We won’t regret what we do in life only what we did not do.
Whoever said this could not have said it better. Most of us will probably have more regret about what we never got around to doing rather than expounding on what we did do. This is a common lament say those who have worked with the dying. Let’s face it, we can get so bogged down in the business of daily living with obligations to family, friends, work peers, and basically what society expects of us that any dreams we might have had get relegated to the back seat. It’s unfortunate that it’s not until we are on our death beds that we finally realise what we could have had if only….Why do we do this? Why can’t we do what our soul wants us to do? Why do we believe that we should settle for a life that excludes true inner peace and happiness? Did we not come here to do better than settle for second best? These are weighty questions which I have been pondering for some time.
After more than a year of having to live with the ramifications of COVID, many of us older folk are discovering that it has given us more time to consider our past and what lies ahead. Please note that I am speaking for myself as one of the ‘older folk’ and most likely not for our children and grandchildren. Their time is apt to be taken up with work, school, parenting, and whatever it’s taking for them to keep their heads above water during the pandemic.
Like so many of us today, we are having to make adjustments that we had never dreamed of doing before the pandemic. Where we can go and what we can do have been severely limited and yet, I can honestly say that my days are as busy as they were before but with a difference…a huge difference! Whereas before I was spending my time going out and about to visit friends, attending meetings, shopping, visiting my family in Ottawa, and preparing for my annual winter trip over to Thailand and beyond, now I am being forced to rewrite my schedule. My travels are taking on a whole new direction. As we go into a third wave, it’s an misnomer to say that my blog which I named betstravelsabout is rather outdated. But is it?
Reversing my travel from going outward to going inward is a work in progress. So what does travelling within look like and what can I learn from it? How can it ever replace the joy and excitement of getting away from my everyday life in Nova Scotia to return to Thailand and other Asian countries where I built up a whole new gang of friends sharing the same joy in travelling as I did? Some of my closest friends still live there and may have to stay there until they can either go back home to their country or be allowed to pick up their nomadic life once again. Judging by what is happening throughout our world today, their latter choice could become just a dream. Only time will tell. In the meantime, I plan to finish off this post with what ‘travelling within’ looks like for me.
The shape of my new travel
- Looking out for my physical health has become a top priority. Although it has always played a role of sorts throughout my life, it’s now become a daily routine. This winter I joined our local YMCA which came to an abrupt end when our province went into another lockdown. However, thanks to the warmer weather my Community Garden plot and sorely neglected backyard are now taking up my time with a rigorous workout of digging, mulching, and seeding. To create enough energy to do this, I try to find time for some yoga or Chi Gong before breakfast. Speaking of breakfast, an added component to looking after my body is to make improvements to my daily diet with more veggies and fruits and less sugar and carbs. Add to that more plant based foods and less meat AND fish. Why fish? Isn’t that on the list of good foods? It is, but if you want to find out why I have regretfully taken it off my food list, then watch the documentary “Seaspiracy” on Netflix.**
- Looking after our mental health should definitely be a part of keeping healthy during a lockdown so I am trying to put yoga and Chi Gong into my daily routine. Both are excellent ways to still the mind and activate our energy level with breath work and body movement. Furthermore, learning to control our thoughts by staying present in the moment will help ward off anxiety and depression. Some of my best teachers have been Caroline Myss, Eckhart Tolle, Neil Walsch, and Wayne Dyer. Since COVID, I am discovering many more on U Tube who offer good advice and meditations for free.
- A third component to maintaining a healthy lifestyle is to include the spiritual….a recognition of a power greater than our body which resides, not just inside us, but all around us. It’s that unknown spirit or our soul which yearns to be heard if we would only take the time to listen. Unfortunately, this one is so often omitted from our daily ‘to do’ list. I know it has been from mine over the years, but now it’s becoming almost a necessity. When things start to go wrong in my day, I am getting much better at not allowing them to throw me into that negative pit of despair. I can do this by taking a few minutes to be thankful for those things that went well. The results have been amazing. For instance, I made the leap from renting a cozy apartment in the historic town of Annapolis Royal to buying a small house in a community 16 kilometers away in what was once a naval base. Buying a home, especially when you do it for the first time on your own as a person in her 70’s, isn’t what most seniors do. It can be one of the most stressful things we have to face in life if we let it. This is truer than ever since the pandemic is putting people into a panic to move away from the cities to the peace and quiet of a small town or to buy a piece of land so they can grow their own food. The market here is hot with demand far outweighing the supply, so I got in just in time. Through every daunting step peppered with some sleepless nights, I will be forever grateful to those people who helped me, but most importantly to the invisible guidance I felt around me which some would call God but I call the Universe.
