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life-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

When You Don’t Have a Plan, You Just Have to Trust Life

Lessons from years spent journeying without a clear destination

I felt so adrift. So lost. I could barely string sentences together, let alone thoughts. But I did know one thing. I had to get out of town. Fast.

My mother had died a few weeks earlier. Amid the relief that she was no longer burdened by the disease that had ravaged her body was something else. A profound sense of loneliness. You see, I was alone. The term orphan tends to be associated with children. But I felt orphaned at 51.

I had to get out of town. It almost didn’t matter where, as long as there were mountains. Somehow mountains felt comforting. They reminded me of childhood years spent in Switzerland. So I decided to move out west, to British Columbia. I had no real connections there. I kind of knew a couple of people in BC, and had some good friends down the coast in the US. That was it. I sold or gave away half of my possessions, and shipped the rest out west. To start my new life.

My loved ones thought I was nuts. They understood my decision in one sense  – they knew I was devastated. But not in another.

“Why are you going somewhere you know no one?” they asked.

I had no answer that eased their concerns. I just had my instinct that this was the right thing to do.

This wasn’t the first time I’d pressed the fear buttons in my loved ones. I’d been moving home, city and country for much of my adult life, so they knew this was my MO. This one worried them more, though, fast on the heels of my mum’s death. They were worried that I was isolating myself at a time when I needed comfort. I couldn’t fault their logic, but it was still something I had to do.

My new life — phase one

I arrived in Vancouver, and moved into an apartment in the most exquisite location. Across the road from the ocean, and right next to Stanley Park. The latter is a 400-hectare, natural West Coast rainforest, surrounded by ocean. It was such a relief to be there. I spent much of my time walking beside the ocean, and in the park. The wet sand and forest grounded me. And I REALLY needed to get grounded. I’d spent the previous seven years on high alert. Caregiving for my ailing mother. Working full-time to keep us afloat. Dealing with my father’s death. Dealing with a volatile family member. Dealing with my dog’s death (he’d been my anchor for many years). Dealing with my mum’s death. It had been a lot. And it left me reeling.

The water and trees helped me in other ways, too. They helped me start living some important spiritual concepts I’d long understood. It’s one thing understanding a concept. And quite another living it. Being in the moment had always made sense to me. I could see how much easier it would make life. But I’d never managed to stay in the moment for any length of time. And this despite a daily meditation practice.

As I sat and watched the waves come and go, I noticed how every wave was different. Yet the same. Different in their force, their colour, their direction. The same in their essence. Water. No matter what was going on to and around the waves, water remained water. If you touched it, you got wet. I saw that water was what it was, and changed from moment to moment. What did this mean to me? It meant that I, too, was what I was. A human. And that everything about me changed from moment to moment. So, the present me wasn’t inevitably the past me. Nor was the future me inevitably the present me.

Spending time in Stanley Park with old-growth trees made me more aware of myself, and my energy. The majestic beauties that surrounded me, some over 600 years old, gave far more than they took. They shared their lives with everything and everyone within their range. They cleaned the air around them, and provided oxygen. They cooled the temperature. The most positive energy emanated from them. As I stood with them, they accepted me as one of them. I could feel their wonderful energy washing over me. And wanted to send them the same in return. I found I couldn’t do this right away. My energy had to vibrate at the right frequency for them to receive it. When, at last, I succeeded in sharing my energy with them, I was overjoyed. I thought I’d “cracked it”. I hadn’t. There were days when I had nothing to offer the beautiful trees. So I pushed aside my ego, and did what I felt drawn to do. Deeper meditation, and allowing myself to clear out my grief as it arose. This worked. And from then on, I shared my more youthful energy with the old-growth trees to give them a boost.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, I’d taken myself off on my own to heal. To heal from the years of loss, and being on high alert. My cortisol had got stuck in the ‘on’ position from it all, making it hard for me to sleep for any length of time. I had to take the time to decompress. But had no idea what that looked like, or how long it would take.

After a year in BC, I started to notice that something was afoot. It felt as though another new beginning was coming my way. Which made no sense at all, given the recent start of my new life. I put this feeling down to another phase of grieving, and thought no more of it. Until I started to notice something else. That I kept on running into European holiday-makers everywhere I went. We’d always have a good conversation. Somehow, our chat turned to what we each liked about different countries we’d visited or lived in. One day, a German couple asked me a question I couldn’t answer.

“You seem to like much more about Europe. Why are you living here?”

A month or so later, I found myself sitting in front of a travel agent, who asked me another question.

“So where would you like to go, and when?”

This time, an answer came right out.

“I’d like a one-way ticket to London. And I’ve no idea when.”

“What do you mean you don’t know when?”, he replied, with a confused look on his face.

“Well, let’s say three months from now. That’ll give me enough time to sell all my stuff.”

“OK”, he replied, still looking confused.

I hadn’t planned to go to a travel agent. I found myself there one day. I’d been walking down a street, and caught a red sign out of the corner of my eye. I carried on walking. 30 seconds later, I turned around, walked back to the red sign, and walked in the door beneath it. It was a travel agency. So I just went with the flow.

Three months later, I had sold or given away almost everything I owned. I was 53, and heading off on another adventure. This time with only four cartons and two suitcases in tow.

My new life — phase two

I arrived in the UK knowing two things. That it was great to back amongst friends I hadn’t seen in a while. And that I didn’t want to live there.

The UK was a stopover so I could catch up with people, and get organized. I needed to update my British ID so I could wander freely around continental Europe. I also need wheels to facilitate the wandering. I had no firm plan, other than to start by meeting up with a friend who was travelling in Germany, and go from there. After five months in the UK, I headed off one sunny winter’s morning across the Channel.

I wasn’t drawn to spend more than a week in Germany. The language barrier was a real issue for me, despite having university-level German. I couldn’t communicate with ease, and that wasn’t what I wanted at the time. That piece of understanding ruled out a lot of places I’d been interested in exploring. Spain, Portugal, and Italy, for starters. It also ruled in two countries. France and Switzerland.

My years spent in Switzerland as a child had left me pretty fluent in French. I knew I’d be able to understand and be understood in either country. I was drawn to France, in particular. This was odd as I knew no one there. When I left Germany, a destination had come to mind. Lyon, the second biggest city in France. This, too, was odd because I didn’t want to live in a big city. But I went with my instinct.

I loved Lyon. It was beautiful to look at, and welcoming. It had a very strong sense of itself, which I found compelling. I sub-letted an apartment in La Croix-Rousse area of town. This sweet neighbourhood atop one of Lyon’s two hills was wonderful. My apartment was in the eaves of an old building from Lyon’s silk-making heyday. It was a space where the silk was manufactured, and the silk-workers also lived. All the ceilings were high enough to accommodate the Jacquard looms… except for my attic space. There, the low beams threatened my six-foot tall frame, often getting the better of my head.

