Freedom – what if it’s an inside job?

We keep searching outside of ourselves for this word. Freedom. This feeling we get a taste of and then chase, like it’s a hunt in the wilds of the world.

What if it’s a hunt in the wilds of ourselves?

We go looking in places like relationship – if I leave my husband, or if I leave my wife – then I will feel free again. In the spaces with our children – when the kids go to school, or when the teens finally leave home – then I’ll have my freedom back, then things will be different. Around the corners of our bodies, in the weight of our thighs or the pain in different parts – when I reach this weight, or when I don’t have this pain anymore – then I’ll finally be free.

We keep seeking, souls driven to fixing and trying, ducking and diving, running and drinking, all in this endless search for freedom.

What if freedom is an inside job?

What if the very thing you’re tirelessly chasing is actually inside of you? Under the thoughts of not-good-enough, not perfect, not worthy. Under the words of failure, stupid, have to do better, never good enough. Hiding between the layers of anxiety, fear and busy-ness that wrap around the moments in your day.

What then?

What is freedom?

Where do you go to find the freedom when it’s hiding inside you all along?

Right there in front of you, a solution closer to home, but doesn’t feel as exhilarating as hunting outside yourself. What do you have to show for that? A growing sense of contentment? Who wants that rather than things and change and stories and endless travel? Doesn’t that state freedom more than your mind slowing down and becoming more present?

The voices in your head might become kinder, gentler, but so what – isn’t freedom in the running away, the chasing, the being free of everything?

What if Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose as Janis Joplin once sang. What if it’s the ticket, the golden ticket to a peaceful time with yourself? No matter where you are, or who you’re with. Something you carry inside yourself like a golden key, that no circumstance can rob you of.

What if that’s a different version of freedom we don’t visit as often?

Another Surrender – a letting go…

a surrender…
a letting go…
another home-coming…

Each time in my life I am given the opportunity to deepen into surrender, and I do what I can in the moment to follow it, the experience is unique. I let go in different ways. I stand strong in others, and I soften to myself, and to life, in ways I didn’t know I could or ever would.

This time surrender looks like an inner strength, deeply grounded into Mother Earth, drawing from her nourishment and the nourishment I have cultivated for myself. It looks like standing on the edge of the wild ocean, my toes deep into the soft sand, letting the waves crash over me.

Now is not a time to run away or hide from their fierce power.

It is time to stand and know that I won’t get swept away by them, pulled under, gasping and struggling for air, even though there may be moments I will doubt this knowing.

So I settle in and let my body stretch and be flexible, moving and swaying with each wave that engulfs me. Knowing that it will also recede. Remembering that I have a strength within me that I can access more deeply in this process of surrender and trust.

If I simply stand here and feel it all, and let it be what it is in this moment, the waves will ebb and they will flow. And I will breath deeper and more freely in every pause.

Each wave leaves behind something on the shore for me, a gift of sorts.

Some will be shining and glimmering with a beauty I didn’t know I could grasp. Others will pull deeply into my heart and burn and ache and squeeze.

Then the time will come to collect the flotsam around me on this wild, beautiful beach. I will reverently place a collection in my precious tool-bag, and the others I will ceremoniously place on a bonfire and burn – let go, release, surrender to another form.

I don’t think surrender necessarily feels easier each time I open to it, but it does feel different; deeper trust. I have more tools and support to reach for, and in each unique opportunity, there is a similarity, a familiarity that I can touch and know that I have been here before, in an earlier version of myself.

There is the sense of another form of embodied home-coming.

To share…

…or not to share…

Watching the changing light

the mist slowly takes flight,
my morning’s gratitude.
My energy may be low
still I choose to enjoy the flow,
of nature all around me.
This beauty feeds my soul.

Today I want to play with friends
yet my body won’t pretend,
that she requires slow.
How long for?
I do not know.

So I tango with this unknown,
waltz with surrender,
long dance with letting go,
each day a little closer
to ‘at peace with what is’.

And then I physically dance
my body welcomes the movement,
the music, as I move
in this amphitheatre of nature.

