And although I no longer have a full sense of it - thank goodness - through it all I've certainly grown. And this time I've grown and learned properly. Once and for all. Those experiences have probably taught me more over 18 relatively short months than I've learned during my entire 45 years on this planet. And as you know, I've hardly been short of, shall we say, 'learning opportunities' along the way!
It was a few short weeks ago that I was enjoying an evening dinner filled with fun and laughter with my friends that the term "Mel's World" was coined. Peter had said, in his typically ebullient manner "Mel's World - I love it. What a great place that must be!" And you know what? He's right. Because my world now is full of love. Full of fun. Full of opportunities. And at the same time it's calm, peaceful, safe and satisfying. In more ways than I could have possibly imagined just a short time ago.
These days, it seems, I'm truly living 'in the flow' and I feel at one with the world - and with myself and also those around me. Opportunities keep presenting themselves. Key people keep appearing in my pathway - teachers, friends, business associates, and positive influencers. And I am able, with every opportunity, to make good use of what's in front of me - to the point now where my days are filled with openings, beginnings, possibilities and, most importantly, the chance to live my life as I'd always dreamed. I can live here in my beautiful French home, content in the knowledge that projects are continuing to show themselves, enabling me to use my skills and experiences for the bettering of myself and others. I can work to a timetable that suits me. I can allow myself time to relax, as well as time to focus and really get things done. I can work with people who inspire me, and in turn can work to inspire others on more levels than I'd previously been able to reach.
During my wilderness months, though, the picture couldn't have been more different. There may or may not have been more opportunities opening up for me during that time that I just didn't see - I don't know. But what I now know for certain that, whatever the case, I was in no state to receive them fully. For instead of finding the peace and calm I sought so desperately, I've come to understand that in fact I would regularly found myself flummoxed by my own repetitive self-sabotaging behaviour. Thoughts, words or deeds - all of them subconsciously ruining things despite my best conscious efforts to stay positive. This is tough to admit, and tough to write - but I am doing this for a good cause. To write honestly about what I'm learning - warts and all - in my intention to help others by sharing my own experiences.
I have been involved in many ridiculously toe-curling incidents over the past 18-months, which I can now admit to and accept. For example, I would often drink too much - and frequently end up in conflict or compromising situations that just made me feel worse about myself. I would push myself to the limits - emotionally and physically - telling myself to keep on going even when I was exhausted. I would experience moments when I was so enveloped with anger that I couldn't see a way forward. And as for the time when I snapped my cruciate ligament - well, that really was an accident just waiting to happen. I was lucky to escape with a relatively minor injury! Self-protection had gone out of the window as I stubbornly struggled to fight my demons, and to find the love I craved. But you know what made the difference? It's only now becoming clear. The one thing that made the difference was this...
After each ridiculous incident, I started learning to have greater patience with myself. I decided to imagine myself as a confused and hurt child, and reasoned that in my experience a child doesn't do "bad things" deliberately - and neither was I. So there was no point in telling myself off any more. I reasoned that the better option would be to cast aside any judgement, and instead forgive myself for whatever misdemeanour had occurred. Unconditionally. It made sense on a logical level, but on an emotional level - boy was that a big ask! And yet... deep breaths and positive self-talk at the ready, slowly I stopped beating myself up for my ridiculous behaviour, and instead learned to love myselfthrough the event. Those "mornings after" for example, rather than berate myself for once again making a bad situation worse, I would reassure myself that "this too will pass" and slowly started to accept and live through the feelings of shame or embarrassment - without judgement or criticism. And as my acceptance grew, my self-sabotage behaviour decreased. And as I forgave myself on the inside - well, so the outside started to reflect my slowly growing sense of peace. To the point now, where regular self-sabotage is a distant memory from the past.
Because now my world and my experiences are supportive - and surprising. Not just sometimes, but constantly and consistently. Just last week, for example, I was lucky enough to find myself in the wonderful situation where I was a delegate on an inspirational training course. For the first time in years I was the one receiving the input! I was the one who was learning and being motivated! I was the one whose mind was being stretched with new ideas and new methodologies - and boy did that feel great! And you know what? That ground-breaking course came to me as if it was a gift. Out of the blue, totally unexpected, and totally right for me.
This post is for anyone who has known or who is still experiencing their own wilderness. My intention has been to explain, warts and all, that even as we may feel ourselves sinking in to despair and self-loathing, even if we find ourselves repeating the same old destructive patterns - despite our best intentions; even though we may feel we can never be good enough, whole enough or lovable enough... the journey starts from within. It is said that the darkest hour is the one before dawn.... so no matter how grim it may seem, the sun will always shine again. And as it is within, so it becomes without.
Wilderness times are not "bad times" - they're the times of growth and discovery. The opportunity to finally find out who we really are. The time to put an end to putting up or making do, and to start living life to the full. It's the invitation to love ourselves - fully and unconditionally... yes, even through those seemingly unforgivable behaviours. For these are the things that become our greatest teachers - and eventually, our best friends too. Because by taking a look at ourselves and dealing with these things honestly and without judgement, so we can free ourselves and claim the life that is truly ours to live. My wilderness has helped me to find who I am.... and I'm deeply grateful. Because, you know what? Mel's World is a blummin great place to be - and if I can come through these experiences feeling whole and complete, well then so can everyone. And I, for one, am standing right here for anyone who's going through any kind of wilderness-thinking. Keep going. Keep the faith. And one day all will suddenly make sense.
And to finish? As if by magic, here's another perfect example of the world I'm now experiencing. An automated email has just this moment come in that sums up exactly what I've just been writing. It's a regular note from Neale Donald Walsch's website, and this is what it says: