Living in the Ruins

I’ve thought a lot lately about pain, depression and my health challenges. I’ve opened myself up and laid myself bare. In the process, I’ve learned a great deal about myself, my life and my beliefs as I’ve journeyed through the up’s and down’s. I’ve tried to share my insights and experiences to help and inspire others, as well as a cathartic way to release the turmoil I often find in my mind, heart and soul. Yet, it’s important for me to acknowledge that I’m not ‘fixed’ as I’m still living in the ruins of a transitional phase between ‘what was’ and ‘what is’. I’m still grieving for the life I once had and I’m still coming to terms with the truth of who I am. I think, to some extent, we all do this, as we are constantly shifting, changing and evolving: we never stay the same.

It can be easy to get sucked into a wallowing pit of regret and ‘if only’s’ if we lose sight of the bigger picture. It’s important to acknowledge that our futures are still expanding: nothing is set in stone. At the same time, we need to accept the impermanence of the castles we build in life as the shifting sands beneath can change or collapse at any time. This doesn’t mean we should live in fear, rather, we should seize the moment and make the most of now. I took my life for granted until the day I couldn’t anymore.

Of course, I have regrets of not having the courage to seize the day when I was fitter and stronger, but I’m human and I also don’t have the benefit of hindsight. Yet, what if I did? What if I could know what was coming around each corner of life? Would that inspire me to grab hold of the moment or would I end up paralysed and frozen, cautiously waiting for each future moment to happen, shifting my focus towards preparing for it or trying to prevent the things I don’t like about my future instead of living my present?

Personally, I think foresight would be a prison sentence, yet my willingness to live in the now is often half-hearted and winsome as I can’t wholeheartedly always be in the now. Instead I hover on the periphery, watching and waiting, sitting in between ‘what was’ and ‘what may be’, trying to make sense of my life and seeking out answers to questions that don’t have answers. Despite learning so much about myself and diving into my depths, I still haven’t learnt the true art of ‘now-ness’. I’m an advocate of the present moment but I still can’t be in it fully. Yet, is that a realistic goal? Is it possible to not look back and forward or to not over-think, over-analyse and over-do as that’s all a part of being human isn’t it?

It’s easy to feel the pressure of a society that expects ‘normal’ and resists ‘different’, yet struggling to be ‘normal’ is fruitless as there’s no such thing. Instead, it’s important to learn to love ourselves exactly as we are, and to stop looking externally for validation as, unless we validate ourselves, we can never establish equilibrium or balance.

Living in the ruins is, in truth, an opportunity for me to build a new life. I can choose to see the ruins as failure but it’s an opportunity for a new direction. I could try to restore the ruins to their ‘former glory’ but, in all honesty, they were never really that glorious (it’s easy to look back with rose-tinted glasses but it’s not really that helpful). I’d be kidding myself if I thought otherwise. Patching up or trying to reclaim what never was will only keep me locked in more pain. Instead, by going deeper within, I can start afresh and create a brand-new way of living and being.

In many ways, I’ve reached a crossroads: a junction of my life where I can either change or I don’t. It’s only human to defer difficulties and challenges, but there comes a time when to continue to do so crushes the spirit as all of one’s energy is directed towards staying safe and surviving. There is no denying that living in the moment takes courage and a willingness to face the up’s and the down’s, but to constantly deny this sucks the oxygen out of the soul and no soul can thrive in a vacuous, anaerobic environment. In time, we can adapt and cope, but we can never thrive. We can only thrive when we face our fears and become prepared to take the rough with the smooth. If we try to lock out pain, we lock out joy, happiness and all of the ‘good stuff’ as well: we can’t pick and choose as it’s all or nothing.

I’ve come to realise that my ruins are not broken, they are just a part of being me and they’re glorious and magnificent. My mind flashed back to time spent in the ruins of castles and old buildings, they somehow have more life, more history and more energy as the passage of time has naturalised them and allowed them to take on their own character and form; the crumbling walls and creeping ivy have great beauty and the nesting birds are given shelter. Despite it’s obvious decay, it’s somehow more complete as though it’s the journey through time that really matters. Why does it have to be different for me?

I often spend time contemplating the bigger picture of my life, trying to make sense of it and wanting to understand why things are the way they are. However, by trying to bring this down to a scale I can understand, I change it, I shrink it and I alter its shape and form. It’s time for me to accept that it’s unfathomable. I wrestled with this for a very long time as I couldn’t see why I couldn’t have the answers, but it was my battle for the answers that actually stopped me from living rather than the lack of answers themselves.

Putting life on hold whilst trying to seek out answers, striving for perfection, resisting ‘what is’ and denying ‘what isn’t’ all diminish the soul. I no longer choose to sit and wait for a better moment as there is no better moment than now…