My soul drinks in the nourishment.
and the magic of gratefulness.

The elixir that sustains my days.

                                     

Sharing

I lay in bed, with the French doors open, watching dawn recede, pulling the strands of mist as she disappeared into the growing light. My first noted gratitude for the day. I began watching my breath, breathing in the beauty and the gratefulness. And then I thought this might be a good place to re-enter the sharing of parts of my journey.

For weeks I have wanted to share, but not known how, or where to start. Do I write about the monotony of the rice gruel I eat at every meal, and how when I make vegetables for Harlan I crave the green and the variation, but if I indulge my body is not happy? Do I write about the joy of this rice gruel, because the alternative was fasting for days on end, my body light and swaying without food? How do I balance the reality of the dark cavernous struggle that some moments are, with the silver linings that I seek throughout the days? How do I share the truth of the darkness, while sharing the brilliant light that filters through the cracks? It takes energy to put that into words. Energy I don’t have right now, and so I don’t share.

The lows and the highs

But I also believe that it’s important to share the lows, just as much as it is the highs. I don’t want a picture that isn’t true. That is all light. We live in a universe where there is light and there is dark, and one cannot exist without the other. There is always a shadow, and until we fully embrace it we will be forever running from our wholeness.

How do I describe the lows without gloom, which is how they sometimes feel? Perhaps an essence of that feels acceptable, encapsulated in the larger whole of lessons sifting through, some sticking, some going back to the ocean of life for another time. I don’t see the point of a challenging journey if I’m not regularly seeking the light in the dark. For me that is essential, but to portray it in words evades my intellectual self at this time.

Embodying

That seeking is often a mind journey, exhausting in itself. Then in those rare, yet growing, moments of surrender to the seeking, my whole being finds peace. To just be, instead of thinking about being. Instead of analysing what I’m learning and how the challenge is shaping me. Rather I choose to feel it and know it in my bones, in every cell of my body. And that is why I dance. To remember that I am in this body that has wisdom so much deeper than my mind can ever find. To embody a knowing my thinking alone can never bring me. To integrate into wholeness in a way that my soul has been yearning forever.

And in all of this, the space of gratitude.

Grateful for so much goodness in my life.

In awe of so many magic moments all around me.

You are The One

You are the one
you’ve been looking for.
You are the one who is there for you
in your darkest hour.
You are the one who is there
to celebrate all the joyous moments.
You may think you have found ‘the one’,
or be looking for ‘the one’.
You may have left ‘the one’,
or lost ‘the one’.

Yet, as you turn your gaze from out there
and look a little closer,
your eyes will fall on the one
you’ve been waiting for your whole life.
The one who knows you more than anyone else.
No more searching and seeking
outside of yourself,
let yourself remember.

The person who will be with you through thick and thin,
in sickness and in health,
and right up until your very last breath
here on Earth
is already in your life.
They’ve always been there.

Breathe deeply and feel their presence,
Feel their heart beating and their soul speaking to you.
Oh, and listen.
Create the space for quiet and listen
not to the voice of your inner critics
you hear so often,
but to that loving gentle voice
of ‘the one’ inside.

You sweet soul, are found.
Let yourself come home
to you.

You are the one!

(Written in August 2017, as I completed the module in Self Love and Relationships)

Thank you India, and Everything Else

Thank you India

India you light me up from the inside
My soul radiates just thinking about you
To touch your dust with my own two hands
changed me
Being on your land left me
with an explosion of colour inside
vibrant, full and yet so complex.

All these years of journeying
that lead me to this one moment
in my life, intrinsically entwined with you
a red thread connecting me to your land
who would have known it would be this way?
Maybe you in your ancient wisdom.

To stand on the soil of a country so steeped in spirituality
Deeply, anciently, I can feel it in your breathing
This juxtaposition of so much love
ingrained in the earth and in the temples
People with nothing smiling, kind, so open
and then the fighting, in the name of religious ideas
merciless killing and the blood mixing with your red earth

I am forever changed because of you
Because of your people
and everything that you are
I will always feel the pull of that red thread
calling me back, gently yet fiercely
And one day I will heed it and
stand on your soil again.

