"Life is short, so live it to the fullest." This well-known mantra can push us to want to do things bigger, better, and more of. But what if "living to the fullest" feels more like undue pressure than inspiration? What if going slow and being cautious is sometimes actually the most authentic decision for you to make?
Janice gives personal examples, ranging from travel dreams to new relationships, of where the "Life is short" mantra can show up. She discusses how a lack of privilege or challenging life periods, balancing two authentic but conflicting needs, and being stuck in old patterns can bring a lot more nuance and complexity to our life decisions than simply following a sometimes inspirational but one-size-fits-all quote.
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Hey, how y’all all doing? Welcome back to The Soul’s Work Podcast, I’m your host, Janice Ho. And today is October 6, 2021. Fall is most definitely in the air. The leaves are turning colour. It’s really beautiful on the farm right now.
I live on a farm just outside the city of Toronto, in Ontario, Canada, for those of y’all who don’t know. And just as a quick life update, I’ve been really busy with copy editing work, which I specialize in as a freelancer; songwriting, which is really exciting to get back into; and preparing for my first travel adventure in a year and a half, which I will talk a lot more about in this episode.
So it’s all good stuff, but I also been feeling a bit of hectic energy, and recently took some time these last few days to pause the action a bit and do some inner work.
And I don’t know how much I believe in astrology type stuff, but I definitely keep an eye and ear out. I do think it’s super interesting. There are elements of it that I’m for sure drawn to. And right now we’re apparently in Mercury retrograde, when communication is supposed to go a little haywire. And the other day with WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram all coming to standstill for a few hours ... Mercury retrograde, anyone?
But anyways, I was listening to Laura Chung’s podcast, Awaken and Align, where she gave an October 2021 reading, and then the Girls Gotta Eat podcast gave a similar one. And they were talking about how right around now, it’s about transformation, about letting go of old wounds or burning things down that are holding you back, and doing the rebuilding and the rising from the ashes.
And whether that’s all true or not, it definitely has been feeling like the time for some shadow work – going into some of the darker parts, the sometimes painful parts of myself, and healing some of the past that continue to affect the ways in which we show up in the here and now.
So, perhaps this all explains why I’ve been in such a contemplative mood about things lately. Well, I’m kind of always contemplative. But today I want to talk about this idea of life being short, which is of course something we’ve all heard. It usually comes with this connotation that we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, and so we really need to seize the day, live life to the fullest, go and follow our heart’s desires, dream big, step outside of our comfort zones, deepen our relationships while we can, etc, etc. Lord knows that we’ve probably felt it a little more so during the damn pandemic, understandably.
And oftentimes, the “live life like it’s short” approach is tied to doing certain things, like checking off the bucket list items. And it all sounds great, and it’s very easy to feel like that should be what we’re doing. And also, I want to bring a little bit more nuance to this idea of life being short, and perhaps offer some permission, if you will, to maybe let go of that idea at least some of the time. And for me, it’s always about bringing more nuance into the conversation and the ways in which we see ourselves and the perhaps standards we sometimes measure our life by.
Support the podcast
But before I dive in, if you’re loving the show, if things are resonating with you, I’d love it if you could leave the podcast a review and a rating on Apple Podcasts. Please subscribe to the show, it is on pretty much all the podcast players. And all of that is a really great way to help support the pod, help this channel to grow and others to tune in. It’s been great to see new people listening in.
And thanks to everyone who joined me for my last episode, which was with my guest and long-time friend Lucy Duong. It was a great conversation on healing from trauma through hypnotherapy and neuro-linguistic programming. There is mention of suicide, so please take care if you listen in on that. But it was such a great discussion, I really enjoyed it, so feel free to tune into that one, if you haven’t done so already.
And the next episode is going to be with another amazing guest, Chris Lam, who is a therapist, and I really loved chatting with him about his experiences working with clients and diving more into the world of therapy. Which I know is such a big thing right now. From what I’ve heard, there is a shortage of therapists out there, and a lot of people accessing those services, which is both a good thing that folks are getting help, and also perhaps speaks to both the state of the world and people’s lives, and maybe even the destigmatization around doing therapy.
Life is short
Okay, so life is short. I want to say right at the outset that people who know me or even just follow me on Instagram, probably feel like I do live life like it’s short – i.e., I live life pretty fully or in a fulfilling way.
