“Is it all worth it? The work that we do on ourselves, I mean. And, when does it end? When do you get to that place where it all makes sense and it doesn’t feel so exhausting? Sometimes I just want to be like those people who stay in the same place, with the same person, in the same job, doing the same things and going through their lives content to never change a thing”
I was taking a walk with my dearest, closest friend B on the last day of my 3 week visit to Melbourne, Australia, my birth home. After gorging on bags of candy and chocolate we had loved from our childhood, we decided we needed to walk, to talk.
It’s true, I move in a world where the quest for an authentic, enriched, abundant life is at the forefront of many conversations. My friends and I often discuss feelings and meanings and daily observations – supporting each other in our awareness of ourselves, our personal pursuits and dreams, the places we put ourselves, the people and events we attract and our desires. Sometimes it seems as if each day begins with a question and many nights end in trying to answer that question….
…(I am not going lie, wine gets involved occasionally).
We’re essentially always looking at what we can change for the better. Kind of like a storeroom inventory, and sales analysis of what sells, what needs to go and what could be added.
Personally, I have undertaken therapy, I have a life coach, and I read self-help books. I attend ‘get what you want’ seminars and listen to motivational speakers and write affirmations. I have an intuitive guide, a naturopath and acupuncturist. I journal, I write, I meditate, I practice yoga and mindfulness and blah blah blah! WTF?????
That’s what I wanted to know. I mean really, am I better off? And more importantly….where is my reward? What do I get for it all? Just more questions it seems.
My friend and I were laughing at ourselves in a kind of nervous way that consisted of equal parts humor and fear. Fear that we’d gone too far, and knew too much to turn back now. Fear that we couldn’t consciously bitch about anyone anymore without recognizing our own responsibility. Fear of the knowledge that no matter what happens in our lives, we are responsible for it…….really?!
B and I have known each other from birth, our parents were close friends until 15 years ago when some emotional decisions were made and feelings were hurt. We remained firm friends through it all, but our parents (and some extended family) are no longer friends and there is still bitterness that surrounds it all.
Far from passing judgment on their behavior (that’s a complete lie, by the way), B and I have simply observed it and made the decision to work as hard as we could in our life journey to avoid becoming that way. Becoming THAT stuck. I’ve gone so far as to pack up my entire life and move to the other side of the world.
However, here we were walking the streets of suburban Melbourne, a little fatigued from it all. I mean, our parents have good lives – they have good jobs, they have traveled to their dream destinations, bought and sold houses, have friends, buy items they need. On the surface they are healthy, functioning human beings no different to me. So why do I feel the need to go against the grain all the time? What is it that I am actually trying to achieve? How much better is my life, really?
I can’t speak directly for B but I can recount my observations of her incredible achievements in her life. She works hard in her marriage and has a very real, solid relationship built on kindness, vulnerability and communication, and even when they are the happiest they continue to seek some form of therapy – to always keep momentum.
Both our parents have been divorced, remarried, or stayed single but are all bored with these choices and don’t really like their jobs. Not only has B worked on a successful marriage, but they have a very successful business that feeds their interests.
She has endured an arduous journey over the last 10 years with her health which has limited her in some areas and opened up other possibilities. Her resilience and refusal to accept popular mainstream diagnosis and labels inspired her to seek out alternative ways to heal both physically and spiritually.
B has been diagnosed with M.S., scarlet fever, alopecia, chronic fatigue, a sun allergy and various other sensitivities over the years but through the emotional work she did, she completely changed the way she processed the information and the way she experienced her life and ‘conditions’.
Rather than become one of these ‘( fill in the blank with said condition ) sufferers’ that put everything in a packet with a label so it was convenient to comprehend, she chose to see each symptom as an ‘episode’ – something her body went through and treated it as such. As a result, and whether things were misdiagnosed, she doesn’t ‘have’ these conditions anymore; she simply has to manage her lifestyle around the occasional ‘episode’.
I was fascinated and completely in awe of the amount of effort she has put into her life – it made me fall completely in love with her and the friendship that we have maintained.
I talked to her about a friend of mine who had flown down from Sydney for the night to catch up. M and I had met back in London 14 years ago when he was pulling beers at a south London pub. We had a brief romance (aka a one night stand) but quickly realized we actually dug each other as good people so we kept in touch.
M is who I call a meat and potatoes (and exotic vegetable) kind of guy. He has all the meat and potato heartiness of a good guy; straight forward, very practical, down to earth, super fit and rugged…but he has travelled the world. He has cycled across Australia, walked (Yes, on foot) between 2 Australian cities, trekked Nepal and Pakistan and other places that I don’t remember the names of. He goes out to the bush for days, sometimes weeks. He is solid, and interesting.
My experience with M has always been easy. We have been loyal, firm friends all this time (he even once sent me a beat up postcard that he had carried around in his rucksack for close to a year, from Mexico City. He’d carried it for so long because he didn’t actually have my address at the time – thank goodness for parents who don’t change and rarely move Insert ironic smile). However, he has always maintained a subtle emotional distance, and very clearly defined black and white opinions on the world.
Something was different about him this time though. Not only did I feel the normal ease with him, I felt a comfort with him I hadn’t before. Conversation flowed openly, he talked of feelings, he spoke about personal topics that, in the past, would be met with silence from him; ever the careful, strategic listener. Where once his opinion of a situation only ever swayed to the extremes of either ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, he had developed a gray area; there was more compassion.
Something had changed. That something? He confessed he had been seeing a therapist for the past year and his whole world had opened up.
As I was recounting this to B, and telling her of the great time we had and how unique it was – it occurred to me why I do all the work in my life. I figured out my reward! I do it because it’s exciting. Exciting to make connections in my life with my own sense of who I am which ultimately feeds the connections I make with others.
Which fed the connection M and I had the previous night, our conversation flowed until well into the morning. Our friendship had changed, shifted; grown an inch. Again, I felt completely connected and in love with the friend who went out of his way to visit, who carried a beat up old postcard around and who was brave enough to see that things were a little too black and white in his life and made the courageous decision to start asking questions and to seek guidance.
With each lit up, a-ha moment, there comes a sense of relief and lightness which encourages the search and the more we seek, the more we discover and so, the more we seek. Why? Because it does feel as if there is a discovery of something special and, quite frankly, it is special; it’s the discovery of you evolving, all the time. Changing and growing and keeping momentum in life. Doing the work means taking responsibility for your life, but taking responsibility offers more possibilities than you could ever imagine.
Doing the work is you participating in your own happiness. There is of course, a huge distinction between people who really do the work, and people who wear the work on their sleeve. I’ll make that distinction another time, but it’s obvious (pun intended).
The wonder of our world is that we have many flavors to choose from. Whether you chose books, therapists, yoga, meditation, affirmations, seminars, retreats, life coaching, chanting, healing ceremonies…..choose your poison; as they say. But put effort into it…and ya gotta go to the dark side, you can’t escape it but that’s when you discover the light is brighter on the other side.
Putting work into your life simply starts with a common question,.
How am I? (really)