2019 was a shifting year for me. For the year preceding it I could not let in any joy in my life because I didn’t feel as though I deserved it. It seemed I had somehow brought all the pain on myself, which made me incapable of allowing any goodness, any light to enter my life on a consistent basis. I would have moments or flashes of joy, but then I would find myself numbing out and everything would mist over again.
Looking back, I can see it was a default setting, a way of protecting myself because I was afraid the joy wouldn’t last and that would make me unbearably sad. It was easier to imagine my life as it was and there wasn’t much room for anything else. Finding joy in that dark place took me on a journey of healing and self-discovery.
Back-track to the winter of 2018. Mentally, I had reached an all-time low. On a whim we’d booked a last minute trip to the Swiss Alps, seeking respite. I’d found a tiny alpine hut in the Val d’Anniviers, a secret side-valley in southern Switzerland that neither of us knew or had even heard of.
The mountain road winding up the valley, with its dizzying number of hair-pin bends and occasional glimpses of sheer drops bordering the narrow ribbon of tarmac, revealed itself in the snow-flecked beam of the headlights, our hearts pounding as we first experienced that twisting road in a snow storm. But on waking the next morning to views of the snow-smothered mountains that encircle the Anniviers valley, we knew it was worth every toe-curling turn.
The hamlet where were were staying had no shop, no café and was mostly deserted of cars. The sun-blackened larch raccards (granaries) that dotted the landscape were reminiscent of bygone days and totally stole my heart. We spent our days snowshoeing in the forests and mountains, returning to long evenings huddled around the wood burning stove with bowls of steaming soup.
Towards the end of the week I began to feel a softening between my shoulders and a gentle opening in my heart. It’s hard to adequately put into words, but being surrounded by such awe-inspiring majesty and expansiveness had afforded me the space to begin to let go and to fully breathe again.
On our penultimate day I experienced what can only be described as a suffocating panic at the prospect of leaving. I was so overwhelmed with emotion that we asked if we could stay on for another week. We were offered two extra nights, so we took them. What followed was an unravelling of messy thoughts and pre-occupations of how we could engineer a plan for me to return.
Without a doubt, I am the luckiest person alive when it comes to choosing a life partner. Kevan gets me. He doesn’t always understand my emotional meltdowns, but he recognises authenticity and he instinctively knew I had found what I needed most; time. Time to process what was going on in my body and time to come to a place of peace and healing. This proved to be the greatest gift he could ever have given me. A selfless act of allowing me to go solo and do the deep work, for which I will be forever grateful.
And so it was. On the fast train back to Avignon, we managed to secure my accommodation, signing a six-month rental on a sun-blackened raccard on the south side of the valley. I should mention I had a dissertation to write for the final part of my master’s degree. I wasn’t sure if I could emotionally cope with the workload, but we both hoped that being in the mountains with just myself to think about would give me the best chance to stay focused.
In those months, to say it changed my life in profound ways is an understatement. I can’t even begin to scratch the surface of how it shifted and re-arranged my inner world. I can say that during that time, many of my core beliefs about myself changed. Some of the things I believed could not have been further from the truth about who I really was, yet they had stuck with me for years and it seemed impossible to change them. Once I realised what I was believing about myself was not who I was, I was willing to go deeper and work towards something different. Yes, I got the master’s degree I wanted, but that was the least of it. I came away with a new sense of myself.
2019 began with a willingness to let in joy and have new experiences. Part of my “sabbatical” allowed me to invoke the feeling that I have everything I need in my life right now. Steady intention and concentration on that feeling allowed it to manifest in my outer world. That I truly believe because I’ve seen it and experienced it.
2019 saw my health improve beyond recognition, it saw me graduate with a masters degree in Nutritional Therapy, it saw us renovate our home in Bonnieux, the launch of my business, a certification in Biological Medicine with Swiss physician Dr Thomas Rau, the (unexpected) welcoming of Pantoufle into our lives, the forging of new and enriching friendships (and the deepening of existing ones), the gradual return of my physical strength, the privileged opportunity to divide our time between France and Switzerland, and the ability to know above all else that I am my authentic self in every moment.
2019 was also shifting because: I chose to embody stillness and allowed myself to travel deep into the realm of just being, setting intentions that added to my life rather than taking away, holding my ground in ways that I previously didn’t have access to, and expanding my capacity to be with the felt sense no matter how challenging, and knowing when to reach out for support.
Part of changing beliefs is to acknowledge and accept what is actually happening in each moment. To feel it. All of it, however messy it may be. Because when I am present there is no doubt that my life is meaningful; that I am here to love, to be of service and to know at the depth of my being that I am totally taken care of. In these moments, keeping an open heart and letting in the joy that is mine to experience gives me so much hope and strength, it reminds me what a miracle it is to be truly alive and well again.
I’m still feeling the assimilation of the major shifts I experienced last year and the huge lessons I learned this past decade. In years past I would have spent the first days of the year drawing up a list of resolutions that were mostly too lofty to attain. This year I’m focusing on daily intentions that raise my positive vibration and hold me in a place of gratitude. The other day I came across a timely reminder in the words of T.S. Eliot:
‘For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice.’
As we move into the next full week of this year I encourage you to spend time in stillness, to slow down for long enough to listen and simply feel the sensations in your body. Cultivating stillness is the antidote to what is happening in your heart, in your life, in your world, right now. It’s a place where you can acknowledge your worries and still show up as a resourced adult.
Let in the joy. Look at was is blocking you from experiencing the most joy possible and see what you are willing to let go of this year. Free yourself from beliefs about yourself that are no longer serving you and begin to change them to positive, empowering beliefs.
Surrender to what is, let go of what was, have faith in what will be.
If you’re wanting additional support, I’ve created a free tracker to help you thrive this year and I’m sharing some additional resources below. I wish you a present and tender, joy-filled start to the new year and I look forward to connecting with you again soon,
In this timely post I share how to find daily opportunities to create stillness, savour moments of stoppage, physically slow down and breathe. This is a helpful resource for yourself and to share with loved ones;
An explanation of the stress response cycle with practical strategies on how to beat overwhelm, reclaim your time and thrive, not survive, including how to develop a regular morning and sleep routine;
An overview of my Thrive Tracker tool. Wellness doesn’t manifest from lofty goals and deprivation. We need to be more gentle and compassionate with ourselves to see positive changes, refreshing the way we think about food and re-setting our mindset to create lasting results;
One of my favourite meditations is the mountain meditation by Jon Kabat-Zinn. It encourages us to seek inner stability and peace, even in the face of unpredictable change and chaos. The guided meditation is 20 minutes long.