Have you ever wondered about the things you’ve surprised in order to conform or please others? Sometimes it’s merely the case that life’s hectic pressures just get on top of us and we forget to express parts of ourselves that were once real and vital elements of who we are. How often it is that we hear in conversations with friends “I used to”, “when I was younger, I enjoyed…”, “I haven’t done x for such a long time,” or maybe you hear yourself say these things.
My experience of transiting from education to the work world, from having few responsibilities to having a mortgage to pay each month, then the job getting bigger, and bigger, with more responsibility, then entering a relationship, getting married, having a child, is that while each of these things were good and positive from an outward perspective, looking back, I realise that at each point I let something of me go. I let some aspect die in order to make room for all the added responsibility and expectation.
It took a collapse of that structure: breakdown of my marriage and the realisation that my sense of self was unhealthily bound to my job title to catalyze the process of enquiry and change. The first step was reclaiming an identity beyond work. I made a conscious decision to leave a job I had loved, but which I knew no longer worked for my wellbeing. I started freelancing so that I could have more creative freedom and not be defined by my job title, and very importantly it gave me more flexible time to be mum. There’s a magic in beginning, in even the smallest acts of beginning. Just this change gave me space to see clearly all I’d ‘let die.’ It was clear that more of life would fall apart, and not long after came the end of my marriage. The past five years have been about re-evaluating what might be worth resurrecting, what aspects are absolutely necessary and finding ways to re-connect and nurture them.
The most valuable learning is that I myself am complicit in stifling aspects of me. Work, marriage, life’s stresses, they are all contributing factors, but it is only I who can give permission to dull or kill any facet of me. At each point I have a choice to either ‘conform’ or ‘please’ or choose to support my own self-confidence and wellbeing and ‘be truly me’. It’s not by accident that the Return To Centre Retreat series was so named. Somewhere along my journey, I came across a quote by a Lakota medicine man, Buck Ghosthorse: “Sometimes we have to travel to the edge of ourselves to find our centre.” It tolled like a bell, rang in my brain. It eloquently described my experience. I had travelled very far from myself, but by some grace, I’d heard a faint call to return to centre, to seek wholeness just in time.
Everybody’s story is different. How, and when we recognise that we are so far from our true selves as to be almost unrecognisable is a unique experience for every soul. The necessary changes are different for all. Some sadly never respond to the call, never make the journey to the source of self. It is after all, not an easy one to make. Many, thankfully do, and it is a gradual re-awakening, re-enlivening as we test out being ourselves again. It is not a straight forward path and there are many blunders, cul-de-sacs and false starts along the way, but it is a journey in a positive direction….towards sunshine and moonlight. Another quote which struck me as I was preparing for the first Return to Centre retreat was this by Margaret Sanger: “Woman must not accept; she must challenge. She must not be awed by that which has been built up around her; She must reverence that woman which struggles for expression.” So, tonight
, my hope is that you take some time this weekend to enquire what vital part of your inner self you have let die. Connect with it – ask why. Ask what made it feel necessary to do so, and the most important question….what would enable it to blossom again and give you joy, help to make you whole, help bring you back to your centre.