The Jewels that are Buried Deep Within You

Remembrance Day, 2018.

“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them” – Elizabeth Gilbert.

Before I left London I burnt the journals I’d kept since moving there: 17 years worth of words, to be exact. As each page went up in flames I said, “Thank you” – not for the words each page held – but for what each journal had held me through: My first months of living in London, my divorce – both the grieving and the healing process – and then as I created a new life for myself. Not just once, but repeatedly.

But there was one journal I couldn’t let go of. I bought it on my 39th birthday, 9 January 2013.

I was less than a week away from starting the final full-time contract of my corporate career. I already knew that once that six-month contract came to an end, I wouldn’t renew it. I was preparing to make the leap from my 20-year career in communications to working for myself as a personal stylist. I had entered my final year of my thirties. I was ready for something…I don’t know, something ‘new’. Definitely something that looked different to the way my life looked that day.

Six months went by without writing a single word in that journal.

Sure, I opened it up a few times. I’d sit – pen poised over the blank page – and then I’d close it again. For the first time in all my years of journaling, I didn’t feel comfortable with all that space. It was so much easier to distract myself, rather than sit with my feelings and thoughts. So, I worked long days, I poured over fashion blogs as a means of escapism, scrolled hours of my life away on social media and as I’d made a conscious decision to quit yo-yo dieting for good during this time, I had days when I ate and ate – I told myself I was learning how to eat ‘normally’ again, but looking back, I know a lot of that eating was really done in an attempt to numb my feelings and thoughts away.

Finally, on a beautiful summer’s evening in late June, I walked away from my corporate career and towards a new future for myself. Except I didn’t feel the excitement I’d been expecting. Instead, I felt confused and uncertain. I’d spent a decade putting my life back together after my divorce. I’d remarried, owned a fabulous home with my husband, had a so-called ‘successful’ career I was fortunate enough to be able to choose to walk away from, and yet…I’d lost myself somewhere along the way, again. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be married or have the house or that I didn’t feel proud of what I’d achieved in my career, but I knew I wanted something different, too. I just couldn’t articulate what ‘different’ was, exactly. I had a big vision for my life but it felt so far from where I was and I’d also lost my confidence; I’d spent 10 years chasing dreams that weren’t really mine to begin with, so was this big vision I had for my life, really mine at all? I’d forgotten who I was and where I’d come from and I wasn’t entirely convinced I knew where I really wanted to go – although I was afraid to admit it, at the time.

I spent the next six months travelling and in doing so, I filled the quiet space in my life with noise of a different kind from the noise my corporate life had provided; I went to the USA and Italy and home to Australia for several weeks, followed by a month ‘living’ in Paris. It was a truly wonderful season of my life, but at the same time, I was aware of a throbbing undercurrent of dissatisfaction.

So, at the beginning of 2014 I made the decision to stay in one place for six months. No more travelling, no more distractions; it was time to get serious about my personal styling business.

I also picked up the notebook I’d purchased the year before on my 39th birthday, and I committed to a regular writing practice.

The first few pages of that journal are filled with words I felt I could hold onto, words that were pointing me in a direction I couldn’t yet see; positive affirmations, beautiful and inspiring quotes, gratitude lists and poetry that spoke to me, a list of books to read.

A few months later, I read about morning pages. After that I woke up each morning feeling like my brain was exploding. I had so many ideas…things to be, do, say and write. I couldn’t think or record them fast enough; the notebook is filled with pages and pages of these ideas, the words scribbled in haste as they tumbled out of me. I always felt a sense of release after writing, but sometimes I also felt unsure of what to focus on first or what to do next – I had so many ideas, but no idea what to do with them all.

There were questions, too: Who am I? What do I think Im doing? How am I going to make this work?

And this:

What are you willing to leave behind? I spent time looking back into my past in order to understand who I was and where I’d come from in an attempt to not only better understand where I really wanted to go, but to see what I needed to release first.

What stories are you telling to and about yourself? I took painful stories from my past and I re-wrote them with loving words.