Thank you for what you are
and for what you are not
and everything in between.
I am blessed to have followed
my journey to you and found
what I was looking for
and more.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you India.

And thank you for my courageous spirit to pursue my vision of a vibrantly healthy body. Thank you to all those who walk with me – both near and far – sharing their strengthening love and support. Some days the gratitude pulses so strongly through my veins it’s like adrenaline – firing through every cell – leaving me in awe of where I am. Of how blessed I am.

This body of mine. So patient and so strong – now so free from pain and able again.

Until pain prevents you from something so ‘small’ as sitting normally, you don’t realise what a luxury it is. Thank you that I can now sit at the dining room table. Sit at my desk, sit and drive a car, sit on a my surfboard out the back. Thank you for the renewed energy in my body to be able to move and explore again. I will never take that for granted.

Thank you for the growth and perspective shifts over these years, and for the vision to do things differently now. That I can live in a way that doesn’t come at a huge cost to my mind and body. Thank you for the moments and thank you for the love! Thank you, and thank you again!

For so long I thought I had to do it alone.

I thought I had to fix my fistula without anyone’s help. But it’s not true. I walked the journey I needed to walk. Somehow I made it, even though there were days when I thought I would give up forever and call it a day. I didn’t think I could go on. I didn’t think that I could do one more day of that robbing pain that consumed me like fire. And yet a part of me never gave up.

There was a part of me quietly cheering the down-hearted part on – sending soothing words – encouraging phrases that I often could not hear. But another part of me heard. And even though it all felt too much to keep going, I did. That stubborn, determined streak in me refused to have its light snuffed out. And so here I am. Days and days and days in a row without being hindered by a knifing, all-encompassing pain in my bum, and body exhausted from constantly fighting infection. Combatting the emotional drain of the struggle.

It’s so draining. Sometimes its easy to forget how draining pain is. How it spends so much of your body’s energy normally used for day to day functioning. And sometimes I forget how much energy it takes to remain emotionally stable, when for the 200th week in a row I would wake up to cope with fluctuating pain all day…again.

But now a different way. A more gentle compassionate way, with respect and honour for the journey and myself. Thank you for healing. Thank you India. Thank you for perspective, insights and tapping into wisdom.

And thank you for all the earth angels who walk alongside us.

 

Fear on a Healing Journey

fear is like a snarling beast
beating at my door
let me in, it growls
goosebumps pop out
up my spine
stomach clenched
in a tight ball
no breath

But actually there is no beast. And I can move away from fear when I drop into awareness long enough of this moment. Right here and now. Awareness of my body, and of the deep breath I take low into my belly. Fear struggles to take root where there is slow breathing. That’s just how we’re wired. Deep, slow breathing usually means safety.

Healing journeys don’t always feel safe. Sometimes they’re the most frightening roller coaster ride you’ll ever take. Up and down, round and round, waiting to be spat out at the end. What condition will I be in then? Will I have all my limbs? Will there be parts of me missing? Stop with the future-tripping, come back to now.

no, you can’t come in
yes, I know you’re there
your stale breath is in the air
I know I used to let you rampage
around my home
me cowered in the corner
in the dark
afraid
feeling powerless
to do anything

It’s not like that anymore. That neural pathway I let you rule is growing over, like a well-worn path to a deserted rubbish dump. It’s not in use anymore. That’s no longer my game. I’ve chosen a new pathway. Yes of course I know you’re not leaving for good. And yes, I know you will visit. But no, I will never give you back the reins to my life.

You will never get to call the shots again.

Authentic Partnership: ten years and counting

What started out as romance 10 years ago has turned into an ever-evolving journey of authentic partnership.

Harlan and his travelling companion Paro!

It was Labour weekend 2007 that Harlan made the bold move to come over to the Sunshine Coast, Australia, to visit me. We’d met two weeks before I was booked to fly to Brisbane and go and work my way up the East Coast for an indefinite amount of time. We’d clicked, but my Inner Mean Girl was worried that he might be wasting his time flying over two months after I’d left when we didn’t really know each other.

