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The Adventure

I awake several times in pain. I might still be able to fit in a workout tomorrow morning before my flight, I try to convince myself.

The following morning, I can barely put weight on my foot. I had felt the twinges in a couple of fitness classes but had chosen to ignore them. I had pushed myself too hard and hadn’t listened to my body. Maybe I need to become more balanced in my approach, I muse philosophically while simultaneously huffing with resistance.

I might not be able to go to London, I realise as my eyes well up. This is closely followed by another thought: I’ve been feeling great exercising and now it’s being taken away from me. It’s not fair. I want to look and feel good. Oh dear, there’s clearly more I need to learn here.

Of course, exercise is good for me and it’s important to take action and do the things that are beneficial for my physical and mental well-being. I honestly thought I’d been doing great but, now that I can’t exercise, I immediately feel less good about myself. I have formed an attachment to exercising as an external source of happiness and self-worth.

I know I have the potential to feel good no matter what. I just have to figure out how.

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favim.com

The next few days are filled with learning and awareness. A friend comes over and I instruct her as to where to place acupuncture needles.

It’s interesting to have to ask for help, to be on the receiving end of such care, and to experience the magic of acupuncture when I really need it. I’m delighted to discover that I’m able to tell my friend where the energy meridians are merely by feeling where they are in my own body.

Afterwards I notice that, as I hobble around the kitchen, I’m repeating the mantra: I am amazing. I’m not forcing myself to do it. It’s coming naturally. All those affirmations I’ve been saying are clearly paying dividends.

I’ve resigned myself to cancelling my trip to London when I ring my mother who’s a nurse. She speaks to a physiotherapist who assures her that if I collect crutches on my way to the airport, there should be no reason that I can’t fly to England.

I’m going, I resolve. I feel strong and excited.

My friend very kindly offers to drive me. We grab the crutches and an hour later I’m making my way to Departures. I’ve never used crutches before and I’m surprised to learn how energy-consuming they are.

A member of staff approaches me to offer me a wheelchair. I say yes. What a weird experience!

Suddenly, I’m at a different level to everyone else. Most people don’t look at me. Others stare at me with what I presume to be pity in their eyes.

Now that it isn’t happening, I realise that men usually look at me as I walk past. This afternoon, I feel invisible to some and as obvious as a clown in Mecca to others. I certainly don’t feel very sexy.

I haven’t had time to wash my hair. And I’m wearing runners as they’re the only footwear that don’t hurt too much. I’m unable to drag along a suitcase so I’ve packed the bare minimum into a small backpack. Talk about hurling myself out of my comfort zone in so many different ways!

I’m transferred from the wheelchair to a buggy then deposited at my gate. One of my favourite things to do in an airport, or anywhere really, is to go for coffee. But I wouldn’t be able to carry a cup while on crutches.

I hop over to a café anyway and ask the barista if she could bring a latte to my seat for me. She gladly obliges.

Last Christmas, I presented my friend with a wonderful book by Cheryl Richardson called The Art of Extreme Self-Care. Each month, a few of us meet to read a chapter together, set some goals, and find out how we got on with the previous month’s challenge.

A couple of months ago, we did a chapter on taking your hands off the wheel, letting go of control and asking for help. Last month, my friends asked me how I’d done.

I reported being aware of when I’m being controlling. I admitted that I hadn’t actually asked for help but that I hadn’t needed to. Now, I’m eating my words.

When it’s time to board, I’m escorted down to the plane and up to my seat. When we arrive in London, I’m put in a wheelchair and wheeled to the bus terminal.

By the time I meet my friend at Victoria Coach Station, I’m exhausted and emotional. We have a catch-up and a quiet night in.

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katimorton.com

The next morning, I’m ready to manoeuvre the London public transport system on crutches.

Hobbling slowly through a tube station when everyone else is speeding is an interesting experience. I have to be okay with going at a certain pace. I have to take it one slow step at a time.

The kindness I receive from people who hold open doors, carry my crutches as I make my way down the stairs, and give me their seats on the Underground is really heart-warming. I’ve never said “thank you” so much in my entire life.

I spend all day Saturday at a Hay House: I Can Do It! conference. One of the first things the beautiful speaker Robert Holden speaks about is self-image. Perfect!