Lyon helped me get a clearer sense of who I was. I guess that’s why this city with such a strong sense of itself had called me. Living my life in French contributed to my self-understanding. When I talked with the locals, the person they saw standing before them wasn’t the one I saw. On hearing my slight accent, the conversation always turned to where I was from, and what I was doing there. When I told them my story, their responses always contained the same word. Courageous. Standing before them was a courageous 54 year-old woman.

After nine happy months in Lyon, I moved on. I’d reconnected with my childhood friend in Switzerland, and wanted to live closer to her. So I moved to Gex, a small French town near Geneva. The scenery there was so beautiful. Gex was nestled in the foothills of the Jura mountains, and opposite the French Alps. And Mont Blanc. This snow-capped peak rose with such majesty across Lake Geneva. Especially when made pink by the rising sun.

Yet it was the Jura mountains that had a special place in my heart. They were lower, and full of rolling green hills, lakes and rivers. As a child, I’d spent many happy times in the Jura, hiking, and picnicking by lakes. My childhood bedroom window also looked out on them. They were the last sight I saw before sleeping, and the first upon waking.

Gex and I were not a match made in heaven. I left there after a couple of months, and moved in with my friend in Nyon, Switzerland. Nyon had been a lovely town when I lived there before, but had now grown. It was also full of ex-pats. In the couple of months I spent there, I heard French spoken only a handful of times. English — and ex-pats — had taken over. Without a work permit, I couldn’t stay for more than a few months in Switzerland, so I knew I’d have to move on. Again.

Switzerland gave me another piece of my puzzle. Because I’d loved living there as a child, I’d always thought of returning, and settling there. But, just as the child was gone, so was that Switzerland. The past is the past. The present is the present. And this present didn’t marry up with that past.

My love of the Jura drove me to seek my next location within its terrain. I opened Google Maps, and randomly picked a town. Salins-les-Bains. When I looked at photos of it, I was hooked. It seemed perfect. A few days later, I visited it on a snowy day with my friend’s son. As we descended towards the town, we rounded a bend, and our jaws dropped open. It was in the most exquisite setting. And I had found my next stop.

Salins-les-Bains had been an important town for hundreds and hundreds of years. You could see this in the buildings. It was a key religious centre, located as it was on the pilgrim route between Rome and the UK. And it had salt. Salt was so valuable back then, it was called white gold. The salt also had healing powers. Salins became a spa town, frequented by people from all over France taking cures. It was still a spa town, but an economically-depressed one. Much of its once-glorious architecture was falling into disrepair.

This small town was good to me. Its healing powers went beyond the spa. The landscape was so beautiful, it filled me with joy every time I set foot outside. I spent much time walking, hiking, and taking photos. The air smelled sweet, and was full of more butterflies than I’ve ever seen before. Everywhere I looked was bursting with beauty. The people were friendly, the food was delicious, and the cost of living was inexpensive. I started thinking that I’d found my home.

Then, one morning shortly after my 55th birthday, everything changed. I’d woken up to a new world. A world in which I finally understood who I was, and why I’d been the way I’d been. My life finally made sense to me.

And I knew who I was in the world without my mother by my side.

You see, this had been the purpose of my journey. Figuring out who I was in a world without my mum. We’d been extraordinarily close my whole life, but not in a mother/daughter way. We’d been the closest of friends. Life partners, in a sense. We spoke to each other more than we spoke to anyone else. We shared a sense of nonsense that no one else understood. We had a lot of fun together, and a lot of tears. When she died, I was adrift, stuck in a small boat in the middle of an ocean, surrounded by fog. Until I wasn’t any more.

My destination was never a place. It was knowing who I was, and loving myself unconditionally. That’s why I didn’t have a destination in mind when I set out on my adventure. How could I see a destination that I didn’t know existed?

Once I understood this, my self-imposed isolation ended. I started to miss my loved ones, and wanted to be around them once more. And, given where the largest concentration of them lived, that meant another move. Back to Canada. Back to Toronto, the city I’d fled from when my mum died.

My new life — phase three

I arrived back in Toronto at the end of last year, almost four years after I left. I knew immediately I’d made the right decision. It felt right, and I loved having so many of my friends around me. I settled into a new neighbourhood, and reconnected with the city in a new way.

Old city, new outlook. Old city, new life.

Much has happened since my return. My new life — phase four is on the horizon. This phase is the ‘happily ever after’ one.

But that’s a story for another day.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

perfection-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

It’s Time to Stop Chasing Perfection

And start accepting it

You are already perfect.

Yet, you don’t feel it. Far from it. All you can see are imperfections. When you look in the mirror. When you hear the voices inside your head. When you look at everyone else’s life.

And yet, you are perfect.

Your life might not be picture perfect. It might be a tangled mess of conflicting emotions, contradictions, and inconsistencies. But your life is perfect.

You are perfect.

Chasing false perfection

Modern society is obsessed with perfection. And geared towards chasing it. Yet, the ‘perfect’ defined by modern society, doesn’t exist. The perfect 36–24–36 female body. The perfect six-pack abs. The perfect bright-white-straight-teeth smile. The perfect design-magazine home. The perfect dutiful daughter/son/husband/wife/employee. The perfect for-life job. The perfect two-child family. The perfect happy-every-moment life.

That’s fantasy, not perfection.

Worse still, it’s fantasy born from judgement. If there’s a ‘perfect life’, then there must also be an ‘imperfect life’.
Think about the voices in your head that you beat yourself up with. Aren’t they all about how you’re failing at being perfect? How you’re not thin enough, or attractive enough. How your home isn’t big enough, and your car not new enough. How your kids don’t go to the right school. How you’re not attentive enough to your elderly parents. How you don’t do enough for your family.
Who decided what was enough, and what wasn’t?

It certainly wasn’t you. You inherited that way of thinking, from your family and from society.

Reframing perfection

My ‘perfect’ is very different. It’s kind, non-judgemental and accepting.

This kind of perfect allows you to be yourself. As you are. It allows you to see what’s right there before you. And be OK with it, instead of judging it. It doesn’t seek to find fault. It seeks the clarity that can only come from seeing everything as it is.

Seeing everything as it is ISN’T about seeing the world through rose-tinted glasses. It’s about seeing, with clarity, everything before you, and being OK with it ALL. Even those parts of yourself and others you’re less than thrilled with.

Looking at the world like this is hard, because you’re not used to it. Those voices in your head won’t have anything to beat you up about if you start being like this.

And yet, this is what you must do if you want to be happier and less stressed out by life.

Seeing yourself as perfect doesn’t mean that there’s no room for self-improvement. Far from it. It gives you greater room for self-improvement, because it gives you clarity. Clarity that comes from seeing everything and accepting it all. This makes sense if you think about it. If you don’t accept what you see, then what you see isn’t there. And how can you work on something that isn’t there?

