Recently I attended a couple of writing courses which have been great inspiration for writing of my book on health and well-being along with my long-suffering family history stories. Better yet though is that a little spin off group has occurred, which I was lucky enough to be invited too. Each week we share our writing and discuss our progress with the security of knowing we are among trusted friends. The other week we were given a topic to write on. It was a topic which got my brain firing and my fingers moving as I combined information about my self and well-being.
The topic was ‘What story would you tell if you only had one year to live’. I thought I would share it here too. Maybe, just maybe, there is something in it for you or those you love even if it is just some inspiration to write your own story……….
‘In my life there have been many stories that I have shared with those who matter and some with those who don’t. In fact, I can think of only one story that my children haven’t heard the full detail of. In my mind it is the one story that would be better told by another, if at all. In all my stories though there are themes which often repeat themselves; life lessons that are presented to me continuously. Some have had to be presented via a proverbial ‘brick to the head’ while others have simmered away growing in strength as time goes by. So, with a year to live the story I would tell is ‘Life Lessons for the Living.’
- It is never too late to start
While Mum always told me I didn’t have any patience and was always in a rush to do things, both of which are true, I have not always met ‘expected time frames’ with regards to societal norms. It maybe the quiet rebel in me that made me start driving much later than all my peers, go to university and beginning my degree at least a decade later than others and learn Spanish in my 30’s after wasting so much time at school determined not to learn French. I finally traveled New Zealand in my 40’s; fulfilling my dream of living in a house bus. Then at nearly 50 I started learning drums and roller-skating again, though not simultaneously. So, whatever it is you want to start doing, be it learning, forgiving, moving or maybe just being don’t let anyone tell you it is too late. Especially not that little chatterbox in your head. Opportunities abound to support you starting your dream when you begin to look. Thankfully, my mother passed on in unspoken deeds that there was never any age limit on life, never any limit to what you could do or when it was possible to do it. As Henry Ford once said ‘Whether you think you can or you think you can’t – you’re right’.
2. Trust your intuition
This is one of the most important lessons I have learnt and which I am still learning every day. Research tells us that we actually have two ‘brains’, the brain we all know and the stomach or more accurately the digestive system. The cells in the brain and the gut originate from the same tissues and basically decided to take two separate roads of development. Both have the power to help govern what we do. That churning stomach or those ‘butterflies’ may be just as informative as any thought power we give to an issue. These two, the brain and the digestive system, are also linked with the Vargas nerve so are constantly working together with their shared neurotransmitters and hormones. My advice, for what it is worth, is to listen closely to that little funny feeling you get or that gut reaction to events and trust it. Too often I have ignored my intuition only to have it proven correct at a later date. Our brain rationalizes events whereas our gut instinct or intuition invariably reads the situation exactly how it is. So, trust yourself and reap the benefits.
3. Find and follow your own path
I know, I know it’s a complete cliché but it’s true. The importance of following your own path is beyond expression. For much of my life I tried my hardest to adapt, mould and modify myself into what I thought others wanted. In the end it was always in vain; you can never please people who want you to change nor those who aren’t happy with who you are. Only in those times where I did what I truly wanted in my heart, following my intuition of course, did I feel happiest and actually attracted the feelings I had previously searched for. Often, we change things about ourselves and our behaviour because we think we need to. We assume that in following others’ expectations we will make them happy, achieve our goals or even be happier ourselves. In my experience though those achievements are short lived and hollow unless you feel that the whole of you is still there. We are all important and invaluable to life in our own unique way so find your ‘path’, stick to it and share your treasures with the world
4. Keep the joy in your life alive
Sometimes life can be a bitch. We all know it and we’ve all experienced it however what we sometimes don’t realise is that ultimately, we have power to decide how life impacts us in the long term. Whether a horrible event causes us great suffering or whether it directs us to joyous new places is up to us depending on the perspective we take. Lessons in adaption and growth, lessons in how to find more joy can only occur when we are willing to look at life differently. As the Archbishop Desmond Tutu says in The Book of Joy, ‘We are meant to live in joy.’ Joy can be found anywhere, at any time when we look. An event may send us into a spin. It may sap the joy from our day quicker than we thought possible yet in breathing deep and changing our perspective that same event may direct us to joy as we distract ourselves by going for a walk and seeing the beauty of nature. We are hard-wired to remember and focus on the negative; it is one of our oldest survival tools. In changing our perspective though we can also see and savour all those little things that bring a smile to our face, that light up our day and bring joy into our lives.
5. Invest in your health
I really wish I had learnt lesson earlier in life but as my first life lesson states ‘it is never too late to start’. At nearly 50 years old I am now in better health and have a greater sense of well-being than I did 30 years ago. In all honesty, it was a classic case of not listening to the advice I am now giving; I certainly didn’t listen to my intuition or my gut as I blindly skipped along the garden path of all and sundry. Overeating, overspending, oversleeping and over drinking. Even when it didn’t really fill me with any joy, even when it ended in pain I still continued. I now realise too that health is not just the physical and if you ignore the other aspects of health such as emotional, spiritual and mental then you can become even sicker than just ignoring the physical. I love Mason Durie’s Te Whare Tapa Whā model where he likens health to a home; the walls that protect you are Spiritual, Physical, Mental and Community well-being, which includes family, while nature is at the base of it all. Research backs this up as a connection with nature can be a great foundation which ensures our whare or well-being is secure and stable. I also like to add that all the tools we learn along the way act as the roof. A protective cover which helps us when the ‘bad weather’ comes. Humans are intrinsically lazy; we will often opt for comfort and ease over effort. It is easy to make an excuse not to exercise, not to contact a friend, not to meditate, not to expand our horizons. I know I have done it many times! However, that little bit of effort to take action, to make the unfamiliar familiar will reap more rewards than you can imagine. Creating connections, moving our body, stimulating our mind and being in nature will always leave us feeling happier and healthier.
So, with a year to live this is the story I would tell. A story about the lessons I have learnt. A story of life lessons for the living.