Category Archives: depression

Learning to trust what arises

Let’s be honest, if we had the choice, we’d all want to be happy most, if not all of the time; we’re only human after all. In reality, life is a little trickier than that.

The trouble with feeling low, sad or anxious is that they don’t feel like very friendly emotions! They feel, if anything, like some form of punishment for something we’ve done wrong. We judge the emotion, and we judge ourselves for feeling it, which in turn only makes us feel worse.

I’ve read before about diving into every moment in life, trusting that it is our friend and not our foe. Spiritual writers seem particularly keen for us to ‘trust what arises’, no matter how bad we may feel at times. If I happen to be in a difficult place when I come across these messages, my reaction is usually not a positive one!! “If only they knew how bad I feel and how hard I’ve been trying to stop feeling this way, they wouldn’t be encouraging me to dive in deep and accept what is!”

My go-to response to feeling a difficult emotion is often to look for the escape button, in whatever form that may take. Now please don’t misunderstand me here – I’m not in the least suggesting that you stop yourself from looking for support, guidance or comfort in your moments of darkness. I don’t know about you, but I’m becoming increasingly aware of the fact that I’m not in this life alone, and whereas I absolutely must take responsibility for my own emotions, that does not mean that I have to do it alone. In fact, seeking support and guidance isn’t hitting the escape button – it’s a way of making what you’re feeling manageable and ensuring that you feel heard, understand and held. This is ALL GOOD and extremely important. Hitting the escape button, on the other hand, may include something that will temporarily numb the pain, but in the process prevent you from really experiencing what it is that is wanting to be seen. Think along the lines of a glass or two of wine, asking for reassurance instead of trusting that you can handle whatever life throws your way, or reaching out to someone you know gives you that rush of acceptance and approval, when what you really need is to accept and approve of yourself.

As I write this, I’m aware of how very hard it is to dive into the negative emotions that arise, and how much I still find myself wanting to fast-track my way to the good side of life. In fact, I’m writing this as an important reminder to myself, because it takes courage to sit with the ‘bad’ and trust that the ‘good’ will return. This stuff is hard guys! Like, super hard and gritty and painful and messy… It sucks, and I know it sucks, so please don’t think that I’m of the impression that any of this is easy.

It seems to me that there are a few key things to remember when it comes to navigating the darker side of life, and most of them have to do with trust… So get ready to learn how to trust, let go and allow life to unfold. It may seem scary, but it’s actually extremely empowering, and will help you to feel more connected with yourself and your fellow human beings. (Remember: no matter how alone you may feel, we are all in this together, and you are connected with every other living thing on the planet. The less ‘true’ this feels, the more you have to trust that it is).

  • Your life is not meaningless and random – it is VERY meaningful and everything is always exactly as it should be.
  • In every moment there are opportunities to trust more, let go of the need to control, and allow things to just ‘be’, knowing that life is always cheering you on and encouraging you to reach for joy.
  • Trust that you are worthy of joy and happiness. Often, when we feel particularly bad, joy can seem like it’s a very long way from us indeed. What I’ve come to realise is that joy is always present within us; it’s our ability to tap into it and get past our mental and emotional blocks that matters. If joy seems far from your reach, consider that it may actually be closer to you than you could ever have imagined, just waiting for you to give yourself a break, learn to love yourself or let go of the past…
  • Trust the journey that you are on. You know who you are, what phase of your life you are in, and what it is that you need to do to connect with that deep well of joy that exists inside you at all times. Don’t let the demons fool you into thinking that they know you better than you know yourself!! If anything, recognise that your fears are a natural part of being human, thank them for their concern, but ultimately remind them that they don’t get to call the shots. (NB: for more on living a more full and creative life in spite of the fear that arises for all of us, read ‘Big Magic’ by Elizabeth Gilbert – you won’t regret it!)
  • All of the above will help you to relax and breathe, anchoring you in the present moment, which ultimately is all that we ever have.
  • Remember that breathing through the pain doesn’t mean accepting that this is how you will always feel. It is absolutely possible for you to accept pain and anguish, whilst dreaming of and trusting in a joyful future 🙂
  • Remember that you are ALWAYS loved. If you need a little encouragement with this one, please listen to ‘In Dreams’ by Jai-Jagdeesh. It’s a beautiful song to play just before bedtime.

