If you carry your childhood with you, you never become older.~Tom Stoppard
When I was little I’d lay in bed at night and dream about what it would be like to start over. I would move somewhere and no one would know who I was. I’d be living alone and in peace.
In this fantasy I was always the new girl at school. I was quiet and most people just left me alone. I didn’t have a lot of friends, but I wasn’t a complete loner either. To me, this sounded like paradise.
In my late twenties I got to realize my fantasy, moving across the continent alone where I knew no one and could be exactly who I wanted to be, without all the drama that came from years of living in one place.
There are always two choices. Two paths to take.
One is easy. And its reward is that it’s easy.~Unknown
When I was younger, struggling to form bonds with my peers and muscle my way through the turmoil that is adolescence, I always pictured my life ten, twenty, thirty years down the road like an enjoyable trip down a lazy river — one that flowed effortlessly, guided by the wisdom I had gathered throughout the years.
I looked forward to the day when I could reach a plateau and things would come easily, because I had strength, knowledge and an abundance of resources at my disposal. I would be married with kids, surrounded by love that would never evade me.
To me, with age came certainty, stability, ease and grace. I thought that all of the awkwardness that comes with growth and change would be a thing of my past.
So, as I entered my twenties, I spent a great deal of time searching for “perfection” in my personal and professional life, believing that the only way to curb the constant upheaval from growth and change would be to find the relationship and career that would make everything else fall into place.
When there are no enemies within,
the enemies outside cannot hurt you.~African proverb
Treating myself kindly is not something that comes naturally to me.
From a young age, I believed I needed to be perfect to be any good. It was probably a combination of my natural type A tendencies and my family environment. My younger brother had a lot of problems when he was a kid, struggled in school, and often acted out. He was always in trouble.
My parents were probably happy to have one child who made things easy for them. I always did well in school, always behaved, and always followed the rules.
Everything seemed great up through high school. I got straight A’s without studying too hard, excelled on my school’s water polo team, and was a respected leader in my class. I was accepted to go to college at Harvard, and thought I was pretty special.
Being a perfectionist caught up with me, though. When I got to Harvard, I was immediately knocked off my high horse by people much smarter and more talented than I was.
The most glorious moments in your life
are not the so-called days of success,
but rather those days when out of dejection and despair
you feel rise in you a challenge to life,
and the promise of future accomplishments.~Gustave Flaubert
I sat in bed sobbing myself to sleep.
How had things gotten this bad? How could it be that all the personal development I had worked on for the past two years had all come undone?
Everyone always talks about self-improvement like it’s some kind of constant and steady progression in a positive direction, but they often gloss over those moments of hopelessness when it all seems to come crumbling down on you.
And that’s how I felt. My partner was there next to me, but he couldn’t have felt further away.
Men's natures are alike; it is their habits that separate them.~Confucius
Recently, a friend in my 30 Day Challenge group brought up a really interesting point. “Have you noticed” he asked, “that it’s far easier to remove something or limit something from your life than it is to add to it?”
It gave me pause. Every challenge I seemed to excel at had something to do with deprivation. I’d quit caffeine. I’d stopped eating gluten. My media fast was pretty successful as well, but what I’d had trouble with was reading something every day for myself.
I took it as a challenge. I have all sorts of good habits that I cultivated in my adult life: daily journaling, exercise, cooking. How did I add these to my life? And what lessons can I apply to creating a new good habit?
When we can no longer change a situation,
we are challenged to change ourselves.~Viktor Frankl
When you try to hinder the growth process, life has a way of making things very uncomfortable for you.
I learned this because I was extremely uncomfortable in my skin, in my mind, in my physical world for a while before the temporary realities of my life came crashing down around me – in a huge way.
Before I was forced to make a series of big changes, I had resigned myself to this idea that I would just have to muscle through the hardships, that I would need to exert all of my energy into holding on or things wouldn’t turn out the way they were supposed to.
I was exhausted, but I believed that this was just a period of my life where I would need to swim upstream.
Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dream.~Paulo Coelho
If you had said to me at the peak of my suffering that it would be the best thing to happen, I would have thought you were mad.
If you had told me then that it would transform my life, change the direction of my career and enhance my relationships with my children and loved ones I would never have believed you.
But this is exactly what happened. I was stressed, highly anxious and thoroughly depressed at my worst. I never realised that this experience was a blessing! Up until this point I had been sleep walking through my life and it was the wake-up call I needed.
Peace cannot be kept by force.
It can only be achieved by understanding.~Albert Einstein
Conflict has always been something that my physical body reacts to viscerally, gnawing at my stomach, growing up into my heart and eventually taking up residence in my brain, sitting heavy until the issue can be resolved and room can be made for other thoughts and lighter feelings.
I am a dweller, someone who will spend hours hashing out an issue, taking everything out from underneath the rug in order to inspect it, discuss it and let it dissipate — unless I feel that I am unshakably right and the other party is wrong.
When it comes to conflict, I am hopelessly preoccupied. It can be exhausting — especially when paired with the “right fighter” instinct.
It is the stillness that will save and transform the world.~Eckhart Tolle
Several years ago I lived with a good friend who spoke English as her third language. While she spoke fluently after years of experience, there was one phrase I used that she had trouble grasping at first: Just be.
As in, “After we finish grocery shopping, let’s go to the beach and just be.” She’d always want to finish the sentence. “Just be … relaxing. Just be … writing.”
When I explained what I meant, that I would really just like to sit, observe and exist, without any expectations, she was delighted.
This, she declared, was a very un-American, very un-Western thing to do, which would make sense that why after fifteen years of learning English she’d never heard the phrase.