I think I have a clear idea but, do I really know it? Do you? Am I who I think I am or just someone who looks like me?
I speak to people. I look around, listening. I read and I think about my own reality, and paying attention to all these phenomena leads me to state that many people want to get to old age but only a few are willing to embrace what the ‘getting older’ fact brings. We want to live many years, of course we do. We want to grow older. But we don’t want to accept its consequences.
I see children who want to give up being little so fast and I don’t know if this is a natural evolution of their beings or if adults are pushing them to become older before their time. The truth is, that as soon as they can manage with the language, they want to clearly express that they are not babies anymore. They are now big kids, they say.
I see young people who want to reach 18 in order to obtain unrestricted access to more realities & more exciting experiences. Then they want to reach 25 to get even further. However, it seems that crossing the 30’s border brings in a decline in instalments. Like if reaching 30 was like reaching the climax point of the rollercoaster; from there everything is coming down and after that there is only a boring & decadent ending.
I see adults who submit to aggressive aesthetic treatments to fight against the clock. They invest in potions & lotions, dress & behave like youngsters and lie about their age, keeping it hidden under seven heavy locks protected by seven keys while they continue searching for the eternal youth elixir that would return them to another time that they’ve already been to.
I see older people who live clinging to wailing & weeping, stock-still in a pale sadness, turning into delicate monsters of feelings, into emotional scourges for themselves & for their close ones. In that lethargic surrender pose I can see often bitterness, reproach, even anger sometimes, detachment from what they truly are & attachment to what they were one day: youngsters who, very possibly, wanted to live many years.
So far I haven’t heard of many young people who want to live for only a few years. Death at 20, 30, 40 or 50 is not something that many human beings long for. At the end of the day life seems to have an irresistible hook, a bittersweet after taste that leads us to desire another bite, another sip to be enjoyed just to see how it feels, just to stay a little bit longer, simply because it is nice here. Maybe we had a bad day, month or year but tomorrow it will be a brand new beginning and we will be able to start all over again.
I’ve lived so far nearly 38 years and my empathy levels can only help me to imagine how it feels to be older. The frustration quite often because of abilities wearing out; the increasing lack of autonomy; worsening health; the pain of loosing your dear ones; fear of death, that seems such a close reality now; nostalgia for the past; the yearning for that freshness that has been fading away with every sip; loneliness…
I also wanted to be bigger when I was a child and to reach 18 when I was only a young teenager. At 25 I wanted to be 30 and when I was 30, I felt that this was the best age I’ve ever lived. Today I firmly believe that the best age is the one that we currently are. Just like being in a traffic jam or falling in love, just like laughter or crying: whatever is happening is what we are led to live in that particular moment and the only tool useful enough to manage it efficiently & ecologically is attitude. I can face the traffic jam with wild or with controlled anger but I can also choose to face it with temperance & serenity. Neither of those options are going to get me out of the traffic jam but I will deal with it better if I choose temperance overall. Whatever I choose, whether I am conscious about it or not, it will always be my very own responsibility and the consequences of my displayed attitude will also be all mine and for me.
I would like to live many years, but not so many to become a burden for myself and for the ones next to me when the time comes, if it comes. I want to see myself as an old lady one day, beautifully wrinkled, able to see inside each fold of my skin the life that I’ve travelled through, the love that I’ve seeded, the wisdom that I’ve harvested and the sceneries that I’ve discovered on the way. I would like to share all that with the older people, adults, youngsters, children & babies that I might have around. I would like to nourish from their freshness, innocence, enthusiasm & knowledge, enjoying all that with joy because even the heaviest & most uncomfortable aches & pains are clear consequence of my living.
Many other babies, children, youngsters & adults couldn’t say the same because they left far too early. So my joy will honour the life I had and the lives of all those as well. The great Flaubert said: “be careful with sadness; it is a vice”.
So here we are, us, human beings, always striving for a better job/relationship/home/car/diet/body/lifestyle… Willing to change ourselves into someone fancier, prettier, stronger, wiser, wealthier, more powerful… Believing that there is never enough, because nothing is enough, our whole world is not enough because there is always something higher/wider/more exciting to achieve.
