The past 3 months have been life changing. I tried to look for a better word to describe this period, one that captures both the good and the bad. I don’t have one. The past three months have in fact been life changing. People often talk about life changing experiences, yet I always felt slightly dubious about the use of this term: life changing. I don’t believe things change so easily and as permanently as the frequent use of this term would suggest. So I rarely ever say that something changed my life and possibly the only thing I can confidently attribute a significant change in how I functioned before and after, are my yoga and meditation practice. But even with this – change is not permanent.
Anyway, I digress. The past three months have been life changing:
Adopting a puppy is simply the trigger which created the earthquake that is still shaking me. If you’ve been following me on social media you know that I was recently told by someone close to me that it was a mistake to get a dog. The truth is both man and I have thought and talked about whether it was a “mistake”. Were we not prepared? Was it irresponsible? Are we simply not built for this type of commitment? And if we can’t handle this, how on earth can we have children?
I have given it a lot of thought (I have plenty of thinking time now in Skye’s daily long walks outside); what is the significance of all this? I firmly believe that every experience presents an opportunity to learn and grow from it. Whether you do that or not, it really is up to you, but what I have come to realise is that if you don’t learn from it, life will keep creating similar situations for you until you get the message. Not because you’re being punished by a higher power, but because if we keep acting and thinking in the same way, we put out the same energy and we consciously and subconsciously invite similar experiences our way. Unless something changes, nothing changes. Now there are times when life has its own way of working things out, which we cannot always understand, but I find that always within those unexpected twists and turns, you can gain a deeper understanding of who you are and how you want to live.
When Skye came into our lives we really were not prepared for the radical transformation that occurred. We were practically prepared and organised for her arrival. We had thought of most of the logistics and we thought we were willing to work out the rest. Our intentions were pure love: we wanted to have a dog a family member and we were willing to doing the work to get there. Beyond the challenge of adapting to a puppy, training her, and supporting her needs, what we didn’t realise would happen at this stage was a complete renegotiation of our life balance.
I guess this happens for most couples when they have a baby. Or perhaps you may go through something similar when you move countries in your 30s and start fresh. Or whatever other reason that causes you to question where you are and what you want from your life in a very real and urgent manner.
I am an (over) analyser; I process through thinking and need to put conscious effort in feeling more and connecting with my body’s wisdom to move the focus out of my head. So believe me when I tell you, I had thought of what I wanted from life and I was in the process of creating a life that was aligned with those desires. Over the past 3 years especially I’ve been putting loads of energy into exactly this – stepping back from how I think things should be and taking steps towards a life that is mine. I left my job in Psychology and decided to work for myself, despite the warnings that “it’s really hard to get by”. Man and I have been brainstorming and future-crafting about where we want to live, creating a vision that combines the most important elements for the both of us.
When we decided to adopt Skye we knew that it was a step earlier than we originally planned. We knew that the wisest thing to do would be to wait. Wait for when we have moved countries, wait for when we have more space, wait for when we know what we’re doing. Wait. Which was fine, until it wasn’t. Until we realised we were asking ourselves to wait on lots of things, and perhaps it was not necessary. We thought, what if we didn’t wait and we took some steps to make our life NOW feel good? It’s that thing about being in limbo and waiting for things to happen before you can move forward. So we went for it and now 3 months on, despite the obvious practical challenges, I look at Skye and know it was not a mistake.
Skye’s arrival caused the greatest stir I’ve ever experienced. To be honest, I have never felt more human in my life. Except maybe for the first night I spent on my own volunteering in tsunami camps in Sri Lanka 10 years ago. Skye arrived and asked of me to be a beginner, when I wanted to be an expert. She asked of me to let go in ways I had never done before. Beyond routines, schedules and scooping diarrhoea off the street (yes not the best fun), I came face to face with my own rawness of emotion. For some time I contemplated whether I had made the wrong decision and whether I am someone who can live with the responsibility of their mistake. I questioned myself, my ethics, my values. In the toughest moments, I closed my eyes and wished I could turn back time and stop myself from doing it. I imagined giving her back and I choked at having to live with the feeling of failing. I contemplated failure in a new light. Failing to live up to an ideal, failing to meet my own expectations. What if I cannot do this? Can I live with the consequences of giving her up? Can I live with the consequences of keeping her?
For a little while, I lost myself. I felt as if I was tiptoeing in deep water barely keeping my head out for air. I did not know how to do this and I was holding on for dear life to my ‘previous life’. I wanted to get it back. I wanted Skye to slot into my life so I could feel ‘me’ again. I attributed who I was to what I was doing and so being unable to do those things meant I felt disconnected from myself. I avoided meditation with great passion, because I could not face sitting with my own thoughts. What I failed to see was that I no longer am the same person and I could not ‘go back’. I am not the things I do, of course, but I held on to them so tightly it was impossible to see an alternative. There are certain events that shape us and I guess adopting a dog has been this type of experience for me. When I think of my life before Skye, I wonder whether I was sitting a little too comfortably. I had worked so hard to create a sense of balance and peace both internally and in my external circumstances and then BOOM that all vanished like thin air. It’s a little ironic when you think about it. It’s as if life said, “Ok, let’s see how you handle this missy.” Was life testing me or was I testing myself? What caused me to manifest this chaos in my life at this stage? Was this self sabotage at a time when things were really, really good and I couldn’t handle it? Or is this an opportunity to climb over another mountain and be shaken to remember what’s important to me? I am 100% certain I needed to go through this change, because what I am experiencing is so unsettling I know there is more work for me to do.
I’ve been humbled at extraordinary (for me) levels by this journey. I’m learning as I go along, but the biggest lesson so far which I guess I needed to learn once more, is this:
When things feel chaotic, when you are struggling for breath, when you are not sure where you are and what’s going on – surrender. Surrender the struggle, surrender the expectations of what it should be like, surrender the hope of regaining control.
When you question yourself and your ability to cope with radical change – go back to basics.
Take care of yourself:
Eat nourishing foods (I didn’t)
Don’t isolate yourself (I did): Ask for help, communicate your needs to your partner or friends/family
Choose one self care activity (mine was meditation) which you will commit to weekly (you can build up from there)
Give yourself time to adapt
Breathe – sit with your feelings, check in with your body and do what you can to release tension
Be radically and epically kind to yourself
Anchor yourself to the things you are grateful for on a daily basis