I know a few really good people fighting really epic battles right now. Not the “my toddler won’t eat his veggies” battles (that sucks, I know, but it is temporary I promise with all my heart one day he will eat a plate full of greens and you’ll want to chuck a marrow at him), the really big ones. The ones where, despite being physically strong, mentally tough and all round fantastic humans with so many years and so much life still ahead of them, their bodies are saying, we might be done… this might be it. The kind of battles that mock the small, insignificant issues that plague us at 2am. The kind of battles that spark life changes in the people around those fighting.
Quite often, our immediate response to such battles is to asses our own mortality and check our bucket lists. If the last time we ticked a box was the very last box we would ever get to tick, would it be good enough? We’re mostly cruising through here, right? Meals, sleep routines, finding ways to fill the bank account and the fridge. We shop, we make lists, we worry about the safety of our children or the frailty of our parents. We meet, and mate, and procreate. We’re stumbling through political turmoil, grappling with spiritual health and working on ways to make it all easier, simpler… but mostly, we’re just cruising through. Our own 80-something years is the confine and primary occupation of our minds, with a couple of ticked boxes and, with luck, someone to love while we get forgetful and wrinkly. We assume we have those 80-something years at our disposal, and we hope like hell that our pensions will cover them.
Rather than redefining my bucket list, my here and now response to those beautiful warriors fighting huge battles, is to draw some lines. If you’re with me, pick up a big fat permanent marker and let’s do it.
Miserable job? Done. Draw a line. If you have done everything possible to be happier in it, and you are certain that you’ll never find any kind of gratification there, draw a line. Get out. I once stepped away from a corporate job to a freelance contract and effectively halved my income. Within 3 stressful months I was back to earning what I had earned in that horrible, tall building of misery, but I was working nearly 5 hours less every week. We don’t all have the networks or safety nets available to make that jump, so your first step to getting happier might be a committment to networking yourself out of there, or asking for help, or applying to further your studies. You can do it, and people do want to help.
Toxic friendships or a stalemate with your “soul mate”… draw that line. You do not have to be liked by everyone, and you definitely do not have to share your precious self with anyone that has not made you a priority. It hurts when relationships end, but you have this one big fat chance, see? Just one, and it is up to you to do it with the people who make you shine. Find your tribe, you’ll know when you have. They are the belly laugh ones who get what is important to you, even when they disagree with you. Your tribe might surprise you, so don’t rush about seeking people who live near you, look like you, talk like you or who got the same education you did. Your tribe can be many things, but it must never be the people you attach yourself to for fear of exploring the unknown. The unknown has, so far, been the world’s greatest teacher.
Systems! Stuck in them? They are sneaky, they draw you in. You may find your beautiful wild young self, the one that fought against school systems and closed-minded indoctrination, suddenly owned by the systems educating your children. Jeez! I was almost on the PTA some years ago! Draw a line. Get out. Unless you love the system, then… give it all your sparkles.
Hating your training regime? Change it. Get on a bike, or off your bike, or swap tar for trail, try scrambling, train somewhere new, or with new music, or find a new training friend. Enter a race that scares you or cancel every single race on your calendar. Draw a line, and remember that you only started training for the enjoyment factor and no one actually gives a flying f*ck if you miss a race, take a break, or use the 4 hours set aside on a Saturday for your long run to make love to your partner instead. There should be a STRAVA type app for that kind of life decision…. I’d kudos that.
I’m on a mission with this big fat permanent marker, and I’m drawing lines that will set me free to be the person I need to be for this part of my journey. I don’t know if I have 80-something years, I don’t know if I need 80-something years, but I’m sure as hell not going to waste my 80-something years cruising through.
Also, I’m going for my second run of the day at 3pm. Yes, that is slap bang in the middle of working hours but it’s been a productive day, and my friend Jade and I need to connect while we navigate some beautiful forest track. I’ll fetch my kids all sweaty and smiling, and cook dinner for my family without a moan, and we’ll all be the better for it.