“ ‘Ask and you shall receive’ is the rule, but you must learn how to ask and how to receive.”
― Gary Zukav ―
It’s taken me a while to eventually sit down and write this post, because it’s taken me quite some time to gather my thoughts as I (still) reflect on 2014 and to formulate my expectations for 2015.
In many ways, for me, the New Year of 2014 only began on Monday 3 March 2014.
I had been feeling lethargic, severely fatigued, unfocused and depressed since the end of November 2013. Thinking that it was simply a relentless bout of the winter flu, I eventually took 2 days off work to rest and recover. Starting the Wednesday evening, I slept straight through until the Sunday (2 March 2014).
On Sunday, I was a bit more energised and decided to meet a friend to catch a film. However, I soon felt worse for wear and thinking that a migraine attack was looming, I went home immediately after the film ended. By the time I got home I had lost all movement on the left side of my face. I couldn’t speak, had no sense of touch, smell or taste, and couldn’t hear or see anything on the left side of my face. I was rushed to the hospital as the paramedics were convinced I had a stroke.
After 19 dreadful hours in hospital the doctors finally confirmed that I had Ramsay Hunt Syndrome — a viral infection in the facial nerve (not Bell’s Palsy!). However, the loss of my sight, hearing, smell and taste led them to believe that the virus had spread to my brain and infected the Parietal lobe — the part of the brain that controls the five senses.
The doctors predicted a 6-18 month recovery period but had little hope for me to fully regain facial function. I was sent home with no action-or treatment plan other than a potent dosage of steroids and antiviral drugs.
I always joke and say: Vanity is my favourite sin.
This is true. What is also true, is the fact that vanity often cloaks deep-rooted self-loathing.
When I returned home that Monday evening (3 March 2014) and I saw myself in the mirror — facing the reality of possibly having to live without the use of one eye and not being able to speak, hear or smell properly — I wept.
I wept, not because I felt sorry for myself, but because what I saw in the mirror, for me, was a manifestation of years of self-abuse. All the nasty things I said to myself on a daily basis, echoed in my head: I am unattractive, fat, have too thin lips and a slightly long neck. I am not muscular enough, have a door-knob nose and receding hairline… And I went deeper than: I’m a failure. I’m unlovable. I have no talent. I’m not good enough and have nothing to offer. I am stupid… blah, blah, blah. Day-in and day-out.
Once I stopped crying, I said to myself: I’m sorry. I REALLY am sorry for treating you like this and for not loving you and for not giving you what you deserve — the Grace to be human. That will never happen again. Never. And now I will fix this.
The next day, I started a regime of facial exercises for 15 minutes in the morning and evening, a diet of brain food (containing particular high quantities of fresh and organic beetroot, salmon, carrots, broccoli and quail eggs), supplementing with digestive enzymes and super dosages of iron and vitamin C, acupuncture, meditation, relaxation and journaling. It took a lot of patience, humility, persistence and love but 6 weeks later, I had regained the full function of my face: I could smile again without looking like Beetlejuice. My left eye closed on its own, without involuntarily popping open seconds later — enter The Bride Chucky. I tasted my food again and was able to chew without shredding the inside of my left cheek — very important for someone who loves his food. Spring was in the air and I was absolutely elated to be able smell Mother Nature everywhere as she turned her colours out.
Of course, it doesn’t take a mere 6 weeks to undo the damage of a lifetime of self-harm. But in those 6 weeks a foundation was laid. One that I still frequently use to assess and improve the relationship I have with myself and my body, as well as my relationship with others and my environment.
During the rest of 2014, I continued cleaning up my act, all in preparation for my 40th birthday. I let go of negative, draining, one-sided and destructive relationships as well as dubious business partnerships that didn’t respect or value my skills, experience and creativity.
I also successfully quit smoking (the easiest ‘difficult thing’ I have ever done) and stayed on track (with a newfound fondness) with my diet, fitness and meditation regime. In part, I believe the positive steps I took contributed to other amazing blessings manifesting in more areas of my life — flourishing creativity, unexpected gifts and financial reward, traveling to some of my bucket-list destinations, old friends reconnecting with me and receiving undeserved loyalty, encouragement and support.
My mantra for 2014 became this: When I turn 40, I am going to pass through a threshold. What stays on the other side, behind me, will be done with. The door will be closed and I will begin afresh.
