On Sunday, 4 March 2018 an old school friend in Australia posted a message on a social media page that rocked my world. Her message was brief, with the usual light-hearted, chirpy tone she had previously used to update us on how she was progressing with her cancer treatment. She informed us that she didn’t have a lot of time left with us. Nicci’s spirit left her body the following Friday afternoon, 9 March 2018.
Her battle had been long and hard. How valiantly she had fought for her life, with her bright red lipstick on and motorbike boots at the ready to kick cancer’s arse. Her message that Sunday had sparked within me deep contemplation on how precious life is, and how special family and friends are.
During the twenty-two days that followed confronted by a series of experiences, I felt me raw and vulnerable, confused and generally unmotivated (quite a rarity for me).
At every turn, I question everything about what I am doing in my life and how I am going about it. Those strategies not working brought to the surface for scrutiny do not have a feeling of failure. However, I am without plausible solutions as to how to rectify them. Some friendships have also been challenged in such a manner that I have cautiously felt compelled to step away.
Over the past month it has hit home that I have stepped through a doorway within my life. I am no longer a child or a youth (which to a certain extent within my own mind I have held on to). The on-set of peri-menopause has brought its own set of shifts hormonally, mentally and physically, particularly with the realisation that my body is no longer functioning as it once did.
My nine-to-five world has also been under the microscope. I spend so much of my time on the treadmill of life – earning the money to pay the bills to live a lifestyle that seems to leave me depleted. Time really is a precious commodity. And when you think about it, with all there is to achieve and complete, there doesn’t seem a great deal of time left with the bulk of the week filled with a full-time job doing something I am not truly passionate about.
But how do I step off this cycle? How do I slow that clock down to give myself an opportunity to breathe and take stock of my life, to focus on what it is I am really doing here?
I have been feeling very angry at life. My fury at the way people treat each other without respect is at an all-time high. I am angry at the sanctimonious bullshit – the futile, stupid power games played out which inevitably get in the way of getting a job done. I am angry at how blinkered those who call themselves “friends” are to what is really happening within the lives of those around them. I am seething at how these people make judgements without connection, and feel that a smile, a hug can make it all “okay”. How are these altercations important in the bigger scheme of things? How has taking on someone else’s responsibility and accountability become a career path and something to strive for? At what point have empty sentiments and words that are not reflective of action become a “space filler” in life. Life is too goddamn precious!
Driving my car along the peak hour streets of Nelson, I ponder on what my anger is really about? Is this anger really about other people playing games? Is it just the hormones talking? Or is this feeling a motivational force goading me to make a mindful choice between inadequacy and awesomeness?
Needing To Be Enough
My feeling of inadequacy – it stems from a perception that I am not enough. It has haunted me for most of my life to some degree. I seem to so willingly taken on the judgements of others. The other week whilst at an appointment concerning the hearing loss in my right ear, the surgical specialist asked me a very important question. “Why does what others think or say matter to you so much?” His perception was that if people complained about my voice being louder than average, if I can’t hear or understand what people are saying – that is their problem. If they continue to talk to me with their back turned toward me, muttering and generally not communicating with me mindfully, it is not my problem, and not a reflective of my personal character. It reflects their own intolerance and lack of their understanding and compassion.
I listened to the surgeon say these words. Whilst they made sense, the feeling of inadequacy remained with me. It sat heavy in the pit of my stomach as I fathomed how I am going to turn this situation around to a more positive one.
What Nicci Reminds of The Power Of Mindfulness
Nicci has been with me in my thoughts over the past twenty days. As I looked back on her Facebook posts, as I flipped through old photos of school days, and as I remembered our drama performances and her laugh, I realised the answer to my personal dilemma.
She is (and always will be) vibrant, courageous, deeply spiritual, caring, compassionate, intelligent, fun, creative, genuine, capable of such love. A true earth angel in every sense. She inspires others in so many ways – she was never afraid of being. At school she stood steadfast and true to what she believes in. Even whilst in pain and grief, she reached out and communicated with everyone around her with wonderful respect and love. She was even gentle in the way she communicated that she was not in the right space for company. Nicci relished simplicity and those things that were most important to her.
It is time to dial everything back to simplicity and mindfulness. I need to nurture myself, my friendships that also nurture and respect me. It is time to choose mindfully how I spend what moments I have spare and what behaviours I am willing and not willing to tolerate. I choose lightness, laughter and love. I choose to follow my heart compass, despite it not always pointing in the direction others find comfortable. I choose respect.
Nicci, thank you! I bought a new lipstick yesterday and I thought of you. It is not a shade of red but more of a deep plum colour – kick arse all the same. My motorbike boots are at the ready though. Time to kick out of this emotional-mental funk and embrace life with gusto. Life really is too short for anything less than love!
In loving memory of Nicola Sutherland. To her family and friends, may Nicci continue to shine like like the diamond she always has been. She remains around you in your hearts. Just close your eyes, and talk to her – She is listening xx
Anne McCormack is the Author of “Lovitude: Trying To Calm The Monkey Mind”, a book that is a hug and a holiday from your head and “Peacock Dreaming: The Wisdom Of Flowers”. Through photography Anne found a way to stop and take notice of the beauty around her, something that has provided her with much peace during challenging times. Her photographs also have the same profound affect on those that take the time to look into them.
Feature photo courtesy of Bru-nO via Pixabay