Life as the prize, not the punishment
This week I have been fortunate enough to have spent some beautiful time with gorgeous people having really special conversations about life, what it means to us and - particularly - individuals' reactions to my having made a bold decision to change the entire anchoring of my life and pursue a way of living, earning money and working that feels more aligned with who I truly am deep down.
Something that I have found so interesting and eye-opening about the decision I have made and the path that I have been walking since then is that I can't honestly say that I realised before to what extent we look to the people around us to guide our own decisions about life. I knew that I had been doing this for a long time and that it took a really loud, crazy part of me to yell 'I can't do this anymore!' and try a new direction. But I honestly thought that I was one of the rare ones who had stumbled onto the wrong path, got comfortable there and couldn't quite figure out a way back.
Turns out, I was wrong.
So many people have told me in the past few weeks that I am brave, that I have inspired them, that they wish they were the sort of spontaneous person who could make a life-altering decision like mine. (Newsflash - absolutely anyone can be a 'spontaneous person'. Make a reckless, spontaneous decision and boom you're a spontaneous person!) Most of the time, I accept this praise with gratitude and try to humbly explain that I really didn't give myself much of a choice. My body physically responded to the situation that I had put myself in and told me enough was enough. And really, it took me years to read and recognise the signs that it had been telling me. So, I'm not too sure that spontaneity really came into it...
The interesting part is how many people - as part of these conversations - tell me about the struggles they are living through in their own lives, the paths that they have wandered off, and how lost they now feel. How afraid they are to make a change. How brave I am to have made one for myself. It feels as if so many of us who are living in civilised, western society, have been conned by the same untruths. Untruths and lessons that have been passed down to us from generation to generation, telling us how to live a good and happy life and what that looks like. How to be a good citizen. To follow the predetermined path. To succeed and grow and live a successful life.
It occurred to me the other day, as I was in the midst of one of these conversations, that we seem to have been taught at some point that life on a day to day basis should be a miserable experience. That the 'daily grind' is a price we all have to pay for the glory of those occasional moments of wonderment that happen when we take some time off work or give ourselves permission to do something that we enjoy. That we have to suffer through an agonising day of work we hate in order to be able to enjoy the nature swim that makes us come alive in the evening... What I am starting to realise, as I journey through my unravelling (and really I know that two weeks in I am only at the very start of this process), is that this is categorically untrue. I find all the same things magical and wonderful that I did before. I am working just as hard and I am dealing with the same societal and personal pressures. The difference is that I make a conscious choice each and every day to find gratitude in the work that I have, to be fully present in the life I am leading and to structure my life around what tops me up rather than what empties me out. Daily life isn't the punishment we have to endure and live through to get to the reward of retirement after 40 years of hard work! Life is the prize we have all been given, full of wondrous possibilities to provide us with happiness, fulfilment and contentment every single day.
When we live truly in the present and we learn to disconnect ourselves from the pressures and stresses of what might be coming in the future, we find that happiness isn't actually that hard to find at all. It's all around us, all of the time.
There is joy to be found in that morning cup of tea.
Music in the clatter of tables being put up outside at dawn for the weekly market.
Beauty in the rain that falls and breaks the hot heaviness of a summer's day.
Magic to be found in finding nature thriving in the most unlikely of places - grass growing out of drainpipes, poppies popping up out of cracks in pavements...
Entertainment to be had from listening to drunken people fall over outside your front door in the middle of the night.
Really, when we start to look, there is a joyfulness to daily life that is simply not worth rushing through life to miss! And it's certainly not worth living in a growing bed of anger and resentment because we can't make those decisions and we are forced to stay on our own pre-destined path.
I made the scary choice to walk away from the tried and tested path and yes I don't know my way, but I finally have the time to decide where I want to go, what feels right for me, to listen to that knowing voice deep down inside me and honour what she has to say. I can have fun in being lost and live a true life of adventure where the day to day life is my prize for living. Any attainment of goals and dreams that I may stumble across are simply cherries on the cake... not the entire reason for the journey.
So, my message for this week and under the energy of this new moon, is to take time to set yourself an intention to journey inwards, to think about all that lights you up, the sort of life that you could only dream of and maybe take the first step towards making that life your reality, rather than hoping that after a lifetime of struggles you will wake up one day contented and aligned.
The below poem expresses everything I've just said in much more eloquence than I have. It's one of my favourites for Savasana:
From the second that you're in this world
they tell you what is 'fair',
the questions you're allowed to ask
and the ones you wouldn't dare.
Placed on the path they've paved before you
Life pushes you along without the chance
to stop and think if it's right where you belong.
But beyond your pathway's edges is where living really starts
a land of risks and danger, and a land of broken hearts.
They'll tell you you should fear this land,
That there's no good there at all,
As they live their lives as they've been taught,
Behind expectation's wall.