Are you holding on to your emotional baggage?

BaggageThe things we collect in our lives say a lot about who we are and what we want our lives to look like. If we look closely, they also say a lot about our desires, hopes and the things we are holding onto.

My friend Meaghan recently offered to help me detox and de-clutter my home. She runs a business specialising in detoxing and improving the flow of energy in home environments.

I prevaricated and made some excuses. My house was fairly tidy and I didn’t think it was worth her time. But a few days later I realised it was time to shake things up and perhaps my home (a bit like me) had settled into a comfort zone that was a little too comfortable. I was stuck and it was time to shift things around.

A few hours later Meaghan was on my doorstep and what followed was certainly eye-opening and unexpected.

We began with a briefing session. I was keen to start straight away so we began in my study/storage/ironing room.

Meaghan headed straight for the wardrobe. ‘Why do  you have so many bags on top of the wardrobe?’ she asked. I had six suitcases plus an assortment of other bags.

‘Um. I’m not sure,’ I said.

‘Does one person need that many bags?’ she asked.

It was a valid question.

‘Um. No.’

Then Meaghan pulled open the doors and discovered (yes, you guessed it)…more bags. I was a veritable bag lady.

There were plastic bags (kept because I might need them later), an assortment of cloth shopping bags (they might be good to carry groceries in but had never made it to the boot of my car where they would be easily accessible), and a couple of sports bags too.

‘Lucy, you have a lot of baggage in here,’ Meaghan said with a kind of puzzled wonder as we pulled them out in handfuls.

Eventually the wardrobe was relieved of its collection and we moved the suitcases and other bags into the kitchen to sort into keep, maybe, and donate piles.

I’d been feeling pretty comfortable with the process until that point but things began to change when I had to decide what to keep, and what to give away.

I found myself feeling upset about letting go of some of the suitcases. I had two the same size and there was also a big one I hadn’t used for years and wasn’t very practical. Yet I could feel my anxiety growing by the second. I didn’t understand why I was so upset. They were just suitcases and I am only one woman. I don’t need six suitcases…who does?

I also have to say that Meaghan wasn’t pressuring me to give away all or any of them. She just asked the questions, ‘Which of these suitcases do you need to keep? Which ones are you undecided about (we’ll put them in the maybe pile)? And which ones would you like to give away?’

I made the decisions and my anxiety bubbled away beneath the surface while my rational brain wondered what all the fuss was about.

It was only an hour or so later, when we sat down to de-brief, that I finally clicked. The large suitcase, which I thought I was happy to let go of, had a few strong memories attached to it. It was the suitcase I used on my first trip overseas. That same trip was my honeymoon. And although I don’t want to be with my ex-husband now, that suitcase was symbolic of all the love, hope and joy I felt at that time.

I knew it was time to let that part of my life go (in fact, I thought I did that years ago). But for some reason I was holding on to that part of my history. I was holding on to that baggage and stopping myself from moving forward. My emotional baggage was in the suitcase. And all those other bags were symbolic of the rest of my emotional baggage; those things I was still holding onto but no longer needed.

It may sound silly but it took me a couple more days before I could take those suitcases and bags to Lifeline. It was like I had to process and say goodbye. When I finally dropped them off at the charity shop I felt good. I was ready to let my baggage go to allow the new to come in (whatever that might be).

Meaghan and I have been continuing my home detox and there have been a few more unexpected revelations for me along the way. I’m sure there will also be more in the future.

But for now, I have a lot less baggage in my house. And that has to be a good thing.

Dealing with the truth in your heart

HeartI’ve been wondering if any of you sat down to write the letter I mentioned in my last blog. You know…that letter to yourself about what you really want, see http://wp.me/pirqj-fj

And if you did write it, what came out? Were there things you didn’t expect? Did you feel uncomfortable? Did you cringe or feel disloyal, ungrateful and selfish? Was there the promise of a more fulfilled life than the one you’re living?

