospital gowns who wandered around singing. I doubted my own experience for long after this occurrence, but now I’m more inclined to trust that it happened.
  7. This is one of my favourites. I had booked a chimney sweep, and put the £45 fee in an old purse that I was due to throw out. It was two £20 notes, two £2 coins and one £1 coin. The purse was on the bookshelf in my living room, where the fireplace in question was being dealt with. I was aware of having someone in the house and made sure I only went as far away as the next room, so when I went to pay I was really surprised to find the money wasn’t there. What opportunity had he had to steal the money? He really didn’t seem like the type and, well, I was sure I’d have heard or seen something from the kitchen. I paid by cheque and did what we all do in these situations – beat myself up about it. Over the next few weeks I went back to the purse on several occasions, turning it inside out trying to make the money reappear. It just seemed so odd, and I had a gut feeling it hadn’t been stolen. One day, just as I was about to throw the purse out and forget the whole saga, I said a little prayer to the universe, along the lines of: “OK universe, I know I’ve been beating myself up about this and I know I need to learn to give myself a break. If I promise – really promise – to forgive myself for misplacing the money, please could I have it back because £45 is a lot of money!” I opened the purse and…. There it was. Two £20 notes, two £2 coins and one £1 coin. My husband swears he didn’t replace the money – and in any case he didn’t know the exact denominations.
  8. Only a few years ago, I was in an interview for a job I really wanted. With extra special emphasis on the really. I can’t exactly explain why, but I felt a strong magnetic pull to this job – almost as though it wanted me as much as I wanted it. So I was understandably nervous leading up to and during the interview, and when I was asked a question I couldn’t instantly think of a good answer to, I used a trick I’d read somewhere, which is to ask if you can take a moment to consider your answer. As I pondered, I stared into the corner of the ceiling and realised that my mind had gone completely blank – like a clean, white sheet of paper with no trace of any useful information. So I was surprised to discover myself giving a full and eloquent answer, without knowing where it had come from. The interviewees just looked at me for a few seconds, seemingly impressed with what they’d heard, and moved on to the next question.
  9. After three long and joyous/gruelling years of working in the job mentioned above, I reached a point whereby the only way forward for me was to quit and make a big change in my life. The change was calling to me, and it made me quake in my boots just thinking about it. If I did this, I sensed that everything would change for the better, but I didn’t have the courage – not least because I had no concrete plans whatsoever for what I would do with my life from that point onward. So I asked the universe for some guidance on my way into town to meet my mum. The guidance came in the form of a greetings card, which caught my eye in this gorgeous little gift shop I’ve been visiting for years. The card (of which there were many, but only this one called to me to read it) said this: “Life is like riding a bike – to keep your balance, you must keep moving”. That was all the confirmation I needed, as I had been going through a particularly magical phase in my life and listening to the ‘whispers’ from the universe was a daily occurrence for me. So I quit, and everything changed, and I’ve never been more scared or prouder of myself than in that moment.
  10. A year or two later, whilst walking to my sister’s house, I remembered that it’s important to ask for the things we want in life. So I silently asked the universe for a friend, and I was very specific that it had to be a proper friend, that I could be completely myself around, and who was on my wavelength. Basically, I was in need of a soul friend, which is something I’ve never truly had before. The other day, I was round at my friend’s house and I suddenly remembered what I had asked for. And boy oh boy did I get what I asked for: a friend like I’ve never had before, and who I cannot now imagine my life without. She has opened up my world and encouraged me to be more and more of who I am, and in return, she has gained the friend that she has always wanted.
  11. A doctor once mentioned something called Emotional Freedom Technique to me. I filed it away in my list of things to explore, and was later reminded of it when I read about it in a book. Hmmm, I thought – now feels like the right time to pursue this, but where on earth am I going to find a practitioner close to my home town? I had a look on the internet, couldn’t find anything, and settled on teaching myself how to use the technique, even though I knew this would never happen. Then one night I was giving my mum a shoulder rub and she asked where you can go to get a proper back massage that isn’t one of those beauty parlours with the false nails and eyelashes (nothing wrong with either of those things, obviously, but it’s not my mum’s style and she would feel uncomfortable in that kind of environment). I mentioned a local therapy centre I knew of, and upon checking the list of treatments they offer, there on the list was Emotional Freedom Technique. I was blown away, and subsequently signed up for sessions which have proven to be life changing. I realise that many people would dismiss this as coincidence, and of course I am open-minded to the idea. But this was one of many instances in my life where exactly the right thing/situation/person has come along exactly when I needed it.