I know this one well. A lot of behaviours used to press my buttons. Other people’s behaviours. In response, I complained. I got irritated, angry even. I had to have the last word. I felt I was in the right. All I could see was THEIR behaviours. And I felt MY response was justified.

This way of living was exhausting, and deeply unsatisfying. When it became unsustainable, I was forced to look more closely at behaviours. Starting with mine.

In doing this, I discovered that I behaved like this for a very good reason. I couldn’t bear to see my part in it, let alone accept it. I couldn’t own my behaviour, because it was too painful. You see, back then, I still had the wrong perspective on perfection. So my being perfect required that I have no flaws. This meant that all the flaws HAD to belong to others. That’s why this way of living was unsustainable.

When I was able to see and accept why I behaved as I did, I could start working on myself and my life. I could start down the path of self-improvement that has enabled me to live with much greater ease.

What happens to your life when you see yourself as perfect

Your life gets better, that’s what happens.

When you see yourself as perfect, you STOP:

  • Beating yourself up
  • Being constantly stressed-out
  • Seeing the negative in everything
  • Feeling less happy than you think you should

And you START:

  • Feeling more in control
  • Being more grateful
  • Being more loving
  • Feeling happier
  • Seeing the positive in everything
  • Having better relationships
  • Feeling more alive
  • Living more fully

How to start seeing yourself as perfect

The first thing you need to do is to acknowledge that you spend a lot of time focussing on the negative in your life. On what’s missing from your life, and not on what you have. On wishing things were different than they actually are: “If only I/she was more…”; “When I have …, then I’ll be …”.

When you can acknowledge that you’re wishing your life away, then you can start to change.

There’s an easy way to start shifting your perspective from a negative to a positive one. Begin a daily gratitude practice. At the end of every day, write down three new things from that day for which you’re grateful. You can be grateful for anything! From a chat with a loved one, to finishing a project, to some kind words when you needed them, to a new music download. You can share these at your dinner table, or keep them to yourself. By the end of the week, you‘ll have 21 new things to be grateful for; 91 after four weeks, and 1,092 by the end of the year. After practicing gratitude for a while, you’ll notice some important things. That you have A LOT to be grateful for. And that most of what you’re grateful for comes from OTHERS.

Alongside your daily gratitude practice, these practices will also make you more positive:

  • Vigorous exercise three times at week for at least 20 minutes.
  • Performing a daily random act of kindness/generosity. This can be anything. Like writing emails to colleagues praising something they did. Or paying something forward. Or helping pick up things someone’s dropped. Or giving a bigger-than-expected tip after a meal.
  • Reliving a happy or meaningful experience from your past every day. You know how to do this — you do it with bad experiences all the time! Use a positive experience for this from now on.
  • Practicing forgiveness — of yourself and others — for past wrong-doings. Holding onto grudges from your past hurts you TODAY. You see, your nervous system stores the memory of past, unforgiven hurts. And when something today reminds it of a past hurt, the memory triggers a stress response. This gives a whole new meaning to your past coming back to haunt you!!
  • Strengthening the quality of your relationships. This has the biggest impact on happiness, according to research.
  • Meditating daily. Meditation helps balance your brain, priming it for happiness. Research proves that regular meditation increases the alpha waves in your brain. This gives you more control over your response to stressful situations. Even two minutes a day has an effect, so start small and build up.
  • Being clear on who you are and why you’re here. This gives you a sense of purpose that’s larger than the humdrum of day-to-day life. Humans whose basic needs are met often search for work they find meaningful.

Accepting your inherent perfection

With a positive mindset, it’s easier to accept yourself as the perfect being you are. To see — and love — everything about yourself. To work on the parts you want to change. And, through accepting your own perfection, you can see others, and life in general, in the same light.

When you accept that you’re perfect, you can become the person you want to be. Your best self, living the life you know is possible. This is why it’s time to stop chasing society’s false perfection. And start accepting that you are already perfect.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

comfort-zone-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

Lessons From a Lifetime Spent Living Outside My Comfort Zone

I still remember the terror I felt the first time I went outside my comfort zone.

I was three years old.

I hadn’t gone there intentionally. I was pushed. The fact that the pushing wasn’t intentional, either, didn’t matter. I was still terrified. That moment forever changed me. And changed the course of my life.

First things first. What is a comfort zone? It’s a place where things are familiar to you. A place that feels comfortable to you. No two comfort zones are the same. One person’s comfort zone might be another person’s greatest fear. I know this to be true. My comfort zone — what’s familiar to me — often elicits a fear response from people. How I choose to live makes most of my loved ones scared for me.

There’s a question that begs here. If comfortable feels good, what’s wrong with feeling comfortable? Well, nothing, in one sense. And everything in another. It’s great to feel comfortable. But not all the time, and not in everything in your life.

You see, feeling comfortable can become a problem. Or, more precisely, feeling TOO comfortable can. It makes you take things for granted. It makes you stop exploring yourself, what you’re capable of. It makes you afraid the minute you stop feeling comfortable. It limits you.

I’m making you feel uncomfortable right now. By talking about it. But, bear with me while I illustrate what I’m talking about.

Think about the early days in your serious intimate relationships. When you first started getting serious, you were pushed outside your comfort zone. Way outside. You felt so open, and vulnerable. Your guard was down. But you were OK with it because it felt SO good there. The exhilaration you felt from falling in love with someone was stronger than any fear you felt. Your fear was on hold. For a while. Then, one day, you started to feel uncomfortable. You might not have known why, but you knew how to respond to this feeling. You pulled back in some way. Your discomfort at being outside your vulnerability comfort zone made you afraid.

How did you pull back when afraid? By taking the other for granted, choosing to see the flaws, instead of the wonder. By not exploring your vulnerable self, choosing to shut down, instead of opening more. By putting up your guard, choosing to limit yourself, instead of growing.

You’re squirming now.

Lesson one: get to know your comfort zone

If you want to move outside it, you need to get to know your comfort zone. Intimately. To know its core rules, and its more nuanced ones.

My comfort zone is a place where making changes is routine. So to go outside my comfort zone, I have to get very deliberate. And go big. Things that happen on a daily basis rarely send me there, such is my comfort with change. I also have to be interested in an area before I’m willing to extend my comfort zone in it. Extreme sports, for example, have never interested me, so I put in no effort there. But I’m drawn to push my physical activity boundaries in other ways. This is one of the more nuanced rules.

Over the years, I discovered that if I decided to explore a new facet of my life, nothing got in my way. Except for in one area. I did everything to avoid pushing out my boundaries in one area for 30 years.

Love.

