I have become very curled up on myself of late. I sometimes beat myself up about this and make judgements about what I am doing (or not). I seem to want to see people less and less, and this is compounded by the fact I am stony-broke. I am nearing my very last financial reserves, with no clear path at present to establishing a new income. I am on the brink of breaking into my be-flowered china bunny where my last pennies are hiding, quietly, hoping to remain undisturbed.
On some days, my concern about this situation careers wildly in the direction of blind panic and I cannot settle to anything. I feel immense pressure to be finding new work (and I have been trying), but at the same time I am loath to dive back into work which I have previously found incredibly stressful and has done me harm. My soul screams “No, don’t’ do it!” whenever I look at the job adverts I am highly qualified to apply for.
There are however other days. Interesting, new, inspiring kinds of days. Days when my current situation fills me with hope, a feeling that I am being forced to create this space, this vacuum in my existence, in order that there is room for something new to come in. That there is a hole being forged in my world, and the Universe is busy creating just the right shaped thing to fill the void. Though challenging, and scary, there is a certain degree of liberation attached to the unknowing of the next steps my life will take, and the very real constraints of having very few resources left at my disposal.
My options at present are limited. I cannot travel (which I would dearly love to do). I cannot visit my closest friends (who would very much like me to). I am having to turn down social invitations as I cannot justify spending the last of my money frivolously. And sometimes that is frustrating – to me and to those I am close to.
All of that said, I sense there is a lot to be gained by the restraints and restrictions of my current situation. I have never been much into consumerism in any case, but right now it is just out of the questions. I know I am a very lucky in that I have most everything I need. I have a secure home, I have family who will help me out if I am in absolute dire straits, I am well fed and well clothed. Apart from a new pair of spectacles (which I do badly need), I haven’t had to deny myself anything major so far. But neither do I ‘Want’ anything. In fact, to keep the wolf from the door I am busy unloading things I do not need. Car Boot Sales and eBay auctions are raising a few pennies. And those that I raise are being put to important rather than frivolous uses. And this feels like how it should be.
Being quiet and small and minimising my footprint in the world at the present time feels right. It is where I need to be. At the same time I’m trying to go with what my gut is telling me when new opportunities, choices, questions arise. I believe this may be the first time in my life I have actually done this, quieted the external demands enough to hear what it is I actually want and need. It is a revelation.
The financial limits I find myself in are not the only restrictions I am managing. I am finding benefit from further constraints I am imposing on myself voluntarily. For example, I am denying myself time on social media. Some time ago I realised that I often came away from it unhappy, or irritated or angry – so I have imposed a social media ban. Likewise, though I am a generally a bit of a news hound, I was starting to find my daily consumption of the latest events overwhelming – to the point where visiting the news pages was actively making me feel unwell. And so I have put myself on a news diet. I have also put myself on an actual diet. After the excesses of Christmas, the seemingly never ending indulgence had gotten me down and so, having read good things about the health benefits of ‘The Fast Diet’, I am giving that a go.
Though I would dearly love to start a course, or some other regular self-improvement activity, again I am restricted by a lack of funds, so instead, knowing how beneficial I have found group meditation in the past, I have committed myself to attending a weekly donation based group – with only a small contribution required in monetary terms, but a big commitment in the time and discipline involved in making sure I hold this space for myself every, single week.
I feel very strongly that I have reached a time when I really have to make healthful changes and heartfelt choices. And, though whatever comes next may very well be less lucrative than what has gone before, I am willing to welcome that eventuality. A bit more peace and fulfilment in my endeavours and in my heart would have far greater value for me now than the previously high pay-cheques and the accompanying stress and hollow activities which drained my spirit and twisted me into a shape I was not meant to be.
Having just attended this week’s meditation group, I was reminded that today marks the start of Lent in the Christian calendar. A time of fasting, abstinence, and penitence in commemoration of Christ’s fasting in the wilderness. Many faiths have a similar period of restriction and self-denial during the year. I do not normally observe Lent myself. But this year I think that I may, not least as it seems to follow the theme my year is taking in any case. It seems appropriate to identify an additional element of restraint, restriction, constraint that I should observe for my own good and that of others.
Allowing ourselves to succumb to whatever desires might arise within us can be damaging, at the very least to ourselves, but also potentially (and perhaps without our even knowing) to others. Being a little more thoughtful and tempered in our habits, not only helps to inspire gratitude for the more simple components of life, but also helps us have an appreciation for others who do not have the same advantages and options as we ourselves may do, or who have restrictions or deprivations imposed upon them, rather than out of their own choosing.
In our every choice we interact with the world and the other people in it. Whether we always recognise it or not, we are all connected. The stones we toss cause ripples in the pond we all rely on. Learning to say no to ourselves sometimes, implementing some self control, frees us from indulgences that may bind us, and can at the same time help open our eyes and our hearts to the needs of others. It frees us from the merry-go-round of consumption, opening our ears instead to what our souls might actually be trying to convey to us.
So, for the next 40 days I have decided (for my own betterment, and also hopefully to reduce the number of panic-stricken sleepless nights), to restrict and restrain judgement. Judgement toward myself with regard what I think I “Should” be doing, judgement toward others on what they themselves are doing, and gentle acceptance of what “Is”. Though only a tiny collection of words to say it out loud, I do not underestimate the enormity of attempting to put this into practice.
I’ll let you know how I get on.
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