It is healthy & valuable to have goals, dreams, mountain tops to reach. But, what if we knew, deep inside our hearts, that we are perfect just the way we are? What if we could feel the inner assurance that our role here is simply to be us? What if I am perfect within my human imperfection, with my rights & wrongs, with my faults & values, when I fall & also standing up?
There are no mistakes or regrets, no competition to be part of. There is no need to compare myself with anybody else anymore. I am what I am. Someone who exists & belongs, who gives away & receives. A part of the whole, another piece, a tiny little one that adds a personal bit. A living being looking for balance & joy.
If my life is not a race, why would I consider myself fatter, shorter, poorer, less successful or more important than anyone else? If I accept myself the way I am, how could I stress for a cooler wardrobe, a more voluptuous pair of lips or a high-tech-last generation telephone? That’s not what I am. Those things are not who I am & I can free myself from the shallow layers if I choose to, if I truly want to see the real me hiding behind.
When connecting with my inner self everything else seems to step forward, making a click that brings it all into shape. So I start seeing my own balance from the distance, experiencing how it feels to be there, to live there every day. It might not make sense to anybody else and many will try to find twisted explanations to my change of direction. They will spend time & efforts trying to drag me back, building up mental formulations to justify a move which is intangible for them. They live their own reality, which is fine, and I have my very own one to, which it is also right. They don’t need to save me & there is no need for me to rescue them. We are just individual creatures being part of something bigger than us, and there are really no expectations above us other than live & let live.
How can we do it? Just be present & breathe. Every moment, all the time. "Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts." says Thich Nhat Hanh. Simple & complicated at once. Big & small. Nothing & all.
That’s the field & the land where I find my joy, balance, freedom & happiness. Just being who I am, always, all the time. Who else could I be?
When I was a child I dreamt of becoming a writer, a teacher or/and an artist like Madonna (and it had to be Madonna and no one else, because to me she was at the top of the podium. She could sing, dance, set up trends, surprise audiences, move masses, connect, be passionate and enjoy her job always. That’s how I used to see her & I still admire her and follow her today).
There were no limits to my dreams. I could write amazing stories about creative & brave kids getting involved in all sort of fabulous adventures, and other kids & youngsters all over the world could read my books and get hooked like I used to with the books I was reading at the time. Becoming a teacher was a more earthly choice, moved as I was by the loving & devoted examples (not many, I must say, but at least two) I found at playground & school.
Then I grew up and I could sense that awful feeling, I am sure you know it too: I couldn’t become any of those things really. They were unreachable, miles away, available only in far away kingdoms that I could not even visit, approachable to very talented people only who were already focused from their young ages. I wasted too much time, it was too late for me and it was too difficult. Impossible.
Unless I become a teacher... That I could do. I could teach my favourite subject (literature) to young people. I could share with them my enthusiasm about poetry, metaphors & language as a communication tool. I kept growing & with time I got to understand how the system worked & what I needed to do get a job as a teacher. I didn’t like it at all and it was too late to copy Madonna, plus there is only one like her so, what was the point? What could I do? Become a writer? What a stupid idea! Who would wish to publish a book written by me in the first place, and even more important, who would want to buy it and read it afterwards?
Ups... I was in trouble. What could I do with my life? How could I find a way out? Time was ticking & I was lost.
The day I realised I could do anything really to make a living was a relief. I was reasonably clever, I had a degree, I could speak (not too well at the time) a second language and the world was wider than my city, my region, my country. I could travel & find a job doing anything. And that is when I lost my compass.
I can do anything, or nearly anything, but do I want to? Because when looking back now I realised that by following other compasses instead of mine I left my purpose behind. What happened to those childhood dreams? How did they move from being glittered dreams to stupid ideas? How come, when they used to make me feel so fine and full of life when I was little? Nothing to do with how I felt then. But of course, that ‘now’ was the ‘real world’. What was childhood then? A lie?