Going to that place of real, deep, unconditional love with a significant other. Love terrified me because being vulnerable terrified me. Being open to scrutiny at such a deep level was too far outside my comfort zone. I couldn’t go there. At least not until I did the necessary self-work. Considerable effort later, love no longer has me running scared. Love has me opening up more and more every day. Unconditional. Vulnerable. And it’s wonderful.

Time for you to examine your own comfort zone. Thinking back over your adult life so far, ask yourself:

  • Which things feel easy to you? Easy in the sense that they provoke little or no fear in you?
  • Which things make you feel scared? Scared when you’ve done them, or scared when you think or hear about them?
  • What have you instinctively tended to avoid doing? And why? (Like me and extreme sports.)
  • Are there people in your life who live in ways that make you feel uncomfortable? This may manifest in different ways. By your making judging comments about decisions they make. By your rolling your eyes when they tell you what they’re going to do next. By your telling them why they’re wrong to be doing whatever.

Have a look at your answers, looking for common themes. Take a step back, and see what it tells you about your comfort zone. You should have a picture of what it looks like.

Lesson two: change is good

I’m not saying this because making changes is within MY comfort zone. I’m saying it because making changes is how you grow. Moving beyond your comfort zone is how you grow.

I’d go so far as to say that beyond your comfort zone is where all personal growth lives.

If you do the same thing you’ve always done, day in, day out, you won’t grow. In fact, you barely think when you do this. Yet an astoundingly large number of people live like this. Because they don’t like change. Because they fear change.

Instead of fearing change, you should fear not changing. The things you fear about change are imagined. The things that happen when you avoid change are real.

Here’s what’s real about them. And why avoiding change will cause you trouble down the road. First, you won’t grow as a person. You won’t live up to your amazing potential. And I know your potential is truly amazing. Second, you’ll get bored. When you’re bored, you’ll distract yourself to avoid feeling that way. And your distractions won’t be good for you. Sugary treats, alcohol, binge watching TV shows, shopping for things you don’t need. Being bored for any length of time stresses you out. So you go into autopilot mode to deal with that. And autopilot mode numbs your feelings. All of them.

It’s time to make a choice. Do you want your life to be defined by fear? Or defined by personal growth?

Lesson three: how to get more comfortable doing more things

Moving the boundaries of your comfort zone takes effort. A whole lot of it. But, here’s the truth. If I can learn to embrace unconditional love after 30 years of avoiding it, you can learn to embrace anything!

I’m going to share with you the secret to making changes in your life. Start small. Start with something that is low on your scariness scale. And that won’t take too long to complete.

I used to be afraid of heights. So terrified of them that, as a kid, I’d rather face the ridicule of my peers than jump off anything high. My mother, a nurse, had put the fear of god in me when I was four. I’d been found walking across the parapet of a bridge with a 200-foot drop on one side. So she described, in very gory detail, what I’d look like if I fell and went splat.

One day a few years ago, I knew it was time to make a change in my life. To overcome this fear of heights. As a result of my daily meditation practice, I’d realized my fear was all in mind. That it was more imagined than real. So I set about moving past it. I started by improving my balance, walking along as many low walls as I could find. Then I started choosing higher walls. And finally, I chose something that had always added an increased level of fear. Walking on a higher wall above water. I was living in Vancouver at the time, right by the seawall. And this proved perfect as the final step to overcoming my fear of heights. With an ease that surprised me, I walked along long stretches of the seawall every day. Fear of heights gone. Comfort zone expanded.

By starting small, I’d allowed myself to get comfortable every step of the way.

What can you take on that will allow you to get comfortable with change as you move towards your fear? What’s your equivalent of my fear of heights?

Lesson four: you are more powerful than you realize.

Once you start expanding your comfort zone, something amazing happens. You feel more powerful. Your fear subsides with every boundary shift you make. And this allows your true self — your powerful self — to emerge.

You start to feel more alive. More vibrant. More in control of things than before. More comfortable. All because you were willing to go outside your comfort zone. You feel more comfortable because you’re more comfortable doing more things. This sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s not.

Expanding your comfort zone makes you feel more comfortable in your own skin. And that’s what real comfort is all about.

The course of my life was changed at three by my being pushed outside my comfort zone. When I was younger, I understood that change was good, that I’d be fine if I did things that scared me.

Now I’m older, I understand that living outside my comfort zone has been the making of me. I am who I am today because of my constantly expanding comfort zone. Because I’m comfortable in my skin.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

real-love-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

What Is Love?

Answering the one question that unites us all

Most years, “What is love?” is the top global Google search query. A quick search using this phrase yielded a staggering 402,000,000 results in .08 seconds.

I didn’t look at any of the answers. I didn’t need to.

I know what love is.

Love is a sacred union between two beings. Parent and child. Person and tree. Life partners. Close friends. Person and animal. What makes the union sacred is that it’s unconditional, and divine.

When I talk of unconditional love, I mean that there is nothing about the other you want to change. Ever. You accept the other exactly as presented in every moment. You see the other, apparent imperfections, and all, and love her anyway.

And when I talk about love being divine, I mean that its sole purpose is to elevate each being. To help the other realize her full potential. The potential that reflects her true self, and not the self we may want her to be. You remove all that limits your love. You give of yourself fully and freely.

This love is real love.

Does knowing what love is make it easier to find? Does it make it drop into your lap, as if by magic?

I also know the answer to this. No, it doesn’t. But it does make this kind of love easier to recognize if you do find it.

It’s easy to mistake other kinds of love for real love. At first, anyway. In the honeymoon period, when love is so new and fresh, there’s no place for conditions. Everything about the other is so wonderful, so perfect. Conditions start to creep in soon enough. Your eyes go from seeing the perfection to seeing the flaws.

“That tree is so beautiful! I’m so lucky to have it in my garden!!” ==> “That tree is blocking my light. It would be better without those branches!”
“I love his creativity! He can see beauty in chaos!” ==> “I wish he’d tidy his home, it’s so haphazard! The mess drives me nuts!”
“I love how independent and free-spirited she is!” ==> “I need her to be around me all the time. If she loved me, she wouldn’t want to be so independent.”
“I love you so much, I’ll support you, no matter what!” ==> “I want what’s best for you, so you need to do this, not that.”

Conditions don’t creep in consciously. They start to appear when your insecurities do. And insecurities arise when old, unresolved wounds get re-opened.

They, too, get re-opened without your knowing it. It happens when something you’re experiencing today triggers a memory in you. An unpleasant memory. This old hurt gets activated and feels so real in the moment that you react to it. Even though the present situation doesn’t warrant it. You believe you’re reacting to what’s going on today. But you’re not.

The minute things start to get conditional, real love goes out the window. That’s because unconditional love it the starting place for real love. Love needs to be unconditional before it can become divine.

The path to unconditional love

To misquote The Beatles, the path to unconditional love is a long and winding road that leads to your door. Your own door, not the door of another being.

Unconditional love starts with you.

