Over a 12 year period in my life, I lost 11 close friends and family. They all died of different and unrelated causes, the youngest 19 a close friend died in a car accident, my stepfather 43 died of heart failure and my uncle 41 died of meningitis. I lost so many people I loved and cared for I often wonder how I survived that time with my sanity in tact. I guess I learned to be more mindful and accept as much as I am able the impermanence of this life. I am now able to stop and be in the moment for a short while. For example, my favourite flowers are Daffodils they flower for such a short period during the year that when I see them I always stop to appreciate their wonderful vibrant colours, their somewhat simple but beautiful form, the way the dance delicately in the wind. For a moment I am lost in the present totally absorbed and totally alive, not living in the past or future, just enjoying one single moment. The impermanence of the lovely bloom somehow enhances its beauty, as I believe it does with life.
This practice has kept me sane. However, I realised this week that I don’t apply this thinking to my life generally. I am waiting for my back to be better or the house I am renovating to be finished before getting on and living my life. I have been suffering from sciatica for eighteen months and I have been renovating a house for over two years, in part due to the slow pace necessitated by my pain. Two years are a long time to put my life on hold. Past experience tells me that there are no guarantees that I will be here next year, next week or even tomorrow. Ok so I am often in significant pain and I have very little money or time due to renovating a house.
I wondered where I got this from and realised I have probably always thought like this and those around me with the best intensions encourage this kind of thinking. My father always told me “when you finish university you can…”, my partner tells me “when we have more time you can…” and I have told myself “once I get a better job I will…” but when does it stop. When do I get to the point that I can live my life, because once I finished university I needed a job and then a better job and then more time and now my back to get better I realised I want to live my life now. Not just in some fanciful day-dream of a future that is in reality always just out of reach because the goal posts shift. Life isn’t perfect but it is my life to live now.
The problem is I’m unsure how to live my life now, whilst still managing everyday tasks and planning for the future. I think the problem is how I define ‘living’. ‘Living’ means living a perfect vision of how I want life to be. The trouble with ‘perfect’ is it’s unachievable, so my ‘living’ stays always just out of reach. I put things off until they can be perfect. For example, I thought, I will only write my blog once I can write regularly. Granted with my current commitments I will be able to write less often than I would like, but that still going to be more often than waiting for circumstances to be perfect. Yikes, this is my most familiar flaw – all or nothing thinking. I didn’t see that one coming; I should have! Also I don’t fully appreciate what I have. I have started to feel resentful that I have to spend so much of my free time stretching, just to keep my pain manageable. This is bizarre I have always enjoyed stretching or yoga as a way to calm my mind and body and in reality I should be thinking that this is an excellent excuse to spend a lot of time on me. Or perhaps that’s what’s making me uncomfortable, spending time looking after me, instead of achieving some goal.
Having realised some of what’s keeping me from living my life now, my action plan is to stop putting things off until the situation is perfect, or I’ll never get anything done. And, and it’s a big and, I am going to be mindful of when I am feeling guilty about spending time and effort on me.
- Accepting Change (for What It Is). (elephantjournal.com)
- The Only Thing we Really Have… (living-and-dying.org)