My dad would have been 80 this year! Instead he died 22 years ago. At 58. And as I age, suddenly 58 doesn’t seem very old at all. I’ve worked alongside people older than that and none of them seem elderly.
My mum worked up until she died; working with the elderly. Seems ironic now. 72, still working and suddenly she becomes sick, frail and elderly. My mum was gracious until the end. That word champions the grace my mother lived and died with. Thankful, loving, grateful and beautiful are all words that come to mind thinking about those last few weeks with mum.
It’s left me with this wound; this undescribable ache in my heart that has never gone away. I’ve come to realise that the intense grief I feel for the loss of my parents is testament to the love I had for them and them for me.
What an incredible gift it is to be so unconditionally loved. Of course I didn’t understand this when I was younger. I just assumed they would always just kind of be there, hovering in the background of my life, being mum and dad and all things fix it. But they aren’t here now to tell them I get it. I am grateful for their love for me. I spent my whole life looking for some harlequin inspired fairytale of what love was and never felt worthy of that. I now realise that I have always been loved.
We have one short, precious, wild, little life. What are we waiting for? Retirement? My parents were going to travel the world when they retired. Instead they never left New Zealand. If you really want to do something, make a plan on how you’re going to do it. Make it happen for yourself. No one is coming along to hand you that fantastic dream life; that you have to create for yourself.
I realised that no one was coming to rescue me from my self pitying attitude. There was no magical button to all things fantastic. I learned the hard lesson that the person stopping me from from having a great life was me. I got in my own way from going forward, feeding myself up on lies of not being good enough. I had sabotaged my own success and happiness out of fear. Fear of not making the grade. This invisible and seemingly unattainable grade that I couldn’t measure up to. I was a prisoner of self expectation and loathing. Something had to give. I wondered if I could just let it all go; let all those stories of Auld Lang Syne disappear into the ether of consciousness. And that’s what I did. I stopped waiting. I rescued myself from the shackles of my own oppression and I started to be grateful for me. I started to love me. And that set about a huge transformation of thoughts, feelings and behaviours. I no longer treated myself as an after thought. I started being kinder to myself. More forgiving and accepting. And I wake up thankful and with a full and grateful heart. I’m a far cry from that puppy in the window; waiting to be rescued. But that puppy will always live on inside of me.
There will always be reminders of yesteryear. In the dark shadows of my mind, late at night, I feel the stirrings of long ago. My mind swells with doubt in those moments as I feed myself up with negative self talk and lies of not being good enough.
I started unpicking things and realised so much of the negative mind talk and poor choices, or not opening up is a lot about guilt and shame. Look at women; we have been carrying the shame of all women dating back to eve.
We are conditioned to feel guilt and shame. If men want to cry or aren't strong, there's that sense of guilt and shame. We are always striving for that perfect ideal that's on the cover of a magazine. Always reaching and searching outside of ourselves and never achieving it? What's ‘it’ you ask? A make believe notion of what 'perfection' or success should look like. The difference between the people who are and those who aren't? Self belief. They believe they can do it.
So this notion of guilt and shame intrigued me. I knew this was big for me so I wanted to unpick these concepts a little more. But in order to fully understand guilt and shame I had to look at my own guilt and shame. Oh my, that's a whole other experience. I hated being vulnerable and the queen of don't let others see weakness or they'll soon realise I'm a fraud and don't belong here. So I tried pushing vulnerability away but I couldn't; the three were intrinsically linked. But looking at mine?
Brene Brown likened her experiences with these as a ‘spiritual awakening’ but she knew it was a ‘breakdown’. Once I acknowledged my vulnerability and sense of shame of not teaching I keeled over. I was telling people I was doing good; basically I was having a spiritual awakening through this process.... I now know I had a friggin breakdown. All the ethos of my profession stripped from me and I'm left bare. A Brene Brown textbook case. Vulnerable stuff.
But I also knew I didn't want to stay in the quagmire that had become my reality inside my mind. I was believing the lies I told myself even though I had no evidence to back me up.
So I had to stand in that place of vulnerability and learn and grieve and grow. And I realised that was my gift to others. Being myself and truly owning my vulnerability and sharing about the times I don't have it together (super women syndrome!) and tell people about how it felt shit, etc that they won't feel alone. It may help them open up and a problem shared and all that. I have been courageous enough to stand back up.
I never knew how courageous being vulnerable is! But that is the birthplace to joy, creativity, love...These people had to stand in a place of unknown. And just have a huge leap of faith. I never believed in myself enough to think I could leap... Sucked at high jump!
I didn't see what other people saw.
I never gave myself the credit I should have and I never gave myself a chance. But I had it all along.
Everything I need is from here.
I didn't need to go searching here or there... It's right here in front of me. If I get a mirror I can see it. The ‘it’ is me. That's all I need. The belief in me. Knowing I am enough just being me.
I am a walking legacy.
Challenge the way we see ourselves.
See ourselves through someone else's eyes and the picture looks different. It’s just the story we’ve been telling ourselves.
So stand up; be brave and know you are enough.