And I would say I do. I go travel by myself to cool places in the world. I go solo backcountry camping. I have made big, honest moves in my life, like leaving my first career to go live more of my life in nature, so that I could be happier. Leaving an eight-year relationship with a wonderful person who I was about to get married to because I came to the recognition that it wasn’t actually the honest thing for me to do. And my life drastically changed after that. I live on a farm. I follow my creative passions and put my music and writing out there.
And, in many ways, I do perhaps prescribe to this idea that life is short. I have always felt like I have a limited amount of time on earth. I personally don’t believe in the afterlife, so you know, this is my one shot. Let me not squander it. And I also feel like life can be long as fuck. And that also compels me to live in a way where it’s like I don’t want time to feel as though it’s dragging along year after year after year, because I’m just going through my days like an automaton. So I think, for me, it really boils down to feeling as though time is super precious and I want to spend it wisely, in ways that feel fulfilling and authentic to myself, and all of that good stuff.
And I think if you’re a person for whom this “life is short” approach works, amazing. Do you. What I’m going to talk about today, which may seem a bit contradictory to the whole “follow your heart” mantra, isn’t trying to take away from any of that. Because like I just said, I am not someone who is complacent or really subscribes to the status quo – or perhaps I should say that when I become aware that the status quo is not serving me, it’s really hard for me to stay in that space. And I’m absolutely willing to get fucking uncomfortable and do hard, hard things in order to live my most authentic life where I feel passion and excitement and fulfillment in the things that I’m doing.
But all of that being said, a couple of things happened recently that made me take a pause and really reflect on what does it actually mean to live like life is short? And how can we maybe bring some more nuance into that contemplation, especially when it sometimes translates into making really big decisions for ourselves. Sometimes small decisions, but decisions that impact us nonetheless.
And so, one of those things that happened recently was that I booked a trip to Italy. The other thing that happened was more around the relationship or dating arena, so I’ll talk about that too, maybe less so, but we’ll get there. And the two things may seem very different. But the commonality, for me, was that both situations that happened got me really excited, and felt like it was sparking up my joy for life, the fireworks were going off. And I even had a conversation about booking Italy where a friend and I talked about life being short, and so yes, I’m so glad I did this thing. And in both cases, it felt like I was just living my truth.
And then, these kind of conflicting feelings started to come up for me, where I didn’t feel as great, I was sort of questioning things. And I ultimately did bounce back from those kinda sticky feelings, let’s call it, but I did take a pause to just reflect on why did I have those funny, uncomfortable feelings? Why did I kind of doubt or hesitate on what was lighting up my soul so much?
So, let me stop being so vague and jump in. So, first off, I booked a trip to Italy a few weeks ago. I am leaving October 16, very soon. I will be in the southern part of Italy for three weeks. It feels so surreal that I’m even going. And at this moment, I’m super excited. I feel like I need this for my soul. I feel like it’s going to be a very Eat, Pray, Love kind of Italy trip where it’s really about reconnecting with myself – not that I don’t do that already here, but as I mentioned, things have been kinda hectic as of late. It’s been very go-go-go. And to just be in that beautiful country with that exquisite food, by the sea, I think I’m just going to have a very restorative experience.
Now, traveling for me is beyond just wanting to check destinations off a bucket list. I mean, I don’t even have a bucket list. But traveling for me feels like an expression of my authentic self. And it’s because ever since I was young, I had already felt back then that this North American/big city/Toronto way of living, this just wasn’t the whole picture, at least not for me. I felt like I needed to go and explore the world so that I could experience other ways of living and being that maybe felt more aligned with me, and experience other cultures, other physical environments besides the concrete jungle and fast-paced life.
And I was going to apply to work on a cruise ship to start this exploration of mine when I was like 19 years old I think, and then SARS broke out. And time and time again over the years, there would be various reasons why I would stall my travel dreams that I would spend hours researching and planning in my mind, and I wouldn’t go do those solo travels and see out this dream of mine. And I did finally start solo traveling in 2015, but it wasn’t until the end of 2019 that I started my first several-months-long trip. It ended up being a five-month trip mostly in Central America, and while it definitely had it’s not so fun moments, it felt so right. And I was finally able to validate, oh, this is why I’ve wanted to do this for so long.
