I can honestly say that the rough patches in my life are the obstacles I need to eventually become the person I am today and will be tomorrow. Having this wisdom is of huge comfort to me. And I feel an enormous sense of gratitude for the path my life has taken. I feel I know intuitively how to live more aligned with my true nature. I feel I am really living. Not just working to live. No, really living and doing what makes my life meaningful. With precious moments, true connection, little and big highs, creative expression and being mindful of the little and big magic life consists of.
How this happened? To be able to answer that question let’s rewind to about 15 years ago.
My three children were very young when their father - my then life partner - started showing signs of severe depression with manic episodes. It was quite a struggle keeping our little family from falling apart - and my own sanity, for that matter. When chronic psychosis was added to his already very fragile mental condition I tried so hard and fought for years to help him (of course impossible) and to get him the help he deserved. He refused. Finally everything did fall apart. His paranoid psychosis turned against me in a terrible and violent way and finally I had to flee with the children for our safety. After a period of staying in hiding, I made the difficult but necessary decision to choose for the wellbeing of my kids and myself and to break with our relationship. My whole world crumbled apart. My children and I were traumatized and exhausted. Years of living in fear and survival mode was now paying it’s toll on me. And then there was reality and the complexity of the situation. How do you grieve someone that is not deceased but just completely turned into a person you don’t recognize anymore. Someone you love(d) dearly. How would my children deal with the fact that their daddy was absent and mentally ill. There were feelings of shame, failure, anger, sadness.. all emotions mixed up. It felt as though I had failed tremendously.
I struggled mentally and financially being a lone mother with three young children. It were stressful and difficult times. Not only was I working long hours and ‘doing’ it al alone. At the same time we were all dealing with the trauma we had just experienced, which details I will keep out of this story. We needed to rest and heal, but there really was hardly any space or time. Or so it felt. I was angry and saddened at the same time. What had I done to deserve this. I felt I wasn’t worthy of true love, of a beautiful life. I felt we would be living in fear for the rest of our lives and my children wouldn’t have a future. I felt like a victim.
And then I read one book (thank you mama) that started making me question my beliefs. ‘Loving what is’, by Byron Katie. It turned out to be the start of my own journey out of suffering. A suffering, I thought up until then, I was completely entitled to.
Up until that point I had been arguing and fighting with reality. I wanted things to be different, which in turn, caused stress and suffering. If I could only accept and even welcome reality. What would happen then? Well, it turned out to be the most beautiful and powerful practice (or lesson) that life had given me.
A path of studying and practicing yoga, meditation and eastern philosophies followed. I learnt the tools to relieve myself from suffering and stress. I learnt how to take care of myself so I could be a better person and a better parent. I pursued my passion for photography, painting and writing, the things I had loved doing since childhood but threw overboard with the ‘too busy for that’ excuse. I consciously made time for it, even though I was still parenting three kids, struggling with work/free time and, honestly very little spare energy. I made choices. I chose doing the things I love to do OVER cleaning the dishes. I chose to meditate and do my yoga practice OVER a having perfect household. I think you can sum it up that I consciously chose taking care of myself OVER the appearance of being perfect. I slowed down. I said no. I literally stopped and smelled the flowers in my neighborhood parks. I went on long walks by myself. I foraged for flowers and dried them in between books, like I did as a child. I scribbled and drew in my journals. I went to surfing retreats and I took up photography lessons. I learnt to stitch. On my free days I take a book and read by the water near my house. I travelled to Paris alone, sat on a terrace with my café au lait and just watched the world pass by.
Obviously life still didn’t become ‘easy’ overnight. It never does. Even now. But when things get rough, when times get uncertain, I can always latch on to that inner wisdom. Being in silence with myself helps. Being creative helps. Being in nature helps. Just ‘being’ helps. It is when I practice ‘being’ that I feel I can choose how I react to situations, to hardship and stress. It has without doubt greatly improved the quality of my life. It is also the reason that I created Slow Escapes. A meeting point for people that want to slow down, experience life, be in touch with themselves, their surroundings. And Just Be.
Portrait image: Elina Nova Photography