Eight years ago a very wise teacher called Barefoot Doctor shared with Eoin Scolard and I one of his favourite tools for creating a full, beautiful, exciting life. He said that when he had to make a decision about doing something he simply asked himself the question
“If I knew that this was the last year of my life, would I do it?”
Those words really resonated with both of us even though we had only met for the first time a couple of days previously.
Two months later we found ourselves driving around British Columbia for 3 weeks in a 24 ft motor-home with my 14 year old daughter and Eoin’s 16 year old daughter! All because of this philosophy for life. And now, 8 years later, we have just sold our home in Northern Ireland and will be leaving here in August to start our new life in France. Again, largely because of this philosophy.
One of the great gifts and learnings which I received from having been with my mum, dad and first daughter while they died was a very real KNOWING that life is here to be lived and that we must not delay following our soul’s whispers until all the circumstances in our life are perfect. Because you will NEVER have all your ducks lined up. The timing will NEVER be perfect. There will always be reasons to put off those big decisions because, let’s face it, they are difficult and they bring up all our fears and insecurities. That's where all the growth is....outside of our comfort zones.
Now I refuse to lead a life half-lived and to be on my deathbed regretting things I didn’t do because they involved discomfort.
So, today as I wander round the beautiful garden which we have co-created here at our home in Co Down picking the first roses of the summer, my heart is breaking. I am full of grief because I love these plants…..most of them were grown from seed/cutting/propagation by me over the last 4 ½ years. The design of this garden and all the work we have put into it has been a total labour of love. For me leaving the plants here in August will be a little like seeing my daughter Georgia leave home for the first time. I know that I have to let them go so all I can do is trust that they will be well cared for and will continue to thrive.
Each day this week since we agreed the sale of the house, there have been a hundred mini-deaths as I realise what we are leaving behind. It is sad. I am grieving now the way I grieved for my Dad over the years before he died because his dementia was taking him away from me bit by bit.
Because of the intensely painful life experiences which I have had, I now KNOW that feeling sad or experiencing grief isn’t a bad thing and it is certainly not going to kill me. It is NOT something that I need to take a pill for or something I need to numb out. Au contraire (time to start practising my French!). The more I allow myself to feel the sadness, the more I also open myself up to the emotions at the top end of the emotional scale . So this week has also been full of huge gratitude, appreciation, joy, excitement, enthusiasm and love.
It took me a long time to understand that the more painful, sticky emotions are not something that we have to avoid at all costs or numb ourselves out from. They are just part of being human and are as valid and important as all those feel-good emotions which we strive so hard to achieve in any way possible. Just as death is as normal a part of the human condition as birth is, so is sadness as normal as joy. And yet so many of us will do anything to avoid actually feeling the ache of sadness.
Bringing yourself back to questions like “If I knew that it was the last year of my life would I do ****?! (you fill in the gap), for me is the most powerful way to help me to create a life I love and to feel incredibly ALIVE in the doing of it.
Give it a go. What is it that you find yourself moaning and complaining about a lot at the moment? Ask yourself “If I knew this was the last year of my life would I be *******(staying in this relationship, staying in this job, staying in this country, lying around watching TV all day or whatever it is for you).
It’s magic as long as you are prepared to experience a little grief and fear as you let go of the old to make way for the new and exciting!