So, lockdown happened, March 2020, all us traveling Canadians get called back home. I left Mexico, where I was at the time, returned to Ontario, and have been just here for 1.5 years now. And as someone who has often been called a nomad and a free spirit, it has felt way too long to not be able to just pick up and go, and to continue seeing out this dream of mine that I finally got this taste of. And I’ve gained so much from staying in one spot, i.e., the farm, for way longer than I otherwise would have, and I’m so grateful for that. But yeah, as an explorer, a wanderer, I can feel a bit stuck and even like I’m not fully growing without those travel experiences.
So, when this opportunity or idea to go to Italy presented itself to me, it was like, wow, could I go? Maybe I could. Maybe it’s time. And I went down the deep dark rabbit hole of travel research, and which part of Italy would I stay in, and how much are accommodations and flights, and next thing I knew, I had that deep familiar fire burning in my soul, and the idea was solidified into my brain that I am fucking going to Italy. And so I booked the Airbnb, booked the flight.
And then, I had that moment of being in what felt like a decision hangover. It felt kind of impulsive. And yes, I was and am still worried about COVID, but I know I’ll take precautions and be as safe as possible. But it was actually more about the money and dropping a lot of cash on something all at once, not that long after I even started thinking about it. And for some context, I had already booked a month-long trip for mid-winter to Mexico a little while back. And so, booking this “extra” trip to go on before Mexico I think was part of that feeling I had of, am I just being incredibly over-indulgent right now? Half the time in Italy is like twice the cost of Mexico, so there’s that.
And also, a recent life goal of mine has been to build or get my own tiny home next spring, so I can have my own place here on the farm, a home base that I know I can always come back to from traveling. And so, I had made a plan to save for this tiny home, this much each month, in order to make this happen for that time. And dropping all this money on the Italy trip meant not putting toward this life goal of mine, as I had committed to.
And, of course, my mind went to, but life is short, and you can save next month for the tiny home. And in my reflection about all of this afterward, I was like, yes, on one hand, life is short, so get out there, live it up, have these experiences that your heart desires.
But, on the other hand, what does it actually mean to execute this inspirational but also very abstract idea of “life is short, so live it to the fullest”? And what it can mean sometimes is spending a lot of money to have certain experiences, because we do live in that kind of culture; it can mean expending a lot of time on certain things over others; these decisions we make may affect relationships, family in various ways. And as kinda boring, practical, very unromantic and like “Janice, stop being a killjoy” as that all sounds, it’s also reality.
Privilege and structural barriers to "living life to the fullest"
And so, sometimes these realities can be about the fact that some people may have more barriers to actually executing all their dreams and desires than others have.
And that could be things like lacking financial privilege, as an obvious one. But there’s also situations where like if you’re a new parent, let’s say, you might just be in a period of time where what you want and desire and would love to prioritize for yourself to have life feel more fulfilling for you is probably oftentimes not going to come first. Your new, very dependent baby is going to come first, right? And I say that as non-parent, but I’ve seen it over and over again, because pretty much every woman I know has now had two, three kids, and I’ve seen and heard about how much sacrifice goes into it.
Or maybe you’re in a period of time where you’re not doing great mental health wise, and don’t have, or feel that you have, the capacity to go out and live your so-called best life and be thriving everyday. I was reminded of this recently by someone who I was chatting with about the whole “life is short” thing, just contemplating what that meant, and they were like, well, my take is easy, because I’m depressed and there’s really not much that brings me joy. And I’ve seen others in similar situations, when they’re in their grief, or going through what probably feels like a mental health crisis for them.
And all of that, whether it’s those financial struggles, being a new parent, or being in the depths of your mental health challenges – and there’s probably other examples we can add here – was a good reminder that sometimes we might feel like we are just in survival mode. And in that mode, it is very difficult to be thriving and to be dreaming big when we are just trying to endure and get through one day or even one moment at a time because of great challenges happening in our life.
And for someone to come in and say, “Life is short, so why don’t you get out there and do X?" or "Don’t waste your time feeling Y,” can feel incredibly daunting or even impossible in those moments.
Now, I’m not saying that we can’t or won’t ever come out of those periods of time and shouldn’t take any steps toward that. Of course not. Those brighter, more more soul-fulfilling days are absolutely possible. And I’ve been on both sides, so I have every belief in every person that just because we feel stuck on the darker side sometimes, it doesn’t mean we are destined to stay there.
But I think it’s important to remember that we’re not all the same, our lives are not all the same. Even for one individual, their life is not always the same from year to year or sometimes even month to month. And so a cookie-cutter approach to life, in the form of an inspirational quote, can’t be applied across the board, in my opinion.