Are you speaking to yourself like someone you love? I returned to the positive affirmations I’d written in my journal, I wrote my own mantras, I worked hard to replace the negative thoughts and words that continuously ran through my heard with positive ones.

I continued to focus on building my business. I worked with clients in London, Australia, Paris, Amsterdam and the USA. I spoke and wrote about fashion and style and was living what many would consider a ‘dream life’. Yet it didn’t feel like a dream, at all.

Because I could feel another life burning deep inside of me: A life I was ignoring.

18 Months later depression raised its ugly head. A number of experiences led me to feel like I was headed for a breakdown. I stopped seeing personal styling clients and in doing so, I created space to just be.

I decided it was time to get brutally honest within the pages of my journal.

I decided it was time to learn how to be still and sit with myself and all that I was feeling and thinking, to stop overriding those feelings and thoughts, and to listen to my intuition, no matter how uncomfortable it all might be.

And so, I began to sit in the space, in the quiet, and I began to listen and write.

I asked myself new questions:

What makes you happy? I wrote my answers down and was stunned by their simplicity.

What are you afraid of? I listed my fears and in doing so, I felt less afraid.

How do you want to feel? This question was crucial. I spent hours with my journal, capturing what I longed for and being completely honest with myself about how I wanted to feel each day, from the moment I woke up, until I laid my head on the pillow again at night, and what I’d actually have to do to feed those feelings. This exercise gave me some tangible actions I could put in place immediately. In doing so, I felt like I was taking back control of my life.

I continued to create space in my life. I kept sitting with myself no matter how uncomfortable it felt. I kept listening. I kept writing. I followed clue after clue even though I wasn’t always sure where I was being led. I tried many things that may not have made sense from the outside, but I gave myself permission to play. Eventually I wrapped up the personal styling side of my business and decided to focus on my work as a coach and mentor; I’d been coaching on and off in the 10 years since completing my initial accreditation and I’d always been curious if a full-time coaching career might be just right – finding out felt like the obvious next step to take. In the end, 121 coaching wasn’t right, for me. But I don’t regret my decision; there was no way of knowing until I tried.

All the time I kept writing. I kept wondering. I documented my doubts and fears in my journal and every night I said the same prayer from A Course In Miracles, “What would you have me do, where would you have me go, what would you have me say – and to whom?” I filled the pages of that notebook with new ideas for articles and blog posts and e-courses. I set intentions. I finally wrote down my deepest desires: To spend a year travelling, to write a book

Today I stood in a stationery shop in Hanoi and I picked up a notebook; an exact version of the notebook I’d purchased in London almost six years ago. I held it in my hands and I saw what treasures I’d unearthed through journaling, through writing for myself. It took my breath away.

I thought about the woman I was then and how – in that moment in time on her 39th birthday – she would not have dared to believe she’d be living the life she lives now.

Journaling has been the foundation for everything I’ve created in my life. I no longer eat to numb uncomfortable feelings and thoughts and instead I healed (for the most part) my relationship with my body and food. I live a day-to-day life that makes me feel more like me than I’ve ever felt – not just because of where I am and what I’m doing, but because I honour my most basic, non-negotiable needs – although I am living my dream of travelling full-time and I am writing my book, albeit very slowly. I finally birthed my first e-course into the world, something I’ve longed to do for a very long time, and I’m working on my next one, certain I can make a living from the business my heart longs to create. I’m living a life true to myself and it feels like home. I also believe everything I’ve done since I started that writing practice in early 2014 was leading me to this very moment, that nothing is wastedeverything that came before makes perfect sense now. Yes, I still have days when I experience doubts and fears and shame, but I know whilst it’s human to avoid uncomfortable feelings and thoughts, it’s better to sit in the space, in the quiet, and to see what they have to say.

So, I continue to listen and write, knowing there are far more jewels to be found.

Previously: The Deep Work (Honouring Your Needs, Choosing Your Wants)…

Next: Everyone is Feeling Something…

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