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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.

favim.com

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.

katimorton.com

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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Success Story

A while back, I received an email inviting me to become an online author for a website called Success Stories. Naturally, I clicked on the link. The tagline for the website read:

“Learn from People who Already Made it”

Was this spam? Or was this a real live website? And if it was legit, why had they selected me to write for them?

What makes me successful in their eyes? Is it because I have a blog? Because I have the words Life Coach, Acupuncturist & Reiki Practitioner beneath my profile picture? Does my ability to write make me seem like I’ve made it?

If only they knew, I thought. I haven’t made it. Far from it. Then I promptly forgot all about it.

Until yesterday. When I received a follow-up email from the editor reminding me of the invitation. This time I replied, asking a few questions. What type of articles? How many words? Would I get paid?

The response I received didn’t make me want to write for them. But it did get me thinking about how I view myself.

I tend to forget about all the amazing things I’ve done. I downplay my achievements.

I compare myself to others, believing that they’re more successful, more confident, more able, more driven and ambitious. I don’t have what it takes, my inner bully insists.

Now however, I imagine how others might view me. How some people may not be able to understand why I sometimes feel afraid and insecure.

When all someone can see is a smiling picture and a job title at the top of a blog that’s been running for almost five years, they’re bound to think I’ve made some sort of a success of things.

And you know what, they’d be right. I have been creating this blog for almost five years. set it up. write the posts. get myself through the experiences that inspire me. I learn from them. I grow. I share.

Yet I dwell on the parts of my life that I deem to be less than successful. But who’s to say what’s a success and what isn’t?

Some of the more difficult and less appealing things that have happened are actually the things that spurred me on to make important changes. To be brave. To be great.

Shouldn’t that be what success really means? So yeah, maybe I have made it.

Here are some things that have happened to me, for me and by me:

  • I did an excellent Leaving Cert. I dropped out of college. Twice.
  • I suffered from an eating disorder and depression. I took myself off antidepressants. I worked on myself. I still do. Every day. I’m happier than I’ve ever been.
  • I lived in Spain and Munich. I backpacked through South and Central America. I inter-railed around Europe. I spent a summer on a Greek island.
  • I married at 23 years of age. I got divorced. I’m single. I’m dating.
  • I went back to college as a mature student. I’m qualified in many things. I usually get great results.
  • I’ve worked lots of different jobs. I’ve left lots of different jobs.
  • I have a great circle of friends.
  • I’m renting.
  • I set up my own business.

And you know what? I’m proud of myself. But I don’t think I’ll ever make it.

Because I’m still on a journey. And this journey can be as challenging and painful as it can be beautiful and rewarding.

I feel strong. I recognise all I’ve done to get to where I am. And I acknowledge all that I am.

I have empowered myself enough to be able to navigate my way in the world. I’m doing my best. I’m making it.

Compiling a list of all the things that you’ve been through and all that you’ve achieved is such a positive thing to do. Please make your own list. See how far you’ve come. You’re doing great.

slideshare.net

slideshare.net

Great-Great Advice

I’m going to share with you a brief but worthwhile exercise from Prof Steve Peters’ book The Chimp Paradox: The Mind Management Programme for Confidence, Success and Happiness.

 Imagine you are 100 years old and on your death-bed with one minute left to live. Your great-great-grandchild asks, ‘Before you die, tell me what I should do with my life.’

Pause for a moment and try to immediately and honestly answer this question. You have just one minute.

Answering this question, according to Prof Steve Peters, will identify what is important to you. It is what life is all about for you. It is your ‘Life Force’.

Whatever your advice was for your great-great-grandchild is really the advice you need to hear. If you’re not living by this advice, which is the essence of your existence, you are living a lie.

“Don’t live a lie,” urges Prof Steve Peters because, “it will unsettle you more than anything else.”

My advice for my great-great-grandchild is to: “Be happy and really really live your life.”

So how can one be happy?

On Friday night, I watched a movie called Hector and the Search for Happiness. This uplifting film is about a psychiatrist who takes himself on a journey around the globe to research what makes people happy.

