Over the last 10 years I have constantly checked-in with myself, reassessed my progress against my goals and worked extremely hard to reach a moderate level of ‘enlightenment’. I self-reflect, spend time in gratitude, use mindfulness techniques to stave off the pressures of everyday challenges and mostly spend time with myself. I’m what many people might think of as a bit of a loner, but the choice to not surround myself with people all the time is deliberate. I have always been a good friend – and still am. Loyal, generous and supportive of the people who need me and who I have cultivated a friendship with over a period of time. Yet, I do not depend on this friendship to measure my worth in this life. I don’t really know which came first – my feeling of contentment in solitude, or my retreat into solitude following a disappointment from a friend. I recently went on a short trip with a friend of 10 years, someone that I called my closest friend. We joked leading up to it how we would walk away from each other if we needed space, or just stop talking if we needed silence. But it didn’t go that way, instead we stopped communicating our feelings and when I tried to re-engage I was met with a person I hardly recognised. I experienced judgement, hostility and downright rudeness. It was more than realising we were different ‘types’ of campers. We had grown in different directions and when I think about it perhaps the signs were there over the last few years but given we were never in that close of quarters it never manifested into anything.
So, here I am again. Reading my books, exercising with gusto, making recipes from childhood and throwing myself into my garden. What does it mean, the answer lies in the common denominator of all these activities – growth. Personal growth (my books); physical growth (strengthening my body); nourishment (wholefoods) and growth in nature (my earthiness). And, I feel better than I have in a long time. I understand that relationships are important to mental health but they can be equally toxic if you don’t read the signs and ‘bow-out’ before an inevitable ‘blow-out’. Relationships and friendships need to be balanced with time to explore one’s inner self. This exploration is not only crucial but dynamic. We are shaped by the external events and people that we encounter daily and without time spent understanding our responses, feelings and state of mind we lean more and more on the company of others to avoid ownership of our own conscious thought. The moments are often enjoyable – a coffee here, a movie there but it is when we don’t balance this with a moment of gratitude, a session of mindfulness, that we lose sight of our purpose. Our purpose is not to feel good because someone else is providing us with an opportunity to enjoy an experience. This is merely incidental to the situation that we do not exist as remote islands in this sea of life. We are in an archipalego, but we are not THE archipalego. This is why I feel grounded when I retreat to my island, if only for a moment to enjoy the beauty of the sunrise or sunset, to gaze at the possibilities and to saviour the stillness of that moment.