I forced myself out for a walk yesterday even though the weather was being particularly indecisive. It went from sunny blue skies to windy dark grey to pelting rain in mere minutes. As I headed up the street, raindrops began to appear, slowly at first like the initial deliberate bursts of popcorn, then hard and fast and loud. No, I muttered silently. Please don’t. Then I realised that my resistance, my pleading and cursing, wasn’t going to stop the rain from falling. It was just going to make me feel miserable.
Desiring something to be different from the way it is brings us out of alignment with reality, which naturally creates unhappiness and frustration. So I looked up and said, Do what you have to do. I shrugged off thoughts of Everything’s going to get so wet, dumped them on the ground beside me and walked away, eyes scrunched and hair matted against my face.
I felt a strange sense of elation. A Fuck you world mixed with Bring it. I wanted to punch the air and sprint past sheep and shriek along to Ellie Goulding’s Halcyon.
You know that point when you understand that you are powerless? That life will continue to roll no matter what reservations you might have. That moment when you simply give up. And in that instant, you feel oddly powerful. Free. Like you’re riding the waves instead of swimming against them. It’s exhilarating.
My lower back is still stiff and painful but now, instead of struggling against it, I’m leaning into it. I’ve stopped the hard-core gym sessions and started doing gentler exercises at home. I discovered a Pilates studio in Newbridge and attended it for the first time this morning. A man approached me about a new yoga class he’s setting up next week. And I’m getting out in the fresh air and daylight for invigorating walks in the Irish weather.
As I neared home, the sky cleared. I gazed at enormous tree trunks, orange berries and smiling daffodils, and I nodded: Yes, all is well.
Check out this lady making the most of her time waiting for a bus. It brings to mind the following poem:
“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.”
Posted in Health, Positive Thinking
Tagged acceptance, alignment, anger, back pain, beauty, contentment, dance like there's nobody watching, dancing queen at the bus stop, desire, ellie goulding, exercise, exhilaration, fate, freedom, frustration, gym, halcyon, happiness, health, healthy-living, injury, ireland, joy, mental-health, misery, nature, newbridge, outdoors, pilates, power, powerless, serenity, surrender, trust, unhappiness, walking, weather, yoga
Since injuring my back at the gym on Sunday, I’ve had to take it easy. This means not doing my usual workout routine. And it’s been hard. I joined the gym in January and, while I signed up because I enjoy exercising and sweating and being healthy, I’ve also delighted in toning up, wearing tighter outfits and having people tell me that I look amazing. Who wouldn’t, right?
Part of me knew that I shouldn’t put too much value on my physical appearance. It’s dangerous attaching how good you’re feeling to something so transient. And another part of me told myself to relish it while it lasted. Which may also be saying something about an unconscious belief that good things don’t last very long. But that’s another day’s work (or blog post).
So, I haven’t been able to hit the gym this week and I noticed my mood dipping a little. I started wearing looser clothing as though I’d gained weight in just a few days. Another reason for feeling out of sorts was that I’d been, quite literally, stopped in my tracks. I had to accept the situation and understand that these things happen for a reason. There was a learning here somewhere (lots of lessons, in fact) if I were to cease feeling sorry for myself long enough to go looking.
Gretchen Rubin writes about the “broken windows theory” of policing, which holds that when a society tolerates minor crimes such as broken windows, graffiti and drinking in public, people are more likely to commit more serious crimes. Rubin suggests that this can also be true on a personal level. These are the signs of disorder that make you feel out of control and overwhelmed. For me, they are not leaving the house all day, not getting my class preparation done and not exercising. Rubin says that enforcing small signs of order makes us feel more in control and happier.
The theory makes sense and it’s great to get things done and to look after yourself. However, this does not mean being rigid. Sometimes, we have to let go of control or we’ll end up miserable. Life happens. We cannot base our happiness on how we think we should look or on how much exercise we feel we should be getting. If we have too many “broken windows” and those shattered panes are destroying our inner peace, we need to look at building the inner peace and self-love and to hell with the windows for a while.
