Several weeks ago, I recorded a podcast with intuitive counsellor Alex Wu.
It was a podcast about careers and life purpose. In that podcast, while Alex and I were talking, I surprised myself with a realization. (Maybe this realization had been percolating for a while, or maybe it had been popped in there from somewhere else a while back without me realizing.)
It was this: what you see as your biggest weaknesses are nine times out of ten pointers to your strengths – things that other people value in you, and that you might even build a career around. (If this sounds like crazy talk, go and listen to the podcast to see what I mean – it’s 18 mins into it.)
This was such a revolutionary realization for me to have at the time.
The fact is, our society (Western? mainstream? Consumerist?) tells us that we are not enough.
Comparing ourselves to others is rife. We do that because we are taught to. So that we will buy the anti-wrinkle cream, or the weight loss drinks or the facelift, or the fancy car.
We are automatically trained to see our failings, so that we will go out and buy something that will make us feel better. Some marketers try to highlight our failings and appeal to our needs and desires to be better, to feel better.
We are taught that we do not have enough. We aren’t enough. We can’t get enough.
We must strive harder.
We must set goals, seek abundance and a meaningful relationship. We must know what our dreams are, we must try to achieve them. Life needs to be ‘sorted’ on the outside.
This belief has been exacerbated by New-Age abundance teachings. This belief that came from the Law of attraction teachings via Abraham Hicks (“everything you want is in your escrow”) and ‘the Secret’ (“If you can dream it, you can achieve it”). Although visualization can be a powerful tool, it is ludicrous to think that everyone can think and visualize themselves out of poverty and misfortune. If you have lost someone or something dear to you, it’s natural that life is going to be crappy for a while. Or if you live in the third world, that’s not going to apply to you. It’s so abundantly clear to me that not everyone is on the same path through life. To say that we can all feel good, all the time is one of the biggest delusions of some of the New-Age teachings I used to ascribe to.
Life doesn’t owe us what we want. Evidently the only thing we are owed is what we get (whether we create that ourselves or whether life throws it at us).
Sometimes we have no idea what is coming to us (what is ‘in our escrow’.) Everyone’s path is different. Our birthright is not unlimited riches, a loving relationship that lasts a lifetime, perfect health and beauty. It may be, but everyone has a different path.
Our birthright is the experiences and learnings we get from what we go through – both fantastic and disastrous.
My personal journey is definitely not one of being sorted on the outside, materially – as much as I’ve struggled for it to be. Outside circumstances that life sent me governed what happened for the large part.
Over the last seven years, I have suffered through believing that life should be better. That life is usually good, if we try hard. I thought, I need to sort my life out and get a better one – more income, a loving partner, clearer skin; a stable home and family, more friends in this country, more hobbies. I bought countless self-help courses and books that helped me to do these things. I learned lots of interesting ideas but I don’t know if I got any further towards what I wanted.
This week that belief that life should be better broke down. Quietly. Not in a “I’ve been working on this belief and I managed to eliminate it” kind of way, or in a blazing a-ha experience, but just in a moment of quiet grace that I didn’t notice until later, when I stopped struggling so hard.
Let me tell you a bit about how hard I struggled with this belief. Hopefully it isn’t too boring, I aim for there to be an interesting lesson at the end.
I always believed that I was wronged by life in a number of ways, as ridiculous and self-pitying as it sounds.
When I was 19, five of my closest family members felt the need to leave the UK, my country of origin and emigrate to New Zealand (there is a whole story in the reason why that I won’t go into here.) All members of my family were eligible for residency except me because of a joint condition I had when I was little. I needed to be checked out in a London hospital and because my mother was turning 45 (and would soon no longer be eligible for residency either), there was not enough time for this to happen. They needed to make a choice about going or staying. They went, and left me behind. I was 19, at university at the time and not much thought was put into the consequences of not being allowed to live in the same country as my family anymore. We thought I would find a way to emigrate there too, later on. And in the meantime, tough cookie.
I soon realized what the consequences were. Homesickness, even while I was in the country I was born in. I fell apart at university and there are friends I haven’t thanked enough for being there for me at that time.
In the year after they left, big changes happened in my family, relationships broke down, and I was away. Financial resources were not available and I went for long periods away from my family. I became estranged from beloved family members temporarily. Bad things happened. Grief and distance set in.
I spent several years wandering in an aimless way, trying to find home, believing it was far away from my family who had caused me pain, the bastards. I looked for someone to create a home with and desperately picked some – any – thoroughly unsuitable types to try to build a home with (obviously not all at once). Relationships broke down. Again. And again.
Later on, I realized where home was, that last horrible time I ran away to another country to get away from family.
It was in New Zealand.
