When I told friends and family I would take 14 weeks off work, the automatic response was, "Where are you going?" I love to travel and I haven't seen enough of the world. And, although I was tempted to book a flight and quickly head through the international departure lounge I knew that this was not a time for travel.
This leave was an unapologetically selfish investment in me. It was time to think about the way I was living and to plan ways to fulfil my dreams and passions. It was time to smell the roses, to reflect on the positives of my life and to sit quietly with the not so rosy aspects. I knew that if I went on a trip I would have a truly wonderful time but the necessary time for thinking, reflecting and sitting with the real me would be pushed away and I would resume the old life as soon as the plane touched down on home soil. And so, I resisted the urge to visit London, Rome and New York.
The work-free schedule was liberating and I was incredibly productive. I de-cluttered the house thoroughly from top to bottom, donating car loads of household goods to charity and filling bins with rubbish. I cooked fabulous new recipes, visited cafes with friends and watched movies. I enjoyed long walks on the beach, read plenty of fiction and took time to be with family. It was wonderful and I felt refreshed and revitalised with boundless energy.
I fell over one night on my way to a Sri Lankan restaurant. I dusted my self off, rubbed my bruised body, straightened my clothes and continued on to dinner. A sore arm and shoulder, and bruised legs wouldn't slow my schedule. I would see the physiotherapist and get back to the business of 'doing'.
A week later, I awoke with a sore throat. I decided to listen to the needs of my body and stayed in bed. I felt strangely melancholy. I rested but my body still wasn't happy. With so much idle time and without the company of friends life seemed to be increasingly messy and frustrating. The days merged into one another and they quickly became weeks. As I crossed the weeks off the calendar I realised the return to work was looming closer and closer. I was more lethargic than ever and I wondered if a sinister illness had come to visit. I knew that the way I lived needed to change.
I consulted a naturopath, doctor, psychologist, massage therapist, healing therapist, dietician and a host of friends to help me find clarity. I read books, consulted a life coach, scoured social media for answers, viewed Ted talks on the subject of passion and finding my element, wrote a blog and a journal, created a Facebook page and filled it with meaningful images, prayed and meditated. I seemed to get so close to the ideal but the ultimate goal and passion continued to elude me. I cursed the wasted weeks. I regretted that I wasn't standing with the crowds in Times Square, buying tickets for a Broadway hit.
I saw a Facebook quote about using your heart to think instead of your head. (That was a definite challenge!) I read that my greatest passion showed itself when I was young. I watched a clip about the need for space to achieve goals and cursed the fact that space didn't seem to be helping me. I revisited Jim Carrey' s talk about fear. I questioned others and I listened.
Somewhere, somehow it happened. I turned off thinking with my head and I started to think with my heart. It suddenly dawned on me that I had faced a life threatening illness while living a 'safe' life. I realised that I was overestimating the power of the fears that my brain had told me were insurmountable, and, I was underestimating my personal resilience and ability to handle these fears. An Eleanor Roosevelt quote on facing fears resonated with me.
I am pretty sure my passion is held in a white box tightly wrapped in red ribbon with a large bow. I suspect that once I undo the knots in the red ribbon and the large bow and slowly open the lid, I will see layers and layers of bubble wrap and tissue paper. My passion has been wrapped up tightly and stored away in safe keeping. It has been laying there dormant but protected, waiting for the day I would come searching.
It's been like a mystery car rally to find my passion, my purpose, my calling. I've been reading all the clues carefully. Some have helped me drive the car forward while other clues have led me to stop signs, one way streets and detours. There has been pain, frustration, angst and tears. It seems I'm finally on the right road but I must tread carefully because there are still slippery conditions ahead.
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