It feels scary sharing these stories with you, because I know many people would dismiss or ridicule them. But that’s OK. No one should be forced to believe something they don’t. All I know is that these experiences are real, and that trusting my inner voice includes making room for the fact that there is more to life than meets the eye. Slowly but surely I hope to become more and more sure of my right to be here on this planet, living this life; not because someone else has told me so, but rather because I am able to know things without needing to be told.

Sending you all my very best wishes for the New Year.

Kath

p.s. Image courtesy of Andrew Melnychuk via Flickr Creative Commons: https://tinyurl.com/y9yd37u8

Recipe for the perfect human being

This is a simple recipe, which can easily be followed once you realise that all the other ingredients you once thought were important are in fact completely unnecessary. The recipe is as follows:

Take 1 human being

Add a dollop of doing the best you can with the knowledge and skills you have

See life as a gift which is unfolding just for you, and never question your right to be here, to make mistakes or to struggle.

Take a whole heap of love and hold it in your heart

Additional notes:

Please don’t add any of the traditional ingredients, such as people-pleasing, judgement, perfectionism, self-loathing/lack of worthiness, or a heavy focus on achieving what you believe others see as important. All of these things look good enough, but they will make the finished recipe taste bitter and unsatisfying.

I have yet to master this recipe myself, but I intend to keep practising it until I have it just right – or as close to just right as I can manage!

Lots of love,

Kath

 

p.s. image courtesy of tinyfroglet via Flickr Creative Commons: https://tinyurl.com/yca3kqez

What do you want to do with your life?

I don’t know about you, but most of my life, until the revelations of my thirties, I felt that the best way to get by in life was to make as little trouble as possible – to please others, and somehow fly under the radar. Life wasn’t about doing what I wanted to; it was about taking all the opinions and clues from the outside world, crunching the numbers and coming up with the perfect formula for my life. Funny thing is, it wasn’t my life, was it? It belonged to everyone except me. Sound familiar?

I wrote a while back that life is a strange place for me to be now that I’ve realised that people-pleasing and living up to the expectations of others isn’t necessary. It was making my miserable, but it felt safe, and all of my sense of worth came from being perceived in a positive way by others. So, what to do with my life now that my people-pleasing road trip is drawing to and end?

I don’t know if you believe in the mystical and magical things that can sometimes happen in life, but I was once sat contemplating my life and where I was up to etc. I felt suddenly compelled to take a book from my bookcase (which I never do – the bookcase in question is more of an archive of books I’ve already read). Anyway, I picked up a title by Alexander McCall Smith called ‘Morality for beautiful girls’, closed my eyes, flipped through the pages and stopped at a seemingly random place. Imagine my absolute shock when I realised I was looking at a chapter heading titled: ‘What do you want to do with your life?’. Hmm, I thought to myself. Life isn’t about doing; it’s about being and experiences and joy and… It’s not about what job I do or what holidays I go on. It’s about making the most of the experiences that come my way. I was, if anything, a little annoyed with the book for asking me such a stupid question. Stupid book. What does it know?

Well, in hindsight, maybe a lot more than I do – or did at the time. What I’ve come to realise is that unless you are an active creator of the moments in your life, you don’t get to choose what they look like, and your experiences will be limited and perhaps even a little soul crushing. Because our souls need to breathe and stretch their wings, and doing what others wish for or expect of us is about as far away as we can get from living a heart-centred life. Towing the line is the emotional equivalent of throwing in the towel and giving up on everything you’ve ever wanted; whether that’s for yourself, others or the world at large.

We all have dreams, no matter who we are, or how small or unusual or impossible they may seem to someone else. Many of us won’t be aware of our dreams because we’ve forgotten them among the business and general chaos of being an adult. But if you think back to your childhood, you won’t have to look too far to remember all the things you used to dream of. Personally, I used to imagine being an acclaimed artist or a pilot. This was at the age of about 8, and my greatest joy in life was being allowed to stay up a bit later to watch the Crystal Maze and Gladiators (UK reference – my apologies to anyone who hasn’t heard of these wonderful British television programmes from the 1990s). So why I wanted to fly and paint masterpieces I’ll never know; it’s just something that used to capture my imagination. I also assumed that I would make a positive difference to the world at large, although I wasn’t sure how. I remember feeling pretty annoyed at how badly the planet was being treated and thinking that I should probably do something about it (but not before I’ve caught up with the Crystal Maze, obviously!).

It doesn’t matter that my dreams from childhood bear no resemblance to my actual life. The important thing is that I had any dreams at all, and that I was actively thinking about the things I’d like to see change in the world. I had this sense that my life mattered, and that countless opportunities and possibilities lay ahead of me. When I thought about life, it seemed like something to run towards, rather than something to run away from. Some people may call this naivety, but I think it’s adults who lose their way and forget to see things how they really are. We forget the magic, we don’t make time for day-dreams, and if we’re really unlucky, we start to equate life with drudgery and hard work. Society plays a big part in this, of course. When you look around you, especially in Western cultures, it’s no wonder we lose our way and forget what’s important.

So, what do I do now that I realise I’ve been letting life wash over me, rather than creating my own waves? Well, I’ve got some decisions to make, some dreams to dream, and a renewed sense of purpose to gain. I need to start creating meaning in my own life, instead of letting others tell me what’s meaningful. I need to start creating moments and holding space for myself and others, rather than waiting for a phone call from someone inviting me to do something (and therefore saving me from having to think of something).

Life is all about choice, freedom and expression. Love and joy are everywhere around us, just waiting for us to say yes. But we can’t do this passively; we must be bold enough to show up, let ourselves be seen, and ultimately to choose our best life.

Oh, and here’s a little poem I found myself jotting down the other evening:

Go find your joy
Go find your purpose
Go out into the world
Let it see you
And cast your eyes upon its magnificence
Don’t label yourself;
Be wild and free
Express yourself
And feel your connection to the rest of humanity
You’ve come so far;
Know that nothing is outside of your reach
And above all else, know that you are loved

Thanks for being here and reading this. I hope you found even the tiniest bit of inspiration to live life the way you want to.

Kath

p.s. Image is courtesy of Chris R. via Flickr: https://tinyurl.com/yc8rtwqy

Self-acceptance is a unique and personal journey

There is no rule book or set of processes to go through to gain a sense of self-acceptance. How could there be, when we are all so unique and have experienced such different life circumstances? That’s not to say that there aren’t tools and resources that we can use, and teachers (in the form of friends, authors, movies etc.) that will encourage us on our journey. It’s more that how we interpret them and what they mean to us as individuals will be highly personal.

This, of course, is no bad thing. If anything it’s part of the wonder that is human existence. Life is beautifully messy and chaotic. We are beautifully messy and chaotic. We are all united in our uniqueness and the complex twists and turns that life sometimes takes. Difference is a unifying factor – not a reason to find fault, or fear what we don’t understand.

My problem of late has been realising that who I am is so very different to the person I thought I was (or ought to be), that transitioning – or allowing myself to transform into the person I was always meant to be – is downright terrifying. Let me give you some background…

I’ve always been someone who feels things intensely and is highly emotional. I soak up other people’s emotions like a sponge, making many social encounters emotionally and physically draining. This has made working in a shared office environment practically impossible for me in the past, and I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I’m not suited to a busy, fast-paced lifestyle. I used to believe this meant that there’s something wrong with me or that I’m deficient in some way, but I’m coming to understand and respect this aspect of myself and not view it as a weakness or a failing.