We kept in touch via letters as I spent time working in backpackers in Noosa and Rainbow Beach, and the closer we got to Labour weekend the more excited I was! Harlan hired a Wicked Campervan from Brisbane and I met him in Noosa to share three days together. There was lots of swimming, exploring, talking, lounging and passion. A day or two in I asked him if he wanted to come to Australia and go travelling with me. He thought about it over a shower and decided “Yes!”.

Taking off in our newly acquired camper-van (Maxine)

He flew home and gave notice on his job, and a few weeks later I flew back to NZ to find a job and start saving for our trip. In May 2008 we arrived in Brisbane together to begin our three-year long working adventure in Australia.

In these ten years there’s been so much adventuring, learning, loving, laughing, planning, deepening, and fun! There’s also been disagreements, fights, emotional stretching, some days where we both want to walk away in different directions, frustration, and a lot of extra tricky navigation because of my healing journey.

But through that all, we’ve kept communicating.

We’ve maintained communication, even if sometimes it’s one pushing for it and the other pulling back. Even if it takes a few days to open up. There’s been raw, open honesty, and the strong desire for connection. When it’s been deeply, frighteningly tough, we’ve come back to that base of communication and also injecting a little humour and lightness, even if it takes tears, space and frustration in between.

You see two years after we met we attended a couples’ workshop (with Harville Hendrix) in Melbourne to provide us with some specific communication tools. We also read Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, and then last year went to another couple’s workshop in New Zealand called Emotionally Focussed Therapy. We didn’t go as a last resort. We didn’t go seeking these tools because our relationship was broken and needed fixing. With my mum being a psychologist and all, I learned that: communication tools are important before you hit emergency mode at the bottom of the cliff (in any relationship).

The thing is, we weren’t given the handbook for how to navigate authentic partnership with another whom we share our life with.

We weren’t handed out the tools when we left school and told “here you go – use these to navigate your relationship and they’ll really help you through the times when everything isn’t ‘easy’ and in the ‘flow’. So these decisions were made because we knew we needed this and also sometimes needed a mediator to help us through trickier topics.

For my own journey I’ve gifted myself with regular counselling in the last couple of years. By default, of course, it has filtered out into my partnership with Harlan. The more I have developed my self-awareness and self-honesty, the more I am able to own my stuff, and the more I can show up in this relationship without a whole bunch of unnecessary heavy baggage and make Harlan pay for crimes he didn’t commit.

During this journey I have also realised that I need to be able to give myself what I need instead of expecting those things from Harlan. Sometimes when I’ve been lonely and desperate for company it’s been because there is a hole of emptiness inside of me that I need to fill. But until I realised that, I was liable of lashing out and demanding more time with him and pushing him away. Or if I’ve been looking for acknowledgement, it’s because I haven’t yet acknowledged myself in the way that I desire. I can only fully and truly receive from Harlan what I already give to myself.

I’d love to say, that with these tools, learnings and insights it’s become easy and breezy – but I would be talking nonsense.

A lot of things have become easier though: when we find ourselves in our downward dance we are both able to identify it earlier and move ourselves back to connection; I am getting better at timing my ‘truth-telling’; Harlan finds open communication easier; we both own our parts more easily. And even though in that sweet romantic honey-moon phase in the early days there was less of the challenging and more of the fun, ten years into the journey our connection is so much deeper, fuller and richer.

I think a lot of us would like to think that love is the main ingredient for a strong relationship. But I’m of the belief that authentic partnership requires more than just love – otherwise we could end up partnering with many different people throughout life, right? It requires respect, openness, trust, and truth – not just with each other but also with ourselves. I believe it also requires patience, compassion, gentleness, and the knowing that we can’t change another.

Through the many, many dark days that I experienced on my recent healing journey, Harlan has been my rock, my dearest friend and often the only one I could share my painful space with! He has known when to use lightness and humour, and when to say nothing and just hold my hand or give me a hug. He has made me 100s of teas and allowed his t-shirt to dampen with my tears of despair.

I am so deeply grateful for Harlan!