When I wrote my first letter, I felt all of these things and more. But I was also surprised at how clear the messages were. There was nothing wishy-washy about it. I’d spent months trying to work things out in my mind and reason with myself. But the letter swept all that to one side and told me the truth in my heart.

As I’ve mentioned previously, it took me months before I could accept the truth in that letter and take action. It took me a long time to accept what was in my heart.

Accepting the truth can be difficult because it often means change and challenging the nice comfortable life we’ve created for ourselves. We will have lots of structures we’ve put in place to support that life and we’ll be fearful of tearing it all down to start again. But sometimes (not always) the truth will demand that we do exactly that. Sometimes we must let go of things to move along our path.

We must accept things about ourselves we don’t want to accept.

My first letter confirmed what I’d been struggling with for months – I needed to leave my husband. And yet, I still didn’t leave for months and months because I didn’t accept that truth. I did not want to ‘go there’.

These days I’m much better at accepting myself. I use the letter-writing technique to get to the truth when I find myself spinning around in my head searching for an answer. I find it easier to accept the truth because I’ve accepted that I deserve to be happy and follow my own path. I’ve embraced the idea that I know what is best for me and sometimes that will not align with the thoughts or beliefs of others. I’ve come to trust my inner guidance system.

It’s taken me years to get to this point and I know I have such a long way to go. There are days and weeks when I still resist the truth and tie myself up in knots before moving through to acceptance. But I am treating myself more kindly, more often.

I’m also not scared of going within to the find the answers because I know the person in there is me. Just like the only person inside you, is you. And that person deserves a voice and the joy that comes from following their path. That person definitely deserves your acceptance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you reached the tipping point?

AcceptanceMy lovely friend Mandi* recently said she wanted to know herself better but didn’t know where to start. Sometimes she reacted to events in ways she didn’t understand, and didn’t always feel proud of.

‘How can I get in touch with myself?’ she asked. ‘How can I understand myself better?’

Mandi is in her 20s but her questions can arise at any age. She has reached a tipping point in her life where she wants to know more about who she is. She feels brave enough to begin the tentative walk on the path to self-discovery.

So how can she start?

Years ago, a wise woman (my acupuncturist, who I still see today) gifted me a wonderful technique to help me gain clarity about what I really wanted. I was twisted up inside myself, unable to make decisions and move forward. I was a mess.

‘Go somewhere quiet where you feel safe and won’t be interrupted,’ she said. ‘Then simply write at the top of a page, Dear Lucy, What do you want?’ Then write until you cannot write any more, read it aloud to yourself, then destroy it. But don’t edit as you go – you must just write everything that comes to you, without judgement.

What I wrote that day was a revelation. In fact there were many revelations that I didn’t realise (or want to admit) were in my heart. The process helped me connect into me without my brain overlaying its rationalising and judgement. I have used the technique multiple times over the years and it always, always helps me to gain clarity and cut through the murkiness of my thoughts to the truth.

I know I’ve touched on this process before in my blog but I haven’t necessarily focused on the next step, acceptance. Because some (not all) of the things written in your letter will be things you don’t want to deal with. It will be the truth and so often we don’t want to hear that. We don’t want to face that we are miserable living a certain life and need to make changes. We don’t want to face that our perfect relationship (as viewed by others) is hollow. We don’t want to acknowledge that our definition of success and happiness no longer aligns with the expectations of our parents or how we were raised.

We won’t feel comfortable with the knowledge we must make the difficult choices required to transform our lives into what we want them to be.

I judged myself terribly on the contents of that first letter. It made me face so many things about myself that I had been avoiding for years. If I followed my heart, I would have to upset other people and change my life significantly.

Self-judgement was a regular visitor at my door. But eventually (many months later), I realised  I could choose to move forward and follow my heart or stay miserable. And that realisation came in a single moment after a lot of torment and telling myself how awful I was to even consider hurting other people, letting them down, and so on.

But once I accepted I could hide from myself no longer, action came to me swiftly. Although it was still painful, I knew I was taking the steps that were right for me.

Opening up to the truth of my heart was the first step.

Acceptance of myself was the second one.

* all names have been changed.

Are you reverting to type?