As I move through my life, I am becoming increasingly aware that the only version of life that makes sense to me is a magical one, where we are all connected in a giant cosmic journey. The more magic I allow to be present in my life, the deeper my sense of trust and belonging. I’ve tried living in a mundane world-view, and it felt so far from the truth, and brought me so much pain, that I have no choice now but to dive in deep to the spiritual life I feel strongly is calling to me. If you too feel the call of the wild, please consider reading some of Martha Beck’s many wonderful books. She is one crazy lady, in the best and most wonderful way. There are days when just remembering that she exists brings me a sense of relief and belonging. I love you Martha!

Now go forth and allow yourself to begin trusting in yourself and your journey.

Much love,

Kath Xxx

 

Image courtesy of Terry Johnston via Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License

Do you hear me?

I have recently become involved with a local Deaf and Hearing Support charity, as a volunteer and attendee of their free weekly sign language classes. As I’m in the UK, the language we are learning is British Sign Language (I’m told it’s VERY different from American Sign Language, plus the numerous other sign languages that exist – in fact, even within the UK there are many regional differences, making it just as complex to learn and understand as any spoken language).

You may be wondering by now why I’m writing about sign language, so I’ll crack on and cut to the chase. All of this has got me thinking about how we communicate with each other, and indeed with ourselves. I am only just now beginning to understand the devastating impact of having not felt ‘heard’ as a child and a teenager, and possibly also as an adult. We may be sounding out words, but whether or not they are being fully received and really listened to is another matter.

Let’s be honest, there are a whole host of reasons why we may feel unheard. Perhaps we struggle to communicate what we need, struggling even to formulate our emotions and experiences into sentences the other person can understand, or shying away from what we want to say because we fear being judged. Perhaps the person we’re speaking to can’t understand our point of view, or is too wrapped up in their own issues to fully empathise with us in the way we want them to. Or perhaps they are literally not listening to us, but rather coasting through the conversation with a series of words and noises which sound good enough, but our gut tells us that they’re just not interested. Whatever the reason, the effects can feel really devastating, especially if we’re talking to someone we feel really ought to understand, and whose opinion and understanding are important to us.

So why is this so important? Why do we need to feel heard in the first place? I’m sure most of you already know the answer: it’s simply part of the human experience to need to communicate the way we feel, and to thereby feel supported and part of a bigger whole. No man (or woman) is an island, and trying to operate alone is a very lonely and depressing experience.

I often find that I’m so frustrated with someone who isn’t meeting my conversational expectations, that I don’t realise I’m doing the same thing in return. I was talking with a family member earlier today, and because I was frustrated with them for not acknowledging what I had been saying, I started to lose interest in the conversation and give very minimal responses. “Listen to me!” I wanted to say. “Stop talking about yourself and listen to what I have to say”. It’s a vicious circle of people not feeling heard or acknowledged, often resulting in the individuals coming away feeling frustrated and depressed.

So what can we do to make sure that we’re really heard, and also that we’re aware of our own emotional and conversational needs?