Without giving too much away, Hector discovers that happiness shouldn’t be the end-goal of the things we do. Rather, we should do the things we like to do and then happiness will emerge as a pleasant side-effect.

One of the most common barriers to happiness that Hector diagnoses is the destructive habit of making comparisons. When we believe that others are happier, more successful and better looking than us, we fail to feel content where we are. We ignore all the positives that are right there in front of us, waiting to be appreciated.

It’s simple really. Happiness is a choice. Do the things that bring you happiness, and appreciate and enjoy all that you have and all that you are.

The second part of my message to my great-great-grandchild is to really really live life. Are we not already living our lives seen as we are alive, you ask? Yes, of course we are. But there’s a difference between living and really really living. And I want to really really live my life.

Really really living means getting out there to experience, explore, learn, grow and expand. It means being present to beauty, to nature and to love.

It’s in the sharing and connecting with other human beings and with all living things. It’s in the embracing and supporting. It’s in our tears and in our laughter.

It’s when we dance, sing, hike and swim. It’s in inspiring and being inspired. This for me is really really living.

Am I following my own advice? Am I being happy and really really living? For the most part, yes. Then sometimes, I compare. I think too much. I worry. I complain.

I wish things were different and I turn my back on the abundance that’s right here right now. I shut myself into a safe, boring, compact box and forget that there’s a glimmering world out there and I can do anything. Anything.

And then somehow life reminds me that it wants to be really really lived. And I thoroughly agree.

What advice would you give your great-great grandchild? Are you practising what you preach? If not, listen to yourself. You’re a wise one!

imagesbuddy.com

imagesbuddy.com

Other People

Yesterday, I texted a few of my like-minded friends to share my most recent awareness. The importance of other people.

Relationships (with a partner, friends, family, co-workers, acquaintances) accelerate our growth and teach us more about ourselves than all the spiritual retreats, self-help books, and hours of meditation and counselling ever could.

Other people serve as mirrors. They reflect back to us how we feel about ourselves and the beliefs we’re holding about life.

Every single person who enters our lives is there for a reason – to show us all the barriers we’ve placed around ourselves. Once we become aware of these barriers, we can remove them and open ourselves to love.

In Marianne Williamson’s book A Return to Loveshe writes about the two main emotions we experience – love and fear. Fear closes our hearts. Love opens us up to an easier, brighter, more wonderful world.

Up until recently, I had assumed that I preferred to be alone. I’d spend most evenings on my own, reading, writing, and watching TV. I walked alone, jogged alone, cycled alone. I meditated and did yoga alone. I took myself for coffee. I wandered alone in nature and took pictures. I holidayed in the west of Ireland. Alone.

I’m proud of my independence and I’m content in my own company but sometimes a stray pang of loneliness manages to slip through my carefully constructed armour. I realise now that I was confusing strength with a refusal to budge out of my comfort zone.

I really believed that I did better at life when I was single. Romantic relationships seemed to blaze into my world. They were quick and exciting and dangerous.

They were so out of my control that I feared I’d be engulfed in their flames. Then they died out, leaving me to tend to my burns.

I missed the warmth and beauty of relationships but I also felt blessedly relieved to be alone again. Alone, I was in control.

My longest romantic relationship was with my now ex-husband. Everything since then has never made it past the four-month mark.

I led what I thought was a balanced life. I had oceans of time to work on myself. I grow more when I’m single, I convinced myself.

And I’m glad of the time and space I’ve had to heal and to flourish. I agree that one must love oneself and have a full and happy life before one is ready to enter into a healthy relationship.

The thing is, I kept waiting for one (i.e. little old me) to become perfect, conscious and enlightened. I forgot that this life is a journey. And on this arduous yet rewarding adventure, we’re constantly learning, evolving and recalibrating.

It’s nice to share some of that journey with our fellow travellers who can also feel lost and who are also searching for meaning. And there’s more laughter and intimacy to be had on a path walked with more than one set of feet.

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After living alone for four years, I now have two housemates. I’m also spending more time with my fabulous friends. And I love meeting new people. How different we are fascinates me. How similar we are humbles me.

