I have just come back from an amazing break away. It was a break that I desperately needed, not that I appreciated just how much I did need, or why I needed it at the time.
I simply knew that I had to get away, on my own.
I found myself a remote bach near a beach. Deliberately simple and isolated, but not so much so that I was uncomfortable or needed to worry about anything.
I had no expectations of what I would do or what I might achieve. I took a book that I had not finished, in case I might want to read, but then realised that this inferred an expectation to finish the book. So I took a second book but thought that this may simply double that expectation as completing the 2 books was not beyond the realms of possibility in the time that I had.
In the end I took 5 books, there could be no expectation that I would read all of them. I took 5 exercise books in which to make notes for the same reason, no expectations.
No internet, no music nothing. I got up when I wanted to get up, I ate when I was hungry and I slept when I was tired. In between times, I did whatever I wanted. This is now the definition of my ‘perfect life’.
The few people that I did encounter from time to time, were strangers. They would wave or say hello, with a smile, but that was just all. They had no expectations of me nor I of them.
My mind was clear and sharp for the first time in a long while simply because I could concentrate just on myself. I did read, I did write, I thought an awful lot and I worked many things out.
My first list led to my first discovery
The first thing that I did was to write a list of the 10 most positive things in my life. As it turned out all 10 things were people in my life. I listed each one and a brief thought as to why they are so important and what I admire in them.
When I reviewed the list I realised that the things that I admire in these people are the things that I value the most in life and the type of person that I would want to be:
1: never gives up on people, a beautiful soul
2: anything and everything is possible, caring
3: courageous and passionate
4: determined and clever
5: calm, loyal and responsible
7: relaxed and strong
8: generous and resilient
9: loyal and wise
10: just go at life.
This list tells me that I have everything that I need in my life, already around me. Any motivation or inspiration that I need in life is right here.
I have been living with an unrealistic and damaging ideal of who I should be.
I need to lighten up on myself and other people. It takes 10 people to meet my ideal, not just one!
Give yourself a break
I wonder how many of us who feel that we need a break actually take a real break. We tend to just change our location and surround ourselves with different people and different expectations. Denying ourselves the real break that we need.
It was frightening and unnerving leaving behind all that I treasure and trust to go into an unfamiliar environment, not knowing what would happen or how I would feel.
The first thing I did when I got there was to sit down and cry, but then I knew that after that, whatever happened, I wouldn’t feel any lower than that.
The silence was beautiful. It is only once you get away from the it that you understand how much noise there is around us all day, every day and how much affect it has on how we feel.
The simple life
I will share more of my learnings later on but wanted to share with you this story:
On my way out from my break I stopped by an art and craft store. There I met a man in his mid 60s. A man obviously a little down on his luck. We chatted a while and he told me the story of how he came to be living the life he was. He cursed the fact that he had to ride his bike in 30 degree temperatures just to get to the shop. This man told me of the near itinerant life that he had lived. Things hadn’t turned out how it had planned.
He was living on a benefit, had no driver’s license and no work. Sometimes he would going fishing to save money.
He told me how, when he got his license back he hoped to get a car, but that he would have to fish some more and sell them to pay for the petrol. He would move back up to the Bay to find work.
Then he asked me what my story was. I told him why I was there and what I had been doing: I got up when I wanted to get up, I ate when I was hungry and I slept when I was tired. In between times, I did whatever I wanted.
I had been living the simple life, my ideal life, his life.
Your turn: are you good enough to live your ideal life?
Because I have transferred this content from a previous blog site, I have included comments from that site:
What are you looking for now that you weren’t before your heart attack?
The ‘death’ experience, looking into the void, has messed with my sense of mortality, my sense of worth and my sense of certainty. For a very long time it was difficult to emotionally reconnect with those that I loved the most, in fact I felt a disconnect from the whole world.
I guess what I am looking for is confirmation of my place in the world, a sense of self worth and an understanding of the new way that mind seems to work.
Having all of my life been the staunch one who was able to hold it together, the new vulnerability to emotions is tough to take. I need to learn to live with emotions and I need to find a way to ensure that I can come through the tough, low times.
Once the guy that everyone could lean on, I now feel the height weight of expectation weighing heavily down on me.
If I am no longer the confident, optimistic, staunch and reliable guy who prided himself as cognitively sharp and extremely able, then who am i?
I read the other day that Neistche (the philosopher – I don’t know how to spell his name) said that when you stare into the void, the void stares back at you. Does that ring a bell with you? I’m not sure what it means but it sounds scary.
The void …. how do you describe something without any form? For some time after my heart-attack (but not immediately after) I had this ‘sense’ that would come and go. It was a frightening memory. A blank spot on my mind, where nothing exists: no energy, no sense, no pain, no connection and I couldn’t name it. The best description of what it is was written by Jean-Paul Mari when discussing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD):
“What is this thing that can kill you without leaving any visible scars? How does that happen? What is this unknown thing?”
For Jean-Paul the void had a physical symbol that he saw, shiny, pearly spot.
Something triggers the memory (for me I am not sure what that is). It comes from encountering my own death but I don’t know how it is related. It seems to have its root in knowing that you have died, all that has been has gone, there is nothing more to come.
Its like if light lost all of its energy, if light stopped moving, we wouldn’t see everything just stop and stand still. We would see nothing. If energy stopped we would feel neither hot nor cold, but neither could we feel anything in between.
The void doesn’t look back at me, it has no energy.
My experience wasn’t surrounded by the horrors of a violence which I imagine would scream at you from deep inside your void. I can only imagine that everyone’s void is unique and that I am lucky to not face what many sufferers of PTSD do on a daily basis.
“I saw death. I saw myself dead, therefore I’m dead.”
It is frightening and you want people to understand but you don’t want to bring them into it.