This week, I’ve been watching TV series Girls. The main character is a 24-year-old writer who’s carrying a bit of extra weight. She gets lots of men and struts around naked. The more I’m watching, the more I’m used to seeing a fleshier actress. This goes to show that the more exposed we are to skinny celebrities, the more we believe that this is the way we all should look. It’s refreshing to watch a show where the characters’ appearances are a little more normal. Even the sexiest female character has a bit of belly and often doesn’t wear a scrap of makeup. And she’s still a beauty. A natural one.
In one of the episodes, leading lady Hannah admits that she’s just like everyone else, that she wants to be happy. That she feels alone. And that she’d been trying to control the way things happened and how she was feeling. Isn’t that why we do what we do in life? To feel happier, less alone and more in control? Why we diet and exercise? Why we purchase new clothes and cut our hair? Why we study for exams and work? Why we save money and buy houses? Why we search for partners and start families?
But beneath the need for happiness, connection and control is a longing for love. And where better to begin than with yourself? Just because. No only-whens and only-ifs. Unconditional love. If you had that, you wouldn’t need to do anything, have anything or control anything. It wouldn’t disappear as soon as your job or relationship ended. It wouldn’t crumble when you gained weight or grew older. It wouldn’t elude you until you had a house and a successful career. It would be a part of you always. It is you. You’ve just forgotten. It’s already there. And it strengthens with use. Today, instead of going to the gym, I choose to exercise my unconditional love. It’s tougher than any workout but the reward makes it so worthwhile.
Posted in Modern Society
Tagged acceptance, alone, back pain, behaviour, beliefs, body image, broken windows theory, broken windows theory of policing, celebrities, clothes, control, crime, diet, exercise, family, girls, going with the flow, gretchen rubin, growing up, gym, happiness, health, injury, inner peace, learning, lena dunham, lesson, loneliness, mental-health, models, mood, overweight, overwhelmed, partner, perfection, relationships, rigid, self-love, sex, skinny, society, surrender, tv series, unhappiness
I recently received an email from an old friend, who’s living abroad. She was writing to tell me that my blog has really inspired her to stop and look at life and has made her realise how lucky she is. She continued:
“Today, I was rushing to get to the shops before they closed when I saw a man, alone in the snow. He was shaking. I was a bit apprehensive but I thought: ‘I can’t leave him. It’s minus 10 and instinct tells me he needs help.’ So, I stopped. It turns out he had Parkinson’s and had hurt his arm. I phoned for a taxi and paid the driver to bring him to the hospital. The look of relief in the old man’s eyes when he sat in and shook my hand was heart breaking. I really think reading your words has changed my way of thinking. I’ve always had a lot of empathy but it takes courage to do something about a situation that’s a bit intimidating. Thanks, Sharon.”
This story brought tears to my eyes. Only days previously, another woman had told me I should stop publishing my work on the internet because I’m not getting paid for it, and on top of that, somebody could steal it. But this unexpected email reminded me why I’m doing what I’m doing.
Not everything we do has to result in monetary, or even personal, gain. Occasionally, people surprise us by giving, without looking for anything in return. The other day, I stepped onto a busy Luas (Dublin tram) when I felt a tap on the shoulder. I looked around at a dishevelled young man, who carried a sleeping bag under his arm. He said:
“Sorry, luv. I just wanted to let you know that your bag’s open. Be careful ‘coz someone could snatch your purse.”
I thanked him and zipped up my handbag. We then chatted about his life as a homeless person. He spoke about how he tries to rustle up enough money each day to stay in a hostel. Otherwise, he sleeps on the streets. I waited for him to ask me for some change (of which I had none – I’d given my last few coins as a tip to a waitress) but at the next stop, he simply said, “See ya luv” and was gone. “Take care!”, I called after him, feeling helpless yet totally moved. Yesterday, it snowed. I hope he’s okay.
Speaking of looking for change, check out this inspiring short film…
‘Tis the season of giving presents to our loved ones but how about, this Christmas, giving or doing something special for somebody who really needs it?
Posted in Modern Society, Random, Spirituality
Tagged blog, change, change for a dollar, christmas, dublin, generosity, giving, good deeds, gratitude, help, injury, inspirational, kindness, luas, money, parkinson's, presents, robbing, snow, stealing, winter, writing