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It was a Tuesday afternoon during lockdown.
A vague sense of unease had been plaguing me since I’d woken up that morning. Something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. As usual, I was pushing myself through by keeping busy.
And then I did something I almost never do anymore. I phoned a friend. Just to talk about how I was feeling. I didn’t want advice. I didn’t want to be assured that everything would be fine. I just wanted someone to listen. After I finished talking, I felt instantly lighter and that mood dissipated as fast as it had come on.
I’d always told myself, I’m all alone, when it comes down to it. It’s just the story I told myself.
When I was growing up, I always leaned heavily on my friends, emotionally, because of the way I felt inside. I felt emotionally trapped.
I felt trapped trying to prop up two depressed parents as a teenager, and I felt trapped in an unhealthy romantic relationship in my 20s. I felt disappointed that other people couldn’t help or “fix” the way I was feeling.
I stopped asking for help, and I stopped expressing my emotions to my friends—because I didn’t want to be disappointed and I didn’t want anyone else to be subjected to the feeling of being my emotional crutch.
So, when I was in pain, I battled on alone or I got really angry.
Although, we may feel like it sometimes, we are not alone.
“We’re all just walking each other home.” ~ Ram Dass
I eventually realised that I was afraid to be vulnerable, in front of others. I took a certain egotistical pride in being the strong one, because I saw vulnerability as weakness, until I realised, there is nothing more connective or human, than being vulnerable. There’s nothing more connective than allowing someone to be there for you.
The irony is that having moved into a purely purpose-driven career, I became even more resistant to my own vulnerability, to admitting that there is anything wrong. I thought, “I’m the one here to guide other people, and if I have days where I’m blue, I feel like a fraud.”
However, by trying to pretend everything is okay all the time, when it isn’t, it reinforces a false perception that we need to be happy all the time. That’s not our purpose. Our purpose is to learn from, and accept, the “not so good” days, so we can move on from them.
By not sharing, I’m helping to perpetuate a false ideal.
“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” ~ Brené Brown
What does home mean?
Home. It’s where the heart is. And it’s the place that you have been spending a lot of time recently!
Rather than the physical place called home, I’m more interested in the place that is “home” within each of us. Change and transformation (whether by choice or imposed by Covid-19) leads us into deep reflection that starts to sow the seeds of change within us.
COVID-19 presents us with an opportunity to walk each other home, not in a literal sense, but in a spiritual sense.
How do we come “home” to ourselves?
It means stripping back our layers to the deepest parts of us. Knowing who we are at the core. Stripping away all of our perceptions about ourselves.
You may think that you are a deeply anxious person, for example. You might tell yourself that that’s just who you are. You might take medication to help you to deal with the symptoms. But what about the heart of the matter? What you’re telling yourself is wrong. “Anxious you” is not who you are—it is a protective layer you have built up around yourself, due to your environment, your experiences, your peers, and your family.
And, if something is not really who you are, and you recognise that you can change anything you want about yourself (inner or outer) that is not you, then you start to realise that you have the choice.
What lies at the core is the very best part of us. The part that is whole, happy, and vital. The journey home may be fraught with danger, but once you catch a glimpse of who you are at the core, whatever habits or negative thought patterns you have built up start to be stripped away.
We may have an off day and get back into those bad habits (I’m guilty of that!), but because we know who we are, we always come home to ourselves eventually. The journey is ongoing.
It starts with recognising that “home” is not our conditioning, our neuroses, or our bad days.
We get to the core by getting out of our heads. Our minds are built to help us survive, not thrive. Our minds don’t necessarily consider what brings us satisfaction at a deep level. Our minds constantly bombard us with (often negative) thoughts. Our minds are designed to keep us safe (not happy).
We must do three things to get to our core:
1. When you feel bad, acknowledge how you feel, accept it, and do not cover it up.
2. Feel it.
3. Silence the mind noise.
How we feel is an individual choice, but there are activities that can bring us into a calm, focused flow state, such as meditation, journaling, running, staring at the rain, praying, or dancing.
The purpose of these exercises is to quieten the mind so we can hear what our inner voice is saying to us. We can cut through the noise, the anxiety about past experiences, and the worries about an uncertain future—and get to the truth of it all.
What makes you satisfied, whole, and vital?
We need each other.
Through our interactions with others, we are presented with the opportunity to “walk each other home.” The journey inward can be confusing and isolating, but as we reach out to people who can help us, or people going through the same thing, we realise that we are not alone.
I learned that by simply sharing that I’m feeling vulnerable, it’s a relief in itself.
Human beings are not meant to be alone. We’re meant to form communities for our happiness, and for the development of ourselves and others.
Maybe, we had begun to lose sight of this in today’s busy, busy world.
There is no greater gift that we can give anyone than to listen fully to them. Without judgement, without advice, and without the intent to problem solve or fix anything. Just to give them our full attention and acknowledge where they are, so that they feel completely heard.
I invite you, today, to reach out to one friend or family member today to share how you’re feeling.
I invite you, today, to listen to one friend or family member fully, with no agenda.
Walk each other home.