If your love for yourself is conditional, then your love for others will be the same. The conditions might even be the same, because they’re all about you. Your conditions reflect what you believe you need to feel worthy of love. All those “If only I/he was more…, then I would feel more…” thoughts flying around your head are your conditions.

I get this. I spent much of my life in the conditional, only to discover one truth. That the conditions never filled the void inside. You see, the void can’t be filled by things, be they conditions, endless pairs of shoes, or binge eating sessions.

The void can only be filled by love. Self-love.

The foundation for unconditional love is self-love. Truth is, this kind of love is NOT selfish — it doesn’t spring from your ego. It springs from your caring for your own well-being, and happiness. It springs from your taking responsibility for your own life. (If you’d like to understand this concept better, you can read my article on it.)

How you get to a place of self-love is personal. There are as many different routes as there are people. What they all have in common is this. They demand an unrelenting focus, and courage. The focus keeps the prize in mind — the prize of a happy, worthy you. The courage keeps you moving forward, one step at a time, no matter what gets thrown at you along the way.

My own path to self-love was a very long and winding one. It took 30 years of relentless focus and courage. But the prize was worth every ounce of effort, and more.

The path to divine love

This path is both harder, and easier, than the path to unconditional love. Harder, because it involves two beings. And easier, because it involves two beings.

The challenge lies in finding another being who is on the same page as you about love. Especially another human being. I first explored the whole notion of divine love with a tree. I felt much safer with this tree — a cedar — than with another person. Trees are unconditional and divine by nature. So I knew that any resistance to our shared love was coming from me. At first, I had some good days when I’d connect deeply with it. But I had far more bad days. Luckily for me, trees are endlessly patient — especially my tree.
Over time, it got easier. I found that I could love my tree unconditionally, and give of myself fully and freely. I wanted nothing less for my tree than to help it achieve its highest purpose. Which was being the tree it was destined to be, not the tree I wanted it to be.

At this point, I knew I was ready for divine love with a human. One who was one the same page as I about the nature of real love. The 30 years I spent getting ready for divine love were hard. But this is when the challenge really began.

It’s easy to see why finding someone with the same view of love is such a challenge. Real love is not what society values. You can tell, because of how society rewards conditional love. If you do x, you’ll get y. Even worse, if you don’t do x, not only won’t you get y, but you’ll also get punished in some way. Life today is about compliance. And compliance, by its very nature, is loaded with conditions.

The starting place for me was to get clear on some prerequisites for real love. For this, I had to write a list of my relationship non-negotiables*. These are the characteristics that must be present in another for us to be on the same page about life in general. After I’d written my list, I realized why so much had gone wrong in all my previous relationships. My partners and I were miles apart on most items on my list. This meant we were miles apart on everything that mattered to me. I couldn’t see any of them as the perfect beings they were, because they were far from perfect for me.

This is a crucial point. Unconditional love depends on your being able to see and accept the other as perfect, just as he is. This won’t happen if what matters most to each of you is very different. You won’t feel comfortable enough with him. And this will make it easy to find fault with him — as a way of explaining your discomfort.

With your list of non-negotiables in hand, it’s much easier to navigate the choppy waters of dating. There’s a yes or a no answer to every item on your list. An answer to whether this person has the same worldview as you, for example. It removes all subjectivity from the dating equation.

If you find someone who meets all your non-negotiables, then the fun can begin. I say ‘can begin’, not ‘will begin’, because what follows depends on other things. Like timing. Are you in the same place at the same time? Like connection — emotional, mental, spiritual and physical.

You’re worth it

If you do get to a place of real love, life gets easier. Much easier. Because divine love ‘à deux’ is love on steroids. The whole really is greater than the sum of its parts.

Getting to a place of real love isn’t for the faint-hearted. The focus and courage it requires knocks many people off-course. But the prize when you get there makes it worthwhile. It makes it beyond worthwhile, to be honest.

And you’re worth it, you perfect human being. You may not believe this right now, in this moment, but you are. You are worth making the effort for. You are worthy of real love. You are worthy of being your best self. You are worthy of giving of yourself — and receiving of the other — freely and fully.

You are worth it.

* I’m grateful to SARK and John Waddell for making this easier via their book, Succulent Wild Love: Six Powerful Habits for Feeling More Love More Often

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

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My Life As a Dog

And how it made me happier

Let’s face it. Dogs make amazing companions. That delighted-to-see-you greeting when you come home — even if you’ve only been gone for a few minutes. The look of pure love in their eyes as they gaze at you. That sense of their knowing when you’re upset, and in need of their comfort.

I was late to the dog-loving game. You see, I grew up in a cat family. I rarely came across dogs — they were much less common as pets back then. It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I first fell in love with a dog. Oggie Doggie was anything but average. Physically, he was very tall and hairy for a Jack Russell. And his personality was larger than life. He was very cute (and knew it), very smart and very funny. Oggie had my heart at first sight, and knew that, too.

For the first few years, Oggie and I were inseparable. It’s true to say that my ex-husband was envious of the relationship I had with that dog. You see, life with Oggie was uncomplicated. We adored each other. It’s so easy to adore — and be adored by — a dog. My idyllic relationship with Oggie lasted for five years. And came to a crashing halt the day I left the marriage. I paid a high price for my freedom — my ex-husband got Oggie. He also got the other dog we had. He was “his” dog, just as Oggie was “my” dog. Oggie and I were separated for about 18 months. The moment our separation ended will stay with me forever. After much discussion, my ex had finally agreed to give me my dog back. When I went to the house to collect Oggie, both dogs rushed to the door to check out the visitor. The other dog walked away after one sniff, but not Oggie. He sniffed me, started to turn away, then rushed forward, and sniffed me again. He looked up, his eyes shining bright, and leaped into my arms. licking me. The look on his face said: “It’s HER. She’s BACK!”, and he ran out of the house without looking back.

It was at this point in our relationship that I started to learn from Oggie. A lot. This timing had everything to do with me, and nothing to do with him. He’d always had much to teach me, but I’d not been ready. It took a couple of major life challenges to get me ready to receive Oggie’s wisdom. The divorce, and my getting very sick with an autoimmune disease. These ground me down to the point where I had to do some serious self-work. Or go completely under. The decision to take a long, hard look at myself and how I was living opened me up. It gave me the self-awareness I needed to see the gifts Oggie had to offer.

The gift of unconditional love

The first gift was his unconditional love for me. I’d always known that the love I got from him felt different from all other love I’d experienced. But I had no idea why. His love felt liberating. I could be the real me with him at all times — no matter what that looked like in any moment — and it was fine with him. He didn’t judge me or my behaviour. He just loved me. And that felt so good.

It felt so good, because it’s not what I was used to. I’m guessing it’s not what you’re used to, either. Truth is, most of the love between people is conditional. You don’t mean it to be that way, but it’s what happens. It’s not your fault, it’s how society trained you to be. The conditions are subtle.