  • Make time to do nothing. Carve out some time every day, no matter how small, just to take a breather, get some perspective and check in with your feelings. Keep a diary/journal if you want to. This can take any form you like – from a stream of consciousness to a bullet list of things to ask yourself, such as ‘how am I feeling?’ and ‘what do I need in this moment?’.
  • Develop an awareness of who amongst your friends and family is good to talk to, and who isn’t! Like it or not, there are often people in our lives we wish would really listen to us and provide that support and comfort we all crave, but for some reason they just aren’t able to give us what we need. Whilst this can really hurt, continuing to return to this person in the hopes that something will have changed is a recipe for heartache, frustration and a whole host of other emotions we’d rather not be feeling! Being realistic about what people have to offer means that you can ensure you seek support from the right places, and come away feeling lighter, not weighed down by additional worries.
  • Share how you feel. If you feel like someone in your life, such as your partner, isn’t listening to you in the way you’d like them to, consider letting them know. There’s no need to go in all guns blazing and blame them for not making enough effort – although obviously this might be the case! The best thing in my experience is to open up a conversation about what’s going on, what isn’t working for you, and how the other person feels about what you’re saying. Basically, just open up the line of communication and put your heads together to troubleshoot how you can both make sure you’re getting what you need. Consider carving out some time to get away from your routine, so that there’s enough mental space for you to really listen and be heard.
  • Cultivate friendships which feel good, with people who encourage you to express yourself and to become more and more of who you are. Some people drain our energy, whilst others build us up and help us to feel lighter. Once you’re aware of this, it’s easier to choose who to spend time with, when and how often. It’s not that there’s anything bad or wrong with people who drain your energy, or that by choosing not to spend time with them you are being disloyal to someone you love or care about as a friend. It’s just about being honest with yourself, knowing that if you take care of your needs, you will inevitably have more energy to give to everyone in your life.
  • Get creative! Your emotions don’t always need to be expressed as spoken or written words. Why not listen to some emotive music and do some freestyle dancing around the kitchen? Or if that’s a bit too out-there for you, maybe just get out some colouring pens and pencils and a blank sheet of paper and see what happens. I love to doodle and not put pressure on myself to create an artistic masterpiece – although sometimes I’m surprised by how much I like what I’ve drawn!

In conclusion, there’s a definite difference between hearing the words coming from someone’s mouth, and truly listening to what they’re saying/being emotionally available for them. And there is soooooo much to gain from listening to ourselves, and making sure we nurture and take care of ourselves the way we’d like others to take care of us. I often find myself feeling frustrated by how low I feel, when in theory I’m doing all the right things. But there’s a massive difference between what’s right on paper and what truly feels right for us. This has been a hard lesson for me to learn, and whilst I still wish that there was a set of precise instructions for me to follow as I go through life, I’m starting to see that I am a unique piece of a greater jigsaw puzzle, and that the world needs me – and all of us – to show up as the people we truly are underneath all the social norms, peer pressure and family expectations.

P.S. I really love writing to you, whoever you are. I’m really trying my hardest to be more motivated, because I really do want to share as much as I can about what I’ve learned – mostly as a result of my less than smooth path in life thus far! Or maybe I’ll write a few more blog posts and realise I’m out of ideas…! Joking aside, it’s hard to believe in yourself (or in my case, myself) enough to keep writing a blog, especially living in the UK where we’re not supposed to promote ourselves or talk confidently about our skills or talents! Persevere I shall, and if you’ve taken the tiniest nugget of wisdom from this post, then I’m a happy English bunny.

Peace be with you, my fellow earth dwellers.

Bye for now x

To feel loved, first love yourself.

If you drop something on the floor, I will pick it up for you.

If you need a shoulder to cry on, I will offer you two.

If you just don’t understand, I will provide as many answers as I can.

If you are sad and lonely, I will hold your hand until you feel strong again.

Whatever you need, I will do everything I can to be there for you.

I do this with an open heart and a true desire to see you through the difficult and dark times in life.

You are stronger than you know.

You’ve got this, but know that I’ve got you too.

But if you think I’m a kind person, you should hear how I talk to myself…

I berate myself at every opportunity, and call myself names like ‘lazy good for nothing’ and ‘ugly cow’.

I do not like myself, and do not care for my own needs.

I think people are wonderful, but I am the one exception to this rule.

I don’t know how to comfort myself, having never bothered to learn.