- My travels inward have helped me to accept myself for who and what I am, the good bits and the bad, and to love all of it. None of us is perfect and never will be, and yet we constantly strive to be so. If we do err, we find it hard to forgive ourselves resulting in the worst part of ourselves to take over, such as blame, anger, denial, or self-sabotage. Once we can accept the idea that we will make tons of mistakes throughout our life, then and only then, can we live in peace with ourselves and the world around us. The thing to remember is that we came to this planet in the first place to learn from our mistakes. I’ll never forget the first time I heard one of my spiritual teachers refer to life on this earth plane as the toughest school you will ever have to attend. Forgiveness of ourselves and others may sound easy at first but don’t be fooled. Test yourself to see just how well you are doing by taking a day to be conscious of when you think and say something negative about yourself such as, “I’ll never be able to do that. I’m not smart enough to be a success. I’ll never be able to lose weight.” Or, as I hear so often from those in their senior years, “I’m too old to do that.”
- My real challenge these days is to not be afraid to speak my truth. I’ve always had opinions on things, especially those that don’t fit the norm, but sadly was afraid to voice them for fear of being rejected. I am happy to say that is changing to the point that I am not only surprised by the words coming out of me, but also my ability to let the negative reactions I might get to not bother me. The ability to speak my truth matters greatly to me as it should for all people.
- Creating balance in all aspects of our life is another challenge that I am working on at this point in my life. I think I’ve always been fairly good at doing this, but COVID’s restrictions have made it more so. Finding enough to do isn’t the problem but sorting out which things to do is…. what things are really important and need doing right away and so on? When retired and living on your own, having some kind of schedule is important. Keeping my thoughts on the side of positivity is an absolute must. Bingeing on anything cannot be an option although it’s tempting. When I do go off the wagon, I always end up feeling miserable. It’s just not worth it. So I try to work in all the physical, mental and spiritual components every day. Keeping in touch with family and friends is also a must. I especially make a huge effort to keep informed of the world news despite all the gloom and doom. Yes, it can be depressing so when that happens, I turn it off. Some days I can leave it completely. I struggle to make informed opinions on matters of importance by listening to both sides of the argument but have to confess that this whole issue of whether to vaccinate or not has been difficult. I am not a scientist and don’t have a good memory for facts so tend to go in the direction of what my heart says. I’ll just have to keep working on the science knowing that it doesn’t have all the answers. We need both head and heart when making such important decisions.
- Finally, I should mention that working on being a more resilient person is another of my challenges. I prefer to follow my old way of doing things especially in anything technical and feel my stomach knotting up when faced with some new improved technical procedure. For instance, COVID is pushing me to do things online when I want to deal with a person as I always have. I am still reeling from how I managed to buy my house almost completely online. Admittedly, it was extremely stressful but in the end I felt a real sense of accomplishment. One thing I have learned is that I have to prepare myself mentally and emotionally before shopping and paying my bills online. Another characteristic of a resilient person is one who can easily switch to an alternative plan when the first one doesn’t work out. Plans made ahead of time can evaporate in an instant as we have all found out since living with COVID. I am learning that the certainty for anything these days is a thing of the past. So far I am adjusting to this better than I am at trying out new things on a computer or anything technical.
As I look back over the past year and a half, I realise I am able to look at the hardships that this pandemic has brought to our world by taking the time that it has allowed me to slow down and take this journey inward. By doing so I have become more confident, brave, strong, and hopefully more loving. My travels outward to places beyond Canada were a starting point, but this travel inward has really sealed it for me. We really do have all that we need for a joyful and meaningful life right inside of us. We don’t need to be out there somewhere in the world looking for it. We are the masters of our fate. How we reach this point of recognition will be different for every person. Upon reflection and taking action on the things I know I must do for my own growth, I truly feel that by continuing on the path of seeking the truth that matters is not just a necessity for me but for our whole world. This is our greatest challenge. I wonder if we are ready for it?
** Seaspiracy is a documentary by British Director Ali Tabrizi regarding the abuses within the global fishing industry, such as human trafficking. It can be viewed on You Tube and Netflix with mixed reviews.