A Heart-Gladdening Walk


“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” 
~
John Muir

I felt raw yesterday, raw and exhausted and all used up. (not sure why, read this post)

I tried to sit at my desk and work, but couldn’t find a rhythm. My overflowing inboxes were overwhelming. I didn’t have enough words left in me for writing or for guiding. So, in the end, I left the hotel and began walking.

At first I walked without noticing anything but my feet moving along the footpaths and roads.

My head was strangely full of the sudden worry of becoming old and ill and having no-one to care for me. I have a chronic degenerative illness. My husband and I have no children. My siblings have no children. My circle is small and ever-dwindling. Who will advocate for me at the end? Who will hold my hand?

Stupid fat tears kept rolling down my cheeks.

Stupid.

I kept walking.

The more I walked the more these worrying thoughts emptied out.

I began to notice my surroundings. Shopfronts, cafes, flower carts, old churches, street musicians, the aroma of coffee and freshly baked bread.

I began to notice people.

Suddenly I was laughing. My heart filled up with beauty and wonder. I have faced death before and in those hours strangers were there for me. Nurses and doctors and kind-hearted hospital workers.

In someone else’s trials I was there for them.

That’s how it’s meant to work. How can I trust the spiritual flow of my work and not trust that this flow will also somehow support me in my time of need?

Silly me. It’s all okay. It will always be okay.

After my long walk I came home and slept. Then I returned to my desk. There is much work to be done and I am the one to do it and that’s okay too.

Advice I Wish I Could Have Given My Young Self And Her Friends

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” ~ Confucious

An old school friend of mine passed away. Over the years we’ve lost others; to suicide, accident, misadventure and illness. But this is the first of my friends who has passed due the cumulative stresses of aging.

I’ve been looking at photos of us all from when we were at school and university, from when we were young and fearless and life was in front of us as an endless rolling wave of possibilities. I can see that this is one of the blessings of youth – to be eager-eyed and unbowed by life experiences. I see that in my friends’ children now and I’m awed by that energy.

But there is a blessing to being older too. And that’s the blessing of wisdom.

If I could teleport back through time here are the things I wish my wise older self could have said to us all back then, back when we were still at school and contemplating the lives we might lead:

  1. Don’t choose a career to please your parents or impress your school or anyone else. Don’t be pressured into making study and career choices that hold no joy except the promise of a prestigious occupation or a big paycheck.
  2. It’s okay if you don’t know what you want to do when you leave school. Education is important, and those basics of literacy and numeracy will never go out of style. Get an education for the experience of it, and to broaden you, but know that your life may take you far from your starting point, and that’s fine too.
  3. Travel while you’re young. Take a gap year. Take off after you graduate. Take off before there is a mortgage or a partner or the kind of job you won’t be able to leave for more than a week or two at a time.
  4. Don’t do drugs. Not the injectable kind, or the snort up your nose kind, or the magical pill kind. And don’t ever see drugs or alcohol as an escape or a solution. If you need an escape change your life or get some counselling. If you’re depending on drugs or alcohol but you are telling yourself there is no problem – there’s a problem. And don’t drive under the influence of anything, ever!
  5. Don’t stay in a relationship with someone you don’t love, and don’t get married just because everyone else is. Don’t feel pressured, ever, to marry, have kids, or do things you don’t feel ready for. Most importantly don’t do any of these things just to make someone else happy. The cost will be too high.
  6. Have an interest that has nothing to do with your career. Maybe something you enjoy now. Don’t put it down and forget about it when you leave school because you aren’t ever going to set the world on fire or be the next greatest thing with the musical instrument you play, or the sport you enjoy or the craft you do on weekends. Cultivate that as a life-long interest and you’ll be going a long way towards gifting yourself strong mental health.
  7. Learn to cook. Seriously. Just some basics. And learn to clean the house, to manage your finances and other basic adulting skills. This is the stuff that is the background of life, and being able to do these things will give you confidence and freedom.
  8. Have a bucket list. They aren’t just for old people. If you’ve always wanted to surf Indonesia, trek the Himalayas, wander through India or drink espresso in Italy then hold those plans in your mind and work towards them. Keep adding to that bucket list so there is always something to look forward to, even as you tick things off. Don’t leave it till retirement. By then you may be incapable of the things you could have enjoyed more fully when you were younger.
  9. Relationships take work. And there is nothing like a relationship that has weathered the highs and lows of your life to bring you comfort and stability. Put effort into the important ones. Work through your problems and get help if it’s needed. Sometimes we need to learn how to communicate or to break old patterns so that we can move on, together.
  10. Once you have a job or career don’t let it take over your life. Same with family and relationships. Save some time that’s just for you. No time for yourself will breed exhaustion and resentment and is a recipe for burnout and breakdown. Everyone needs time to themselves to recharge and to indulge interests that others might not share.
  11. Look after your health. It’s so easy to take it for granted when you’re young but looking after yourself is a kind of insurance policy that your older self will one day thank you for.
  12. Do what’s in your heart. Even if it won’t make you money. Even if everyone else thinks you’re mad. Don’t die with the dream still in you. It’s never too late to start, but don’t leave it too long, okay?