I have failed myself and my family, by simply not being good enough.

So why should I be nice to myself?

Why waste my time on me, when I could be watching out for you?

The trouble is…

I realise, after much suffering and heartache, that I don’t really know how to let love in.

I tend to your needs because it makes me feel lovable, but I never let your praise or affection sink through to where it matters.

Like trying to swim upstream, I fail to make progress on my journey towards love and acceptance.

I have come to the devastating realisation that this love and acceptance can only come from one place: me.

If I can’t love myself, how can I expect to trust that others love me too?

If I can’t trust myself, how can I expect to trust that others love me too?

I want to love myself.

I’d love to love myself.

But I don’t really want to see all of me.

The imperfect parts.

The shadow that follows me around wherever I go.

I only ever wanted to see a perfect light shining within me.

I see now that this light does indeed shine bright, but to reach it I must first delve into the darkness.

Remove the mask I’ve been wearing my entire life, and truly look myself in the eye.

You may already know from experience that this process does not feel good.

It is not a place I wish to stay in for any longer than is necessary.

But I see now that it is necessary.

Because I do want to love myself, and to see the light not only in others, but inside of myself.

 

Image courtesy of Thad Zajdowicz via Flickr Creative Commons: https://tinyurl.com/yywhtyq7

The Woodland Den

Have you heard of the Woodland Den? No? Let me tell you about it then, for it is my greatest wish that as many people as possible may know of and benefit from this magical place… I first stumbled upon the den as a young girl, and since then have visited almost every day. It is my home, my sanctuary and my friend. I love this place dearly, but it is now time that I shared it with others.

The path that leads to the den is narrow and winding, and trees line the way up the hill and away from the village. This woodland is the most beautiful I have ever seen, with many different varieties of trees and other plant life. No matter the weather, the woods always feel peaceful and safe. In the autumn and winter months, the smell of wood smoke penetrates the landscape, reminding me of warm cosy evenings in front of the fire, perhaps with a steaming mug of hot chocolate and a gingerbread man. In truth, I have never lived in a house with an open fire, but this is a place of imagination and dreams, and anything is possible. When you are almost at the den, the path becomes very steep indeed, and suddenly you find that you are at the top of a hill, looking into a clearing in the trees and foliage. The clearing is round, and the entrance is marked by a large boulder which bears the words ‘Woodland Den’. This is it – you have arrived! And what a treat you are in store for…

As you enter the den, you notice that the atmosphere becomes still and serene, no matter how bad the weather rages outside, or down below in the village. Dried leaves line the floor like a crunchy, autumnal carpet, and fairly lights hang from the trees at the edges of the clearing. An outdoor wood burning stove is already lit, so if you arrive at the den feeling a little cold, please go ahead and warm yourself in front of the fire.

After some time, you will most likely begin to notice that there are many animals on the perimeter of the den, looking in on you with curiosity. Rather than feeling that you have intruded on their space, you feel a deep sense of belonging, and you know instinctively that you are very welcome here. This place belongs to you, and you to it. You are one and the same, and the feeling of safety you experience in this magical place is like nothing you’ve experienced before.

I can see you standing there, my friend, smiling, breathing in the crisp, woody air, and noticing the sounds of the woodland all around you. My first visit to this place was such a wonderful surprise: I will never forget the sensation of being completely held, and completely safe. In this place, I need be nothing more than I already am, and there is nothing at all to do other than what feels most joyful and comforting. This place exists inside of me, but it is as real as you and I. I can visit it at any time, and experience a calm serenity that day-to-day life often leads me to forget.