  • You praise someone for getting top marks, but not for failing.
  • You reward success, not the effort.
  • You think or say things like this. “If you really loved me, you would […]”, or “This is in your best interests…”, or “I wish he were […]”, or “You must/should […]”.

If you’re honest with yourself, you know you do this to others. And that it’s done to you, too. In fact, you’ve spent your life trying to fit in to receive love, even conditional love. It’s true for me. Or it used to be true.

Stepping away from this conditional form of love takes awareness, and courage. It starts with your noticing when you do any of these conditional things, and when they’re done to you. Once you start to see this behaviour in yourself and others, you can’t un-see it. Over time, you’ll start to catch your behaviour when it’s still a thought, and will have time to change it.

With every interaction, ask yourself if you deliver love that feels like Oggie’s love did for me. Love that says: “You’re perfect, just as you are. There is nothing I would change about you or this moment.”

The gift of living in the moment

The second gift Oggie gave me was understanding the power of living in the moment. I would often take him out for walks along exactly the same route, day after day. Whilst I tired of this route and routine, he never did. He treated every minute of every walk as if it were his first time experiencing it. He stepped out into his walks full of excitement and joy.

I could see WHY Oggie lived like this — it was an exhilarating! But it took me a good while to figure out HOW he did it. I wondered how he could get so excited about experiencing the same thing again and again. Many years later, I understood.

Oggie didn’t experience the same thing again and again. He knew that nothing is constant, that everything changes from second to second. And he noticed every single nuance of every single change.

He noticed that:

  • Different dogs had gone by, leaving different scents.
  • The weather was different, and this affected every sense. How things looked, smelled, how tasted, and felt. It affected the sounds that were about.
  • He was different, and was experiencing the walk through a different lens.
  • I was different, and was giving off different energy.
  • Everything along our path was different. Every blade of grass, every flower, every shrub, every tree. Different people were walking by. The garbage strewn around was different.
  • The cars going by were different.
  • Our rate of movement was different, and this affected how long we spent in one place.

These are but some of the things he noticed. When I finally started looking at the world like Oggie, it felt amazing. I was a young child once more, viewing everything with such wonder. What happened to enable me to be in the moment? I started a daily meditation practice… and kept it up.

The control this has given me over my thoughts and behaviour is mind-blowing. Take it from me when I say that a daily meditation practice will change your life. If you want more proof, this article from The Art of Living summarizes the benefits well.

The gift of acceptance

The third gift Oggie gave me was to accept what is. Completely. By the time he offered me this gift, I was already down the path to understanding acceptance. That had started when I got sick. After raging about my fate for a couple of years, I finally accepted it. In that moment, I took responsibility for my health, and took action to fix it. With great success. So I understood acceptance. Or thought I did.

My real understanding of acceptance didn’t happen until Oggie got sick. He’d developed a tumour in his neck that caused him constant pain. And it was inoperable. All I could do for him was to attempt to manage the pain via meds. This worked for a few months, then it became clear that his pain was getting worse. I kept on going back to the vet for more painkillers, but there was a limit to what they could do. I knew I had to make a decision, but the thought of being without Oggie was too much for me to contemplate. So I put my head in the sand and carried on.

Oggie made it clear that he knew I was struggling with his impending demise. He’d look at me in a way that said: “It’s OK, I’ll bear the pain for as long as you need”. He’d accepted his situation and his fate. I hadn’t.

I did make the right decision for him in the end, but it was two or three months later than it should have been. When I stopped feeling so raw from his death, I took stock of what had happened. And started understanding what acceptance really looks like.

Acceptance works on two levels. There’s accepting hard realities about yourself. And then there’s accepting hard realities about someone else. One is harder to do (the latter), but they both demand the same thing of you. That you step back and observe what’s there. That you see what is. Not what should be true, or could be true, or you’d like to be true. What is. And act based on that, and that alone.

I’ve not had another dog since Oggie. Partly, because I wasn’t emotionally ready for another. Partly, because I’ve been moving around a lot. I will get a dog, one day. And I’ll be grateful for the rest of my life for the gifts that scruffy little white dog with the big heart gave me.

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Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

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Service or self-sacrifice?

And why you need to know the difference.

You see pain and hardship all around you, and you want to help. People you know, people you don’t know. Your big heart is guiding you to do this.

Or is it?

There’s another part of you that could also be guiding you. Your ego. Your desire to be seen in a certain way, as a certain kind of person.

That’s how it was for me. I felt a strong desire to be of service to people in need. Part of that came from a true desire to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others. And part of it came from my own neediness.

I couldn’t see the neediness part for years. Even though I was sometimes aware of doing things to showcase the ‘good’ work I was doing. I wanted people to know that I, who had the skills and expertise to be earning a lot more money, had chosen not to. So I could ‘do good’.

Working on and off for non profits scratched that itch. But my real coup de grâce came when I left a happy, carefree life to look after my ageing mother who had Parkinson’s.

I can say in all honesty that my decision to become my mum’s caregiver didn’t come from my ego. It came from my heart. But my subsequent behaviour came from my ego a lot of the time. Too much of the time.

I found my new life as my mum’s caregiver overwhelming. I was devastated to see someone I loved so much crumbling away. I was flying solo and had no respite from my caregiving role for months at a time. I was stressed out trying to manage everything. I had to work full-time to support the two of us, and hire minders to keep my mum safe during the day. I was up a lot at night helping her. I spent my evenings and weekends minding my mum and doing household chores. It was a lot to deal with.

The more stressed out I got, the more my ego reared its ugly head. My ego wanted the world to see the ‘dutiful daughter’. And ‘superwoman’. And the ‘good person’. And a whole bunch of other personas.

All I could see was that my behaviour towards my mum was inconsistent. One moment I was snappish; the next, kind.

But I didn’t understand why.

Many years later, I understand my behaviour.

Snappish Sarah was ego-driven behaviour, whereas kind Sarah was heart-driven. These two co-existed — uncomfortably — for the seven years I was her caregiver.

Of greater consequence was this. That what started as service quickly became self-sacrifice.

Service and self-sacrifice may look the same from the outside, but, from the inside, they’re not. There’s a big difference between them. Service is enriching, and self-sacrifice is depleting. For everyone concerned.

Service feels loving to all. Self-sacrifice feels destructive to all. Service makes everyone feel grateful. Self-sacrifice makes everyone feel guilty.

 

I also understand what lay behind my behaviour.

What caused me to go from service to self-sacrifice was that I’d stopped putting myself first.

I’d stopped caring for myself — for my own needs. I’d stopped nourishing myself, other than in the most basic of ways. I’d become so depleted that I went into survival mode — a mode where fear is in charge. And when fear is in charge, there’s no place for love.

