I never do this – post twice in one day – but the first of today’s posts I started last night, and I have just read something that compels me to write again.
Charlotte Otter is a South African woman living in Germany, and she write Charlotte’s Web, which is on my blogroll (check it out – she is lovely and clever). Charlotte, too, is a writer, and in a recent entry she posted a few paragraphs from her novel. Her heroine, Sanet, is a South African woman living in London. She feels displaced, as is understandable when not living in your home country, but there is more to her feeling than that.
Charlotte writes this about her heroine:
What is becoming clear to me is that if you are alienated from yourself, you are alienated from everything, and that will become the core of Sanet’s crisis: she will be offered the opportunity to be true to herself. The question is, will she take it up?
That is the statement that resonated so deeply with me.
Two years ago I was so completely unhappy in my own life. I had moments I enjoyed, I laughed enough that many people would not have really known this about me, but I felt like I was living someone else’s life. When you live that inauthentically, you cannot access any kind of inner peace. As a result, I discovered that I didn’t really like this person that I was. I isolated myself frequently, and not out of the need for ‘alone time’ that I have now, but to prevent others from having to put up with me. I became increasingly disagreeable, sullen, and felt a deep sense of loneliness – even when amongst friends.
I got to a point where I knew things had to change.
Then I went on a trip. A long trip. Across the world to two other continents. Greece-London-Peru and back home. The trip provided so many catalysts for change that my head was spinning by the time I got back home.
It literally changed my life.
I met people who loved life. I met Sheila and Deb and Geraldine.
Sheila is sixty-something, and gorgeous. I met her and her equally lovely twin Sharon, in Peru. Sheila has an insatiable thirst for knowledge, a love of adventure and am unwillingness to succumb to nay-saying. Sheila broke open my heart. She saw through the cracks and just stuck her hands in and pulled apart that hard casing. Then she encouraged me to pursue the impossible.
Deb, who I met with her husband Marty onboard the yacht in Greece, is smart, and career-minded. She knows what she wants and because of this, she has the life that she wants to live. She does all this with a broad smile and a hearty sense of fun. She and Marty have a sexy, joyful marriage. When I met them, I knew that it was entirely possible to have what I truly wanted.
Geraldine, our guide in Peru, is the most pure-hearted and kind person I have ever met. Her gentleness and kindness humbled me. When I was sicker than I have ever been before, she looked after me rather than visiting her own family, whom she hadn’t seen in months. Her selflessness made me want to stop being such a selfish, moody cow.
And then there was the cute American guy who stood on the dock of Tinos and said, “I want my life to be bigger.” I thought, ‘Me too’, and I wondered at that early moment in my big trip if I would have the courage to do anything about it.
I had no idea then that we would embark on parallel – and more frequently, converging – journeys that would bring those wants to fruition. And at that early moment in my big, life-changing trip, I had certainly had no idea that I could actually meet someone, a man, whose wants and dreams and goals would compliment mine, and challenge me to live that ‘bigger life’. I was, however, starting to see glimpses of my authentic self.
I met many others on my trips and visits and they all added something unique to my shift in perspective. Jaime and Paul, from Halifax, never want to miss an opportunity. Lara from Vancouver lives with such beautiful hope in her heart. Patrick from New Zealand and Liliane the Brazilian, crossed oceans and cultures to create a life together. And on that trip, I got to see my Little Sis in her natural habitat, London. (It is ‘home’ for her, even more so now that she is loved up.)
I had left home in want of something. Then I had gone around the world (literally), succumbed to illness twice, laughed until I couldn’t breathe, and cried as I said goodbye to new friends and my oldest friend, Vic. I saw lots, I did stuff, and I collected souvenirs from my travels, but the most important thing I brought home from that trip was my authentic self.
I made big changes after that, and some of those changes were painful because they involved breakups with people close to me. Mostly the changes were about shedding heavy burdens, such as obligation, fastidiousness, isolation, and a couple of unwanted kilos. I reconnected with those I had neglected, I moved house, I booked more trips and I took on more responsibility at work, all in the space of months. I took care with the new friendships I had forged, and apologised to those people who had endured my ‘funk’. I learned (again) to appreciate all that I had, especially the incredible people I call family and friends.
The tattoo of a butterfly adorning my lower stomach took on more meaning, as I emerged from my chrysalis and felt truly happy.
I still try to honour my authentic self. Big decisions, and even some small ones, are about the inner peace that comes along with serving that goal. Sure, I have had moments of doubt and sadness, and even fear. But never again will I let myself shelve what I truly want. I want to live a big life, and that’s what I am doing.