In this space we have learned together – me how to more often ask for what it was that I needed (rather than expecting him to intuit it), and him that he didn’t need to fix me or offer solutions; me to be aware of taking my pain out on him, and him not to take my outbursts as personally.

And then sometimes we both get it really wrong, because we’re human. We’re all only human. And we’re all doing the best we can in each moment. Remember that! You are doing the best you can in this moment!

Hitting pause to take stock of your relationships (past or present), provides insight into what it is that you’ve learned and gained on this journey together. This insight is a powerful thing, because it brings awareness to things you can celebrate and also aspects that may need more exploring.

Are you willing to take stock of your relationships and what insights they’ve allowed you? Go on, I dare you xx

 

Into the light

deep down inside me there’s a yearning
a stirring – something pulling me
I hear Mother Earth calling to me
out of the valley and up the hill
the light calls me higher to seek out
the last glimpses of Father Sun
as our part of the Earth turns slowly away
for renewal
for a time to start again
fresh
awakened in the morning dew drops

I watch the sky sing her praises
pinks, golden, blues, greys
honouring the light that every
single cell
in my body craves, needs
relies on
yours too

I am a sun-worshipper
in another life I must have been a lizard
chasing the sunspots
hibernating in winter

we desire the light to warm us
and illuminate the world
in the light I see things I never knew were there
they come into clarity and I feel a peace
fall over me like the morning mist
soft, gentle, refreshing

I am renewed
I am held

Her Shadow – Soul Writing

I wrote Her Shadow on the 29th of January 2014, and it is heartening for me to read back over it now and realise how much has changed for me in mind, body and spirit, especially the decrease in pain with a fistula.

Her shadow moved silently across the ground.

Disappearing behind tree limbs and reappearing in dappled light. She didn’t know where she was going, except that she wanted to go. To keep moving. To get away. Her shadow was perfect, a perfect silhouette of a perfect body, but it didn’t feel that way. It felt so far from perfect as she stopped to give the pain a break. The incessant pain that burned her up with anger and sadness, a pain that was so unpredictable she never quite knew how to react. She thought she had figured out how to let go, let go of being so attached to this searing, raping pain, but yet some days it faced her full on. It looked her in the eye and said ‘you haven’t sussed it, look what I still do to you’.

Its thick heavy form broke down her resolve and she cried. She cried for what she had lost, she cried for not knowing when this beast would give her a break, and she cried in anticipation of the days, minutes and hours that this pain would steal from her.

She moved on, the shadow limping slightly now and her shoulders hunched to protect her heart.

It felt like someone had ripped it out and put it on a full cycle in the washing machine with rocks. Now it was bruised and battered and ached with every heart beat. She kept walking. If only she could walk all day, imagine how far that would take her. Surely, she thought, eventually she could outrun this pain, leave it for dust and start anew.

You’ve already fucked up enough in my life,” she yelled at the pain and the trees around her, the leaves quivering slightly. Still her shadow was silent, observing, simply being.Fuck off,” she yelled again. This time louder, her throat hurting with the force, causing her to cough and then swallow. Her shadow crumpled and disappeared beneath her sobs that were absorbed by the dry ground. She felt like eating the earth so close to her face, feeling that crackle and crunch in between her teeth, giving her all the more reason to hate and to want to rip and scream at this beast. Her sobs turned to rage and she punched the earth with her fists until they hurt and her knuckles were scratched and bleeding.

Her shadow looked like a spider, flailing, caught in its own web and helpless.

Fighting was not helping, the tangling ever tighter, so the shadow went still. Maybe she could stay there forever. If she stayed curled up this way no one would find where she was. One day they would find her beautiful bones, bleached and creamy white from the sun. Perfect bones, perfect form, and they’d say how perfect she was. What a beautiful girl she must have been, and they would wonder what had happened.

By the time the bones were found, people would have forgotten. Forgotten the story of the invisible beast who chased her down. ‘Maybe I could ignore it’ she thought, coming more to her senses as the sun burned her neck.

