Tag Archives: wonder

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.

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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?

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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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Let It All In

Remember those noisy neighbours? Well tonight, I pop in a pair of earplugs and will myself to sleep. My body is tense from the anticipation of the noise that I wish would disappear from my life completely.

This time however, instead of trying desperately to block out the noise, I decide to really go into the feeling that it brings up in me. It feels like the noise gets right into me. I want to withdraw from it but I can’t. I believe that this shouldn’t be happening and that is what fills me with rage. I wish I could wrap myself in a safe little bubble where nothing can get in but I just can’t seem to protect myself from it.

Once I’ve felt all there is to feel, I access a memory of childhood summers snorkelling in Greece. I’d spend hours submerged in this underwater haven where all I could hear was the sound of my own breathing. There was another world down there, full of peace and colour and surprises. I long for that peace right now.

Suddenly, I have an awareness. I am insisting on shutting out a part of life. I’m not allowing certain things in. And if I’m closing myself off to the noise, what else am I resisting?

I lie in bed and tentatively begin to let it all in. I am open. I am open to the good and bad, the noise and silence, the love and despair, the fear and joy. I am open to the anger and happiness, sadness and inspiration, the beauty and simplicity, the light and the darkness. Life in all its forms. Once I start allowing the noise in, who knows what other wonderful things will appear?

I also realise that the noise isn’t an outside invader, robbing me of my calm. The struggle is within me. I am reacting to this perceived injustice. I can choose how this affects me.

Rather than viewing these things as outside of me, I accept that all aspects of life are a part of me. In my withdrawal from the noise, what noise of my own am I suppressing? I am the noise but I am also the peace. And I am the love that once seemed so external and conditional.

So tonight, I let it all in. Because it’s already there. And on that conundrum, I promptly fall asleep.

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Powerful Questions

My Life Coaching teacher asked one of my classmates the following question:

“If you went to a fortune-teller, what area of your life would you most like to know about? And what would you like the fortune-teller to tell you about it?”

This morning, armed with a cup of tea, pen and paper, I sat down to answer that question for myself. And this is what I wrote:

“I don’t think I’d like to know. There’s something magic and exciting about imagining what wonderful things are going to happen.

“I won’t limit myself. I could be disappointed with what the fortune-teller tells me. Or I could start looking for that one particular thing, thus ruling out other possibilities.

“I’m constantly evolving and raising my vibration so my destiny is rapidly changing. Plus, I have free will.”

Every morning, I ask myself: “I wonder what wonderful things are going to happen today.” I want to remain open to that enthusiasm and opportunity.

There’s something powerful about asking questions that make you think outside the box. It can be really insightful to answer such questions. What would your answer be?

And if, like me, you enjoy lateral thinking, here are some more questions asked by the Life Coaching teacher last weekend:

  • If you could be any age, what age would you be and why?
  • If you were a fictional character, who would you be? Why?
  • If you were immortal for a day, what would you do?
  • If you could change your name, what would you change it to? Why?
  • If you could be any drink, what would you be?
  • How would the person who loves you most describe you?
  • If you could wave a magic wand to give yourself an extra characteristic, what would it be?
  • In five years’ time, what would you like your life to be like?
  • If you knew you couldn’t fail and nobody would judge you, what would you do?
  • What are the three most important things in your life?
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pinterest.com

I Marvel

I am lying in bed when Johann Pachelbel’s Canon starts playing. Tears spring to my eyes at the sheer happiness that emanates from this orchestra. In these five beautiful minutes, I marvel at how music must have been discovered. At how a violin is carved out of wood. And how someone decided to add strings and a bow and a chin rest. I marvel at the hours of practice, passion and dedication of the musicians. At how they all come together to play this magnificent piece of music. And how they must be feeling to be part of this wonderful creation. I marvel at how one man in 17th century Germany was inspired to compose such a masterpiece. And finally, I marvel at how all the violins and bows and musicians and passion and discovery and inspiration all sum up to this…

Being Human

I met someone at a festival recently, who made a few interesting observations about what it is to be human. As we walked by groups of animated festival-goers, he remarked: “Everybody here has paid money just to be around other people. Humans love being near other humans.” As we passed strings of coloured fairy lights, he added: “Humans are always drawn to the light.” He then urged me to scream: “I’m alive!” We both did, like an aural, two-man Mexican wave: “I’m alive! I’m alive!” Each declaration stirred the life inside me. “It’s true,” I thought. “I am alive.”