And there’s also another angle to this whole “life is short” approach that I was reflecting on, which is that sometimes there might be a need to balance this desire to, yes, live life to the fullest with this sometimes conflicting feeling of, but if I make the decision that would allow for the execution of that, it might not be so great for me in other ways that are also really important and just as authentic to me too.
So, here is an example, and this was basically what I experienced with this whole traveling to Italy situation. So although I am not in survival mode financially now, the kind of sticky feeling I got after booking Italy brought me back to the time when I was – which was when I was a teenager and I think I experienced it most acutely when I was like 19 to maybe mid-20s, because those were the first years when I was out on my own, supporting myself entirely, but really struggling with finances. And I feel like during that time, I used to live my life like it was short, but more so out of a trauma/survival response.
Because aside from other challenges like mental health stuff, the drinking I’ve talked about on the pod, the financial struggles I experienced – living paycheck to paycheck, working minimum-wage jobs, sometimes barely making my rent – meant that it was very hard to see a bright future for myself, and one that I feel motivated to invest in.
And I think that was often deeply unconscious – it’s not necessarily that I was explicitly saying to myself, I have no future, so fuck it, I’m just going to live in the now and spend my money on things I don’t really need, but that are going to make me at least feel better in the short-term. But I think it was more of this deeply ingrained sense almost in my body, in my psyche, that there was kind of no point in thinking that far ahead, because it all felt really hopeless.
So, I did make a lot of impulsive decisions back then, sometimes spending money on things that I didn't really need but that essentially were ways to help me escape life temporarily, in some way. But sometimes it was things like traveling, that as I said do really authentically feed my soul.
But I remember racking up a few thousand dollars on my credit card to go on my first big trip abroad, many years back. And I did not have that money to spend at the time. But I definitely was fueled by that idea of life is short, and this kind of opportunity doesn’t come around often. I wanted to go with my partner at the time and not lose out on sharing that experience with him. And the travel experience was great, but the financial impact of that was not good. I had to borrow money to pay off my credit card debt, which felt really shameful to have to ask people I was close to for that.
And I really learned my lesson about credit card spending since then, but I think that even when I started making more money, and was building my career, I still had that mentality of: I'm making this much this month, what am I spending it on? Not really thinking about savings, RRSPs or all the things that made my eyes glaze over.
And so, part of this trauma healing work that I've been doing over the past three plus years, that I’ve been sharing about on the pod, especially this season, is about being a better parent to myself – emotionally, yes, but also financially. Because I’m caring for myself and for my future me. I’m caring that she doesn’t have to struggle and be in survival mode when it’s going to be harder to hustle all the time. I don’t want her to feel the way I did back then, because it fucking sucked.
And I remember when I did finally have a decent amount of money in my savings account, it felt really good. Did it feel like fireworks were going off in my soul? No. But it was deeply satisfying. And so, as unsexy as saving up for a tiny home and retirement funds can still sound and feel like to me, through this context of trauma healing, it's actually been a form of self-care and self-love. It makes me feel at peace in a certain kind of way.
And again, I say that within the context of now having the kind of financial privilege where I do have much greater options to choose from in terms of how I divert my money. Because saving up for those things doesn’t detract as much as it would have back in the day from me being able to still have extra dollars to spend on the things that I desire in my more immediate life and are more fun and more about short-term gratification.
But all of that to say, this is what I came to reflect on in terms of these conflicting feelings of being so super excited to book Italy, that feeling of being so in alignment with my authentic self, juxtaposed with this sinking, sticky feeling of, what did I just do? And was that actually the right thing for my Self, with a capital S, and other important desires in life that may not feel as exciting right now, but that will bring fulfillment in other ways?
All of that to say, I did get excited again for my trip. I also ended up getting a shit ton of work in after I booked Italy, made some good coin, and I’m super grateful for that. But regardless of how it’s all panned out, it has been an important lesson for me to keep in mind as I make similar decisions in the future. But trust me, I’m so excited for my trip. I can’t wait.
Conflicting feelings in a new relationship
Okay, I want to give one more quick example regarding there being those conflicting feelings sometimes even when you feel like you’re following your authentic path to living life fully.
And by the way, in Season 1, Episode 2, "Getting Honest With Ourselves," I talked about how we can learn to distinguish between our voice of intuition and our voice of fear, which I think oftentimes comes into play with these types of decisions. So you can go check that out. But here, I think I’m talking about something a bit different.
