I’m currently trying to make positive choices, like doing my best to get up early and meditate every day, keeping my house tidier and curtailing my scrolling time. I frequently fail but setting small goals can accumulate and bring about a more significant change. I’ve realised that over the last 20 years, I’ve been unconsciously searching for something to fill a void, scrambling around for a substance or behaviour to sooth an unbearable emptiness. The problem with addictive patterns is that they fail to remedy the real problem. After many years of trials and way too much error, I have realised I have been searching for a corporeal solution for a spiritual problem. My issues cannot be solved with partying, shopping, eating or starving; I’ve given them all a good go and none were up to the job. I was talking to a friend of mine about this the other day and he said, ‘You’re not about to go all religious on me are you?’. The answer was and is a firm no, I don’t anticipate joining any organised religion. I doubt I would be able to conform to a bunch of preordained rules and regulations. However, I know that I need more than the material world has to offer and I am ready to open myself up to some sort of spirituality. I don’t know what exactly, I’m still figuring it out.
I don’t think I believe in God, or any other kind of messianic being. But it has become clear that the things that have got me through the more difficult periods of my life are linked by themes that are considered spiritual. Love, faith and being useful to others are at the centre of all the main stream religions. Despite the chaos and bloodshed committed in the name of religion, these are binding commonalities that speak of universal humanity. I decided to share these thoughts because they might be useful to someone else going through a tough time, regardless of spiritual inclinations. I am not advocating that any one else embarks on a spiritual journey, but I hope this might be of use anyway.
You deserve love. We are born innocent, defenceless creatures, not only worthy of love but dependent on it for our survival. Your love birthright will never waver. It doesn’t matter what you have done or how many mistakes you have made in your life, we leave this world just as worthy as when we entered. I have sometimes believed that my lovability was dependant on my success. When my plans didn’t quite go as I hoped, I would attach my self-worth to the failed endeavour. This thought pattern developed over many years, I’m still in the process of dismantling it. Now I know that my successes and failures do not make the slightest difference to my lovability. Love is what gives life meaning; when we strip away the trivial flotsam and jetsam, material goods and transient accolades we are left with only love. When my son was born, he spent the first few days of his life in a neonatal intensive care unit. ICU’s are pretty homogeneous, regardless of the age of the patient. My dad was in intensive care just before he died; the beeping and whirring of the life support machines, the smell, the stuffy atmosphere – it’s all the same. I remember how I felt both times; desperate to make this vulnerable person feel my love. For them to know that they were not alone. In life’s crucial moments, the eras that define you, there is only love.
Have faith in your resilience. No matter what life has thrown your way, you have endured. You may be faced with challenges that no one should have to deal with, but you have found the strength to carry on. I have sometimes felt that I simply couldn’t carry the pain and grief I felt for any longer. In those hopeless moments, I forgot that everything changes. Sooner or later, time took the edge off overwhelming pain and my feelings shifted. If things can change, isn’t it also conceivable that they will also get better? The circumstances you have to adjust to may be permanent, but the way you feel will alter. This does not take away from grief and heartbreak that you might feel today, but remembering that it is not forever allows access to hope. It’s vital to have faith in your own strength; you are more powerful and brave than you think.
You can be useful. When things are hard, it is easy to lose sight of the point of life. At times like this you need to look after yourself because if you do not attend to self-care first, you are no good to anyone else. However, it is always healing to be of service to someone else. Whether it is picking up to the phone to check in with a friend or a random act of kindness, without the expectation of anything in return. Being a light in someone else’s life can create a sense of meaning and purpose; generosity of spirit is always healing. Of course, this does not come without boundaries and if you’re constantly doing things for other people without first taking care of yourself, you can become needy and co-dependent. Placing your value in other people’s gratitude is a precarious way of securing self-esteem. Nonetheless, once you’ve found a healthy way to be of service to others, you will be grounded with a new sense of meaning.