The shadow came to life, back to its perfect form and moved silently through the trees, sometimes visible, sometimes not. She couldn’t ignore it, that would never work, she needed something else…a prayer to bare it, to look the pain in the eye and say ‘Bring it on. I can do this. You won’t win, because I’m not the losing type. You’re a coward anyway! You leave one day, build me up with hope and then come back, stamping your feet so that we all know you’re here. But you don’t own your movements. You’re flaky. Leave me alone.’

She started running, faster and faster, her knees scratched by thorny vines along the path, but she didn’t care. Her shadow ran faster, lithely, still beautiful, faster and faster to keep up with her and suddenly with a leap and a dive they both disappeared.

Her shadow was far away now.

A shapeless blob breathing beneath her, sifting over the pebbles. She watched it for a long time, blowing bubbles into her eyes to see clearly, wondering how long she could stay down here for. Her lungs burned. She liked it. She liked punishing her own body with pain that she could control, it made her feel powerful and distracted her from her ugly thoughts. Her lungs ached and her blood screamed for oxygen. Her shadow pushed her away from where it lay motionless on the pebbles, rainbows sparkling off it like a diamond. The blob stretched out its arms and pushed her fiercely. She burst the surface of the water, gulping air and breathing hard.

The air was still and clear and she felt beautiful. Her body felt free and able in this crystal water. She breathed in the sweet smell of river. Her shadow moved gently now, swimming slowly upstream, along the bottom of the river pool, a halo around its head.

Her shadow knew it would always win.

It knew how to trust and persevere, despite this body that felt tied and chained to this pain. Her shadow looked perfect and moved freely, detached and observant, living more in the world of spirit.

Maybe she could be more like her shadow. Maybe if she saw her shadow more and enjoyed its freedom and quiet, she could see more of the beauty and less of the pain. Maybe this was her trick. She looked down at her shadow dancing and shimmering beneath her and slowly dropped her legs to meet it. They re-connected, toe to toe, and something shifted. She watched her shadow change shape and grow smaller, a blob with two beautiful long arms. She wanted her shadow. She wanted to watch it move and change and race across the earth, always peaceful, observant and silent.

Always perfect.

Hope – Four Years Ago

This time four years ago I was discharged from Whangarei Hospital to come ‘home’ to celebrate a friend’s 30th who had driven up from Auckland.

After one of my biggest tummy flare’s, due to the most heavy pressure that I put myself under, I developed a peri-anal abscess. My flare had finally been controlled with oral antibiotics and my fissures healed with fresh aloe vera leaves. A few days later though, I became aware of this intense pain in my bottom area. When I stood up, the throbbing was so concentrated I had to lie back down. I had no idea what it was. I began waking up in the middle of the night to take painkillers. Eventually on one particularly bad night nothing helped. At 1am an ambulance came to pick me up.

A tiny hope flickered, that these months of unwellness might be coming to an end…that I could get on with things…

I hated having to give in and go, but the pain was so unbearable I hoped they could take it away. An hour or so later the doctor on call confirmed a peri-anal abscess and I began IV antibiotics. I spent the next day in Kaitaia Hospital (an hour from home), wondering what all this meant. At the time I didn’t have a smart phone, which is probably a good thing, so I wasn’t trawling the internet for all the possible outcomes. That night I was driven to Whangarei Hospital (2 hours away) in an ambulance, with a large strapping teenage boy who had just had his foot run over by a truck. His pain was palpable. I watched the stars rushing past, branches reaching up to meet them, feeling my aloneness expand and grow.

Long story short I got prodded and poked and examined by young male doctors for 6 days in hospital, still while on IV antibiotics, dragging a stand around with me to the bathroom and back. I was so keen not to risk a surgery near my sphincter muscle that I led myself to believe it was starting to feel slightly better. I still couldn’t stand for longer than a few minutes, but I told myself the antibiotics would take it all away. And I’m not sure if I convinced the doctors and surgeons, or if they really had hope it would go away too.

That small hope gave me an out…

My dad drove me back home. While I had been away Harlan had moved some of our stuff out to a friend’s beachfront cottage, where we stayed for 3 weeks while I recovered. A few friends were already there for the birthday weekend and I had a station set up in the lounge on my massage table. That way I could socialise without moving or having gravity work too hard on my bottom.