I understand now that living involves other people. For what is a life without company, support, affection and passion?

Other people highlight the areas we need to work on so that we can peel off yet another bullet-proof layer. It’s so much lighter and freer to let go of these heavy burdens that weigh us down and close us off. But it’s scary to be so exposed, so vulnerable.

I know that I have difficulty letting people in. Asking for help and believing I deserve to have my needs met is a challenge. But it’s a challenge I’m willing to accept.

Communication is also an area I’m working on. Recently, I detected a pattern of mine. When the going gets tough, my instinct is to bolt. To get out that door and never come back. But where’s the maturity in that? Where’s the learning, the growing, the compassion? Where is the love?

Other people have an amazingly frustrating knack of triggering the emotional reactions that I used to resist and get angry about. Now, when someone does or says something that provokes me to feel hurt, annoyed or defensive, I remember to breathe into it.

I feel grateful for this issue that I need to deal with. I look at my feelings about the incident, which leads to an understanding of why I’m feeling the way I do. Then, I let go and bring myself back to the present moment.

This is a very new practise for me, by the way, but it’s a revelation! I highly recommend it.

Today, I’m more open than ever before. This translates into a heightened enjoyment of life, a deeper appreciation of beauty, and more fun, peace and connection.

I am, thankfully and in Melody Beattie’s words, codependent no more. Nor am I locked in a distant land of me, myself and I.

I’m travelling on this awe-inspiring path called life. And it’s rich with billions of souls from whom I can learn so much, and with whom I can share a luminous journey.

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Images: Favim.com

To Let It Be

I turned to my friend and announced: “Resistance is what causes most of our suffering.”

This was off the back of a weekend spent in bed, sick and alone, while the sun shone, radio DJs played dance music to prepare us all for a fun Saturday night out, and my Facebook friends posted pictures of forest walks and ice creams in Dun Laoghaire.

I knew I was feeling sorry for myself. And I knew I had a lot to be thankful for. I wasn’t battling cancer. I hadn’t lost my home to a hurricane. And I wasn’t counting pennies to see if I’d be able to put food on the table.

But I was sick. And the weekend blazed sunnily through the windows. And there were no more dark chocolate covered rice cakes in the house.

And I was face-slappingly, heartbreakingly alone.

The thing is, I could have asked for help. In fact, one friend asked me if I needed anything. I replied honestly that I didn’t. There was nothing that I needed. And I didn’t want anyone to have to cancel their plans for me. I wanted people to be with me because they wanted to be there.

So I spent two days at home alone. Between sleeping, blowing my nose and weeping over my aloneness, I delved into Cheryl Strayed’s wonderful book Wild.

Cheryl had gone through some really tough times. Her father was abusive and her mother died of cancer. After Cheryl’s marriage broke down due to her infidelities and use of heroin, Cheryl took on an extraordinary journey in order to become the woman her mother saw in her. Cheryl hiked over a thousand miles alone on the epic Pacific Crest Trail.

“I felt more alone than anyone in the whole wide world,” Cheryl admitted. Later, she reasoned: “Maybe I was more alone than anyone in the whole wide world. Maybe that was okay.”

I lay in bed reading but it felt like I joined Cheryl as she sweated up mountains, grew blisters, lost toenails, and crossed paths with deer, bears and rattlesnakes. I walked alongside her as she raged into the wilderness, carrying a giant rucksack which she aptly named Monster. 

Before Cheryl set off on this amazing trek, somebody told her that the father’s job is to teach his children how to be warriors, “to give them the confidence to get on the horse and ride into battle when it’s necessary to do so.” She said that if you don’t get that from your father, you have to teach yourself. This woman predicted:

“There will come a time when you’ll need to get on your horse and ride into battle and you’re going to hesitate. You’re going to falter. To heal the wound your father made, you’re going to have to get on that horse and ride into battle like a warrior.”