My environment has always been extremely important to me, and the smallest detail such as lighting or the position of my desk in relation to the door has always had a huge impact on me. I know I’m not unique in this and that many people are ‘fussy’ about their office or home environments. I’m sure I’m not the only person who drives by houses in the winter time and wonders how on earth people can stand to sit in a brightly lit room with the television on full blast, with not a scented candle or joss stick in sight! I also detest brightly lit supermarkets and shops, which seems to be the norm these days. Something about those harsh overhead strip lights just does something to my brain and I can’t think straight or concentrate. Modern day living just doesn’t seem to suit me, no matter how much I’ve tried to make myself fit in. I often wish I was living in a small town with cobbled roads and a smattering of local shops – all lit by candlelight! I’d probably hate this is reality, but something about it really does appeal to me.

I’ve been a career person most of my adult life; ticking off the list of things to do as you enter and work your way through adulthood:

  • Get a good education
  • Get a job and stay there for approximately three years
  • Move on to a better job with greater prospects and increased pay
  • Get married and start thinking about having kids

In the last few years I’ve come to realise that this life was not serving me. It wasn’t allowing me to give the best of myself, to express who I really am, or to live anything other than a half-life. Now, I’d like to say that I came to this decision myself, by a process of careful analysis and deduction – but the truth is that life forced me to take a huge step back and reevaluate just about everything in my life, from my relationships to my career and my style of dress. My way of perceiving the world also changed, as I could no longer believe that our existence on this planet is just a happy accident and that human existence has no real meaning. I’m not religious. I do not believe in God in the sense that a member of an organised religion does. But I do believe that we are all part of something much greater than ourselves, that we are surrounded by guidance at every step of the way, and that we each had a purpose (or ten) when we entered this lifetime. I’ve experienced enough strange and magical moments over the last few years that I have no choice now but to wholeheartedly believe such whimsical notions as:

  • Life loves us all
  • We have a soul/higher-self that is always trying to guide us towards our highest good
  • We all have something unique and meaningful to offer the world

I’m finding these things very hard to come to terms with, because I still feel like a bit of a nutcase when I express my views on life. People regularly giggle at me, and I often make a joke of myself by making reference to hippies and rainbows, and generally poo-pooing my own belief system. It’s just going to take time, I guess. The day will come when I can stand tall, look someone in the eyes and say: “You are a beautiful beam of light”, without laughing nervously afterwards! In the meantime, I’ll just keep giggling.

So, as you can see, self-acceptance is quite a roller-coaster for me, because to accept who I truly am, I have to accept that:

  • My life now looks completely different to how it did
  • A lot of people in my life either don’t approve or are taking a while to get on board
  • My views are more than a little ‘out there’ for the average conversation over a cup of coffee
  • The more I believe in myself, the happier and more fulfilled I feel, so I have no choice but to keep going, no matter how much I want to run back to the safety of my old life. Anxiety and depression come when I deny something fundamental about myself, and follow social constructs about what I should do and who I should be.

What does self-acceptance mean to you? Are you gay but don’t feel able to come to terms with it? Are you a geek surrounded by people who don’t understand your passion for 18th Century literature? Are you a wild soul who lives in the suburbs and longs to sell up and build a tree house in the forest?

No matter who you are or what you’re going through, self-acceptance is possible. Please don’t tell yourself that your life is so unique that no one else has ever overcome something similar and found peace within themselves.

The one thing that we can all benefit from, no matter who we are or what we’re aiming for, is a tribe: a group of people who are on our wavelength, who help us to become more and more of who we are, and who inspire us to live our best lives. This tribe of people will look different for all of  us, but they will all have the same effect of supporting us and providing space for us to explore our true selves in a safe environment.

I’m at a loss at the moment. My old journey seems to have come to an end, and I haven’t fully embraced the next chapter of my life yet. I’m in a state of limbo; too scared to move forward, but even more scared to go back to my old ways. I’m not 100% sure where I belong or what my ‘tribe’ looks like. I guess for now all I can do is respect the process, be kind to myself and know that no matter how small my progress may be, I’m moving towards something wonderful.

I love you all, because I’m a great big hippy – yay!

Bye for now,

Kath x

 

p.s. Image is by Travis Simon via Flickr: https://tinyurl.com/ya6d6vtg