Robert describes how infants, up until the age of 18 months, don’t recognise themselves in the mirror. They have not yet identified themselves with their bodies. Robert surmises that babies are still identifying with something greater – the very essence of their being.

This is something I need to connect with more – my soul. I am more than just my body.

So when I can’t exercise, when I’m on crutches, in runners, with unwashed hair, I can still love and accept myself and feel the energy of my amazing spirit.

Subsequently, Robert shows us a lovely ad that he was involved in making.

Robert also teaches us that being too independent and trying to force things to happen exactly as we want them to is not allowing life to flow. He says:

“If we stick with independence, often we’re running on adrenaline and not grace.”

I sit back and allow life to flow because, right now, I can do very little else. And it feels good. I experience a sense of peace as I breathe a sigh of relief.

An excellent question Robert poses is the following:

“If I could let life love me even more, what great things could happen?”

Tears spill down my cheeks as I contemplate this.

During the break, remembering my vow to take myself out of my comfort zone, and recalling how I definitely didn’t do so at the last Hay House: I Can Do It! conference I attended, I purchase Robert Holden and Louise Hay’s book Life Loves You: 7 Spiritual Practices to Heal Your LifeI then join a queue to have Robert sign my book.

I take this incredible opportunity to tell Robert how much I love him, how wonderful his talk was and how much I enjoy his radio show. I even get my picture taken with him. Go me!

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Pictorial evidence

I meet some lovely people at this inspiring event. One woman insists on buying me a coffee and carrying it back to the conference centre for me. And Hay House author Susan Lander approaches me to give me a free signed copy of her book Conversations with History.

Despite all the learning, awareness and random acts of kindness, I decide that I’ve had enough of the crutches. It takes so much effort and energy to use them. My arms are paining me. And I want to be seen as a “normal” 35-year old woman again.

Thankfully, I’m reminded by inspirational author and speaker Mike Dooley that everything happens for a reason. Mike likens life to a three-hour car ride.

Before this car ride, you decide where you want to go. You type your destination into the GPS system, or Divine Intelligence as he calls it. Then, you have to put your car into gear and drive.

For that three-hour journey, you may not know where you’re going. You may feel lost and the whole experience might feel weird. You may even take a few wrong turns but the GPS always recalibrates. And you don’t know if the GPS has worked until you get there.

Mike then describes a baby learning how to walk. The child takes a couple of steps before it keels over. The parents don’t start shouting at the child, telling him that he deserves it or that he brought it on himself. This child clearly has a desire to walk. And his parents recognise that falling down is part of the child’s journey.

After a great conference, yummy food, lots of adventures outside of my comfort zone, and quality time spent with friends, I leave London with a knowing that everything is unfolding perfectly. I resist nothing. I allow life to flow.

Before I arrive at Stansted airport, my mother texts offering to collect me from the airport. And I take her up on that offer.

I now have a greater understanding of how people must feel when they’re injured or incapacitated. From now on, I’m going to be more mindful of offering help to people when I’m in a position to do so as I can attest to how much it’s appreciated.

Today, my foot is almost all better. I’ve learnt many lessons from this injury. Some of which I didn’t want to have to learn. But learn I must if I want to move forward.

The GPS recalibrates and onwards I stride.

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tumblr.com

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Are You a Pessimist?

Over the years I’ve noticed that any time I get into really bad form, it’s because I’ve started believing the thoughts that are telling me that everything has gone to shit.

I’m lazy and useless. I’ve gained weight. I’m ugly. I’m alone. I’ll never amount to anything.

Recently, I observed that I was slipping into one of those moods. Rather than dwell on it, I switched on an interview with Dr. Joan Borysenko, psychologist and mind-body medicine expert.

I was half-listening as I got ready for bed when I heard Joan speaking about pessimistic thinking. Joan says that you can inherit a pessimistic world view. This type of thinking happens when you lose hope and can’t see a way out of things.

When something bad happens, Joan suggests looking at your explanatory style. How do you explain this negative occurrence to yourself? Martin Seligman put forward the Three Ps of Pessimism. They are as follows:

1. You take things Personally. You blame and even hate yourself. You can see from above how I was telling myself that I was lazy and useless.