Now that I have introduced you to the Woodland Den, I would like to encourage you to visit as often as you like, and experience its ambience like a loving embrace. Although, I have to say that seeing you standing there in the den has made me wonder… What if it doesn’t quite suit your needs? Perhaps I have omitted something that you would find reassuring or entertaining in some way? I’m afraid there is no television, and now I’m beginning to wonder if this might be something you would enjoy. Do you enjoy to curl up in front of a good film with a hot drink and a close friend? If you’re going to bring guests, I suppose I really ought to furnish the place accordingly, with a sofa and some blankets. Oh dear, I appear not to have thought this through at all. Unless… unless you would like to make some alterations? Believe me when I say that the sky is the limit. All you need do is imagine what you desire, and poof! It will appear in front of you – or behind you, depending on your preferred layout. Feel free to sweep away the leaves and add a plush carpet for added warmth and luxuriousness, but be warned that the creatures that live in the woods may come to join you if you make it very cosy and comfortable. The foxes and badgers in particular have been known to visit me when I’ve snuggled up under a large blanket.

So my friend, I think I have told you all I need to about the Woodland Den. I hope that with time, it reminds you of something you already know: we are all worthy of joy and love, and there is always a place inside of us where we can experience safety and serenity.

 

 

Image courtesy of Richard Walker via Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License

Forgiveness is the path to freedom

When we love our past, we free ourselves from it. Believe me, I have had moments of sublime gratitude when thinking about my past and everything I’ve gained from simply walking the path that I’ve walked. Even at times when I’ve seen how much I still have to learn and grow, I’ve seen beyond the mundane world view of meaningless pain and suffering, to a world where everything I’ve experienced is some sort of mystical, magical unfolding of my destiny. Just the other day, stood in the kitchen on a drab day, slowly tackling the dirty pots and wading through the treacle of emotions I’m feeling at the moment, I felt how very much I love everyone in my life. It was a huge and unexpected surge of compassion – something I’d like to experience more of, please and thank you!

Sometimes though, it can feel hard to love where we’ve come from. Sometimes we have a feeling of discontent and disconnection in the pit of our stomachs, and we would like nothing more than to avoid thinking about our childhoods, or spending time with people who remind us of those difficult times. In these moments, we can feel far from love, and it’s hard to know where to look for that feeling of comfort and relief. Lost. Lonely. Unsure. Desperate.

So what’s the answer? How can we move beyond pain and reconnect with the love we know lives inside of us? Well, today I was reminded of the power and absolute necessity of forgiveness. And I’m not talking here about forgiving those we feel have wronged us, although that is also important. Usually at the top of the list of people who need our forgiveness is us. Forgiveness for having disconnected from love. Forgiveness for having stepped out of alignment by believing unloving and fear-based thoughts about ourselves. Forgiveness for having unknowingly or unintentionally hurt someone else, or for having believed that we were responsible for that person’s happiness. Perhaps our younger selves dreamt of putting certain things ‘right’ for ourselves and others, and it turned out not to be possible. Perhaps we dreamt of making someone proud by getting a degree in mathematics and landing a high earning job. And perhaps we even achieved these aspirations, only to discover that they didn’t fill the whole in our hearts we once believed they would. For all of these things, and more, we must forgive ourselves.

Of course there are many tools for forgiveness, which I won’t attempt to list here. But I have learned one tool this week which I would like to share with you here, and which I hope you will take up and experiment with. It’s called Ho’oponopono, and it’s based on an ancient spiritual practice from Hawaii. The practice centres around the following mantra:

I’m sorry

Forgive me

I love you

And thank you

The idea is that when we experience anything that results in negative emotion or a sense of disconnection, we must put it right by creating a sacred space in which to meet the person, object, place, memory etc. that has caused us to experience pain. When in the sacred place, we can invite the person forward and repeat the above mantra to them three times. The crucial thing to remember is that we aren’t forgiving from an ego place, but rather from a higher perspective. Nor are we actually asking anyone to forgive us. It’s more about reconnecting with our sense of inner peace, and asking our higher selves (or the universe – however you choose to describe your higher power) to help us erase the negative emotions we have experienced.