And it was funny, because around the time after I booked Italy, and was chatting with a friend about how life is short, and so I’m glad I booked it, that same evening, I tuned into Thais Sky's podcast, the Reclaim Podcast, I’ve mentioned it here before as a great podcast to follow, and lo and behold, she had a new episode called “Life is Short, So Forgive Often Right? Wrong.” That is the title.
So, it was also beyond just about doing things like traveling and checking off the bucket list items, but also about how we think we should be in relationship with others (whether it’s forgiving people, etc.) because of this idea that “life is short.” And it’s a great episode, I’ll link to it in the show notes.
And so after listening in, aside from these recent thoughts I had about living life to the fullest by traveling and exploring the world, Thais’ episode also made me think about loving to the fullest, feeling to the fullest.
So, let me give you this example related to relationships or dating that I alluded to. I’m going to be brief about this one. So the other recent thing that happened or has been happening is that I’ve been dating someone – not exclusively; it’s not like a “serious, committed relationship” in the way I think most people interpret that term.
It’s actually pretty new, but I definitely have been feeling an emotional attachment to this person, which is actually pretty rare for me. And so, part of it has been really exciting, like I said earlier, it lights me up, he’s a really great person, I feel good about seeing him.
And my authentic self, when I am in this kind of situation, is typically to be incredibly expressive and really show my emotions. I am a big feeler, I’m very passionate and vocal, and expressive. I love to be in connection with people that I’m taken by. And there’s sometimes that “life is short” element there too – to not hold back with anything, tell the person how you feel because what if you don’t get that chance tomorrow?
And also, I have experienced, not a decision hangover, like the way I did with booking Italy, but similarly I’ve had sometimes almost like this conflicting feeling to the one of excitement and aliveness and that sense of “this feels really good and in alignment with what I want.” And this conflicting feeling is one that makes me want to hold back on expressing myself or even giving too much of myself.
So, long story short, the reflection I had on this, which was partly done in therapy, was that as un-romantic as this is gonna sound, I have come to recognize that sometimes part of my tendency to not hold back, to be incredibly expressive in romantic relationships, is sometimes more so coming from a deeply ingrained, unconscious trauma response.
Which I know, sounds really sad. Because a lot of it is absolutely truly genuine. And that is who I believe I am at my core, and it’s how I want to experience life. But how is this related to trauma?
Well, because I have experienced abandonment and anxious attachment-related traumas in my life, when I start to develop an emotional attachment with a romantic partner, those can get triggered – actually, they do get triggered, like fucking clockwork. And sometimes it’s really obvious and may feel more like anxiety and intrusive, spiralling thoughts, and other times it might look like me expressing my feelings a lot, and reaching out a lot, and sharing every single thought in my brain and feeling in my heart with a person.
And even though this can feel very intense, and passionate, and the fireworks going off, I think there’s multiple ways that trauma can underlie this. One, it could be that because of traumatic experiences, I didn’t learn how to have boundaries with people with whom I was intimate, and so there would be this enmeshment that would happen, where I subconsciously felt like I needed to share all of me, all of my Self – Self, with a capital S – with this person in order to show them how much I loved or cared about them.
And also, two, there might be moments where I do feel that maybe something I want to express is a little too much, maybe because it’s really early on in the relationship, I’m maybe not really ready to be that vulnerable yet, etc. There might be those twinges of doubt.
But this very deep trauma-related fear of mine can kick in that says: But if you don’t tell them how much they mean to you, or how you feel about them, then what if they lose interest? What if they don’t think you’re really into them or care about them? What if they just need to hear it from you first in order for them to get into a vulnerable space with you? And so on. And so when that happens, I might express myself in an attempt to keep that connection and vulnerability alive and growing and whatnot, but more from a place of fearing that I’m going to lose out on connection, lose out on the attachment or the relationship completely.
And all of this operates on such an unconscious level. I only can talk about this with this level of awareness because I have done so many hours and months and months of this deep inner work. And I say that not to big myself up, but to emphasize how easily this can come up and express itself, even now after so much self-work, because it is such a deeply unconscious, ingrained, long-standing trauma-response that I’ve had.
And so, the parts of this situation that come from the trauma responses, and not so much from my authentic desire to express, feel, connect – that’s the part I want to watch out for. Because over time, continuing to play out that pattern can oftentimes not work out well for me.
