Pain And Loss Have Taught Me The Most About Love
Death is something that an abnormal amount of us are processing over these past few years. For me it felt like the grim reaper was lurking around every corner masking itself as this eerie silent assassin called COVID-19. But beyond actual death, the thought alone made me contemplate where I’m at in my life. I’m sure I’m not the only one, as you can see across the world how many people are pivoting roles and looking for fuller meaning in their own lives.
For me, my story of loss took place in April last year. My mother-in-law that I had the great honour of working with and became very close with, someone that I admired and loved immensely- had been battling a rare thyroid cancer for the past year. She, being the incredible fighter, always with a belly full of laughter and an attitude that defied convention- seemed to be someone that was invincible, even from death. Even though I KNOW none of us can defeat death, it just felt so odd to think of her as someone that would pass away one day. She was a real force of nature and it just seemed untimely that in her young age of 60, cancer would be what took her from us.
After learning how aggressive this cancer was, we (as a family) realized what a pillar of strength she truly was. Battling one long year, where most live four months max. She probably suffered in silence, as she was nurturing like that and protective, even to her own detriment. We hiked a 5k trail with her in Wilderness just one week before she passed. While the reality that she could pass was always in the back of our minds, when it happened it was still a shock and so sudden.
While I would do most anything to bring her back for myself, her beautiful family, her amazing son (my dear husband)… I can now only carry forward her sentiment and live life as grand as I believe she hoped we/I would.
Nothing will replace the loss of someone we love. Nothing. Time does help, but the memories will never fade. At every holiday this past year I could hear her voice, injecting a joke or her great big laugh after tuning one of her sons.
I think the best thing I can do to honor her is to not forget and to truly live large and full. Make my presence here deep and wide, full of love, gratitude and LOTS of laughter. I hope that for those of you dealing with loss, this reminder that the spirit of your loved one lives with YOU and in you. You are not alone in your grieving. Always hold your loved one’s close and try not to take each day with them for granted. As cliché as it is, it’s the honest truth.
Fear Is My Friend
What a year to face your demons (ie YOUR MIND)! This year was one of massive growth for me. It started with a complete meltdown where life felt so out of control, I was spinning out with a plethora of anxiety attacks, stress, irritability from the stress and onward. This led to bad eating habits and loving a glass of wine in the evenings just a liiiitttttle too much. Honest truth.
The compounding effect of all these bad habits was taxing and it showed. Anxiety turned to depression after the July riots in Durban, and fear had completely taken over me both physically and emotionally.
Part 2: Thankfully I’m not a complete newbie to self-care / self-help practices such as meditation, journaling, gratitude exercises, exercise in general… but when you are in the lowlands of your mind, it’s very hard to convince yourself to write about the good in the world. I won’t say that I dramatically changed overnight from a train wreck to a Zen master, but after reading an article about fear, this was the simple catapult for the real change that I needed. I was able to change my perspective to look at my situation from another lens. You see, I’m surprisingly competitive for how easy going I am with others. So when I realized my mind was winning the fear game, I got mad. Anger moved me to action from apathy and guilt. Action was the catalyst that I needed to slowly gain strength and see that my mind was playing tricks on me, and that I was the biggest loser.
What we believe to be true about our world is all is our head. That’s a crazy powerful thought and it’s wild to think we can live completely different realities simply because of what we allow our mind to communicate to us.
The best thing I’ve done all year is to go deep into myself and address all my fears, one by one. Why do I worry? What am I truly scared of? Why am I scared of x thing / result/ problem? What would happen if I looked at this fear as my friend?
After all, fear is there as a guide, telling us that something in our inner or external world isn’t sitting well and we need to address it to free ourselves from it. This could be not addressing conflict with family, avoiding doing something that drains us, finally quitting that job that's stealing our peace etc.
Perhaps that is why there is so much movement from people changing jobs or starting businesses for themselves worldwide. Finally, we are choosing our happiness and health first. But first, fear is there to jolt us from our comfortable place so that we can grow. If you think about it, only truly genuine friends or family tell us what hurts to hear out of love for us. So, the next time you feel fear, ask it what it is trying to show you rather than try to run from it… because unfortunately, it doesn’t run anywhere until you deal with it.
I Can Finally Admit I Love Myself
Yes, this one. At the age of 35 I can finally say, I LOVE myself! I do realize this is a forever journey of learning compassion and kindness to myself, but each year as I work on me I am more grateful for having the guts to confront so many painful issues from my past. The loving of myself is much more tied to an understanding and forgiving of my past, which has allowed me to release so much of what was previously holding me back. Until we do the deep work of looking at ourselves and paying attention to our gut emotions, it’s hard to move forward. Our brain is so powerful and tricky! It fights to keep us comfortable for our own protection, but comfort isn’t how we have breakthroughs.
Loving me has never come easy, as I’ve battled with self-worth, confidence, finding my voice and knowing my strengths. But, over the past five or so years I’ve been finding as many ways as possible to fill my soul with good. Good food, good people, good knowledge, good projects…you get the idea. And this past year has been a wonderful time to be still in a space where it’s just me, myself and I – being creative together, playing, moving, learning and having so much fun.
I hope more than anything in your life you take the time to get to know yourself and fall in love with that person. You are gold, and your past doesn’t own you.
Silence Is Essential
There is a reason meditation is so prevalent. Cliché, yes! But good for you? YES! Meditation doesn’t have to be some ‘woo woo’ spiritual hoo-HA! (haha). It can simply be five sweet minutes in nature or on your couch with you and you alone. No distractions.
The number of benefits that come from a pause is unreal. We’re talking energy-giving, creative, stress-reducing benefits!
It can be uncomfortable to sit with yourself in the beginning, but I promise it’s worth it if you just try it for five days in a row. You’ll see.
Some of my favourite apps for meditation (if you are interested) is:
Commune (a course app which is paid but the meditations and plethora of self-growth courses are incredible and so worth it).
I now spend 4-5 days / week or more meditating or in nature on a walk. I’m addicted to feeling good, and that’s exactly what silence gives you.
Connection Is KEY
Ya’ll know this one! After these past few years there is an article on the need for connection almost everywhere. That’s because IT’S TRUE! We are social creatures literally expanding and releasing positive energy after hanging out with people who inject life and love back into us. That is the KEY, however. I’ve made my time with others a massive priority, BUT, I’ve taken inventory of relationships that give me energy and those that deflate me.
For me, being mindful about who I spend time with has been crucial in lifting myself from the hardest parts of last year. But also, ensuring I’m giving my full self in conversation with friend / family is so important. Quality over quantity wins. I put my phone in another room and focus on eye-to-eye connection, being fully present. Relationships are ‘give and take’, so if you feel some of yours are out of balance and some people steal from your joy box… perhaps it’s time to spend less time with them. Reciprocally, when we spend time, it’s important to be fully engaged out of love and respect for those we are with…even your annoying little brother 😉. Jk!
I hope these lessons help you on your reflections of 2021, and serve as a reminder that through the harsh realities of the past few years, there is still a ton we can be grateful for and look forward to.
Cheers to you in this New Year!!