Now, to say that this has been a basic and whistle stop tour of Ho’oponopono by a person who has only just begun to practice it themselves would be an understatement. I believe I have understood the concept and have been using it to good effect, but I know there is a lot of guidance about it online, so if you like the sound of it, go take a look and see what you find.

My current mission on the path of personal growth is to understand and embrace who I truly am, and to do this, I realise I must first forgive my past, including the part I played in it. The sense of conflict and discontent I have been feeling is an unwillingness to truly let go, because part of me believes that I should have been able to do things better. Only when I forgive myself can I begin to see others through a more compassionate lens, because then I will be approaching them from a place of love, compassion and defencelessness. Yogi Bhajan is quoted as having said:

If you are willing to look at another person’s behaviour towards you as a reflection of their relationship with themselves rather than a statement of your value as a person, then you will, over a period of time, cease to react at all.

What a gorgeous and much needed quote in my life right now! If I can forgive myself, and begin to connect with the idea that my value as a person is never in question, I will open the doors to compassion and a sense of emotional freedom. Huzzah!

And remember, forgiveness is a choice. So choose to forgive yourself as often as you can, each and every day, and see what doors begin to open for you.

Love to you all, my spectacular fellow human beings.

Kath Xxx

Healing from the past

How many of you out there have something (or several things) from your past which you would like to heal from, so that you can be the person you truly are underneath all the stress and worry, and step into your best life?

I know I do, that’s for sure. And it’s taken me a while to even reach this point. Before you can heal from something you must first realise that you are injured in some way, and then come to terms with the idea of letting it go. Sometimes it can feel so much easier to hold on to the things that keep us from being our true selves, because we feel safe and secure in our pain and suffering. It sounds strange doesn’t it?! Who in their right mind would want to suffer? Someone who feels it is a safer option than showing up in the world and letting others see them for who they really are, that’s who. And oh how natural and normal it is to feel this way. There ain’t nothing wrong with it, and it’s only when we’re good and ready to start working on these things that we can expect to do so. It’s a gradual process of learning to feel safe in the world as who you are, and not who others expect you to be. It’s a gradual process of looking in the mirror and learning to love what you see. It’s a gradual process of trusting your inner guidance, which is always loving, and always there for you if you choose to listen.

So now I’m ready to heal from my past. I’m ready to move on, and I’m scared to death. Why is something I want to do so flipping scary??? This is something I’ve chosen, of my own volition, and it’s something I feel has been calling to me for a while now. I want to do it, the universe wants me to do it, my cat wants me to do it (she didn’t actually tell me this, but I’m pretty sure she left a coded message in her food bowl the other day, so…)

Anyway, I have a few theories I’d like to share about why it’s so hard, if you’d care to keep reading 🙂

  • It’s hard because of course it’s hard! I mean, come on. I’m only human. I’m stretching my comfort zone and facing my fears, and that’s never going to be easy. The fact that it’s hard tells me that I’m doing something right. I’m not playing it safe; I’m beginning to take small risks and change my perception of myself and the world.
  • It’s hard because sometimes, the hard stuff is where the good stuff is hiding. Make sense? Probably not. I just mean that if you can process whatever you’re feeling (sadness, anger etc.), you’re likely to open doors to personal joy that you didn’t even know were closed. Any difficult period in your life is always an opportunity to grow.
  • OK, so it turns out I have fewer theories than I thought I had, so I hope the two above will do for now!

As usual, I’m writing this because I feel the need to remind myself of these key bits of wisdom I’ve gained in recent years, and because I know by now that I am far from alone in my human experience.

I’ve already gown and expanded my comfort zone. What I’m going through tells me that it’s time to continue that journey and begin to dip my toes into the life that is calling to me. Or maybe I need to dive in head first? I don’t know. Baby steps will do for now, and being here, writing this blog post, is one of those baby steps. It doesn’t always feel easy sharing this stuff, but I know I have to. It calls to me, and the fact that it scares me tells me I’m onto a winner.

