There are two kinds of guilt…
Bestselling author Sabbaa Tahir wrote “There are two kinds of guilt: the kind that drowns you until you’re useless, and the kind that fires your soul to purpose”, and I am inclined to agree. Like Ying to Yang and sunshine to rain, it is impossible to ‘know something’ without experiencing its opposite. I don’t believe I would be #livingmybestlife and feeling the most guilt-free that I have in years without having drowned in it first.
Do you feel guilty being away from home?
It is the one question that people frequently ask and my answer used to be an unequivocal yes. It was yes until just recently, when an event put everything into perspective.
Four weeks ago I received a text from my Dad asking if he could call. My gut instinct told me something was wrong. I felt heavy in my stomach and there was a sense of foreboding. Gut instinct is rarely wrong; Mum was in hospital having suffered a heart attack!
I find it amazing how the human brain processes good and bad news. In a split second your mind chooses rational or emotional and then you react. When it comes to my family I react emotionally. There was roughly a two second pause in-between digesting the initial bombshell and my dad telling me that Mum was stable. Those two seconds seemed to last an eternity and my mind raced ahead thinking the unthinkable. My throat began to close and my sobs went from hysterical to hyperventilation.
I don’t remember the rest of the conversation with Dad, it’s mostly a blur now. I do want to thank the two friends that received calls directly after however – Thank you for calming my panic!
Our ‘Monkey Minds’ are out of control!
Google Maps tells me that the distance from Auckland to London is 11,398 miles. I felt every mile of that after the call. Being eleven hours ahead of UK time meant surviving on broken sleep patterns. I vigilantly (obsessively) made calls to the hospital for updates and was then usually unable to fall asleep after. Herein lies the most perfect of conditions for the Monkey Mind to come out and play!
Monkey Mind is a Buddhist term that refers to the feeling of being unsettled, restless or confused. There is nothing my Monkey Mind loves more than to pour over the unknown and cause anxiety. With Mum in hospital awaiting tests I had no answers to the barrage of questions/fears pushed into my subconscious. It wasn’t long before I began to feel the weight of self-imposed guilt. “Why hadn’t I called home every day as I had intended when I left?” and “why had I gone travelling and not stayed with my family when I knew I had elderly parents?”
Monkey Mind labelled me the worst daughter/sister/human ever! From there I began to angst over the fact that I was worried about being so worried, thus… The Monkey Mind!
It takes a lot of self-control to react with thought every moment of every day. I don’t always get it right, in fact, my Dad’s phone call proves emotional reactions are more natural to me. I have however learnt that self-practice alone cannot help me win the war. It is important to ask for and accept help from others.
“No man is an island”
John Donne’s famous phrase expresses the idea that humans are worse off when isolated from others. Do you thrive more when you are alone or when you feel part of something?
When feeling anxious or sad I will generally reach out to somebody I love to discuss it with. Why? Because the warmth and kindness I receive from loved ones helps me to feel safe. Suddenly the things that I am struggling with seem a little easier to cope with. I have zero doubt my chimp friend would have dragged me into the chasms of doom if I hadn’t reached out to friends. My sense of obligation to everybody else would have overridden what my gut instinct was screaming at me to do – Go and be with my family.
By the end of the second week I was winging my way back home to surprise my family. Mum was home and out of immediate danger and so maybe there was no real urgent need for me to go, but my gut instinct was persistent. It was telling me something I wouldn’t know until I had walked through my parents front door. It was important for ME – I needed to go home.
Seeing that Mum was ok with my own two eyes gave me more comfort than any video call could have done. Hugging my Dad and brother reminded me of the family strength we all had when we were together. Just like that – all of my guilt fell away. I wasn’t a bad daughter for not calling my parents every day. They understood that life is busy at the best of times and when you throw opposite time zones into the mix – heck! They didn’t begrudge that I was away because they were, in fact, very proud of me and my travelling escapades. Take that Monkey Mind!
Don’t be afraid your life will end; be afraid that it will never begin…
Since arriving back in New Zealand it feels as if I have a new vigour and zest for my travel adventure. My trip home gave me all the answers and “feels” I was missing in order to shut my Monkey Mind down and rid myself of the guilt I carried. The path that I tread and have been questioning since I started is most definitely the right one.
If I cast a furtive thought back to where I have come from, I see all of the lessons that I have learned and how far I have come. I see the future (tho I don’t dwell there too long because the monkey gets excited) and I align my present day thoughts/behaviours so as to help enable it to happen.
Whilst I was already on the path of self-awareness, I almost lost my mind through fear of losing my Mum. It took the added reassurance of others for me to realise that Franklin D. Roosevelt was right when he said ‘the only thing we have to fear is fear itself’. Fear has less power over me than it did! Guilt has no hold over me anymore! Monkey Mind – You won’t win!
There is no distance too far between friends, for whilst we grow separately we never grow apart!
For every decision I make, every path I walk, every new challenge I accept – my friends and family are always there. There is no justifiable word that will convey my gratitude and love.
Inner circle friends – You are my lifeline. To the ones ‘knee-deep in the trenches’ bringing me back from the edge on that first day – thank you! Unconditional friendship is hard to find and I hope you know that I will be your fiercest ally in your own times of need. Thank you for staying awake at odd times of the night to help me go to war with Monkey Mind. I am grateful when you all tell me what I NEED to hear and not what I WANT to hear!
Thank you to everyone who made time to see me at such short notice whilst I was home. You help remind me that life is so much more than my Monkey Mind and work life. I am more than ready to share fun times – See you soon!!!
Special shout-out to Stu – Thank you, thank you, thank you! No words! Thank you!!
My family – Nothing but love – Always!
“Life is too important to be taken seriously”.