Thinking of you, and sending love, Nicole ❤ xx

Sitting with the Big Questions

“I have always believed, and I still believe, that whatever good or bad fortune may come our way we can always give it meaning and transform it into something of value.”
~ Hermann Hesse

 

I still can’t see.

I still can’t see except for a brief window each morning before exhaustion and overwhelm kick in. In that brief window my left eye has reasonable vision. I can read large text and navigate the world around me more easily. I can write. I can feel briefly safe and more normal. By lunch-time clarity is melting away. By nightfall everything is a blur.

I’ve always believed that there is something to be learned or understood from every experience, if only I am brave enough to ask the big questions. If only I am brave enough to sit open and unknowing – waiting for whatever insights and answers may come.

For days now I have been asking myself ‘What am I not seeing?’ It seemed a sensible question, given my current circumstances.

I’ve had some major realisations around access and disability and what matters in life. I’ve thought deeply about helplessness and dependence and my difficulty with asking for help. I’ve sat with the truths of my need to serve, and my fear of not making a difference. Of my old childhood anxiety around feeling like a freak and never fitting in. Of not being loved if people knew my truth – if they truly ‘saw’ me. Of the pain of ‘not being seen’ by those I love.

I’ve owned the need for self first, of slowing down, of finding grace in impossible situations, of enlightenment through suffering. I’ve watched from outside myself as a part of me has danced with a range of emotions.

And I kept asking myself – What am I not seeing?

What am I not seeing?

Eventually the words themselves became a noose that drew tighter and tighter. I’d stripped myself bare. There seemed nothing more to find. My world grew smaller and darker, my depression and frustration more profound.

I tried to sit in that place of darkness and stuckness. I hoped that by sitting there some great breakthough would come.

Nothing.

Nothing!

Suddenly it came to me, and the realisation was so powerful that waves of relief flooded my body. I am psychic after all. I live between worlds. I have always seen what others cannot.

All this question of ‘What am I not seeing?’ was doing was keeping me stuck in my head. In my rational self. A useful place to be in small doses, but the one perspective I will ever find there will be my own.

‘Not seeing’ ultimately gave only limited answers. It closed me down.

But now I Knew I had the key within me to bring light back into this dark space.

I reframed my question.

What can I see?

The boundaries of my tiny existence exploded. I moved from my head to my soul.

Everything changed.

I still might not be able to see with my eyes, but I can see so much more clearly from this new perspective, and I know there is much here to learn and explore.

How about you? What can you see?

Sit with it for a while. I think you’ll be glad that you did.

Please know that you’re in my thoughts, prayers and daily meditations.

All my love, Nicole <3 xx

 

Your Strength as a Wounded Healer

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”
~ Rumi

 

Have you ever wondered why stuff happens to you? Why you’ve had to suffer, and endure the things you’ve gone through?

I have no good answers for the WHY, but I do have some advice based on having suffered and endured on my own journey.

Don’t let that suffering be wasted. Don’t waste it on vengeance or anger or being stuck as a victim. Don’t get stuck in your story. Don’t become the object of suffering and the receptacle for pain.

You have a choice. And whenever you have choice, power, in that moment, resides in you and that power to choose.

So, this is my advice, based on my own pain and suffering…

Use your wounds to grow. Use your path of suffering and pain as a force to transform you. Make your suffering MEAN something. Take everything that you are, everything that you have, everything you have endured and work that suffering and pain into wisdom.

After that, the road will fork.

Image from JackeyBackman.com

Image from JackeyBackman.com

You can take the first road. That road allows you to take your inner wisdom and strength as a shining light and courage within you that helps propel you forward in the world. No-one else might ever learn of the suffering that transformed you, but in that place of transformation you will strive and thrive and become a success at whatever calls you BECAUSE of that guiding energy and force within you. You’ll know that you can rely on yourself, you’ll know that you can all on that strength. You’ll trust your resilience and your ability to endure and overcome. That suffering will no longer define you – instead, in a strange way, it will have liberated you.

