There has been a relentlessness to the challenges I’ve faced over the last year: each one coming before I’ve recovered from the previous one, creating a backlog of intense emotion and a feeling of overwhelm so profound it’s taken my breath away at times. I imagine it’s a bit like being in the ocean in a storm, trying to catch my breath in-between the rolling waves, but not having the time as the waves and swell are simply too strong and concentrated. Every ounce of my determination has, on some days, been focused solely on ensuring that an out-breath follows an in-breath and vice versa.
Of course, I’ve had days where it has all felt too much and I’ve questioned if I truly want to be here; I’ve had times when I’ve felt closer to death than life and contemplated the longed-for peace of letting go. I’ve wondered the point of life: why we exist and if I still felt I wanted to be a part of the rich panorama of existence. I think in many ways, this is a question that resides deep in the consciousness of every soul as how we answer this question ultimately defines and shapes the quality of the paths we walk and how we engage with ourselves, others and life.
Many feel that we choose the nature of our incarnations before we are born, my belief is somewhat different and this has grown as a result of my own struggles and challenges. It’s only human to want to make sense of why things are the way they are, and to find a reason as to why we suffer. Perhaps such a viewpoint helps us take responsibility for life, but I feel it also adds many layers of guilt as we can feel ‘to blame’ for all that is wrong in our lives.
Life happens. Stuff happens. Sh*t happens. Did I choose it all? Whilst I can’t categorically state for a fact that I didn’t, after years of trying to fix my frailties due to my belief that if I created it all then maybe I could un-create it or redefine the essence of my existence, I just added more pain, more sadness and more anger to an already over-stuffed bag of emotions. So, in the end, after much struggle and tousle, I let it go. Maybe, things are the way they are because that’s the way they are? Maybe there is no hidden or higher meaning, perhaps we are looking for answers to questions that have no answers? Did I choose to live with a chronic, multi-systemic condition? Did I invite it in? Would believing I chose such a path help me? I’ve come to believe that it doesn’t. I’ve let go of trying to attach meaning to this as it was crushing me. By letting it go and simply opening up to the idea that ‘it is what it is’, I have set myself free from the burden of guilt I’d created for myself.
As mind, body and soul are inextricably interwoven, whilst I’m sure the complexity of being me, along with my foibles, faults and unresolved emotional issues, adds to the challenge, I don’t believe solely in the ‘cause and effect’ idea of ill-health – it’s all interconnected obviously, but there are too many factors to distil this into a + b = c. This hasn’t miraculously cured me, it’s simply allowed me to move on and to remove an unnecessary layer of burden within my heart and soul.
In many ways, I have spent most of my life in denial as I’ve tried so hard to keep pushing on, expecting so much of myself and my body, but I’ve reached a stage where I’ve realised just how much this has taken away from me. I did battle with this for years as I felt the only way to deal with the struggle was to fight it, resist it and try to overcome it. I did battle until I realised the only one suffering in that equation was me. Doing battle with myself simply depleted me even more and left me feeling hollow and empty; it fed those days when everything felt too much as I had lost my connection to the sustenance within my own heart and soul. When I let go of the battle, I started to find peace.
In truth, this has been a work in progress as I continued to fight my own demons for years, as although my energy levels and physical capabilities were greatly diminished, I hadn’t been completely willing to fully accept this as I was caught between the ‘acceptance versus giving up’ argument and, until I felt sure I wasn’t giving up, I couldn’t risk not pushing and struggling. So, I pushed hard against my reality, trying to do more, be more and achieve more. Hitting brick wall after brick wall didn’t stop me, I just kept on, pushing, smiling and denying the reality that not everything was possible.
My heart and soul are still stuffed full of dreams and hopes, but because I hadn’t been willing to accept the reality of my re-shaped life, I was unable to find clarity with a new path to walk. Of course, trying to bury, ignore or deny anything doesn’t work in the long-term as life has a habit of making us look and then giving us a good smack around the chops if we continue to look the other way. Denial makes living with ill-health of any kind problematic as it doesn’t allow us to work out what’s truly important and what’s not.
Until I accepted I could no longer do all the things I felt I ought to be able to do and instead focused on the things I could, and more importantly, wanted to do, I was unable to break free from the cycle of denial and I was trapped, frozen in a frustrated, resistance-driven state of mind of wanting what I couldn’t have. However, in hindsight, it went deeper than this as I realised the things that frustrated me weren’t truly things I felt deprived of, they were simply distractions to focus on to avoid me facing the mirror of my soul and opening up to the reality of my life.
I had reached a stage of my life where, unless I accepted my finite energy levels and physical restrictions, I would never be able to move forward. In many ways, this finiteness was a gift as it made me think about my true priorities as I simply didn’t have the energy to fritter on the people and things that drained or depleted me.
It has been unquestionably hard for me to accept the finiteness of my physical energy, but my resistance, stoicism and stubbornness were only using more up. So, instead of spending my time and energy breathing life into the fantasy of who I wanted to be (or felt I ought to be), I felt a sense of liberation as I could finally be just me. Of course, there was no ‘just’ about it, it felt delicious and real, and I opened up my heart and soul to the infinite nature of my soul. It goes against instinct to acknowledge and accept that not everything is possible as we all want to be able to do, be and achieve everything we set our hearts on. Yet, maybe life’s true lessons come when we don’t succeed?
It was hard to accept that I couldn’t do everything, but I haven’t shrunk as a result, I’ve grown as I’m now more in tune with the rhythm of my heart and soul: I’m listening to myself. Finally! It’s taken a long time, but instead of feeling sadness and grief for the things I’ve lost and the life I’m not living, I’ve re-kindled the spark of passion within me to seek out ways of living and being that truly nourish and nurture me.
It’s been a long journey, from the days where I wanted to end, to the days where I raged at the inherent unfairness of life, to reaching a stage where I no longer want to sanitise the pain or block out the challenges. In truth, I still oscillate between these as it’s a part of being human. It took me years, decades even, to realise that we can’t selectively pick and choose which emotions we experience and which we don’t: we can’t just have the ‘good’ stuff as it’s all or nothing. Of course, I’m human so I didn’t like this reality, but the choice of continuing to deny my pain was slowly squeezing the life out of me. So, I made a choice, I declared to myself a new intention: I want to wholeheartedly experience every moment; the good with the bad, the mundane with the fantastic as it’s only by experiencing it all that I can truly be alive.
Life is so precious, and it’s taken me decades to wholeheartedly acknowledge that I want to be here and dance wildly in the fires of life once again. Opening up my heart and soul to see what is, exactly as it is, has enabled me to reconnect to life, even the tough stuff. Over recent years I’ve travelled through the dense terrain of my soul walking through the detritus of the resistance and pain scattered all around me as I journeyed within. I’ve questioned my existence, challenged my beliefs and worked through layers of pain and angst. I’ve faced a failing body, and, on more than one occasion, I’ve felt closer to death than life, longing for peace. Yet, today is a new day and my intention to live wholeheartedly has grounded me in life more than ever before. It all still feels quite raw and uncertain, but it’s tantalisingly exciting at the same time.
So, watch out world, here I come…