With winter now descended up North, I’ve been battling the urge to hibernate. And battling the often present dark clouds blotting my creative landscape, blocking me from getting to words waiting on the other side.
It’s now a year since my life shifted the same way an earthquake creates jagged lines in the land. I’ve been assessing where I’m at in this new “place” and that brings about inevitable comparisons with my old life.
On the surface, there are obvious differences. It’s as if I’m hanging upside down, looking back at my old world from a completely different angle. It’s a good exercise, but it’s also tough.
For example, my new country is currently dark and rainy and cold most of the time, while my old one is sunny and bright. Thinking about where I’m “not” brings back vivid memories. The smell of fynbos at sundown. The feel of warm sand and cold seawater beneath my toes. The laughter of my nephew carrying on the wind. Sipping a smooth red wine while sharing a meal with friends, cooked over the fire by loved ones.
But I gave all that up to pursue the elusive something I couldn’t find in that place of happy memories. A reminder that every place that has a silver lining also has a black cloud. Perhaps it’s the yin and yang of things.
On a deeper level, there are different changes taking place as I rebuild a different landscape – that of my identity. Here are a couple of things I’ve learnt so far on the journey…
1. Time is irrelevant
I’ve spent the better half of my life obsessed with time and everything that goes along with controlling it. To the point that I created a career around it. A career that was a survival strategy.
Despite lots of little milestones of improvement and advancement over the past months, I thought I’d be further at this point. Further on the new career front. Further on dealing with my past, embracing my new present, on the way to a different future.
But I’m not. And after battling with myself about the why’s, I’ve finally accepted that I just can’t rush it. I can’t schedule it. I can’t manipulate it to fit a time budget.
It’s going to take as long as it takes. Time is just a variable, it’s not the priority. Becoming a better me is.
And if Robert Greene’s book on Mastery is anything to go by, I need to learn patience when it comes to mastering myself. And be present in each moment while I’m doing it, rather than being misled by a timeline and pressured by a self-imposed deadline.
I have a plan. I know what I need to do to get there. Setting a limit on that, limits me getting there.
2. The only meaning our life has, is the meaning WE give it.
Nothing has inherent meaning. The meaning comes from the interpretations we make about the thoughts, words, actions, events and situations that impact on us every day. And very often our interpretations are incorrect.
What we “see” isn’t THE truth, it’s simply A truth.
I won’t find meaning in the places I go or stay, or the things the people around me do.
I will find it in how I approach, act and react to the situations I find myself in and choose to be in.
3. The only thing standing in our way of getting what we want, is ourselves.
So, the crux of this “meaning” malarky is that only I have the power to give my life the meaning I want it to have.
It’s a state of mind.
I can’t be a victor if I’m harbouring a “secret” victim mentality. I can’t be a champion if I’m cowering from what I don’t know. I can’t be who I want to be, if I’m putting obstacles in my own way.
Chuck Swindoll said it well:
“Life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it.”
It’s not about what happens (or doesn’t). It’s my attitude to it that matters.
So, as we all gear up for the frantic frenzy of the festive season, giving gifts and thanks, getting another pair of socks or a bloated belly that we don’t really need in return … perhaps spare a moment to think about these three things: time, meaning, space.
1. Be present rather than just giving them.
2. Question the meanings you usually take for granted.
3. Give yourself the space to be, or find out, who you want to be.
Take care of yourself, show care for others.
That’s where you’ll find more valuable meanings.