It was a normal Friday afternoon last week when I realised some profound, and very unexpected, lessons about myself and life. I was going to post them to Facebook and Instagram to share the wisdom but I had so much to say about the random lessons and my thoughts about them that I decided to write this article instead!
Before I begin I should make a very obvious point about myself – I despise running. I turn a colour akin to the ripest of raspberries, sound and act like I’m dying within a couple of kilometres and consistently wonder why I’m bothering when I hate it so much. So when I ‘fancied’ a run on Friday afternoon after work, I surprised myself but I’ve been walking so often and trying to run half a kilometer here and there that I felt I’d give it a go so I did! I ran from South Bondi to Tamarama Beach and though it’s only 1km it’s up and down hills and the accomplishment felt amazing! I should also point out that whilst I hate the physicality of running, I love the mentality of it – I always find such peace. It helps ease my stresses of the day and usually gets my creative juices flowing to the point I have to keep stopping to write down article ideas on my phone. It’s ‘thinking time’ for me and in that thinking time last Friday, I realised several things about life…
Don’t compare yourself to others
Want to know the easiest way not to compare yourself to others? Don’t do it! There. I just saved you a $400 therapy session. I’m kidding. I compare myself constantly to others and get jealous often. I’m human, not a saint. However, as I was running along the coastal path and meeting other runners coming the other way, I realised that I had absolutely no need to feel inferior to them because of my short distance and rounded tummy. Let’s say, for example (given their physiques) that they run a lot – 5kms minimum and that they’re physically fit in every aspect. Maybe they do half-marathons for ‘shits and giggles’ and turn into Parkour ninjas at night; who knows. What I do know is that my 1km is still that – a whole kilometer. That’s one more than I intended and a great deal more than someone still sat on their sofa. Yes the runners I were seeing looked incredible – they were tanned and barely visibly sweating whereas I look like a water-drenched fire engine and I’m more Kim Kardashian than Miranda Kerr in shape meaning that for the Bondi Bubble I’m pretty much morbidly obese. However, I was there and I was running; I didn’t stop once to walk not even when I fell over and my hands were dripping blood!! People can laugh all they want at my ‘pathetic’ 1km but they have no idea what my body has been through in the last year. They don’t know that my it betrayed me and made me so sick I couldn’t even walk 10metres without feeling exhausted, that the steroids I needed to take to get better made my muscles weak or that the permanent medication I take means I have no immune system. So I stopped comparing myself! I was there, I was running and I was enjoying it!!
Which leads me to the next lesson…
Be proud of yourself!
Never made a cake by yourself before and now you have and not only is it edible but it’s yummy? Smile at your achievement! I don’t know about you but for British people, being proud of yourself is not a done thing but you know what? I was running and I didn’t feel like I was dying so I gave myself a huge mental round of applause for myself because after running one way I brisk-walked all the way back to North Bondi and back to South Bondi where I live; I had every right to be proud of myself because I was doing all this for me! I wasn’t allowing anyone else to pressure me, I was just walking, working out and loving it.
Maybe you’ve thrown a kick-ass kids party for your friend’s little boy or finally achieved that awkward pose in yoga that you’ve been trying for months. Who knows what your goals are but even if they’re huge, remember to celebrate the smaller goals on the way. We, as humans, work on the basis of reward and we can’t do anything if we don’t begin to reward ourselves first for the small but powerful achievements!
Find your exercise
Now, not everyone has time to exercise and this is where my point will split you dear reader. Fitness people will argue that you always have time to work out and that it’s all about prioritizing and I agree in principle but I also appreciate that when you’re full time working-mum, as much as you want to do something to ‘lose a few pounds’, your priorities are different. So this point is to all the people that can and want to exercise so here goes; find the exercise you like!!!! When people say that they ‘hate exercise’ what they, and I, really mean is that they don’t like the exercise they have chosen. As stated above, I hate running. When I was in rural Victoria and still recovering from the illness and steroid side-effects, I tried running and usually managed about 1km before I genuinely thought I was going to collapse. But then, I discovered walking as there were some beautiful trails where I lived so I switched. Instead of feeling like death for 10minutes and not being able to do anything else, I went for a brisk 5-6km walk which means that I worked out longer, harder and enjoyed it. I usually completed 30kms a week instead of a silly 8km trying to run it. Likewise, if you have no balance, get your ass off the pushbike and get into a spinning class at the local gym. If yoga is a little too ‘spiritual’ for you, why not consider pilates? There are hundreds, if not thousands, of different kinds of exercise out there and life is too short to hate it because you know what? It quickly begins to feel like a chore (as it did for me) and nobody likes doing chores unless it involves naughty food, movies and a good-looking person from the opposite sex.
I hate the ‘there is always something to be grateful for’ bullshit because I’ve spent the last 15 years suffering depression and when life is falling apart around you, the world is a dark place and I literally want to punch those people in the face (sorry if you’re one of them dear reader but hopefully you’ll be strong enough to appreciate a different of opinion as am I!) but I wonder if you realise how grateful you are without acknowledgement. I don’t necessarily believe that gratitude is always about loving what you have in life but being thankful in general. When you thank your waiter for taking your plates away (at least I hope you do), you are grateful for their service even if they’re a spotty teenager with a bad attitude. When you thank your mum for their advice on how to kill a cockroach (editor note: apparently mum’s think it’s hilarious to watch their only child (28 years old mind you) running around the room on Skype with a laptop in one hand and a hoover in the other attempting to kill a 5inch cockroach torturing them with its presence!) you’re grateful for her words through laughter. When someone holds the lift or door open for you and you say a quick thank you, you’re grateful even if you don’t consciously acknowledge it.
And in that same train of thought – try not to take anything for granted. That’s harder to achieve than you think it would be if you’ve never experienced loss but, for example, I tell my mum I love her every single day by email or Skype. I don’t take her and her support for granted. I don’t take for granted the fact that I now live with Bondi Beach at the end of my road – if I can’t get in an after-work walk/workout along the beach and coastal path, I’m cranky as hell because I want to appreciate it every single day. Maybe I would never have felt this grateful and have the drive to do and see everything if I’d never lost it in the first place?!
Sometimes you have to lose
Losing is awful. We hate it. It frustrates us and makes us feel shit about ourselves and yet sometimes it is completely necessary. I hated Sydney this time last year and just wanted to go home. I didn’t explore new suburbs or beaches (and didn’t go to the beach that often), didn’t meet up with friends and spent too much time in my room feeling physically and mentally shit. So the Universe kicked my ass and made me lose everything…the Australian dream I was chasing, my money and my health until I ended up on a one-way ticket home to the UK. It felt like the Universe was playing Jenga and I was under all the falling bricks. It wasn’t pretty and there were more tears and angry tantrums than I can tell you about but when I walked into Sydney airport to go home I felt defeated not just because I had worked so hard for everything and had failed but because in going home I realised how much I wanted to stay. Now that I’m back? I don’t take anything for granted because I am driven by the fear I will need to go home again for whatever reason and so despite feeling as suicidal as I did last month, I was walking 10kms along coastal paths and exploring new beaches. There isn’t a single day, despite my low moods, that I am not ridiculously grateful to be back here and when I walk or run along the beach and coast I still can’t quite believe that I call Bondi Beach home.
I’m still stunned how many lessons I realised just for going for a little run on a normal Friday afternoon but it just goes to show – life lessons can be everywhere if only we remain open enough to see them!
What lessons have you learnt recently?