A peculiar thing happened to me recently. An unexpected experience, out of the blue, that sent me reeling, questioning, revisiting old emotions that I thought I had buried deep inside of me where they would never, ever resurface. It took me back to almost exactly eight years ago when I let the voices of others drown out my own. It sent me into such a mental tailspin that I lost all sense of what was true and real. It made me doubt myself and the friendships I’d made. It made me lash out and retreat in equal measure. And then, finally, it opened a door for me.
I’m not going to talk about the incident that occurred because actually, it was only a minor blip, a catalyst for things that were already brewing inside of me that I was trying my best to suppress. Decisions and choices that I’d already made in my heart but hadn’t quite let myself act upon. I think that’s okay sometimes, to acknowledge that something is building up but giving yourself time to act. Small seeds need the time to grow; even the mightiest Kauri tree starts out smaller than my fist.
A late friend once told me that, when you are seen as a strong woman, people look to you to be there for them, even if they are not there for you. Until recently, I agreed with her wholeheartedly. What I also realise now is being truly strong sometimes means telling people you need them to be there for you. I believe everything we do leaves an echo, a ripple in the fabric of life. I tell my kids that you can’t always control what happens to you, but you can control how you react.
I’m not the same person I was eight years ago, that much is evident. In fact, I haven’t been that person for a long while. Some days I still feel like cookie dough, not completely cooked. The recipe changes over time, ingredients swapped out as tastes evolve, concessions made as I choose favour over flavour. But I don’t even mind if I stay cookie dough forever, who’s to say that’s wrong? Sometimes, we try so hard to fit in, we lose sight of who we really are.
As is my way when I encounter something I don’t understand, or an experience that throws up uncomfortable feelings, I turn to books to guide me through it and writing to map my path forward. I write for wellness. For good mental health. I write to make sense of the world around me especially when it seems like it’s making no sense to me at all. The eagle-eyed readers amongst you might notice something new and different about certain parts of this website, a change so small it might go unnoticed. So minor it could seem insignificant. To me, however, it is a certainty. A declaration. An understanding that we are always changing and adapting, in a state of flux and growth, embracing new parts of ourselves as we do.
Whenever I need to quieten my mind, or just get a sense of myself again, I go to the sea. The sea doesn’t care who you are or what you do. It can be beautiful and calm, or mighty and terrifying. It does exactly as it wants, and it needs no validation. I can identify with that. It’s the same feeling I get when I climb up somewhere really high. It puts everything in perspective and gives me space to focus. It connects me back to where I am in the world, rejoins me with the space I inhabit. What makes me uniquely me.
So now I’m out the other side of the intense feelings, my pockets full of sea-glass from the beach, and if there was a lesson to be learned from the experience or a mantra to be memorised, well… I think maybe the words of Hogarth Hughes (The Iron Giant) will suffice here, and I can only hope you understand: “You are who you choose to be.”