But after all this time, I still wasn’t eligible to stay here long term.
I wasn’t eligible to get residency through my family (it’s complicated – I have one sibling back in the UK who will not settle here, and you need all family members in New Zealand to qualify for residency.)
I wasn’t eligible through my work (I’m self-employed and running a spiritual website is not a skill shortage.)
I wasn’t even eligible if I dropped full-time self-employment and trained as an English teacher to foreigners (which I did – it’s my secondary career, after this website.) I thought I was eligible, but experience has taught me that it’s totally unrealistic in that industry, to get the kind of contract and work conditions I will need for my residency.
Then, it seemed the only option left is to train as a secondary school teacher. One year’s training, a huge amount of money.
Only now it seems that to train as a secondary school teacher, I need two subjects to teach in a high school and I only studied one at University – international languages (French and Spanish). So either I go back to university for another four years, or I forget the whole thing.
Why I am recounting this long story of what I need to do in my life to get to where I want to be?
Why should you care – after all, tons of people have been through much, much worse.
But what made me suffer was the following thought:
Why was life making it so hard for me to have what I wanted, after all the grief this had caused me in my early twenties? Why were some people I know thriving, emotionally, financially, settling in one place, while I was being challenged financially, emotionally, from all the moving, the drained finances, the lack of momentum, the unsettledness, the qualifications I needed to get, the visas, the medicals, the frustration of feeling thwarted at every turn?
It was so unfair. Life was a bitch.
Yes, this is self-centred, egoic ranting. Of course, my life is not bad. There are probably millions of people in this world who would swap places with me in a second.
The fact is, life owes me nothing.
Life owes me nothing that I want.
Isn’t this so hard to swallow?
What You Need
Sometimes what I want right now is evidently not what life thinks I need to experience.
I believe this goes for all of us. Often in healing sessions I get told about the treasures and gifts that come from the client walking their unique path – the one they’re desperately trying to fix or change and have been for a while. The healing that comes from this can be incredible.
The thing that makes us think that we are owed something, or that we need to change something, is when we look at what others have. We use it as a benchmark for what we should have, then we feel cheated when we don’t have it.
Our society needs us to feel cheated, and to want, to feel like we’re underachieving, because it’s good for selling stuff.
Maybe for now your path is not to be settled (like me).
Maybe for now your business isn’t going to make six figures in its first two years, or in five years, like other people you know.
Maybe for now your path is not to be slim (or film-star beautiful.)
Maybe you will struggle to get residency in a country for years (even when you’re well qualified in a profession and a good citizen) while someone else who has a criminal record gets in straight away.
Maybe for now your path is not to have perfect health.
I don’t have that, and no matter what I do, I can’t seem to get it either. Does that make me a new-age under-achiever?
I am not saying we should set the bar low in life. I’m not saying we should never strive for what we truly want.
But I am saying that sometimes we struggle so hard, and are so attached to the idea that life owes us something, that we do not see or discover what we have been given.
In my moment of quiet acceptance, I realized the abundance that had been given to me in the events of the last several years. My soul had given me what I needed, not what I wanted.
In not getting residency straight away, I was forced to stop working as a full-time psychic and teach languages. At first, this pissed me off.
Then I started teaching English to foreigners and I fell in love with that career all over again. It made life richer. I loved the foreign students I taught. I got to travel every day to other cultures through them, without leaving this country. I heard stories, I met wonderful people; my mind was opened. Especially after spending two years in front of a computer screen, building this website. I loved the personal contact, I was revitalized and refreshed. It was such a gift I was given that I would never have chosen for myself otherwise.
Another benefit of my family leaving when I was 19, was that I went wandering like a gypsy and lived a great deal. I have many stories to tell and lots of things to write about here. I spent a lot of time abroad and working out the world, by making mistakes. I had a lot of relationships. I learned a lot about people and about other ways of living. I learned how to rely on myself.
At the heart of many healing traditions is seeing the good. At the heart of many spiritual paths is accepting where we are and the limitations of what life sends us. Then moving through it. When we accept the path we’re on, instead of trying to change it all the time, we begin to see the treasures that our souls send us through our experiences and that has transformative power.
That is true abundance. Seeing the good.
Even in the midst of what looks like a disaster.
Then maybe change can happen, following acceptance. Or maybe it won’t.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned through talking with souls in readings, it’s that no two souls are walking the same path. Life only seems like a bitch when you think you should be walking another path.
I may have over-shared in this article. Revealing my path in such a personal way is the only way I have of sharing this lesson and I didn’t do it lightly. I don’t claim to have fully learned it, even. So please be kind in the comments, even if you disagree. Tell me about your experiences with this. I would love to hear them.