2. Your thinking is Pervasive. Nothing in your life is good. Relationships, family, work, body-image: all crap.

3. Permanence. You’re in a mental rut and you can’t imagine that your life could be any different. You feel stuck. I was telling myself that I’d never amount to anything and that I’d always be alone.

This was a revelation to me. I was relieved to realise that I am not alone in this type of thinking. And once I become aware of it, and own it, it immediately loses its grip on me. I can choose the way I think.

Joan suggests disputing what you say to yourself. When you watch your mind and witness your thoughts, you can see that you’re telling yourself a story, one that isn’t true. This creates distance from the thoughts so you can observe and even learn from them.

Joan explains the science behind all of this, which I won’t go into in detail now. Basically, she states that you can change your brain circuitry. Brain plasticity allows for the rewiring of your nervous system. So you don’t have to be stuck with pessimism for the rest of your life.

Joan doesn’t suggest shifting from pessimism to optimism. Rather, she speaks about the benefits of stress-hardy or I-can-do-it thinking, which is more realistic.

Suzanne Kobasa introduced the Three Cs of Stress-Hardy Thinking. They are as follows:

1. The stress-hardy thinker will want to rise to the Challenge.

2. Commitment. The person will stick with the challenge and see it through.

3. Control. The stress-hardy thinker doesn’t try to control the uncontrollable. Instead, they focus on what they can control.

And if you can’t see yourself making the leap into stress-hardy thinking just yet, Joan suggests a few quick and simple tips to calm down your fear responses. Deep breathing, exercise and just a five-minute meditation can be enough to bring you back from your pessimistic thinking.

Do you recognise yourself in any of this? If you get caught in a spiral of pessimism every now and again, don’t beat yourself up. You’re human. But you do have choices. Change your thinking, change your life. Are you up for the challenge?

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Breaking Barriers

Today I came up with a new idea: You’re only doing as well as the despair that that one person can drive you into. I spent a wonderful weekend in Glasgow at a Hay House I Can Do It conference, listening to amazing, uplifting speakers, including Dr Wayne Dyer and Louise Hay. I came home feeling positive and present and full of self-love. And yesterday, just one sentence out of one man’s mouth flung me into self-doubt, anger, tears and a whopper of a headache.

We all have periods when we think we’re doing fantastic. We’re getting things done, our confidence is up and life looks pretty good. We think we finally know who we are and what our purpose is. Spiritual teacher Ram Dass said: “If you think you are so enlightened, go and spend a week with your parents.” Because, if your foundations are even slightly shaky, all it takes is that one family member, friend or co-worker to topple it all.

In my case, I feel fine with everybody else but this one particular man. I can be myself around everyone but him. I’m never totally at ease with this man because he is my biggest mirror. He reflects back to me all the things I dislike about myself or about my current situation. He has a knack of saying exactly what will annoy me most. He is my greatest teacher. I realise that I will not have arrived until I can be myself around this man, until I don’t care what he thinks, until I can tell him to F off with a wink and a smile, and until nothing he says or does or even the way he looks at me has any impact, negative or positive on the foundation of who I am.

Today, I woke with the remnants of yesterday’s pounding headache so I took myself for a walk in the morning sunshine. It occurred to me that I still want to appear perfect, that I don’t want others to talk ill of me or think less of me. And this means that I must not be totally sure of myself because, if I was, nothing anyone said would make a difference.

I wanted this man to acknowledge how well I’m doing, how much progress I’ve made, and how much potential I have. But he knew more about how well I’m doing by my silent reaction of anger, disappointment and self-flagellation than any positive words I’ve spoken or written, any praise I’ve received from clients or family members, or any qualifications I’ve attained.

Today, a part of me broke away – the part that needs approval. This man, my teacher, broke me with his off-the-cuff remark. And that is the best remedy for growth. For when you are broken down, your limiting beliefs break off too. Then, you have room to build afresh. From now on, I’m choosing to build an authentic self, one that holds true to herself no matter what.

Life is a series of lessons. And if you’re lucky enough, you’ll find yourself some excellent teachers. But it is what you do with those lessons that will determine how much you will grow. I believe that the message behind every lesson is love. Love for others and love for oneself. Rumi wrote:

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

Yesterday, I found another of those barriers. I had told myself (unconsciously) that I would not love myself unless that man validated me. And I would not love him because he mocked me. Today, in awareness, I decide to love myself (and him) anyway.