You see, if you want to give of yourself — to serve — you must have something to give. What you’re told every time you’re on a plane is true. You have to help yourself — put on your own oxygen mask — before you help others with theirs.

Self-care is the starting place for service, because if you want to give your best, you have to be your best. And being your best means your whole self must be nourished. Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.

So start putting yourself first today. With that big heart of yours, you’re hot-wired to serve. After all, service is what gives your life meaning.

Just make sure you don’t self-sacrifice instead. For everyone’s sake.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

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Life, death… and life

The life cycle we struggle with so much

Life. This we understand.

Or not.

We’re born, we grow up, we do things, we own things, we get old, we die. That’s pretty much it. To make matters worse, we’re participants in this thing we call life. We take part in a game designed for us by others. Our parents, mentors, society.

Before you object to what I’ve said, answer me this.

Is your life meaningful? Do you know who you are and what you’re here to do?

I thought not.

My life wasn’t meaningful, either. Until I dug deep to discover why my little voice kept on asking me “Is this it?” for much of my adult life. That’s where I found the meaning.

Making my life meaningful changed everything. For me. For those I serve.

I didn’t understand death any better. And I’m guessing that you don’t, either.

When beings I loved died, I saw it as an ending. A final act. I couldn’t imagine finding that love again elsewhere. At least, not for a long time.

A lot of this stemmed from my belief system at the time. I told myself I couldn’t bear this type of heartbreak again. I also told myself that ‘replacing’ this being in my life would be disloyal to the one who had died.

I felt guilty. About a lot of things.

  • Whether she knew I loved her.
  • Whether I’d done right by him.
  • Having feelings of happiness or love ‘too soon’ after the death.
  • Not having enough love in me. So, I’d have to love him less to have enough love for someone new.

Turns out, I was as wrong about death as I was about life.

If life is meant to be meaningful, then death is meant to be enriching.

This is how nature works. A Western red-cedar tree knows exactly what it’s here to do. To be the best possible Western red-cedar tree. It spend its whole life doing this. And then it dies.

When a Western red-cedar tree dies and falls to the forest floor, it leaves its richness behind. Its wealth of nutrients are there to give life to all that inhabit the forest. Insects, animals, other trees.

In death, the Western red-cedar tree leaves its world richer, primed for new life.

And in death, we humans also leave our world richer, primed for new life. If those left behind could only see it.

When beings we love die, the pain we feel breaks open our hearts. This can prime us for even deeper love, for even deeper connections.

Or it can prime us to close down.

If we are to honour those who die, then we, too, must use the richness they leave behind. The lifetime of happy memories. The heartbreak from their death.

We must use this to give ourselves more life. To become more human. To love and connect with others more deeply. To be more compassionate. Not to waste a scrap of what these beings gave us through their lives.

Life, death, and life. Meaning, enrichment, deeper meaning.

Nature’s cycle is ours, too. Believe it.

 

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

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The labels that define us

And how we limit ourselves by becoming them

I remember it so well. The day I became ‘a sick person’.

It was such a shock to me. I’d always been proud of my health. “I’m ‘a healthy person’, I’ve got good genes”, I’d say to myself, and anyone else who’d listen. I was someone who could put her body through endless abuse, and come out smelling of roses. Sure, I got my share of colds and ‘flu, but nothing worse than that. Until one day in my late 30s, that is.

You’re sick. You have ulcerative colitis. It’s incurable. You’ll be on meds for the rest of your life.”

That’s all it took. Those words flipped a switch in me, and I became ‘a sick person’.

My behaviour as ‘a sick person’ was very different from my behaviour as ‘a healthy person’. I took fistfuls of meds — to stop the flares when they happened, and to prevent them from happening. I panicked if I was more than a minute from a toilet. And spent hours scoping out routes I could take to alleviate my panic. I stopped exercising, not wanting to stress out my body any more than it already was.

I lurched from one flare to another. I had no idea what brought them on — it didn’t seem to matter to me. After all, my disease was incurable, so why spend time on such trivialities? Instead, I spent my time on my visits to doctors. Lots of them.

People felt sorry for me. My friends and work colleagues, and complete strangers in pharmacies and medical labs. They looked at me as though I had a life sentence hanging over me. Because that’s how I looked at myself.

After about 18 months as ‘a sick person’, something happened. I woke up one day with a clear picture in my head of a much older me. And this me was bursting with health.

In that moment, I stopping being ‘a sick person’ and started being me.

Without realising it, I’d become the person I’d been told I was. A sick person. I’d become the label I’d been given. In so doing, I’d handed over full responsibility for myself to others. In believing what I’d been told, I’d absolved myself of responsibility for my body, my health.

This realisation both shocked me, and spurred me into action.

I started a lifelong quest to educate myself. About this disease and others like it, and about health, in general. And to understand and love myself. Deeply. This was the only way I could take back full responsibility for my body and my health. Which I did, with great success.

Turns out, I’d been living the labels I’d been given my whole life. The dutiful daughter/wife/friend. The good person. The rebel. The outsider. And, in living these labels, I’d limited myself. So much so, that I’d become someone I’m not.

I’m not alone in this. I see people living their labels all around me.

  • The single mother.
  • The cancer survivor.
  • The daughter
  • The grieving widow(er).
  • The mother.
  • The business(wo)man.
  • The son
  • The [insert your religion, here]
  • The father.
  • The [insert profession here]
  • The sister
  • The ex-pat.
  • The immigrant.
  • The brother
  • The [insert your label, here]

I see you over-identifying with your labels. To your detriment. You’re limiting yourself, because that label is but one aspect of you. You are so much more. You’re limitless, multi-dimensional. Not the unidimensional person that label makes you.

Today, I decide how I live. I decide what goes in and on my body. I decide what — and whom — I surround myself with. I am neither ‘a sick person’, nor ‘a healthy person’.

I am me. And I’m limitless. Just like you.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

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Why you should fill your life with things that matter

And not distract yourself from them

When something is removed from your life, its value to you increases. You miss it. Its absence hurts. This is true even when it’s your own decision to remove that something.

It’s human nature to feel like this. You’re hot-wired not to like change, to view it as a threat. This is why it’s so hard to make changes that last.

It’s also human nature to do everything possible not to feel this hurt.

Such is this dislike of hurting – of feeling pain – that you do anything you can to avoid it. You can’t avoid it by preventing it from happening – so much pain is beyond your control. But you do have something very effective up your sleeve.

Distraction.

Distraction is an amazing way not to feel pain. And it’s never been a better time to find ways of distracting yourself. Social media, busyness, gaming, alcohol, drugs, shopping, food, Netflix. It’s distraction nirvana out there.

Distractions are interesting things. In one sense, they don’t matter to us at all, because they’re meaningless – and replaceable – time fillers. In another, they matter to us enormously, because they enable our pain-avoidance habit.

