Five years ago next week, I turned 30 and back then I seemed to be living THE life, well at least, that’s how it looked.
It’s not that I was making my life up to look good online; from the outside, it truly looked like I was living a good one. I had a well paid job abroad, an offer to extend my contract by two more years, a recent promotion, a family I loved back home, some good friends at home and some new ones in my new home too, and I spent most weekends sunbathing on fancy beaches and drinking cocktails in swanky hotels.
In theory, I should have been delighted.
But the truth was, most days I was terribly homesick, extremely lonely, in a constant cycle of having just enough money followed by not having any money at all, chronically anxious … and a few months before my birthday, I realised I found myself in a place that, both literally and figuratively, I neither had planned to be in nor had ever wanted to be in. And so, I began to ask myself, how did I get here? The simple answer being: without a plan and with very little self esteem.
The previous decade of my twenties read like a Lonely Planet’s Guide to Globetrotting, and whilst I’ll be forever grateful for the writing fodder I collected along the way, most of the time my travelling happened by chance or because I couldn’t think of anything better to do (and it left me in huge debt despite working everywhere I travelled). And so, by the time I hit the Big Three Zero, I was dizzy, frantic and in need of some direction.
I have, with the help of stacks of books, family and friends, professional guidance, and sheer determination, managed to navigate the course of my inner and outer life back into a positive direction. My anxiety hasn’t gone away but I am now better prepared to cope with it – mostly through daily writing. And my hope in sharing this is that someone who needs to read it, will stumble across it and perhaps realise that they could do with a plan too. There’ll be more blogs posts to come (particularly on planning for success) and also some new online courses are on their way. I endeavour to share every single book, quote, resource, action and anything else that has helped me along the way.
As I write this, I am overcome with emotion and immensely proud of 30-year-old me who fought so hard to not be beaten by her inner demons and who put her energy into writing and regularly reviewing a five year plan.
I will share the five year plan at some point (and the exciting new one I am currently writing!) but tonight, I share a personal piece of prose writing with you. It’s a piece that practically tumbled out of my pen around the time when I began to be honest with myself about the anxiety I was suffering with. A writing group I know asked for pieces with a two word prompt (The sea) and this was the result for me. It’s a piece that I’m proud of as it reminds me that writing therapy really does work for me; it is worth every second of my time and every single smidgen of my effort. Writing truly is a kind of alchemy because it releases negatives and turns them into positives. Magic!
She came to a stop on the damp sand and her feet sank at the same time as her heart. The next wave would bring an icy chill and she longed for it.
She longed for some kind of feeling that would let her know that she was still alive; still able to feel.
She drew a sharp intake of breath as the white wash of water tickled the tips of her toes momentarily.
Keep walking, a voice within her head told her, Keep walking forward.
I told you so, another snarled
You’re not good enough, one more sneered.
The strangely familiar array of voices were growing louder and louder; the same voices who earlier that day had cackled and rattled around her skull as she ran from despair.
Keep walking to ease the pain,said the voice, but she felt like her feet had taken root;
like the sand had encompassed her soles,
like she was locked to the ground.
So instead she stood still and watched the next wave came in.
This time it rose up to her ankles, its sting sending shivers to her protruding bones.
She clamped her eyes shut and her body contracted with a deep inhale of salty air.
Just get on with it, came the next jibe
You can’t even do this, you’re useless
It was all she could do to lower herself blindly to the ground as her legs trembled above the anchor of her ankles.
She crouched down. Her left hand and then her right flattened the dry sand at either side of her and she steadied her swaying body until her tiny frame landed with a bump.
She frantically swallowed gulps of air and then took a deep inhale through her nose until every breath followed the ebb and flow of each new wave.
And then she waited…
The cacophony of voices stopped and she suddenly knew she was alone.
She concentrated on the rise and fall of her chest, giving each one a number, and her fingers penetrated deep into the now soggy sand, clutching thousands of tiny fragments in her fists and holding on for dear life.
My God, life is dear.
She didn’t know how much time had passed but the next voice she heard was her own.
I am enough, she silently declared, shuffling backwards until her whole body was on dry land.
I am more than enough.
And she slowly lay back, stretching out every limb as wide as she possibly could until her whole body, including her smile, was completely open to the sky.
She lifted her head slightly, her eyes still closed and, like the disc of a sunflower on a clear summer’s day, she tilted her face towards the sun. Spreading her limbs, as though petals from that same flower, she soaked up the warmth of the sun’s rays.
And there she stayed, basking in the beauty of the world and her rightful place in it.
Thank you, she whispered.
© 2018 Lindsey Bailey