Just one more thing before I sign off: I sometimes find that when a big life change is coming my way, there is a natural grieving process, where all my emotions rise to the surface and I can feel new pathways being forged in how I see myself. Letting this be what it is and not questioning it or judging it in any way is so important. You may find it useful when going through this process of death and rebirth (sort of like shedding your old skin) to de-clutter your home, rearrange the furniture or buy some new clothes. Clearing out old memories and energy from you life makes room for something new.

I hope you lovely bunch of human beings are having a good week. Always remember not to take life too seriously, and to laugh as often as you possibly can. Apparently our brains can’t distinguish between genuine and fake laughter, which just goes to show that humans aren’t as smart as we sometimes think we are!

Peace and love,

Kath

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

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

What happens next?

Hello, my name is Kath, and I am an acceptance junkie. Or at least I have been – big time – and I’m only just learning to brush this aspect of my existence off and get to the good stuff that life has to offer (joy, creativity, connectivity…). It’s been a long journey, with many twists and turns along the way, and I’ve walked so far now that I realise my surroundings are completely unfamiliar. In fact, the map I’ve been using doesn’t work anymore, because I’ve walked off grid and have yet to find a new one. Yikes! This is scary stuff. Everything I’ve known about myself and the world is changing, and although that’s a good thing, it absolutely isn’t easy.

When I was addicted to acceptance, I knew what I was working towards: becoming a version of myself that others would find acceptable.

When I was addicted to acceptance, I knew how to feel about myself: either terrible or absolutely wonderful, depending on what state my ego was in that day, and how many people I’d managed to please with my various efforts at becoming the perfect human being.

When I was addicted to acceptance, I knew what made me feel good and what made me feel bad…

You get the picture. I’m completely re-framing my life, and whereas I’ve managed to move away (mostly) from the unhealthy behaviours and ways of thinking about the world, I haven’t yet replaced them with anything else that makes me feel, well, like me I guess! It wasn’t healthy to look to others for a sense of self, but the fact is that I did, and now I feel like an empty vase (to quote a poem written by Monica’s sleazy boyfriend on Friends). I feel like I’ve entered a void and the only way out is to run back to the safety of my old ways, or to fill in the blanks with something new.

Currently, my life isn’t an expression of who I am. Or at least, I don’t feel that I am expressing the things that I want to express. In short, I need to get my ‘Kath’ on and start doing the things that I want to do, and feel that sense of purpose and joy come back to me. Because if I’m honest, at the moment everything feels a little pointless – as though I’m waiting for someone to come up to me and say: “It’s OK, Kath. You’re doing absolutely the right thing. Yes, that’s it – go out into the world and be an individual. That’s next on the list of things you should do”. But what if I’ve done away with all the ‘shoulds’ and I’m trying to live life on my own terms for a change, without waiting to hear what others think I should do?

Man this is freaking me out! I’m talking myself into feeling more terrified than I was before I started writing. Also, can I just take a moment to apologise for basically using this blog as a sounding board for my own problems, instead of imparting incredible wisdom and offering solutions to your problems? I’ll get back to the wise thing once I’ve got my groove back, I promise.

I’m seeing a therapist/life coach at the moment, and she has likened this current phase in life to weeding a garden: I’ve now got to re-plant it with beautiful flowers that I actually want to be there, instead of letting anything grow there and just letting life steamroll over me. So what flowers am I going to plant? What waves am I going to make? What is it that the real me, who is only just emerging after years and years of sleepwalking through life, has to say to the world? And what form will this take?

Well, writing is definitely up there on the list. I’m surprising feisty and opinionated on the inside for someone who’s made a career of worrying what others think. And I definitely feel like I’m holding myself back at the moment – waiting for the green light from the universe, instead of just trusting in myself and my inner guidance.

