Four years ago, I went on a holiday that changed my life.
Ew, what a sappy start to a blog. But, really, I came back feeling like a new person, and it's all thanks to the people I met on that solo trip to Portugal.
I wrote a little something on my tendency to buy myself plane tickets whenever life got a little too hard for me to handle, and the beginning of 2017 was no exception. I had just ended a relationship I had no business ending, with my 'inner saboteur' trying to convince me that I didn't deserve the type of happiness that can be linked to another human (although now I know that happiness is only felt from within and blah, blah, you know the rest). So I did what I did best, booked myself a ticket to visit one of the top countries on my travel list.
Tbh, it was only Portugal. I don't even know how it took me so long to buy a ticket in the first place.
Anyway, the ticket was mine and little did I know, I had already embarked on a journey that would shape my entire future.
In a Porto hostel, I met four incredible human beings, all from different continents, with different backgrounds, upbringings, cultures, and beliefs, and for the first time, I was able to have open conversations about what our differences all meant, and how cool it was that one planet could produce such variegated beauty within just one species alone.
We travelled the rest of the country together, breaking from the group and meeting up in different cities. And, somehow, we still retained this ideal of a family unit. Yes, we were a family, of different ethnicities, sharing our food, languages and our joy for solo travel with one another. So it only made sense then that when we came across a saying, "Live your heart", we chose that to be our motto for the duration of our time together.
None of us knew what it meant, in fact, we thought it was a hilarious attempt at a deep quote that had been lost in translation. Live your heart? Maybe it makes sense in Portuguese...
Rachel, one of my favourite human beings on this planet to date, recently uploaded the picture we all took on our final day together, and it instantly brought tears to my eyes. Yes, I love them all dearly, and I will never forget the time we spent together, but I'll be the first to admit we have drifted apart slightly over the years. We returned to our respective countries, started families, full-time jobs, went back to school... but the memory is always there, a time where I felt such unbridled joy to be alive and to be a part of this world.
So I took this saying, "Live your heart", and applied it to my current life with a meaning of my own understanding.
I've very recently (since ~2018) taken the steps necessary to understanding who I am as a person, and it all started with a therapy session. An eye-opening experience that brought up the ugliest memories that I had suppressed so hard that if anyone heard them, they wouldn’t believe that those memories were mine. And along my journey of self-discovery, I learnt to connect with my chakras (thanks to another beautiful human I met on a film set, of all places). I learnt the meaning of each chakra, the meaning of my blockages, and how I can free my chakras from the cords keeping me bound, repressed.
One of the worst ones, (un)surprisingly, was my heart chakra. I had blocked off my heart and buried it so deep that even I couldn’t reach it. And I never understood how anyone could. Remember the relationship I spoke about at the beginning of the blog? I ended it because I truly believed I was not capable of giving love or worthy of receiving it.
Why is that? Why did I feel so unworthy of love? The irony of this question is that my name, Amanda, literally means "worthy of love". But I couldn't accept it. Why?
Because I had spent so much of my life apologising for who I am. The way I spoke, the shape of my body, the texture of my hair. A lot of the words I heard in the household served only to uphold this belief that I am, in fact, unworthy. So I carried that with me through to adulthood.
And, I know, I know, as adults we can't "blame" our parents for how we turned out. But now that I'm a mother, I sometimes wonder about how the way we speak to our children and show them love impacts the way they speak to themselves, and thus, show themselves love.
In one session, my therapist mentioned I needed to be more "self-compassionate", or rather, I needed to show myself love. To think about the things I loved about myself, what was I proud of? What was I happy with?
I'm sure you won't be surprised when I say that that was one of the hardest questions I've ever had to ask myself, that, and, "what are your strengths and weaknesses?" Ugh.
So anyway, self-compassion. The theme of my life now. But what on this green Earth did that even mean???
Funny you should ask. A quick google search led me to this definition: The feeling or emotion, when a person is moved by the suffering or distress of another, and by the desire to relieve it; pity that inclines one to spare or to succour. In other words, understanding that when times get rough, you're better off being kind to yourself, nurturing, loving, than being hyper-critical, guilt-ridden, or resentful.
So, what did this look like for me?
For me, self-compassion meant meditating, being mindful of the spirals my mind loves to take when I don't live up to the incredibly high standards I set for myself. It means being completely honest with myself and sitting with emotions, rather than hiding from them, in the hopes that I may understand where they stem from and how I can guide myself, and my thoughts, to a happier, more peaceful place.
Self-compassion, for me, means recognising that I am no longer the person I once was, even as recently as a year ago! I had a baby, fam. That shit changes you, and I cannot stress enough how much of a waste of time it was trying to fit into my old clothes, or party like I used to, or reminisce about the freedom I had when I was child-free.
Yup, a complete waste of time. Time that could have been spent getting to know who I was now in my added role of "Mum".
Self-compassion means forgiving yourself for your past mistakes and for falling back into your old defence mechanisms because they're comfortable and familiar. It means letting go of all that anger, resentment, guilt - all the feelings that keep you living in the past, unable to move forward.
I journal (almost) every night before bed which allows me to understand now that I have so much to be thankful for. First and foremost, for the person that I am today. The person who is living my former self's wildest dreams. I am now, thankfully, someone who can see the past, relive it if I really need to, and find peace knowing that everything I have seen and experienced had to happen so that I could be the woman I am today.
Cheesy, I know, not long ago I would've rolled my eyes if I’d read that in a blog. But what I mean is, I am happy. And I've spent my whole life waiting for this visceral happiness that I really couldn't see that it was within me all along. I just had to open myself up, be honest with myself, with my heart, to see that.
And by reconciling with the past, I can learn to create a better future for myself, my family, my career, every aspect of my life, now that I am not burdened with the pain. And this includes letting people go, too. Even those you thought you could never live without: your friends, significant other, your own family members.
Self-compassion for me means setting up boundaries for myself and being very selective of how and with whom I spend my time. It means letting go of the people who've hurt me. You forgive and forget. I forgive them, all of them, but I know that I can't carry the good memories of them without harbouring space for the bad. And when the bad outweighs the good, you're better off letting go.
My greatest act of self-compassion, though, is learning more about my heritage, embracing my Yoruba customs, and putting my faith in my ancestors and the gods and goddesses that helped guide them through the most turbulent times of their lives. I sage my home, lay out my crystals, pray to the deities that allowed me the freedom and beauty of this world, and I am thankful. I am thankful because gone are those days where I berate myself because it’s the easiest thing to do. I am thankful because I now have the chance, as restricted as we are in this Panorama, to fully embrace myself as my own person – writer, blogger, mother. I hold space in my heart for those I love and cherish and dare to live each day fulfilling my heart’s content. That, to me, is what it means to live your heart.
What does “Live your heart” mean to you? How do you show up for yourself, and show yourself self-compassion, particularly when times get hard? Are there any rituals you take to get yourself there?