So, basically, what I’ve learned from all of this is, again, the value of sometimes going a bit slower. And that sometimes being what feels cautious isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m not living life fully. I acknowledge that I have experienced a lot of relational trauma in my life, and there is good reason why I might want to be a bit protective with my heart and not jump straight into the deep end with anyone.
And I had a conversation with my therapist recently, where I was talking about this, and I said that maybe not only am I not really ready for a serious exclusive partner right now, but I don’t think I even have the capacity to be in that experience and attempt that. And it doesn’t mean that I’m not capable of that ever or at my core, because I know I am, it doesn’t mean it will never happen. But that, right now, I just can’t do it.
And my therapist said something that really hit home for me, which was that maybe those abandonment and anxiously attached parts of me needed to hear that. That maybe that was really validating to them, to just have it acknowledged that they’ve been through some hurt, and they’re feeling scared. And that was really perspective-shifting for me, and has really helped me to have so much more compassion for myself as I navigate this.
And so, maybe we can start to shift from this idea of “life is short, so don’t hold back, act on your heart’s desires,” to “life is short, so live authentically in the moment.” And maybe what’s authentic for us sometimes is to not hold back. But maybe other times it’s to honour where we’re at in our readiness to be vulnerable, in our readiness to take steps forward in our healing or growth process or relationships; to honour that maybe we need to go slower than the speed at which a big part of our desires want to go, because there’s a lot of tenderness there.
And because even though it might feel in the moment like we’re denying part of ourselves, it might be that overall it’s what is needed for our self-care, self-love, and for sustaining this really positive situation or relationship or whatever it is that we want to continue.
When our deeply ingrained beliefs hold us back
Okay, so lastly, in contemplating why we might be stuck when we perhaps want to be living life in a more full and authentic way – whatever that means to us – I also, of course, thought about how there can often be very deeply ingrained, subconscious beliefs about what is possible for us, what we should or should not be doing, and so on. This has of course come up for me time and time again in my life, whether related to career stuff, or my creative projects. And I’ve been witnessing this in others too.
And, in general, I think some common beliefs that many people internalize, often from a young age, are that we shouldn’t take up so much space in the room or in the world, which is especially something that women are often told, explicitly and implicitly; or the belief that serving other people and doing for others is what makes you a good and valuable person, even though it might be to the detriment of your own needs and self-care; or the belief that whatever you do or put out there isn’t going to be good enough or well-received; and so on.
And underlying these things can often be this very unconscious sense or belief that if you do x, then you might lose out on love. If you do y, people might not like you or respect you. If you do z, you might really hurt someone you care about, etc. etc. Even though x, y, and z might be things that you really want to do for yourself and that feel super authentic to you. Even if not doing those things are keeping you stuck in a really miserable or just unfulfilling situation.
And so sometimes, perhaps often, these things can come from deeply-rooted trauma responses or we can just call them old patterns we’ve gotten stuck in vs. them being reflective of the truth of how things “should” be or the truth of how they will be.
And also, to make things more complex, it might be that we’re actually correct, in that, for example, people might treat us differently if we don’t follow the path they expect or want us to, but we just might not realize that there’s perhaps an unhealthy dynamic there if it’s in a relationship, let’s say; or we may be so stuck in the status quo and only really know one way of operating in this world, that instead of challenging that paradigm, we see it as the correct path to follow and that we and our desires are the deviant and incorrect ones. Even when our intuition always knows at that deep level that something is off about the path we’re on.
So, for me, I’m all about patterns – identifying them, examining them, working through them. You know, why is it that I continuously run into a specific relationship issue across multiple people? Why do I always come back to this stuck feeling in my worklife? Why am I always getting into this same type of conflict with my friends or family? And if I determine that something is blocking me from accessing and acting from my authentic self, then I’m very much about getting to the root causes of those patterns and working through that deepest underlying part of what is holding me back.
And that’s because even though that exploration can, yes, take work, my experience has been that investing in doing that work will pay off in making the rest of life easier for me – because addressing and working through the blocks at their root is what then enables me, more often than not, to be able to naturally and intuitively live life in a way that is authentic to me; versus, if you haven’t addressed the subconscious blocks, the triggers, the trauma responses, they will continue to come up, as they always do. And then when they come up, if you’re aware enough, you’ll have to, often using willpower, make a conscious decision to try and steer your life toward how you desire to live it.