Yesterday, on my way home from an alpaca farm with my husband, we encountered a cyclist on a twisting and fairly fast country road NOT WEARING A HELMET! No sooner had we both commented on this, than I found myself shouting out of the open window: “Buy a helmet!”. My husband seemed amused and vaguely proud, but essentially discouraged me from shouting at strangers as we drive through the local countryside. To be honest, he has a point. It’s not exactly safe to shout things at unsuspecting cyclists who are trying to keep their eyes on the road, even if I did have his best interests at heart.

The incident with the cyclist was very out of character for me, but it felt good; a relief to be honest. There are lots of things I feel like shouting about at the moment, but I’ve done some research and it turns out people don’t appreciate it very much! Point is, it told me that I’m withholding something and not allowing myself to fully express myself, because self-expression and emotional freedom is all pretty new to me.

So, here I am. Much further along the journey towards self-acceptance than I’ve ever been, and instead of telling you how wonderful it is, I’m telling you all about how terrifying it is. Sorry about that.

But I wouldn’t for a second discourage any of you from following me down this path. I’ve experienced moments of absolute joy and love in my life over the last few years, and I owe that to trusting this journey that I’m on. So I’m going to keep trusting, as best I can, and probably with the occasional rant on this blog. And instead of waiting for someone to hand me a new map, I’m going to draw my own; it will be called the ‘Kingdom of Kath’, and it will be an honest expression of who I am.

So to all of you who are on a similar journey: keep going, know that you’re not alone, and when the time is right, start creating your own unique vision of the world.

Love,

Kath

 

p.s. Image is courtesy of Virtual EyeSee via Flickr: https://tinyurl.com/y9gof3s8

When the going gets rough…

It’s hard, when we’re on a journey towards feeling better about ourselves, to accept the rough times that come our way. I mean, the whole point is that we feel better, not worse, right? Our friends and family would like to see us looking more happy and healthy, not down in the dumps or angry enough to smash a few plates. I mean, don’t know about you, but as someone who worries what others think, I tend to always wonder if what I’m feeling is acceptable to others; like I need their permission and acceptance in order to deviate from the standard human emotion of being ‘fine’ or ‘OK’.

So here’s the thing, and here’s what I really need to remind myself of right now:

  1. Other people’s lives belong to them, and mine belongs to me. Living it for other people means never truly owning my own existence. It’s OK for others to feel sad because I’m going through a hard time. That’s part of their journey, not mine.
  2. The bad times don’t actually have to be perceived as ‘bad’. They are simply part of the ebb and flow of life. We can’t have light without dark, or joy without sadness.
  3. Difficult times don’t just appear for no reason – they are an opportunity for us to learn something more about ourselves and/or the world and to realise how we might be preventing ourselves from living our best possible lives. I mean, when I think about all that I have gained from the hard times, I absolutely wouldn’t want to be without them. Plunging into the depths of sadness and loneliness has taught me what it means for me to be at peace with myself, and that no matter what, I am absolutely never alone.
  4. Often, when the going gets tough, it’s because we’re doing amazing things that are testing our limits and stretching us to the point that it feels temporarily uncomfortable: a bit like doing yoga for the first time! All of which is a hell of a lot better than standing still and not growing in any way. The worse things feel, the bigger the opportunity to feel good. I read this somewhere a while ago, and it really is true; our greatest heartaches hold the key to our greatest joy, if only we’re brave enough to explore what really makes us tick – possibly with the support of a friend, therapist or a good self-help book or three!

So you know what I’m going to try and do? I’m going to try to embrace the contrast, and appreciate it for what it is. I won’t judge it as good or bad, or tell myself that I must be getting something horribly wrong. It’s simply part of my journey.

Thanks go to me for writing this and reminding myself of some important truths. Yes, that’s right – I just thanked myself for writing this blog post, because it’s helped me to feel less sorry for myself and a little more empowered. I hope it’s done the same for you, whoever you are.

And remember: you are 100% not alone. We’re all here reading this aren’t we?!

Love and peace x