Today, the 24th of February, is my birthday. I’m turning 33 and there’s something special about a double digit birthday. Not to sound grandiose, but 33 is the age Jesus died (headline — Louise O’Neill compares herself to Jesus) so I’m feeling the pressure to ensure that this year is a success. While not convinced of my ability to start a major world religion, I have been trying to focus on my health and well-being as much as I can in preparation for this birthday. I go to the gym four times a week, I attend a sunrise yoga class at 7am four times a week, and I’ve been meditating every day.
Besides a couple of sips of Prosecco to toast a special occasion, I’ve basically been teetotal since last April. I have reduced my screen time exponentially and although my one remaining vice, sugar, is proving a little more difficult to quit (penny sweets are my greatest nemesis in this world), I’m working on it.
The purpose of this isn’t to be able to boast about how ‘self disciplined’ I am, because it’s bloody hard work and I constantly wish I could give up and lie in bed all day eating sweets and scrolling through Twitter. The reason why I’m taking these measures is simple — I am trying to connect to a power higher than me and I am dismantling the blocks that stand in my way. This isn’t a new desire. I was a mystical child, and a firm believer in angels and fairies. I felt the presence of god at all times, and that gave me such comfort and a sense of safety. But as an adult, I found myself becoming distracted. Distracted by ambition and sex and money and drink and drugs and work and drama and competition and gossip.
Not all of these things are necessarily bad, in and of themselves, but the more I indulged in them, the less connected I felt to my true self, or to that sense of the Divine that had always been within my grasp when I was young. I felt hollow, as if there was a gnawing void in the centre of me and no matter what I tried to fill it up with — food or expensive clothes or counting how many likes a selfie on Instagram could gather — I still felt empty. I kept looking to something or someone outside of myself to make me feel whole again. What could I do to find peace?
Mindfulness helped. Bringing my attention back to the present moment, and focusing on my breath. Grounding myself through my body with yoga and running.
Allowing myself to be comfortable with the silence. Giving myself permission to be bored and to day dream without having to stuff my mind with social media and noise. Listening to Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday podcast, and trying not to laugh every time she said “That’s an A-Ha moment! Tweet Tweet!”
Keeping a dream journal, and, more importantly, never insisting that anyone else listen to me talk about my dreams. Then, last Sunday, something strange happened to me. I was in the gym lifting weights, looking at myself in the mirror and silently cataloguing all the things about my body that I wished I could change, when this tiny voice inside my head said — “What would your life be like if you decided to completely accept yourself, just as you are right now?” Usually if I thought something like that, the resistance would come in quicklyif you accept yourself then nothing will change, you’ll just be giving up, you have to keep getting better, you have to try harder.
But this time, I just stared at my reflection and I thought — well, what would it be like? And I wasn’t able to answer that question because radical acceptance of the self is something I thought was for other people, more evolved people. But not for me.
I went home and I took out my yoga mat to meditate. I sat there, listening to my breath, coming in and coming out, over and over again. And I waited. I must have sat there for at least an hour until suddenly, I felt an enormous wave of energy rushing through every part of my body, causing my fingers and my toes to almost vibrate. I had this intense understanding that ultimately none of it mattered — that all the fear and anxiety over my body and my career was pointless, the attempts to control both were futile. That all I needed to do was to trust that I was safe and protected. That the universe had my back, if I could just let go.
I fell asleep that night in the most relaxed state that I’ve ever experienced, and I woke the next day hoping that I would feel changed on some cellular level. Alas, I did not. I felt tired and cranky.
Someone said something to annoy me, and I complained about it to another friend. I was besieged with work responsibilities, and anxiety about the upcoming book raised its ugly head, once more. I suppose that’s just part of being human, those frustrations and petty worries. I suppose I couldn’t expect to remain in that state of openness and love.
But it was nice, even if just for one hour on a quiet Sunday evening, to feel as everything would be ok.
I am trying to connect to a power higher than me and I am dismantling the blocks that stand in my way
A reader of this column wrote me an incredibly kind letter, recommending that I buy . In a moment of synchronicity, I had been reading at that time. It’s by Marianne Williamson and is full of wisdom and truth.
I went to see Coco, the newest Pixar movie, and I loved it. It was visually stunning, moving, and thought- provoking, and its warm depiction of a Mexican family could not come at a more important time.