For some of you, though, you’ll feel the calling of that second road.

That’s the Path of the Healer.

Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. Your feet will be shuffling onto that path, cautiously walking that path, that heart-drawn path, and you’ll be so very aware of the suffering and the brokenness that has happened in your life. I know, you’ll be looking back over your shoulder and thinking ‘What right do I have to be here? I’m wounded.’ And then you’ll think that maybe you should turn around and go back…

My friend, I just want to embrace you. I want to cheer you on. I want to sit down beside you, offer you a deep refreshing drink from my water bottle and whisper something in your ear.

Image from Rebel Thriver

Image from Rebel Thriver

There’s a secret power in being a wounded healer. You’ll be able to identify those who are ready to invite the light into their wounds. You’ll be able to hear their pain. Feel their anguish. Identify with them, as both and equal and a teacher. And most importantly, you’ll be able to help them to step out of that dance they do with their pain and into a place of using that pain for transformation.

You’ll be able to look them in the eye and say ‘I know you. I see you. I understand you. Because I have my own wound. We walk this path together.’

Wounds can heal. The scars they leave behind make us stronger. They are a tangible reminder that none of us are perfect, and that life is a hard road, with many obstacles which we shall seek to overcome.

That you are further along the path, still upright, wiser… well, that gives hope to others. Your compassion and understanding, having walked that difficult road yourself, becomes a powerful force for helping others to transform.

Please, if you’ve held yourself back BECAUSE of your wounding, your scars, your history, your imperfections, I ask you to reconsider.

Let me share with you the story of two of my clients who were weight-loss coaches. One of them was a young girl who’d excelled at everything she’d ever tried. She was an exercise physiologist and nutritionalist, an elite athlete, and a stunning beauty. The other was a middle-aged overweight housewife. Who had once been morbidly obese. Who was still holding a few pounds. And who, bless her, had little fashion sense.

One of them is still an outstandingly successful weight-loss coach.

The woman who was once morbidly obese, who has lost over half her body weight and maintained that loss, is now successfully leading many other men and women with life-long weight issues back to a place of health and balance. She can look you in the eye and know that you are binge-eating frozen cheesecake through your tears in the dead of night. She knows the shame, the anguish, the self-loathing, the total lack of self-worth. She’s been there. She’s walked that path and she still walks that path. She knows that path well, and she’s learning more all the time. And you’ll trust her because of that. She truly has your back because she IS you, in a way.

The young elite athlete? She changed her focus and now she rehabs injured athletes and corporate-type individuals with a burning need to succeed and with strong competitive instincts. She trains winners. She trains go-getters. Because that is who she is, and the mindset and values with whom she most relates. She knows what it is to push herself, to feel completely driven, to give herself to her goals one hundred percent. She knows what it is to be eaten up by self-induced stress. To get completely out of balance and to burn out or injure yourself through over-training. To have no social or family life because your world has become too narrow. Or that you need that narrowness in order to reach a goal, and for some people, that the goal is what matters. She also knows how it important it is to be sustainable, after having been so unsustainable herself. She knows the beauty and the thrill of that control and that desire to win. She’s incredibly successful now, and so are her clients. She’s getting incredible results.

Both of them are.

And both of them are wounded healers, walking their talk and sharing their passion, their wisdom and their light.

Healers come in all forms. Yes, there are traditional healers. Doctors, naturopaths, counsellors, nurses, massage therapists – the list goes on. But healers are also teachers. They are mothers, fathers, writers, cab drivers, hairdressers, tax accountants, musicians, waitresses, gardeners. They share their compassion, their advice, their support, their wisdom and their lessons in so many, many ways.

Don’t tell me that you’re somehow LESS because you are imperfect.

Tell me how you can help others be MORE because of your imperfection and the knowledge that has been gained on your journey.

Your wounding is what makes you whole. It’s what makes you beautiful and precious and valuable. It’s what makes you real.

I have faith in you.

Go do this, if it’s calling you. We need more big, open scarred-up hearts, souls and minds in the world. It’s time.

Crying in car parks

“Let your tears come.  Let them water your soul.”  ~ Eileen Mayhew

Over the last twenty-five years I’ve done my share of crying in car parks.  Not just any car parks.  I do have my standards. The car parks I shed tears in have always had a theme.  I’ve cried in hospital car parks, pathology car parks, specialist medical centre car parks, diagnostic imaging car parks and in the stark impersonality of inner city parking garages close to where my doctors’ rooms might be.