That was my focus, my preparation and my mission. By all intents and purposes, I was going up the proverbial hill at a steady and strong pace. I was motivated, positive and most of all, ready to embrace the future.
Two days before my 40th birthday one of my best friends of 17 years, committed suicide. When I heard the news, it felt like someone had hit me with full force in the face with the flat-side of a shovel. I have never felt such an instant, terrifying amount of pain ripping through my entire being. My body went into lockdown. It was physical. It was emotional. It was spiritual.
My stomach still turns when I think about my friend. My heart still breaks. Sometimes it terrifies me, because I know that there once was a time when my own thoughts easily could’ve driven me to the same fate. It saddens me deeply that my friend lost the struggle against himself. I wish on nobody to ever stand alone in such a despairing place.
In his book, Seat of the Soul, Gary Zukav says that sometimes it takes an intervention — a massive trauma or deeply moving experience — to reconnect a person with his or her core. 2014 has left me in awe — humbled and inspired. I consider it one of the most profound physical and spiritual interventions of my life. I’ve learned a lot and would like to share some of my lessons with you:
1. We do not attract what we want. We attract who we are.
2. It’s okay to put yourself first. There is a difference between being selfish (acting with self-love) and being self-centred (acting with little or no regard for the feelings and well-being of others).
3. The human body is a powerful and magnificent instrument. It can teach you a lot about yourself. Respect it. Learn to listen it.
4. Your thoughts (and inner dialogue) can be your greatest asset as much as it can be your worst enemy. Everything begins with YOU.
5. Do business with people who either match your skills, experience and expertise or those who compliment what you bring to the table. Don’t lower yourself.
6. True friends don’t tease with empty promises of “doing lunch sometime” and they don’t need cheap flattery to win your favour. Instead, their actions (more than their words) almost always confirms their love, loyalty and support. There is a big difference between people who only know you when they need or want something from you, and those who want to know and be with you simply because you are you.
7. Life is not fair. Life is not always kind. However, Life is always what you make of it.
8. Love. But love the things that nourish you and the people who love you back. You are worth it.
9. Find some silence for a few minutes every day, in a place where you can hear only your thoughts.
10. Once you have found your silence, pray. What else is prayer but a conversation with yourself that connects you with the part of you that yearns, and hopes, and delights, and hungers? When you pray, talk about what you have done and what you have failed to do; who you are and who you aspire to be. Talk about the people you love and the ones you dislike. Talk about the things that matter to you… Who knows, if you are lucky, God might listen… and who knows, perhaps He (or She) will lend you a hand.
However, even if you don’t believe that anyone is listening when you pray, at least you are listening. Everything begins with YOU. Pray.
As for 2015, I can’t express my wishes any better than what my sister has already done in an email that she sent on New Year’s Eve:
“Dearest family & friends,
As the year draws to a close I started to think about all the things I didn’t do this year, and immediately started to make resolutions for the New Year in an attempt to make amends for the unresolved issues of 2014.
But then I had a new thought, a thought that started with my message to our family on Christmas Day. It is based on an old Jewish proverb that says we will have to give account on Judgement Day of every good thing that we refused to enjoy when we might have done so. What an interesting and sobering thought… and I will probably have to give account for quite a few of those in 2014.
Therefore my thinking is this: God created each of us in a unique way with a unique purpose and I firmly believe He wants us to enjoy ourselves, our families and our journey through life not in a mediocre way; but to live life to the full with true joy in his creation & blessings!
When I then think about the things I haven’t done, I am inclined to be less critical of myself & others and to celebrate the past year; thankful for all the blessings we’ve received, all the wonderful moments of laughter with my kids and husband and the amazing grace I have experienced in 2014.
Therefore, I want to embrace 2015 with both arms and the only resolutions I have is to make the most of every opportunity given to me, to enjoy this great life I have with the people I love and to help bring joy to those around me.
For all you wonderful people, I pray that 2015 will be a year filled with true joy, love that is unconditional, grace for yourself & others and lots of laughter!
May you all be blessed with good health & success in whatever it is you decide to take on this year!
Here is to 2015 & a joyful new chapter!”
Happy New Year.
Images: FR Lubbe For Little Red Shoes
Text: FR Lubbe, Little Red Shoes
Letter: Carolien Andrews