Broken Dreams Die Breathing New Ones
When a big change happens in our lives as the result of a crisis, trauma, or something that lifts us out of the ordinary, we’re sometimes left with a short window where things seem suddenly clearer. Most of the time, we let these feelings pass without harnessing them and before we know it, we’re careered back along into the minute details of a million little things that take up so much of our time.
A few months ago I had a dad. I had a grandpa too. A few months ago there were five people in my family. Five of us around the dinner table. Five of us watching a film together on TV. Five people speaking over each other, helping each other, laughing with each other, laughing at each other, complaining about each other, loving each other, arguing with each other.
Now two of us are gone. One lost to a sudden and unexpected illness, one to a devastating and traumatic two-year battle with severe depression, both within just weeks of each other.
Sometimes I feel like an impenetrable door suddenly fell between all of us one day. Our old life on one side of the door, and a new life on the other. I can feel the glowing warmth, security, certainty and optimism through that closed door… where it will always stay, but I know I can’t open it. Our world peeled away around us and everything we knew changed. If it wasn’t for the support of family and friends holding us together, I can’t imagine how we’d have come to terms with everything that happened.
It’s all the small things I thought were insignificant or took for granted that left the largest hole.
The dreams I had about my how our future as a family would be, what my future would be, were broken in the last breaths they both took, but the last breath of those dreams have given me new ones. They spurred me on to search for what was really important in my life. The things I’d been missing. I feel like I’ve been galvanised to make the changes I need and to find the courage to change what I’ve been working towards.
Learning from the past
I can pinpoint certain events in my life when I’ve been faced with a crisis, be that external or internal when something out of my control hurt me or changed me in ways I’d never imagined.
After those crises or traumas, there is always the same feeling of absolute clarity. I am feeling rather than thinking, my world and priorities are pulled into focus and I am compelled to realign my universe to reflect the truths that have been revealed to me.
I knew that I needed to frame the loss of my father and grandfather in a way that helped me to keep seeing the beauty in life. Whatever happened to me in my life, was mine. It was part of my story and nothing could change that. I couldn’t fight against it because I couldn’t bring back what I had lost, but I could stop it from defining me.
I wish I could be the person I was before. I wish I could feel that same security, that warmth… I wish I could open that door again, but I can’t. But, I can choose to try to be braver, wiser and stronger.
You come to know yourself deeply and in a way that’s only possible after a trauma. When you feel like your insides have been opened and your ribs cracked apart, you feel vulnerable to the world and all the ways it can hurt you. For someone like me, who’s always steadfastly believed in my strength against any threat or adversary, it’s a very scary and unwelcome feeling.
The more vulnerable I feel, the more I can feel myself changing from within. I know I have to try to make this change positive and not give in to the fear, the hypervigilance or the anger and sadness that so often stirs in my chest.
Alexander Dumas wrote that “he who has felt the deepest grief, is best able to experience supreme happiness” and I agree. My happiness can only be measured in relation to my experience of its opposite, sadness.
I believe that it is in feeling grateful for the privilege of your happiness that brings forward true joy. The complete understanding that in that happy moment you are blessed by chance, by an external entity, by nature, by the universe; to be allowed to revel in the events unfolding around you and feel them fill your heart.
Does it bring you joy?
We spend so much of our lives building other people’s dreams, and so much of our lives on things that don’t bring us joy. “If it doesn’t bring you joy, it’s not right for you.” My friend, Kazmira said this to me after I told her how hard I was finding it hard to cope.
This stayed with me. I’d lost two important beings in my life, and so many of the things they added to it, daily. I needed to add that love back into my life in the best way I could. To get back to anything that fed my soul… to connect with nature, to turn off the noise, to fade out the unnecessary and to bring back joy, or to at least to look for it.
On a trip to some remote islands in Scotland, my first proper break since my Dad passed away, I finally felt like I was letting myself breathe for the first time. Things that were important and life-changing rose to the surface, and the minor details just fell away. I let myself cry. I let myself feel what I’d been pushing down in my quest to be ok. To be functional. When I left my head was full, buzzing, irrational. It was a mess of responsibility, loyalty, ambition, despair. When I came back I understood what I needed to do.
I knew I was losing strength on the path I was taking… trying to ignore the huge changes that had happened and pretending as though I could keep going in the same direction, even though it felt like everything was crumbling around me.
So, I quit London, went freelance (thanks to my incredibly supportive boss and colleagues) moved back to Cornwall into a barn with my (now) husband, started some crazy projects and built this blog.
I hope in some way this blog can inspire you to find something that brings you joy.