I could relate to the burden Cheryl bent beneath. As she emptied a lifetime of sadness and anger into the wild, I too allowed myself to heal and release. And when Cheryl didn’t think she could go any further, I championed her as she walked on anyway. Her strength and determination humbled me as she completed a miraculous journey back to self. Cheryl finished her memoir with the words:

“How wild it was, to let it be.”

How wild it would be, to let everything be as it is. Without trying to change it. Without resisting what is. Without wishing things were different. Without wondering and worrying, regretting and replaying.

So this evening, I turned to my friend and said:

“Resistance is what causes most of our suffering.” 

And she retorted:

“Thinking is what causes most of our suffering.”

She went on to describe her morning. How she had spent time sweeping up leaves. My friend, like all of us, has plenty to think about, but she didn’t think. She swept.

She watched the leaves swirling in the wind. She felt the brush in her hands. And she listened to the sound of the bristles as she swept.

Tonight in bed, I notice that I am curled up tight, thinking. It hits me that I’ve probably spent most of my life thinking. Not living. Not experiencing. Not being. I’ve spent most of my life in my head. Thinking.

This is my life, I realise. And I want to be present to it. So I resolve to climb out of my head and into my heart. To be in my body. To feel. To experience. To live. To be present. To be open. To simply be.

A vision of my friend sweeping leaves floats into my consciousness. I relax into the bed. I can almost hear the bristles flicking onto the pathway, as the leaves dance in disobedience.

How wild it would be, to let it be.

weheartit.com

weheartit.com

Into the Wild

“We’re supposed to be different. Thank goodness.”

I posted these words on my Facebook page yesterday evening along with a quote from Susan Cain’s insightful book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

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In Quiet, Cain explores the differences between introverts and extroverts. In a society that seems to reward the confidence, charm and exuberant energy of extroversion, introverts often feel the need to step up, speak out and pick up the pace just so they too can succeed at life.

In the questionnaire at the beginning of the book, I scored a whopping 18 out of 20. This signifies that I’m more of an introvert. It means that I enjoy my own company. I need space and time alone. I recharge by spending evenings in with a book or a movie. I get energy from walks in nature and lying in the sun. And I like to sit in stillness and reflect on my feelings and the meaning of life.

I’m a thinker and a writer. And I’m sensitive. Sensitive to beauty, music and wonderfully worded pieces of prose. I’m sensitive to energy, people’s moods and violence on the television.

I feel deeply. I get depressed. An act of kindness can bring me to tears. I marvel at the many miracles of the universe. Spirituality is more important to me than material things. I’m passionate about life. But at times I feel like I’m drowning in it.

When I feel intimidated, I shut up. It can take me a while to feel comfortable around new people. On nights out, I’d rather not compete with the loud music and the din of chatty pub-goers. So I don’t. My voice just doesn’t seem to carry. If someone really wants to hear what I have to say, we have to lean in to one another.

However, when I’ve had a drink, none of that matters. Cain likens an alcoholic beverage to a glass of extroversion.

Most people aren’t exclusively introverts or extroverts. I love being around people and I lead a fairly busy social life. I enjoy meeting friends and trying out new hobbies but I much prefer participating in deep conversations with one or two people rather than chatting in large groups.

I recognise the benefits of team playing and brainstorming but I work best alone in a quiet room where I can retreat, silence my phone, and concentrate.

When something is bothering me, I tend to write, meditate, read and think. Then I discuss my problems, one-to-one, with someone I trust.

I end romantic relationships if they’re not right. I’d rather be alone than with someone who doesn’t help me flourish.

favim.com

favim.com

Last night, I watched Into the Wild for the second time. This true story is based on American adventurer Christopher McCandless. At twenty-four, Chris has fulfilled his parents’ dream of getting good grades and going to college. Then, instead of attending Harvard, he burns the remainder of his college fund, cuts up his social security and credit cards, and disappears, without a word, into the wild.

One of the reasons I love this film is because I feel it’s quite balanced in its storytelling. The different characters have different viewpoints, personalities and lifestyles.

We learn of Chris’ perspective on life. He resents the control and expectations of society and his parents. He wants to roam free. He needs to be independent and true to himself. He’s happiest when he’s diving into lakes, climbing mountains, and living off the land.