I’ve always put on a brave face. A protective shield of strength and independence to guide me through my tough times. But here, in this lounge, a little bit of that toughness was stripped away. I could hide so many of the confused painful emotions, but I felt bare and vulnerable and useless. I had to argue with that need inside myself to always be doing something. Preparing dinner, cleaning, helping. I had to try and let go, even just for a little while.

A week later I had to admit to myself that nothing was changing and my dad drove me back down to Whangarei Hospital. I was operated on overnight – the abscess drained. At 12am I emerged from my anesthesia haze begging for more morphine, and finally by the morning I could stop pressing the button for regular hits into my bloodstream. The pain eased, and with it came a trip back to the beach cottage that day. Erin, a district nurse, was booked to visit and attend to dressings.

This was the beginning of the end I told myself. With the abscess drained, I could fully heal and ‘get on with my life’. A little hope bloomed in my belly…

“Do you think I can book my flights for Australia in a few weeks?” I asked Erin about a week after the surgery. It felt like things were healing nicely and a lot of the pain had gone away. I had planned on heading back to the grain silos in South Australia to earn some summer cash.

“Just wait and see,” she replied, “wait for it to get better before you go and do that.”

Wise words. Hopeful words. Imagine if she had known the future.

Imagine if she had said: “No way don’t book those flights, you ain’t going nowhere. You’re going to think this is all healed, and then you’ll realise it’s created a fistula. You know, that condition you’ve read about, but tried to push out of your mind? You won’t be able to sit, standing will be tricky and walking won’t really be any fun for months…kind of almost years really…”

That’s where hope and optimism is a good thing. If someone had actually told me what was in store for me. All the pain and anguish, disappointment and raging emotions I’d have to experience, I would have given up. Right then and there. As we left the beach house and I could feel a bigger pain starting in my bottom again.

But no one did and so I kept hoping. I kept visualising and praying and doing whatever it took to give me moments of courage that this would pass quickly. That life would return to ‘normal’…

And now, here I am four years on, still with a fistula. It turns out I had to learn to get on with my life as it was, not how I wanted it to be. Not how I thought it should be. I had to learn to live it as it was. I had a new normal. An ever-changing normal. These last four years have been a rollercoaster ride of note. I’ve had such highs of goodness and hope, and I’ve had such deep dark lows that I’ve wished the lights would go out.

But through it all, somehow…hope.

I’ve used that sheer determination and strength that used to hide away that vulnerability, to navigate this journey. To keep going, one foot in front of the other. When courage collapses, I pick it back up and shake it around. Sometimes I yell at it and ask it to let me give up. But in the end I need it there to help me grow, journey and transform myself along this exploration of life and self. I want the courage, because what a path we’ve walked!

When I say I’ve had hope, I suppose it’s been more like my bedrock. I haven’t always felt like it’s there, but some part of me must…

Hope, stubbornness and determination have led me to a place of freedom. I may not have freedom to sit and travel the world and do those sorts of things right now. I used to pin a lot on those, but now I look elsewhere. There is now a deep flowing freedom in my soul that I never thought possible. Freedom from so many ties and expectations, criticisms and comparisons that kept a firm noose around my neck all those years. That noose sometimes choking me of the ability to breath in life and enjoy it as it was.

So here’s to hope.

And here’s to freedom. To letting go. Sometimes we go looking for freedom and find it in unexpected places. Other times we hope-letting-gohave a very clear and firm picture of it, only to learn that it looks totally different. It actually feels nothing like we imagined. It’s even bigger and better.

I know hope can bring disappointment. That I know more than anything. But I also know that hope brings with it the ability to carry on and navigate and move, even when you have no idea what’s in front of you.

Right now, in this moment, I honestly think that the most important thing is to hold onto hope, but to let go at the same time. Keep moving forward, but don’t limit yourself with rigid expectations and shoulds.

Let life unfold without you fighting it and constantly reimagining the life that is happening to you in this moment.