Life is always full of surprises, some good, some not so great. Sometimes life is turned upside down when you least expect it. That is exactly where I found myself some time ago when my dad unexpectedly had life-saving emergency surgery and our time spent back in Europe took a very different turn. Gratefully, my dad survived and while his recovery process will still take some time, I’m confident and positive that he will get there.
We often learn the most when life takes us down a path we don’t necessarily want to be on. It’s painful and shitty sometimes, but at times we will all find ourselves down in the trenches, a little bruised and weary. We often waste our energy on fighting the reality of what is: wishing it away, which we all know is futile. Once we’ve gone through the initial spasms of fighting what is, we’re better off using our energy on dealing effectively with what lies before us.
If we can find a way to open up to the experience of our life, accepting things for what they are, you will flow more with life and ride the waves – some soft, some hard – and experience the joy inherent in living. Life is constant in that it always changes. The ups and downs are an integral experience of this adventure and present us with huge opportunities for growth.
I view life as a continuous path of learning, and here’s some of what I picked up on this latest adventure. I hope it will serve you in some way.
- Life is simple. When life throws you a curveball, your priorities and values often become crystal clear. We meet who we truly are and what matters most to us. While at some level I knew this already, the importance of the relationship with my parents moved right to the forefront. If the situation would call for it, I would drop it all to be with them. No questions asked.
There is something immensely powerful about being confronted with mortality – your own or that of a loved one. But it is a reality that none of us can get away from. It’s something we often don’t want to think about, but I would actually urge you to do so. Why would you wait until the end of your life to look back and see whether you’ve made the right choices? Why not determine first what is most important to you and then live your life accordingly?
- Time is what you make it – it’s truly a mental construct. I thought I always had to be busy and had to be working. But the reality is you don’t. In Western culture, we have popularized the idea that we need to be busy to matter. We don’t. And many of the things that you think are important, just aren’t. Ultimately you will focus your time and effort on the things that matter most. When we’re truly focused, we get so much more done and in fact work most effectively.
- Time is precious. Say what you need to say, do what you want to do. We don’t often live our lives with a sense of urgency, and I’m not necessarily saying we should all the time. But living with a sense of passion and purpose for your life is important. What you say and what you do matters. Your life counts. You matter. Live as the biggest version of yourself – otherwise, you’re selling the world short.
- Be vulnerable. Ask for help. There’s nothing that builds community, friendship and intimacy more than vulnerability. Don’t make life harder than it needs to be. Share your feelings, and allow others to help you when they can. There are always things that we have to do ourselves, but why not enjoy the support and company of friends along parts of the way?
- Put your oxygen mask on first. Self-love and self-care are essential to your ability to be there for others. They are not selfish acts, they allow you to show up in the world and for others in the best way possible. If life turns really hectic, find small moments of peace and create more breathing space for yourself. Literally – even if it’s a brief minute, feel the ground beneath your feet and take a deep breath – it’s your internal power source.
- Find gratitude. There is always something to be grateful for. The air that you breathe, the fact that you have woken up to experience another day, the opportunity to learn from whatever you are being presented with now. While I never would have wished for my dad to become so unwell, I’m immensely grateful that I was able to be there during this time, and that the bond as a family unit was cemented in love and care.
These may all seem like generalisations and they are. But we forget.
We forget because we take things for granted. We forget that it is not a given that we have our family and friends around us. That we wake up each and every day and are able to live our lives. That we have our health, the ability to travel and see the world.
Life is precious. Don’t waste your time with things that ultimately don’t matter.
Focus your love, energy and attention on the people and the things that do. Whenever your time has come up, you will only remember the things that truly mattered: the people around you, the adventures and experiences you had, the legacy of what you left behind in the person that you were.
Live with intention my dear one, because you matter.