When he enters Los Angeles, he regards the skyscrapers and city-dwellers with an expression of disappointment and despair. We can almost see his soul dimming as he trudges through the metropolis. He imagines how his life could have been and he doesn’t regret his decision to break away. He can’t even stay one night there.

We also hear his sister’s version of events. She understands Chris’ reasons for abandoning the family. Her parents desperately desire a particular way of life for their son. Their intentions are good. This is the only way they know how to guide and protect him. But they’ve also caused their children a lot of pain. Ultimately, we watch them suffer too.

This movie really got me thinking. Was Chris acting selfishly? Was he foolish and naive? Or was he right to go on his own journey, to figure out his meaning of life, to really live and experience and come to his own conclusions?

busaff.com

busaff.com

I’ve often felt different. I’ve struggled to fit in. I’ve felt stifled by society and I’ve agonised over the following:

What is being true to yourself? And what is running away? When do you stop living in the clouds and finally conform? When do you “settle down”?

Then there are the shoulds and norms of society. You should be responsible. That’s what being an adult is all about. You need a good job. You can’t live without money. You need your own home. When are you going to find a husband? Will you have enough time for children? For goodness’ sake, you won’t survive without a pension.

I got 525 points in my Leaving Certificate but secondary school may as well have been a battlefield for all the anxiety I experienced. I did well at swimming and athletics but competition didn’t sit well with me. I dropped out of college twice.

Truthfully, the only reason I went back to college as a mature student was because I felt I had to. How else would I become a functioning member of society?

I obtained a First Class Honours degree and received the Sunday World Cup for Best Student of Journalism with a Language. Though proud of my achievements and happy to gain approval from the people I care about, it added to the pressure I felt to do more with my life, to live up to my potential and to succeed.

And I don’t do well under pressure. So instead of applying for jobs in journalism, I threw myself into an alternative world of acupuncture, homeopathy, personal development and spirituality. And I’ve never been happier.

Of course, I still experience paralysing moments of fear. The voices in my head go something like this: What are you doing with your life? Grow up. Be normal.

So I tentatively move forwards with one eye clamped on everybody else in the world who’s doing things the “right” way. I compare, criticise and compete. I alter my behaviour and try to change who I am in the hope that I will prosper. I worry that I’m not adult enough for this big bad world of business and mortgages.

But what does “adult” mean? How “should” a 34-year-old woman live? Why must we all melt into one right way of doing things? We’re not all the same. That much is very clear.

Yes, there’s a reason why most of us follow the well-trodden path in life. There’s safety and security in the tried and tested route. Most people want to see life’s landmarks so they know where they are and what to expect around the corner.

But some of us thrive on change. The unknown excites us. Newness is revitalising. It’s what keeps that spark inside of us alight.

It’s a relief to realise that we don’t have to be the same as one another. We don’t have to compete because we each have unique gifts to bring to the world.

There’s no point trying to do things his way or attempting to be as good as her because you’re not them. You’re you.

Some of us want to climb the career and property ladders all the way to the top. And some of us are quite happy to keep our feet on the ground.

Whether we’re commuting to our permanent jobs, bringing our children to school or backpacking across the globe, we can be fully alive and true to the essence of who we really are.

Whether we’re writing fantasy novels, saving lives, cleaning the streets or designing websites, we can be the people we’re meant to be.

Whether we’re introverted or extroverted or a dollop of one and two tablespoons of the other, we are unique and perfect just as we are.

We’re different and brilliant in our all of our shade and all of our colour. We blend and we clash and we all come together in this stunning masterpiece of humanity.

We may think we know who we are. We stamp ourselves with neat and convenient labels so we can understand and make sense of the world around us. But life changes. We change. We grow and develop and we dip in and out of lots of different attributes and characteristics. Every colour of the rainbow is available to us to try on and see what suits us best.

And whether we’re paying into our pensions or collecting the dole, none of us can really know what to expect next. Nothing is certain.