I’ve worked for others quite a few times. I have had different jobs performing various roles. Sometimes I enjoyed it, others I hated, deeply. I met some amazing professionals & also people that were worthless. I’ve learnt loads from all of them but I must admit that my only purpose then was to make a living, to earn the money, to pay the bills and get myself new books, clothes, plane tickets & dinners out. All that was good until it stopped being good and became not enough anymore. Nobody taught me how valuable & satisfying it is to live with purpose. I never learnt about my talents, how to develop or follow them.
That feeling didn’t come all of a sudden. It is fair to say that it was there all the time, from the very beginning. There was always something deep inside me pointing at the dark side, telling me: ‘what’s the point of all this? What difference do I make in the world by carrying on doing this? How valuable is this job that I am doing?’ However, I chose not to find those answers & decided to bury them deep. At the end of the day how could I be so ungrateful? I was twenty-something & healthy; I was lucky enough to have access to a great education; I managed to find a good job in a good company earning some good money that allowed me to have a good living. What was the problem? What was wrong with me?
The charade didn’t last very long. The odd feeling was growing bigger & wider inside me. It didn’t matter anymore what other people could think. I was not feeling right and everything pointed to the same direction so I had to redefine the route and start from scratch nearly all over again.
I am very proud to say that I am a professional coach now (thanks not only to my efforts and commitment but also to the support of my beloved family & their unconditional love; the trust received from all my wonderful & very special friends; and of course, the encouragement & constant faith in me from my beautiful partner, who has always been right there believing in me, backing up every new idea, every project. I love you all so much! I couldn’t do it without you).
Have you ever felt that annoying call coming from your guts, from the deepest corner of your heart? Do you listen to it? Do you honour it? Do you have a compass? Do you follow it?
When we fail to acknowledge any of the signs and keep reaching for the wrong goals, other areas in our lives start loosing shape and brightness. Things start to fail. Then we focus on the symptom & go for a quick fix without realising that the issue goes deeper, down in the roots. That’s where we have to go, not fix it but to nourish it and give it attention & care.
If we listen carefully enough, deeply enough, with patience and giving it time, we will know what to do, how to do it. Just like we knew when we were kids. Kids know because they are not corrupted with rational ideas & practical schemes. They just feel & let themselves go with their feelings.
Finding your purpose will make you happier because you will find a genuine reason to be here. That goal will drive your steps and every choice will take you closer to your dreams, which already is as good as living them.
Allow me to suggest an exercise, and give it a try, please: give yourself a few minutes & stand in front of a mirror. Move your hand ahead as if you were going to take something from that image of you in the mirror. As expected, the image does the same and tries to take something away from you. That’s how we experience lack in our life, because we keep taking things away from ourselves and from others. Now, instead of taking, give something to that reflection in the mirror: an object, a kiss, a smile… Whatever it might be. Of course, your reflection also has a present back for you. Isn’t it simple & great at the same time?
I found out this powerful metaphor in a marvellous book-process that will be part of my life journey forever (thanks to Mar, my yoga teacher over the last 3 years, for sharing such an incredible gift with us). Why am I taking things away from me instead of giving them? ‘Giving unconditionally is receiving’, the author says in his book.
Today I am a teacher somehow, as I share with people my experiences & the little I know. I am a writer already: I wrote this that you are reading (in two languages as well!) and there is much more to come! I don’t want to be a pop star anymore but I do wish to gather the passion & enthusiasm that Madonna brings into her fans so I can connect with my very own audience. I even started to sing more (and my gorgeous boyfriend loves it, so that’s all I need) and the dancing lessons are first on my list of investments for my short term future. All I want will come. It is just a matter of time. I just have to live on purpose, following my compass. I will make it happen, you will see. Keep an eye on me. I’ll show you ;-)
(P.S.: That orange stone heart on the picture is a love anchorage for me. My very dear friends Rocío & Manolo gave it to us as a gift the day of their wedding. Beautiful!
To finish this post one last thing: I used to, and still do, love Michael Jackson as much as Madonna, and his ‘Man in the mirror’ is an anthem for me. Enjoy it and let your feelings flow).