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 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 new series on TV. Five people speaking over each other, helping each other, laughing with each other, loving each other, arguing with each other.
Now they’re 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. One 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 door…where it always was, but I know I can’t open it. Our world peeled away around us and everything we knew had 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 it.
It’s just those small things you thought were insignificant, or took for granted, that leave the largest hole.
The dreams I had about my how 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. The things I’d been missing. I feel like this latest crisis in my life has galvanised me to make the changes I need, to find courage to change the things I had been prioritising.
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 your control hurts you in ways you never imagined.
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. What 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 but I can’t. But I can choose to be braver, wiser and stronger. You come to know yourself deeply and in a way that is only possible when your insides have been opened and your ribs cracked apart. The more open you are, the more you are vulnerable to change from within. I know I have to try to make this change positive.
Alexander Dumas wrote that “he who has felt the deepest grief, is best able to experience supreme happiness” and I agree. From the viewpoint that happiness can only be measured in relation to your experience of its opposite, sadness. One is not as meaningful without having experienced the other. I experienced some of my happiest moments (the kind that brings tears to your eyes, goosebumps up your arms and your heart into your throat) the most often when I was recovering from a difficult change in my life.
It’s the gratefulness of the privilege of your happiness that brings forward the joy. The complete understanding that in that 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 beings in my life, and all of the things that went with them. 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 at least to look for it.
On a trip to some remote islands in Scotland, my first since the loss, 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 pretend 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 boyfriend, started some crazy projects and built this blog.
Not only crisis can bring forth change
There are so many different ways that you can open yourself to change, but it always involves breaking a routine. A great example is travel. Even just a short holiday! The amount that travelling can change you is often equally dependent on the unfamiliarity of your new surroundings, the difficulty of the challenge, the time away from home and who you’re with (if anyone), but that doesn’t mean taking a week out of work can’t help you see things clearly.
Travelling for 6 months on my own around South America was an incredibly transformative experience for me, but then that one week trip to Scotland with my boyfriend equally inspired me to make big, positive changes in my life. It all helps us keep perspective on the big things and the small things. Breaking your routine allows you to hear your heart through the noise and focus. Anything that can help you do that, from a walk on the beach to a year travelling the world, should always be welcomed.
I hope in some way this blog can inspire everyone to do something positive, acknowledge truths and to find something that brings you joy.