The weather is unpredictable. And the terrain is constantly changing. We may want to know the exact directions to a predetermined destination. But we are all, in fact, walking into the unknown. We are all on a journey into the wild.

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The Fear

One of the biggest things I’ve struggled with over my lifetime is fear. Over the past few days, I’ve examined this fear and I’ve discovered that it has many, many layers.

There is fear of making mistakes. Fear of doing it wrong. Fear of failure. Fear of getting into trouble. Fear of criticism, disapproval and rejection. Fear of my own feelings. Even fear of happiness in case it were to disappear.

Fear of not being good enough. Fear of not being talented enough, competent enough, confident enough, pretty enough, slim enough, and the list goes on…

Fear of losing hope. And fear of having hope because I’m bound to destroy it.

As I shower this morning, I realise what’s really lurking behind all this fear. It’s fear of being found out. Found out to be stupid, incapable, ugly, unlovable.

And so this fear has prevented me from going for jobs, moving abroad, writing a book, staying in relationships, opening up to friends, and telling people that I like them. In short, fear has stopped me from putting myself out there.

Once I make this discovery, I can logic it. What is it about stepping out that I’m so afraid of? That people will discover that I’m human? Scared? Imperfect?

Aren’t these the things that I love and admire in other people? Don’t we feel more connected with other human beings when we realise that we’re all the same? Real and brave and frightened?

If I can accept others for how they are, why do I resist doing the same for myself? Why are my standards and expectations for myself so ridiculously high? Is it because I don’t like myself enough or is it because I like myself so much that I want to be the best that I can be? Interesting because this desire is actually blocking me from doing just that.

Over the Christmas, I read Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles. Once I delved into the first chapter, I was hooked. Marianne speaks about being paralysed with terror. She writes:

“You’d think we have some compassion for ourselves, bound up in emotional chains the way we are, but we don’t. We’re just disgusted with ourselves, because we think we should be better by now. Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking other people don’t have as much fear as we do, which only makes us more afraid. Maybe they know something we don’t know. Maybe we’re missing a chromosome.”

This really resonated with me. I forget that other people feel fear too. Everybody does. We just don’t hear about it all that much. We think that other people just get on with it. They do and they grow and they succeed.

And I compare myself unfavourably with the whole human race. I neglect to focus on my own courage and achievements, which are many.

I dismiss my own journey and instead listen to the family members and neighbours as they comment on So-and-so’s flourishing business and Thingymajig’s promotion and new home and Yer-one-down-the-road’s wonderful partner and family.

“They’re doing so well”, they gush. And I hate myself a little more. I see other people’s highlight reels on Facebook and I wince in self-judgement.

Last night, I lay in bed reading Oprah Winfrey’s lovely book What I Know For Sure when I had an Aha moment. Oprah speaks about her fear of seeming arrogant. She writes:

“In some ways, even my weight was my apology to the world – my way of saying, ‘See, I really don’t think I’m better than you.'”

When I was younger, I was teased for being “posh” and using big words. I was also teased for having a rather large bosom for a 13-year-old. And I was beaten up because a girl’s boyfriend fancied me.

After those experiences, I was careful with my language and I tried not to appear full of myself. I changed the way I behaved depending on the group of people I was with. I didn’t flirt. And I made sure not to do anything too different so that I could avoid unwanted attention.

When other people were miserable, I downplayed my contentment and instead broadcast my difficulties. You see, I’d say. I’m not a threat. So you can like me.

Now that I understand where all this fear comes from, I have a choice. I choose to no longer allow fear to immobilise me. I want to take risks and move forwards and flourish. And I understand that I do love myself. I’ve just been confused about how to show myself this love.

From now on, I’ll love myself when I have the courage to shine. I’ll love myself when I’m gasping with fear. I’ll love myself when I do. And I’ll love myself when I am.

The trick is to understand that we all feel fear. Our bravery lies in our ability to push forth anyway. In Oprah Winfrey’s words:

“Sometimes moving on terrified me. But it always taught me that the true meaning of courage is to be afraid, and then, with your knees knocking, to step out anyway.”

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keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk