Sometimes it hurts to follow your heart. Sometimes however it can take you years to hear your heart properly – to trust the essence of who you are – and it takes several traumatic events happening at once to get you back on the right path. Your heart can be yelling out at you to take a risk and do something you know feels right; but you ignore it because you ‘ought’ to do something else; you ‘ought’ to play safe; you ‘ought’ to be so-called responsible.
Sometimes responsibility is about being apparently irresponsible. For me it’s the work-life balance and how much creativity I ‘allow’ myself in my working life.
Having been going through a separation leading to divorce, and just as I started a new job with a long commute, I fell in love last year – passionately, deeply in love – and was loved in return. In many ways it was rather unreal and yet that was its very life-giving, mind body and soul reality: it was a wonderful, magical, romantic time. The ‘real me’ was already stirring – this awoke it further and pushed it out into the world.
I flew high but I crashed hard. For the past few months or so I’ve been working back towards balance: balancing the me I know I really am with the practicalities of life. On an emotional level, getting a balance between self-esteem & self-awareness. Not getting put down and falling to bits as soon as somebody criticises or attacks me, but being able to admit my own faults as well… seeing that in all relationships, apart from perhaps with your children, ‘it takes two to tango’.
Having the confidence to believe that my singing is good (it wasn’t years ago and it’s taken a long time not to have that little voice in my head saying ‘who do you think you are, standing up here and singing to people?’) and that Deborah and I have different strengths when it comes to singing. I think she is a far better singer and performer than me, but my voice appeals to a different section of the audience and has a totally different quality – but we now should have the confidence that we are good enough to be paid for singing. Again, the man last year was a huge part of that as he always supported my singing – as did, also, the friend who came back into my musical life having not seen him for 35 years. A huge Thank You to those two men: and to the man who kissed my hand when I last sang in the restaurant in Brampton; to the man who said it was ‘classy’; to my choir master for letting me sing the solo in Stanford’s Bluebird; and to my friend Clare and her family… etc.
Accepting that I can’t do everything – there just aren’t enough hours in the day – despite the fact that I want to live life to the full. Life is an enormous playground and I’ve only tried out some of the rides so far, and I’m greedy to try more! I want to learn Italian (that’s been an ambition for goodness knows how many years – I think it may possibly get fulfilled this year… watch this space); do lots of long bike rides and write them up; travel; sing; write.. and of course there has to be time for my surveying work, which is what, after all, pays the bills (and I have a great boss who again is supportive by being understanding). And I want to fit in some time for trail running out on those lovely hills or along by the sea; for yoga; and for meditation. But again – it’s getting the balance.
Going through a divorce is making me reconsider my financial and childcare balance – perhaps I have to let child tax credits provide some of my income in order that I have more time with the children. My ambition last year was to work full time and not need any child tax credits at all, and I wanted to be able to afford to take the children abroad on holiday with me. I failed miserably but I was trying to do too many things – to be too much to too many people – and hence I crashed, letting down in the process my children, the man I loved (though he then failed to help me up when I was down and when I needed him most), my boss, and also myself.
The last point, about looking after yourself, is important because it reflects so much wisdom that is ‘out there’ – if you don’t look after and love yourself first and foremost, you’re pretty useless to other people. It’s not about selfishness – it’s about (going back to the beginning) being who you truly and genuinely are, and being happy, in order to give happiness to other people. And when you’re deeply, profoundly, happy in your own skin then it’s no effort to give to other people (I was good at that at the beginning of my love affair but then got insecure and tried too hard/gave too much; and with my ex-husband I always felt I gave a lot and then got resentful… and didn’t appreciate what he was doing (giving me freedom; being a good father)).
As a child – a good, going-to-church on a Sunday and singing in the choir-child – I was brought up to think that I should think about others first and that if you didn’t you were being selfish. Years later I was at a church in Brighton where a friend sang in the choir, and the sermon was about ‘love others as you love yourself’. It was a pivotal point for me as the vicar was saying that if you don’t love yourself you’re useless to anybody else… (though not in quite those words). It’s not always easy to put into practice when deep down inside you think you ‘ought’ to put others first: but actually I’ve seen what happens when you identify too closely with others and put their needs and feelings before your own. When you lose yourself, you are completely lost.
In relation to children again a balance has to be found, of course: they need to learn to grow up to consider others but have enough self-esteem to look after their own needs. And whilst a parent has to look after their children, and to a certain extent put his or her children first, again showing them how to look after themselves and be kind to others as well is a fantastic lesson to teach them (and a difficult one if you struggle with it yourself).
So over the past few months I’ve been trying to scramble back up the mountain of self-esteem and happiness – but now I’m beginning to realise that I was making too much effort even to do that, although I’ve had some success. It’s about letting go – truly letting go – and that’s when things fall into your life; abundance will return in due course (and it’s perhaps also about seeing that it is indeed abundance and joy – seeing that the glass is half full, not half empty – i.e. perception).
If you have constantly to make too much effort for anything and it’s not happening – if you feel as if you’re banging your head against a brick wall and you’re miserable for years on end (as David was in our marriage) – then you’re on the wrong track. Having said that, my friend Clare wisely said she had realised that when things felt hard it wasn’t so much about giving up as working out how to keep the things in her life that she wanted (she works full-time; has a very ill husband; has a lovely boyfriend and other people in her life she cares and worries about, and has got to the stage where it works) – again, balance between putting in the effort to keep what you really want and letting go at the right time.
So this week, after feeling incredibly low again on Monday morning, has been about letting go. I’ve read some useful things which have helped (thank you to the facebook pages and writings of Lyn Thurman* in particular – and also to Phil Robbins whose fantastic photos of me on Caldbeck Fell made me feel better about myself than I have for ages**) and then I burnt a whole load of paperwork yesterday and deleted some files on my computer. I think that will do. Again, balance – making too much of an effort to let go is again too much effort! I have to just let it happen (and not beat myself up for the times when sadness overcomes me). I’m hoping that letting go will let me fly again – this time in a stronger and more controlled way than I did last summer. To soar, as my voice has been described as doing in The Bluebird.
There’s a passage at the beginning of one of the chapters of Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow (Peter Hoeg) where she says that she just walks into the tunnel, the blackness, that is depression: she lets herself fall. It’s always stuck with me. There’s no rule which says that you ‘ought’ not ever feel depressed. Yes, life is amazing and we’re lucky to be here and to experience its rich, colourful tapestry – but if there are times when you get depressed or low, go with the flow (just don’t wallow). There are events in life which are sad, and the unhappiness is a sign that you are human and have emotions – but learn from them, let go, and move on. Everything passes; everything changes. Again, there was a short features in Psychologies magazine once which pointed out that bad times pass – and so do the good ones! – just to come round again (the wheel of fortune).
At least, that’s what I’m trying to do!
* I’ve previously recommended Lyn’s book The Inner Goddess Revolution but will again here in case anyone who might be interested in it has missed it.
** I can highly recommend Phil for professional photographs – if you’re looking for a photographer for any reason whatsoever, contact him via his Facebook page. He’s based in Carlisle.