I guess it’s the process of distracting that matters to us, not the actual distractions.

But, here’s the thing. What we’re distracting ourselves from matters even more. We humans are supposed to feel pain. It’s part of our humanness. So distracting ourselves from pain is a problem.

It’s a problem in two ways. First, the pain doesn’t go away when we distract ourselves from it. It gets buried. Deep. Second, you cannot distract yourself from one emotion – pain – and not others – joy, love, happiness. When you numb one, you numb them all.

 

I learned this the hard way.

When I was young, I became a master of distraction. I’d use whatever was to hand to distract myself from feelings I couldn’t deal with. I used physical distractions, like having TV and radio playing in the background. And I used mental ones, like escapism, busyness, perfectionism and being in control.

My distraction skills enabled me to handle whatever was thrown at me. I stayed responsible, dependable and productive at all times. In myself, I was neither low, nor high. I was ‘fine’.

I remained ‘fine’ until one day in my 40s, when everything fell apart. No distraction in the world could take my attention away from the deep pain I felt. It wasn’t as though I wanted to feel the pain – I didn’t. It was more that my body had no nowhere left to bury it. The pain came bursting out from every cell. The recent pain overload I’d experienced had pushed me over the edge.

I was forced, kicking and screaming, to sit with the pain. It came up from my recent past, and my distant past. It was so intense that I stopped cycling and driving for a few weeks – I knew it wasn’t safe to do so.

After working through the worst of it, a few things happened. I felt a lightness I’d never sensed before. I felt real joy for the first time in my life. And I vowed never to distract myself from my emotions again.

My pain taught me a lot. About me. About life.

About what’s NOT important in life — what doesn’t matter:

  • Busyness doesn’t matter.
  • Living in the past doesn’t matter.
  • Perfection doesn’t matter.
  • Possessions don’t matter.
  • Being right doesn’t matter.
  • Distracting yourself doesn’t matter.
  • Faking it doesn’t matter.
  • Bingeing doesn’t matter.
  • Living in the future doesn’t matter.
  • Status doesn’t matter.
  • Being in control doesn’t matter.
  • Pretence doesn’t matter.
  • Hierarchy doesn’t matter.

Best of all, my pain taught me about what IS important in life. About the things that really do matter:

  • Feeling pain matters.
  • Feeling love matters.
  • Meaningful relationships matter.
  • Feeling joy matters.
  • Well-being matters.
  • Acceptance matters.
  • Feeling alive matters.
  • Giving freely matters.
  • Compassion matters.
  • Being healthy matters.
  • Forgiveness matters.
  • Living in the moment matters.
  • Feeling happiness matters.
  • Being loving matters.
  • Receiving graciously matters.
  • Letting go matters.
  • Community matters.
  • Being joyful matters.
  • Being authentic matters.
  • Being open matters.
  • Being respectful matters.
  • Wisdom matters.

You know what matters most of all? Putting everything you’ve got into what matters.

That’s how you honour what matters. That’s how you show your love. Because living, sentient beings are behind everything that matters.

And you and they deserve your best love.

 

 

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

trust-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

What happens when you trust with your whole heart?

The unimaginable does

I always tried to control everything. Life got so messy if I didn’t. Love. Work. Play. Everything.

I learned very young about control. I had to, it was an essential survival tactic. If I controlled what I thought, how I behaved, and how I felt, I got along just fine. On the rare occasion when my emotions got the better of me, they were smacked back down into their place.

That’s how things were.

In time, control became part of my persona. In truth, it became my protective shell. If I didn’t feel in control, things started to unravel inside me in ways that I couldn’t deal with. I can’t explain it, but not being in control opened a door to an awful mess that I wasn’t equipped to deal with at the time.

I became very task oriented, because tasks were something I could control. People, less so! I did my best not to hurt people… unless they stood between me and getting a task done. Then I would bulldoze their feelings off to the side and keeping moving forward. I wasn’t proud of my behaviour. That’s how it was.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, fear held me in its grip. I was afraid of the world – it had always felt such an unsafe place to me. And, because of that, I didn’t feel I could trust. Anyone. Anything. Myself included. So I had to control, to try to force things to happen.

And that was a total disaster.

I got more and more controlling, and more and more unhappy and stressed out. Until one day, when I imploded. I was so utterly exhausted from all the effort I was putting into controlling. I was so utterly empty inside from living without trust.

When you hit rock bottom, you have a choice. You can either numb the pain, hoping it will go away. Or you can make sure it goes away by making some changes in your life. I chose the latter, despite knowing that my changes had to be radical. And I knew exactly where to start.

With trust. I had to start trusting. Myself. Others. The universe.

My journey to trust

I started with my friends, by asking them for help when I needed it. This was me trusting that they wouldn’t drop me as a friend, thinking I was weak for needing help. Yeah, I know. Baby steps.

When this felt safe, I moved on to people in general. First, I stopped apologizing all the time. For saying things I believed. For being in someone’s way. For being unwilling to do things I didn’t want to do.

Next, I stopped being defensive. I had a right to hold an opinion, and it didn’t have to be the same as someone else’s. Other people also had a right to hold an opinion I didn’t share.

Then I started accepting compliments. Saying “Thank you”, and meaning it. That meant no more detracting from compliments by saying something to devalue them. Such as “In this old rag? I’ve had it for years!” or “Oh, this wasn’t really my work, X helped me with it.”

And then, I reached the point where I was OK with people I trusted being untrustworthy. By being OK with it, I mean it didn’t send me scurrying back into my protective control shell. I learned my lesson from each incident, but remained in trust mode. The overarching lesson I learned was that I wasn’t protecting myself well. By asking lots more questions before making decisions, I fixed that.

The final frontier was trusting myself. Trusting my instincts. Trusting my wisdom. Trusting my skills. Trusting that I am enough. Trusting that I am worthy… of happiness, of help, of trust, of love.

As I worked through this, I discovered something about trusting myself. That it’s entwined with trusting the universe. I couldn’t trust that the universe had my back unless I trusted that I deserved it.

You see it all goes back to love. Self-love.

You cannot trust with your whole heart unless you love with your whole heart.

And when you finally do trust – and love – with your whole heart, magic happens. Magic that you could never conjure up yourself.

The unimaginable happens.

The unimaginable

  Doors open that you didn’t even know were there.
  ‘Coincidences’ happen that confirm the direction you should take.
  Your tribe starts to form around you, united by the positive, not the negative.
  You feel energized by life, even when challenges come your way… which they always will.
  You feel compassion for people who aren’t like you – feelings of fear and judgement subside.
  You wake up excited about the day ahead.
  You go to sleep grateful for the day you had.
  Your heart sings.

Jump into the unknown and trust. Trust as if your whole life depended on it.

Because it does.

 

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).