And even though in, that moment, the outcome might look the same, in terms of what you end up doing, there is a very different mechanism or approach to getting to that outcome. There is a very different feeling behind it.
And that second approach, of constantly having to use your conscious mind and willpower, can be very tiring, frustrating, inconsistent and unsustainable. Not saying that the whole “fake it ‘til you make it” approach isn’t sometimes helpful, maybe even necessary. Not saying you can’t use willpower to make great change.
But at some point, if you feel like you’re constantly coming up against the same shit over and over again, it’s probably one of those patterns, and maybe taking the time to reflect on that, work through that, heal the things that might need healing, will be the thing that gets us unstuck and more easily pursuing the things in life that make us truly fulfilled and living it like it is short.
So to start wrapping this up, for me, what all of this really boiled down to was how much nuance there can be in people’s situations. And I think one of the most empowering things for me my own “self-development” journey has been getting further away from one-sided or binary ways of thinking, and instead: a) learning how to hold and be with the complexity and nuance that colours our lives, and b) getting really good at knowing what my intuition is telling me at any given moment, so that I know how to navigate that complexity in a way that is right and authentic for me, whether that means becoming more still to listen inward and reflect and understand what’s going on; or just letting myself be in what might feel like messiness or inaction, and to have self-compassion for where I’m at in that moment; or getting into action mode and charging forward.
And I am going to talk so much more about how I’ve gotten way better at being in tune with my intuition in a couple of episodes, where I will talk about healing from trauma through the body, and reconnecting with the wisdom of our body to tap into those internal messages. So stay tuned for that.
Last thing I’ll say is that, as I mentioned earlier, I also have this sense of life being really long. And while that can, on one hand, further encourage me to live life really authentically (because I don’t want it to otherwise feel like time is just dragging itself along), on the other hand, knowing there’s also a possibility that my life will go on for a while longer means I can relax into it a little bit too. Ya know?
Because who can really live under such a heightened sense of urgency every single day, like literally as though we might perish tomorrow? That’s also not really a way to live either, if we don’t necessarily have reason to. I think as humans, we also want to feel a sense of stability and continuity and ease in our day to day, and sometimes that might mean doing the same old thing, sometimes it means simple and what can seem mundane at times.
And, on that note, ultimately, what I think is really important is not so much about – although of course this can play a role – what you do in terms of your life dreams and checking off the bucket list, and all that – because there are people who can do a lot of things and have a lot of tangible experiences that are very Instagram-worthy, but they can still feel very unfulfilled, right?
And so, what living out my days fully means, to me, in addition to that authenticity piece is really being as present as I can in every moment. And certain big life changes I’ve made, like living more in nature, for example, can facilitate that.
For example, sometimes living that out means just quiet moments sitting on the deck of my tiny cabin on the farm and watching a heron lift off from the pond and fly across the field. Or walking up to the hill and noticing the little yellow butterflies dancing around with each other over the grass. There are many days where maybe I’m just working to pay the bills, and my downtime looks like that. And it’s not particularly big or grand or exciting, but I get a smile on my face that is so pure, and I feel that sense of aliveness and joy that makes life feel worth living, because I am so present and connected in that moment with something that I love – i.e., nature.
And the same can be said about real moments of presence and connection with the people we love, that may not always be full of fireworks necessarily, but they are absolutely an expression of our authentic selves and how we want to be in life. So it’s maybe not always about doing, but if we’re also in tandem working on the being part, then the ways in which we act that out or express that way of being I think kind of naturally start shifting us into an even more authentic, fulfilling life.
So, I hope that was some interesting food for thought. Let me know what you think. What other factors come into play when you’re in the situation of contemplating, say, a life decision or your entire life in general, where maybe you feel like you’re not currently living in a way that brings you that aliveness, that joy, that spark, inspiration, or just general inner peace, what have you? You can email me at email@example.com or send me a DM on Instagram @janicehoimages. I’d love to hear about your perspective on this.
Alright y’all, thanks so much for listening and being here. You can also connect with me @natureimmersed on Instagram. I’m on Facebook at @janicehocreative. And if you have any questions, suggestions, or feedback, you can email me – again, it’s firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once again, if you’re liking the show, loving the show, please do leave a review or even just a 5-star rating on Apple Podcasts, I’ll link to all the things in the show notes. And until next time, take good care of yourselves, lots of love and self-love. Peace.