TransformHave you ever found yourself acting differently around certain people? You might try to appear ultra-professional in a new job or try to be the perfect partner when you start dating someone new.

Sometimes we’ll try to change ourselves to fit into a new environment or so we can be who we believe our new partner wants.

But unfortunately, this behaviour is unsustainable because you are essentially attempting to change yourself for someone else. Sooner or later the ‘real you’ will come out.

Sometimes it will be fine because the ‘real you’ still fits. But other times the ‘real you’ will simply cause a lot of discomfort and potentially pain to the people around you because you weren’t honest about who you were in the first place. Your new boss may feel you misrepresented your skills and your new partner may wonder if the person they fell in love with ever really existed. Inevitably you will then lose that job and find your shiny new relationship floundering on the rocks.

Sometimes we try to make these changes and become new versions of ourselves for good reasons. We want to improve who we are and be better people. But it’s when we do that for others that we become unstuck.

True change and transformation of self is a choice we must make for ourselves. It cannot be done to please another. It must be chosen and come from within to be real and have longevity. Part of you may wish to change but if you are not doing it for yourself, you will not be able to sustain the shift. You might keep it up for a few weeks, a few months, or perhaps longer, but sooner or later the charade will collapse and you will begin reverting to whoever you really are. You will revert to type and begin repeating all the healthy and unhealthy patterns you’ve always repeated.

I believe we are all capable of transformation. We can choose to go within, face our demons and do the work necessary to change who we are. We can choose to step up to the plate and do the work.

But it’s not easy. Trust me, I speak from experience when I say it can be an excruciatingly painful process. Realisations and life lessons frequently push you to your limits and force you to break through boundaries that no longer serve you. You must face things in yourself that are sometimes dark and very uncomfortable. You must be honest about what is important to you and get real about the things you need to deal with. And while others can help guide you through the process, you must essentially do the work and travel the path alone.

Some people may never take up the challenge. Others will start but decide it’s all too hard and simply go back to the way things were because it’s easier. And that’s true. It is easier to simply revert to type and carry on as before. Nothing will change and you’ll be a lot more comfortable.

But if you follow through and don’t give up, something quite magical will happen. From all that pain and hard work something quite beautiful will emerge – a strong sense of self and inner-knowledge. You will possess a clearer understanding of who you are and that the only limits are those you impose on yourself. You will judge yourself and others far less because you’ll understand that no-one is perfect and we are all just learning.

I’m not suggesting you will become Zen-like all day, every day. Most of us aren’t built for sainthood and will never become wise yogis perched on a mountaintop in the Himalayas. But the process will in many ways bring you peace because as you gain more understanding you will have more forgiveness in your heart for yourself and others.

You will also need to keep doing more work as you grow older because, as you become more aware, you will be led to deal with more of your stuff. So the journey will continue throughout your lifetime.

I’m not suggesting your ‘type’ is necessarily something that must be fixed. But if you start that walk on the path to self-awareness you will be rewarded with a stronger sense of self and amazing growth. You may even meet someone who becomes the catalyst that causes you to re-evaluate your life and believe it could different. But you cannot make the shift for that other person. You must always make it for yourself.

Is it time to stop running away from what you want?

Stop runningWhen I meet new people I often find myself asking, ‘What is it that you really want to do?’ Usually they will have been telling me all about their work or their children and that will be fine, but I’ll want to know what’s underneath that traditional response.

The answers to my question are often fascinating and surprising. But as soon as they’re given, the person will often negate themselves immediately.

One woman recently said, ‘I love to paint but I’m not very good so I don’t do it’. Another said, ‘I love to write but I don’t have time.’

It’s amazing how many people do this to themselves every day. Their soul wants something desperately, to paint, write, travel, live a different life, or whatever it is, but they find excuses not to do it.

Often it’s because they don’t believe they’re good enough. Someone in their past has told them they should be sensible or they don’t really have the talent. So they dismiss their desires and focus on other things.