A week later, as I drove towards my home town, a great tune came on the radio. I’d love to be on a night out so I could go mad to this song, I wished. Then, I reminded myself that there’s no time like the present. So I howled at the moon and fist-pumped at the oncoming traffic.

And just tonight, as I lie in bed, the wind whipping outside, I grasp a whisper of that evasive peace I felt as I listened to the nocturnal sound of the sea once upon a time in Utila, in Antiparos, in Ballyferriter. I can have that peace right here, right now, I decide with a smile.

Really living doesn’t have to be reserved for the weekends or when you’re drunk or high or on holiday. Each breath is a reminder of the life that courses through you. Your life is a wonderful, miraculous gift. You can enjoy every single moment. Every slurp of tea. Every unexpected chuckle. Every splash of colour. Every chord, caress, aroma and flavour.

You know that you’re alive when your body bounces to a beat, arches into a kiss, nuzzles into slumber, twitches in a dream. You know that you’re human when you shed hot tears of rejection and loss. When your insides glow at a compliment or a pleasant exchange. When you feel the excitement of a flirtation or the nervousness of a new challenge. And you know that there’s more than all this when you feel that magical intimacy with another human being and the world opens just a fraction wider to accommodate the growth of the budding bond that you share.

You feel how spectacular the world is with every  glimpse of the sky, the clouds, the trees. With every field, flower, and blade of grass. With the wind that keens and moves amongst it all. With every breath that revives you and moves you… Allow yourself to be moved.

When did playing with cardboard boxes stop being fun?

During the week, I went for a walk by the river. The sun sprinkled the air with opportunity, the birds were making themselves known, and a tiny snail crossed my path with quiet determination. A warm wind tackled me and I splayed out my arms like a child hoping to take flight. I was reminded of summer holidays on a beach in the west of Ireland. But I was no longer a carefree kid and it was just an ordinary day. However, instead of rationalising away this welcome feeling of freedom and spontaneity, I allowed myself to bask in it. I gazed at the water as it danced in delight beneath the sunbeams. I observed a crow as it slipped and slid off a signpost and I laughed as I wondered if it had momentarily forgotten that it could fly. I closed my eyes and turned my face to the sun.

My thought I am not on holidays could have ruined this beautiful moment. But why deny yourself feelings of enjoyment? You don’t have to designate yourself a mere two weeks of relaxation a year. At any time of your choosing, you can access that wonder and excitement you shower upon yourself whenever you enter a foreign land. Everything is new and exotic and has yet to be explored. When you’re on holidays, the reason you feel so alive and unburdened is because you are allowing yourself to live in the present moment. Imagine, you can bring that feeling to your everyday life. Isn’t that wonderful?

"A poet is someone who is astonished by everything."

Our thoughts dictate our feelings and experiences of the world around us. Last week, my aunt feared she’d lost her handbag, which was holding a huge wad of cash. She suffered pangs of panic and dread. It turns out she’d left the bag in her mother-in-law’s house. Her handbag was never missing and the money was never gone. Yet her thoughts about it all created a reality where she had just lost a large amount of money.

Anything can happen to you. Anything at all. But your thoughts about what is occurring (or what you believe is occurring) are shaping how you experience this reality. Approach each day with a sense of curiosity and inquisitiveness. Explore your world. Reacquaint yourself with the childlike innocence that once brought you so much joy.

Lately, I have been reintroducing that freshness and curiosity to my daily life. There is something to be learned from absolutely everything. Humour and enjoyment feature hugely in my interactions with the world. I am going with the flow. I appreciate the little things and marvel at the big things (the intricacies of nature and the universe, the power of the mind, the magnificence of goodwill). I am choosing to think good thoughts about the people around me and, as a result, my experience of humanity of late has been extremely positive.

So, the next time you’re walking the streets of your city, interacting with nature or other human beings, or bending into a warm spring breeze, bear in mind that what you choose to think in that moment will construct the very essence of your experience. The power is all yours.

Images: birds.com; squidoo.com