Self-doubt, sacrifice and staying true to yourself

The other day, a dear friend and I had a lovely phone conversation about life, the universe and everything. We are both exploring paths that are somewhat different from the mainstream. This is true across many aspects of our lives, including career, health and spiritual exploration. We both have people in our lives whom we love very much that do not understand and in some cases actively oppose these choices. It’s hard to be around naysayers, even harder when they are people whose opinion you value and approval you crave. It can lead to self-doubt and sometimes to choices that are made simply to gain the approval of others, instead of because it is what we want for our lives. When we do choose to follow our own path, it can be very uncomfortable to be around people who challenge and disagree with our choices. Even when, actually especially when we know they are only concerned for our well-being and want what is best for us. But whose version of ‘best’?

I think sometimes I try to justify my life choices to those who doubt me with hard facts and cold logic, because I feel that mere gut feelings and emotions are too hard to explain. They are qualitative, not quantitative, anecdotal rather than statistical, so they’re harder to distill down into a sound bite. That’s when I have to start paying attention and gathering evidence to support my choices. The evidence may not convince anyone else but it can help my self-belief and to reaffirm why my gut feelings were right in the first place.

Well, here’s a piece of evidence to support my recent life choices that I’ve been able to gather. This week is the first month that I can remember in a long time that I haven’t had a 3 day migraine during the week of my period. Earlier in the year I gave up gluten because I realised it was causing many of my migraines (as well as a whole lotta other symptoms). It was a big sacrifice at the time because I loved bread, pasta and many other glutenous foods. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the only cause of migraines and I have not been 100% migraine free since then. I discovered that chin-ups, which I was so excited to be able to do, tightened my neck muscles to the point of triggering migraines. So I gave up chin-ups and soon saw a reduction in migraines again.

I have recently reduced my hours at work so that I now have a three day weekend every week. This has been a reduction in stress and work load, but also in income. In making the decision I sacrificed the extra money before I knew whether or not it would be worthwhile. I didn’t know if the proportion of income I was losing would be equal to a proportional benefit to my health. Some people in my life were not confident that it would and certainly there were naysayers. But I knew why I was making the decision and I listened to myself more than others.

Not having a migraine this month was proof that reducing my stress and workload does have a positive impact on my health. Income can be replaced in other ways, which is something I’ll continue to work on. In the meantime it is a sacrifice, as is avoiding gluten and not doing chin-ups. But it’s worth it.

Nietzsche said “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” When you are plagued with self-doubt, struggling with sacrificing something for a greater good or faced with naysayers bringing  you down, remind yourself of the reason you are doing it.

Keeping the ‘why’ top of mind will make the ‘how’ easier to handle.



Saying goodbye is so hard

I woke up this morning with the song “For Good” from the musical Wicked playing in my mind. Today is 3 weeks since my dear cousin passed. I don’t have much to say except that I’m thinking about it a lot still.

My mother did the eulogy at the funeral and memorial service, and she read a quote from A. A. Milne that says it all really.

“How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

And it’s true. I am so glad I got to know her and spend so much time with her. I am so glad I have so many wonderful people in my life.

How lucky I am to have so many, many people in my life that make saying goodbye so very, very hard.

A beautiful reminder and something poignant to reflect on for all of us.

Rainy Day Projects

Today has been cold, wet and foggy weather-wise. I didn’t mind though. I have been home alone all day for the first time in ages. What a great time to snuggle up with a hot water bottle, a cup of tea and get to work on some of the projects I’ve been thinking about.

I have big plans for this site. I am continuing the blog because I love writing and enjoy the flexibility and creativity blogging offers. However, I am expanding The Harmony Agenda to include a shop where I will sell some of my other creative projects, and information about my private life coaching and music teaching business endeavours.

So I spent the day today tweaking the website, learning about using WordPress and researching a number of things. I am writing a book and plan to have a CD or maybe two out by the end of the year. I am experimenting with composing my own relaxation/meditation music which is a lot of fun and quite relaxing. Here is today’s experiment:

It has been a truly relaxing day. There is something lovely about being snuggly and warm inside while the weather is cold and miserable outside. It has also been a very productive day, and I now have a much clearer idea about my harmony agenda. The best thing? Total voice rest! For someone who talks for a living (and a lot for fun too!) this is a rarity. My vocal chords are thanking me right now!

I am really excited for things to come. Watch this space!

I have been changed for good

This week has been tough. Let’s face it, every minute since 3.30pm on Tuesday, 29th July when I found out my cousin had died has been tough. Losing someone you love at all, let alone suddenly, is always tough. I knew that intellectually before this happened. But I guess you never really know or understand anything truly until it happens to you.

The strange thing is that I’m surprised by how little life has changed, but also how much everything has changed. It seems so callous to say, but life does indeed go on. After the burial and memorial services last week (which were tremendously beautiful and infinitely sad) and a few days off, I guess I went back to work this week thinking it would be good to get “back to normal”. But it wasn’t normal, because I have changed. I didn’t expect it. Intellectually I know that is silly to say. Of course I’m affected, of course normal life feels different, of course my perspective has changed. But it really did take me by surprise.

There have been many moments of tears this week. One moment I’m doing fine, next minute I’m bawling in the staff room when my boss asks a simple thing. One moment I’m enjoying a good book in the morning sun, next minute tears are rolling down my face and I can no longer read the words on the page. One moment I’m diligently running errands about town, next minute I’m criving all the way home. (Criving is a fabulous term that means crying while driving. It was coined, I believe, by Australian radio hosts Chrissie Swan and Jane Hall).

I have had to remind myself to be gentle with myself. I think I was surprised because this isn’t how I felt when other family members have passed away. But then, those other family members were elderly and sometimes had been sick for a long time. As sad as those situations were, it is the natural order of things. Your elderly relatives are supposed to pass away before you. And when someone has been in palliative care, there is time to prepare and say goodbye.

This is a very different situation. I never expected my beautiful cousin, just one year younger than me, to die so suddenly. I didn’t get to say goodbye and I was so unprepared for this kind of grief. Intrusive grief that doesn’t care about my to do lists or that I need to not fall to pieces while I’m at work.

But as hard as it has been, I’m so glad I have been so affected. I know it’s a bit of a cliche, but this has made me re-evaluate my life. Death of a loved one, especially a sudden death and even more especially a sudden death of a 26 year old, really puts things in perspective. I guess I was already having a bit of a quarter-life crisis/looking to change a few things in my life. After all, that’s what this blog is all about. But I think my cousin’s death has really sped up the process by reminding me that time isn’t actually infinite.

So although it may seem a little silly to say, I have been changed. This quote from C. S. Lewis sums up pretty aptly how I feel the future will be now:  “With my mother’s death all settled happiness…disappeared from my life. There was to be much fun, many pleasures, many stabs of joy; but no more of the old security.”

I am certain there will be much fun, many pleasures and many stabs of joy in my future. But that easy happiness, that security about life’s predictability and invulnerability that I didn’t know was there until I lost it, has gone.

The song “For Good” from the Musical Wicked was played at the memorial service and it was a perfect choice. The lyrics sum up perfectly how I feel right now:

I’ve heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason,

Bringing something we must learn

And we are led to those who help us most to grow if we let them

And we help them in return

Well I don’t know if I believe that’s true

But I know I’m who I am today because I knew you….

Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?

But because I knew you

I have been changed for good.

I have some big plans for the future. I am excited to start taking action towards my goals and dreams. And I’m sure that because I knew this wonderful, creative, loving soul, my life has been changed for good.