When Living Becomes a A Life Sentence

I was never good at the 9-5.

Organised, pleasant, social and always adhering to authority and rules, I fit in.

But I often felt trapped. I viewed each day as another one to “get through”. I crossed off days on my calendar like some people would cross off an item on a to do list.

Thank God only four days till the weekend, only three weeks till my holiday, only fourteen days till my notice is up and I can begin again.

I always had new hope that a fresh job would bring a fresh perspective.

I valued security, material possessions and status above freedom and happiness – though I didn’t realise it.

At 18 I set myself up with an expensive car loan, one that stopped me from giving my full attention to the degree I was studying for. I had to work 12 hour shifts, four days a week kept that car loan ticking and I was also given my first credit card, an extra $1,000 to spend on clothes, going out and little else.

It set into motion a pattern that would follow me through my twenties. Working but always living beyond my means. Chasing my tail to keep up with how I wanted to live.

These wants were being driven by comparison and I was chasing status.

I did a whole degree when I was overseas because the job I was working at I deemed “beneath me”. I did the degree so that I could say I was studying. I was also comfort eating, unhappy in my body and confused about who I was and what I “should” be showing the world. The degree, in politics and history, was a crazy waste of money and time for someone whose passions lay very far from these dry textbooks.

My degree in English (creative writing) lay discarded – with very little belief in myself and the quality of what I could produce I was never going to get anywhere with it.

Although initially living in London so I could see the world, I very quickly found myself tied up in debt, living beyond my means in a place we struggled to afford. The world quickly became my immediate surroundings and I saw less of Europe than I thought I would.

Listening far too much to those around me and not adhering to my inner voice I kept living like this, racking up credit card debt as even with the “lowly” but well paying job it was never enough.

Every thought I had about security was from a place of fear. A place of “don’t haves” and “not enough.” There was little gratitude and even less appreciation for what we could afford. Once “secure” I’d feel that familiar sense of panic and entrapment.

I wasn’t owning my choices. These I thought, were being decided for me.

These things were being done to me. I was the victim in this life, trapped.

Sounds terrible doesn’t it? What was I thinking?

So lets recap – I drove a hot car, went and lived overseas, studied whilst I worked, got to travel, bought whatever I wanted and was in love.

It wasn’t what was happening to me that was making me unhappy – it was the way I was thinking.

The place of lack that I was coming from was holding me back from truly appreciating the amazing situations that I was in and it was fear that was holding me back from quitting that job, getting rid of the expensive rental and kept me purchasing things to make me feel worthy.  

Did I mention that all this purchasing came with a dose of extreme guilt? Sometimes I was paralyzed by it. Nothing I bought gave me retail happiness…i surpassed that feeling going straight to guilt. An extreme mix of desire, confusion and regret.

So what changed?

I was married, had a baby and was at home looking after him (away from the entrapment of a job) and I still felt panicked by the lack of what we had. I was able to complain quite happily amongst the ranks of other Mums about lack of “me” time, lack of “sleep” and lack of “freedom”.

My wake up call was when I lost my baby a stillbirth at 32 weeks.

I held my little boy and husband tighter and discovered an appreciation for what we did have. I couldn’t go back in time and appreciate being pregnant with Sophia and I realised that there are so many more important things in life than fitting in, keeping up with the Jones’s and following a traditional, mainstream path.

I realised that I had spent the money whether I felt guilty or not and that I needed to start owning my choices. Taking one step at a time to start living the life I wanted to live.

So how can this help you?

1. Gratitude. I don’t keep a gratitude diary but I regularly get to write blogs like this which give me clarity. Review your life for the high points, the things that are working well then start being grateful for the little things, things that you wouldn’t normally think about. For example, I am thankful we have bills because someone trusts us enough to pay them.

2. Decide what you want in life. If you feel trapped into private school fees, dance lesson ferrying and the job you are working then it might be time to plan a different path. Are you going along with these things because everyone else is or because you truly believe this is the right thing for you and your family. If taking your princess to dance lessons and watching her smile lights you up then know that your sacrifice of time, money and effort is truly worth it.  Ask yourself the big questions – is this house/school fees/holiday worth working five days a week at a job I don’t like? Would I be happier with a different life and how do I get there? These are scary thoughts but if it also fills you with excitement and a sense of freedom then it is worth thinking about.

3. Love not Fear. Are you turning up to everything you are invited to  because you don’t want to disappoint? Would you rather have some downtime on the weekend? Say no with love for yourself. Or say yes because you truly would love to go.  Are you saying yes to swimming lessons for your two year old (and paying the hefty fees) because everyone else is and you fear that your kid won’t be able to “keep up”.  Would you instead love to be home building blocks with him? Would he love you to do that but instead you are forcing him in the pool? These questions may be small but they will indicate why your life is the way it is right now.

4. Happiness List. Write one down. What’s on it and are you living it? Love the movies but haven’t been in six months? Are you happiest when you are pottering in the garden yet you haven’t had a free weekend to do that this year? Is happiness to you a divine piece of cake but yet you have quit sugar?

5. Who Am I? Who is your fantasy you and what do you see them doing? 

My fantasy me writes books for a living and teaches yoga and meditation. I run, do yoga and spend time by the beach. I hang with my boys in nature and do adventurous things. I am a great mother – calm, patient, kind and fun. I travel, I laugh and I love a lot. My husband and I still hold hands when we are 70. I dance, listen to music and read books. I eat healthy and feel fulfilled and content. I open my home to friends and family and enjoy the moments. I am present, in this life, here and now as much as possible.

Everyday I feel like I am this person. Everyday I get up and I get to be her. I am her and I am becoming her. 

Do you know who you are and are you on the right path to become who you want to be? 

Would love to know your thoughts x

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