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A continuation of last week’s post, On healing, guilt and self-discovery – part one
It’s a guilt that comes from the knowledge that what I am doing is a luxury. I’m confused and I fret about what I should do next, but the very fact I can ask that question is a wild privilege that I struggle to accept gracefully. It’s partly a matter of cultural privilege, but a personal one also. I can afford to sustain my current life because I bought a house with my parents’ inheritance and am able to live partly off the income. It isn’t a long-term solution. I don’t want to rely on that money and I work hard to earn my own, but I also have to work hard to allow myself to make the most of the opportunity that has been bequeathed.
Financial privilege isn’t something I grew up with. My family were by no means poor, but we also weren’t rich. My Mum was a midwife, and my Dad a nurse, and they worked fiercely hard to maintain our lifestyle and buy the house that eventually became mine. They taught me the value of hard work and I took jobs from the age of 15, saving hard for every trip I’ve ever taken before. Those times, I knew I’d earned it. This time, despite also having worked and saved, I feel guilty at the aspect of my inheritance. It’s not something you can take pride in, and while some call this position lucky, something borne of your parents’ death can’t really be called that. It’s a complicated privilege and one I’m trying to use well, first of finding the time to heal and re-find my way — and therein lies more guilt.
A time to heal
Healing isn’t something we’re often encouraged to do in England, or have the opportunity to. We push on through and make the best of things, perhaps busying ourselves to hide the suffering. People like Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love, who set off on a personal journey to ‘find themselves’ are scoffed at as self-indulgent and made to look frivolous in their endeavours. I disagree with that — facing oneself is important and difficult. Once we’ve helped ourselves, we’re in a much better position to help others, which is primarily what I want to do. I’ve seen far too many adults still scarred from age-old trauma, simply because they’ve never dealt with whatever caused the pain. That type of behaviour causes pain not only to themselves but also to others. I don’t want to do that so I’ve always tried to seek help.
In the past few years following my Mum’s death, I’ve been through and studied therapy, I’ve turned to friends, theories, books, yoga, travel, plant medicines, meditation, Buddhism and more. Illness, alcoholism, separation and death threw up many a challenge in my teens and early adulthood, and that needed a little reflection. All of what I sought has helped in its own way to start to heal those wounds and let me know myself a little better. One of the things I discovered along the way was the pressure I put on my self and the refuge I take in plans— something that was exacerbated when back at home. Instead of simply seeing the cliché of unhappy people stuck in jobs they hate, I also saw plenty of friends and family working hard at jobs they love — jobs that help people and they feel passionate about. When I see people like that — people like Steve, my parents, happy nurses, teachers, artists — I feel frustrated that I’m not being as useful as them, or that I don’t yet know how to. I’m impatient to find my purpose, but I know I’ll never find it if I don’t give it time.
Learn to let go
The last year has been a good start in uncovering that answer, but it’s now time to let go of guilt and stop acting out of self-imposed pressure. I can’t, nor do I want to, ponder life forever. There will come a time to act, but now is not that time. I know that working in communications for a charity or being a journalist isn’t my path, but writing, teaching yoga, being a therapist or running a retreat centre might be. Now is the time to explore. Over the next few months in Bali, I am going to write, practice yoga, do The Artist’s Way, take some of the classes that Ubud has to offer, and above all try not to fret about what comes next, or feel guilty about devoting time to myself. It may sound idyllic, and perhaps it will be, but it’s also one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done — letting go and surrendering to what will be.