Occasionally, life can be undeniably, impossibly difficult. We are faced with challenges and events that can seem overwhelming, life-destroying to the point where it may be hard to decide whether to keep going. But you always have a choice. Jessica Heslop shares her powerful, inspiring journey from the worst times in her life to the new life she has created for herself:
In 201x I had the worst year of my life.
I worked in a finance job that I hated and I lived in a concrete jungle city with little greenery. I occupied my time with meaningless relationships and spent copious quantities of money on superficialities. I was searching for happiness and had no idea where to find it.
Then I fell ill with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and became virtually bed bound. I had to quit my job and subsequently was left with no income. I lived with my boyfriend of then only 3 months who financially supported me and our relationship was put under great pressure. I eventually regained my physical health, but not long after that I got a call from my family at home to say that my father’s cancer had fiercely progressed and that he had been admitted to a hospice.
I left the city and I went home to be with him.
He died 6 months later.
My father was a complete inspiration to me. He was always so strong that, for a minute after he drew his last breath, I honestly thought he would come back to life. I couldn’t believe I would never again cuddle into his big warm chest and feel safe no matter what.
The grief that followed was intense for all of us 5 children and our mother, but we had each other.
But my oldest sister at that time complained of a bad back. It got so bad after 2 months that she too was admitted to hospital.
They discovered that she had highly advanced cancer in her bones and that there was nothing that they could do.
She died 1 month later.
I could never put into words the loss of my sister in my life.
She was a walking, talking angel and my favourite person in the whole world. If someone could have asked me the worst thing that could ever happen, it would have been losing her.
She was my soul-mate and I never thought I would journey this lifetime without her.
The Moment Of Deliberate Choice
The shock and extreme heart break brought me to my knees. The pain was so great and my world just looked desolate. I had no real home, no money, no job, and no friends that cared. Not one person had even sent me a sympathy card for my loss.
I made an attempt of my own life and I ended up in hospital.
I remember lying in the hospital bed, looking up at the ceiling and seeing my sister’s beautiful face. She stayed with me all night long.
I realised during that night that I had a choice. I could choose to end my life or I could choose to live it.
I looked in my sister’s eyes and I made a decision not to go with her just yet. That I would stay and complete my journey here.
I also made the decision that, I wouldn’t just live any life. I would live the life that I absolutely LOVE and nothing less.
In that moment, the clarity that descended around me was like a light shining in a dark room for the first time. As if the earth’s plates had shifted under my feet and everything suddenly looked real for the first time.
We often close ourselves off when traumatic events happen in our lives; instead of letting the world soften us, we let it drive us deeper into ourselves. We try to deflect the hurt and pain by pretending it doesn’t exist, but although we can try this all we want, in the end, we can’t hide from ourselves. We need to learn to open our hearts to the potentials of life and let the world soften us.
Whenever we start to let our fears and seriousness get the best of us, we should take a step back and re-evaluate our behavior. The items listed below are six ways you can open your heart more fully and completely.
1. Breathe into pain
Whenever a painful situation arises in your life, try to embrace it instead of running away or trying to mask the hurt. When the sadness strikes, take a deep breath and lean into it. When we run away from sadness that’s unfolding in our lives, it gets stronger and more real. We take an emotion that’s fleeting and make it a solid event, instead of something that passes through us.
By utilizing our breath we soften our experiences. If we dam them up, our lives will stagnate, but when we keep them flowing, we allow more newness and greater experiences to blossom.
2. Embrace the uncomfortable
We all know what that twinge of anxiety feels like. We know how fear feels in our bodies: the tension in our necks, the tightness in our stomachs, etc. We can practice leaning into these feelings of discomfort and let them show us where we need to go.
The initial impulse is to run away — to try and suppress these feelings by not acknowledging them. When we do this, we close ourselves off to the parts of our lives that we need to experience most. The next time you have this feeling of being truly uncomfortable, do yourself a favor and lean into the feeling. Act in spite of the fear.
3. Ask your heart what it wants
We’re often confused at the next step to take, making pros and cons lists until our eyes bleed and our brains are sore. Instead of always taking this approach, what if we engaged a new part of ourselves that isn’t usually involved in the decision making process?
I know we’ve all felt decisions or actions that we had to take simply due to our “gut” impulses: when asked, we can’t explain the reasons behind doing so — just a deep knowing that it had to get done. This instinct is the part of ourselves we’re approaching for answers.
To start this process, take few deep breaths then ask, “Heart, what decision should I make here? What action feels the most right?”
See what comes up, then engage and evaluate the outcome.