I’m always careful to make it all the way back to my car, and be safely alone inside, doors closed and windows up, before I start to cry.  Sometimes I’ve barely made it, but I am proud to say I’ve never yet lost it in a doctor’s office.

Why all the tears?

I’ve had twenty five years of illness, countless different diagnoses, all of them bad, or worse – indifferent. And almost always, I’ve been told there was little that could be done.

It actually got to the point where I stopped trying to get to the bottom of whatever the problem was, because it always seemed there was something new going wrong. Embarrassing to explain to others.  Melodramatic.  I even began to question whether it was all in my head.

It didn’t help that many people, doctors included, didn’t take me seriously. I became intensely wary of discussing my health, and eventually I ignored most of my problems, or found ways to manage, minimise, hide or work around them.  In fact, I had to be nearly crippled from the pain of a heart attack before I even took serious notice the last time something major went wrong. Any normal person would have done something hours before.  But me, I was waiting for it to pass, evaluating it against previous pains and issues, hating to draw attention to myself or to inconvenience anyone. Wondering if it really was as bad as it felt. It wasn’t.  It was worse. And months later I had another one that only showed up in blood tests afterwards. Still I talked it down, shrugged it away, notched it up on the board with all the other health dramas and then went back to living.

There have been hospitals since then.  And doctors. And lots of other helpful healers of all descriptions. Just as there have been for over two decades. But that’s a story best left for another day.

I have become a master of gratitude and making much of the little things that give life texture and meaning.  As my life has shrunk smaller and smaller, I have let the detail become richer so I didn’t feel like I was missing out.  I have found clever ways to cope, to make the best of things, and to not dwell on all that has slowly eroded from my life. I’ve also clawed my way back from the abyss countless times. For that I am proud. No matter what has happened, I have not yet been defeated. I’ve always found a way to stagger back to my feet and keep going.

I tell myself things are great. And I can’t complain about my life.  There is so much good here, such a rich canvas of blessings. But always, at the back of my mind, is this terrifying understanding that there is something seriously wrong, and that over time things are getting slowly worse, rather than slowly better.

Today I sat in yet another city car park and I cried. This time I cried for a whole new reason. These were tears of relief.  Tears of exhausted, soul-weary gratitude.  Today I got a diagnosis.

Today, for the first time in a very long time, I felt validated. And I felt the smallest flicker of hope.

So tonight I shall pack my bags and my husband will drive me home to our farm. Tomorrow I will sit in the sunshine and sip tea while I contemplate my future. I do intend to have one, and tonight it actually looks possible.

When I’m ready I’ll share it all with you, but for now, just let me draw breathe.

Thanks for listening.  Nicole ♥ xx

By definition, a ‘Hero’ does not have it easy…

Ken and Barbie, one of life’s perfect couples. Image from barbie-game.com

“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”
Christopher Reeve

Think about it.

You read a book. In it, the hero has a cruisey ride. From the moment of their auspicious birth everything they touch magically works.  They are incredibly popular. All their family and friends are kind and loyal.  Oh – and smart and beautiful too.  Even if the hero has to endure some sort of obstacle (which is unlikely), it’s so easily overcome that they never even mess up their hair.  They have plenty of money, plenty of food, plenty of really cool stuff, success in every direction, and life just works out for them. It’s all so easy.

Seriously, who would read that?

That’s no hero. That’s just a plastic-fantastic fantasy.

Image from blogomatic3000.com

The real heroes in life are ordinary people. People just like you.

They’re the people who keep going when life gets hard.

They hang on, even when they can’t count on a single friend.

They keep going, even when everything around them is falling apart.

They put their game face on. They grit their teeth.

And they might be terrified.  They might be filled with doubt. Their pockets empty, their belly empty, and no-one riding in to save them.

Their dream might be so far off…

The future might look so uncertain…

The chance of things turning out well might be so slim…

They might have fallen so many times that they wonder if they can get back up.

But they look life in the eye. They hold up their head even when their cheeks are glazed with tears.

And they keep on going.

That’s a true hero.

That’s the story we want to read.

Image from quotespicture.org

And the truth is, we never know how incredible we are, how strong we are, what we are truly made of – until we try.

We don’t need to wait for a superhero to save us.  We need to be our own hero.

Image from bitsofwisdom.org

 

 

Each day you’re writing the pages of the book of your life. By definition, a hero does not have it easy. That’s actually okay.  A life of overcoming challenges, and growing into someone wiser, kinder, better than we were before?  By definition, that’s the kind of book we all want to read.