Life is beautiful

I’m writing this on a Monday – that dread day of the week – telling you that life is beautiful.

Thanks to a weekend with the most excellent company, filled with shared laughter, food and affection, I’m feeling totally in love with life. My perspective is refreshed and I can see quite clearly that my life is amazing.

I look around me and see so many good things: the little cottage that’s become a cozy home, the community of warm and inspiring people I’m connecting with, the astonishing natural beauty of this place (that I get to appreciate every day), the loving and inspiring people I’m fortunate to call friends and the many excellent adventures I’ve had and have yet to come. In a few weeks’ time I’m off on an adventure of a lifetime with one such friend: the Atacama Desert and Machu Picchu (I’m almost imploding with excitement about this!). I have a job I enjoy, working with people I like and respect. I wake up in the mornings and I want to get out of bed, to see what the day brings.

This little corner of the universe is a pretty damn special place to be. This life – my life – is something astonishing. My life is amazing. It wasn’t always so.

Not so long ago, my life looked very different. I was lost, defeated and seriously ill. Disaffected with my career, isolated in a State where I knew no-one and with my life tied to another who was pulling me in the opposite direction to where I needed to be, it was a very different picture indeed.

past life

I was not living my values, I was not listening to my emotions and I was very, very stressed. Every ounce of energy I had was expended running as fast as I could just to stay still. They call stress the silent killer, and they’re really not kidding: I developed severe Grave’s Disease, an auto-immune condition triggered by stress and a latent genetic susceptibility. I lost the best part of 5 years of my life to this illness and I lost my will to fight, instead watching my life slip further and further from where I wanted it to be.

Eventually, after two doses of radio-iodine, my body recovered and I finally found the energy to start re-building my life. It was a long, slow process, filled with challenges and difficult lessons, but it’s brought me to the place I am now, and for that I will be forever grateful.

Being sick was awful. Extracting myself from the unhappy mire that had become my life was one of the hardest choices I’ve ever made, but these experiences helped me to build the life I have today. Worth it? Yes, several times over.

Dawn2
Here are a few of the things I’ve learnt along my journey, and will likely keep re-learning for the rest of my life:

  • Life in tenuous, uncertain; the future rarely turns out the way we plan. Stop waiting, stop telling yourself “one day” and start living now.
  • If your thought processes seem a little broken or you just can’t keep your head clear, find a good psychologist. Persist until you find one who feels right for you; it’s worth every cent.
  • Without risk there is no reward. Taking risks challenges us and makes us grow. Playing safe constrains and cripples us. Put yourself out there.
  • Learn to be resilient: build the support structures, emotional strength and coping mechanisms to roll with life’s punches and make the best of it. Fighting things you can’t change is a waste of time and the universe doesn’t give a damn about fairness.
  • Stress is your body and brain telling you that something is wrong. Chronic stress is a sign that something is fundamentally off-track in your world. Find it and change it.
  • Where you can’t change the circumstance, try changing your perspective. Sometimes looking at things a different way can change your whole world.
  • As much as possible, live your values. Work out what they are, then how to build them into your every day: life feels much less like hard slog once you stop fighting yourself.
  • Don’t underestimate yourself: you will be amazed at what you can learn / achieve / withstand once you’re making those choices for the right reasons.
  • Trust your instincts[1]. Our brains are processing so much more information than we’re consciously aware of and feeding it to us as gut reactions.
  • Surround yourself with the kinds of people who bring out the best in you. Choose friends who inspire, motivate and encourage you to be the best version of you. Avoid the people who try to make you less than you want to be.
  • Tell the people who matter how you feel. Be honest with them and with yourself, ask for what you need, give what you can and love freely.
  • Make mistakes, and forgive others for making them. Remember that everyone deserves a second chance, including you.
  • Take good care of yourself: no-one else can do it for you, so it’s up to you to work out what you need and provide it for yourself.

Dawn5

So have I won the war? No, but I have learnt how to win the battles that really count. I still take on too much, get over-stressed and under-slept and let life’s knocks bowl me over now and again. There are many lessons I’m going to need learn repeatedly: the ones about balance, about the warning signs of stress, about taking on too many things and trying to control too much, about security-seeking, risk avoidance and resilience. There will be many times I fall down, sliding back into old, broken thought patterns and behaviours. I will fail again and again and again; that is inevitable. But you know what? That’s not what counts.

What matters is picking yourself up again, dusting yourself off and getting back on that bloody horse, no matter how many times you fall. It’s remembering who you really want to be and putting in the work to get there. It’s about learning from each fall, challenging your behaviours and beliefs and finding a better way forwards, building the shape of things to come. It’s about making change sustainable, and stopping occasionally to look around and see just how far you’ve come.

So who do you want to be?

[1] Unless you’re a woman on the contracetive pill, in which case your instincts may well be broken

5 Comments on “Life is beautiful

    • I don’t know about wisdom. Perhaps I’ll be wise when I finally retain the lessons and don’t need reminding every few weeks or months. I’ve wandered a long way off track again recently and am wondering how to get back to where I want to be.

  1. Beautiful, Toni. This resonates very much with where I am on my path just now. All my life I’ve wanted to make a living as a freelance writer but I’ve always listened to voices telling me it isn’t possible, it isn’t practical, I’m not good enough or I’m not motivated enough. Recently I began to realize that if I become old and sick without giving this dream a chance, I’ll be a very disappointed. I guess I have tried it before, but wasn’t quite ready. Now I am, I also have my partner’s support, an essential factor that was always lacking until recently. A few steps along the path and I feel empowered, infatuated, obsessed with writing. Instead of wondering whether I have any stories in me, I’m writing them. I decided to hire a mentor, mostly to help with the next scary task of starting to pitch stories to editors. We had our first session today. She tells me I have a knack for coming up with good story ideas and that my income goals are very reasonable. It’s very simple, but nobody has ever quite told me these things before. I don’t remember ever feeling so happy about how I’m spending my time or as much optimism about where my future might take me.

    • Hi Van! It feels right when you’re on the correct path, doesn’t it? I’m really pleased to hear that life is unfolding so well for you. Timing is everything. =o)

      May the words continue to flow and life ling remain beautiful.

  2. Pingback: Hooked into the machine | Shape of Things to Come

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