Other people will shuffle their feet, look down and say, ‘I don’t know’ when I ask them the question. But that won’t be the truth. They’re just not allowing themselves to even acknowledge what’s in their heart.

And that breaks my heart.

Some of us will spend our whole lives not allowing ourselves the so-called ‘luxury’ of doing what we want. And that is a tragedy.

I’m not saying you should abandon everything else in your life (unless you really want to). But you should allow yourself the chance to do what it is you are called to do. Stop telling yourself why you can’t do what you want and instead, find a way to make it happen. If you want to write then carry a notebook with you and scribble in it while you’re waiting at the traffic lights. If you want to paint, get up 30 minutes earlier and paint. If you want to travel, get a second job and start saving.

You’re allowed to give your dreams a shot. You don’t have to live for other people – that’s not your job. And it could be the person who said you needed to be sensible or you have no talent was completely wrong. Besides, who cares what they think anyway. They are not you and you are allowed to live the life you want.

You have a right to stop running away from what you want.

Do you ever feel like giving up?

the pastHave you ever felt like giving up because you believe you’ve lost something you desperately wanted – a partner, a job, an opportunity?

There have been moments when I have felt exactly like that. I’ve thought, ‘Why didn’t I do something differently? Why didn’t I just shut-up and listen to what the other person was trying to tell me, or notice the signs that were right in front of me? Why didn’t I believe in myself enough to go for what I wanted when I had the chance? If I had, maybe that thing or person would still be within my reach.’

Of course these thoughts are a waste of energy. I did what I thought was right at the time and we can’t go back and change things. Everything happened exactly as it was supposed to.

Although I will know this on a rational level, my heart and emotions will be on a completely different track. They don’t care about the facts. They will be distraught and desperate. And on top of all that, when you know the horse has bolted and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it, you feel helpless.

Most humans don’t deal well with these feelings. We want some control over our worlds and when we realise we have none, we feel like giving up. What’s the point when you cannot change the outcome? What’s the point when you’ve stuffed it up?

It’s a hard process. The ‘what ifs’ can torment and drag you down into despair.

Sometimes these experiences happen because we needed to learn lessons, change our ways, look at things differently or move in another direction. And I know I’ve learned a lot during those periods when I’ve lost something I treasured. I also know most of those things don’t come around a second time. Often there is no second chance. And that is excruciating knowledge to have.

But in the midst of all the pain you just have to keep going. You must accept there is nothing you can do. It is out of your hands. If that person, job or opportunity is truly for you then it will return. But in the meantime you can’t stand still. You must move forward because there are other things to learn and do. All you can do is your best and not give up on you.

The Relief of Writing

Clearing houseA good friend is going through a tough time and when I asked her if she kept a journal she said, ‘No.’

‘Start,’ I said. ‘It will always help.’

I’ve found journaling to be my lifesaver in times of pain and turmoil. It helps me clear my mind, focus and get to truth of things. It’s so easy to lie to ourselves when we turn things over in our minds for days, weeks and months on end. We can argue with ourselves and our ego tells us all kinds of things sometimes to delude us and sometimes to annihilate us.

But when you sit down to write, and you don’t allow yourself to edit your words, the truth always comes out. Often I will surprise myself with what I write.

Journaling and writing in general is my clearing house for the soul. As a writer it helps me process my life and who I am.

It is also good to help me release things that are taking up residence within my body and will eventually cause illness if I don’t let them out. I believe pain and anger can do exactly that – our bodies carry not just our organs but also our beliefs and emotions and these can harm us if not managed properly. In the past, my inability to release those emotions has led to depression and physical ailments.

The past six months have been challenging for me. I’ve lost a beloved pet, supported a close family member through the removal of cancer (and coped with my own fears around that), and been devastated by the inexplicable abandonment of someone I love. There have been good things too but the sometimes the tough things drag you down into the mire.

So I continue writing in my journal and have also started a new book to help me process the most recent happenings in my life. I don’t know if it will ever see the light of day. Perhaps I am just writing this one just for me. But write it I must. And it is through that writing that I will be able to move forward, somehow, to a place where I can have a little more peace.