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A JOURNEY TO JOY: Adjusting your outlook

Updated: Dec 6, 2021

Before you devour anymore of my words, I want to make a disclaimer, potentially it’s just me wanting to site my own self awareness, but I want to acknowledge that I am the annoying relentlessly positive friend - the one who insists it’s never too far to walk, that you will most definitely survive your heartbreak and that no, we aren’t too hungover for a Sunday adventure. I want to acknowledge this because sometimes, we aren’t in the headspace for that kind of friend. In a world that is seemingly twisting and turning and a fate that feels somewhat dependent on our 1pm news updates, if you need time to grieve, lock yourself away and be cynical for a bit - you are just as valid. I, your happy-go-lucky friend will be here waiting, whenever you are ready to re-emerge.

Despite this self-proclaimed undying optimism that I claim to possess, it’s important that I reveal my full identity to you, as it wasn’t always this way. Since the age of 16 through to 22, I was clinically depressed. For a large portion of these years I was severely unhappy. Suicidal. Completely hopeless that life would improve for me. My world felt so small I felt as though I could reach out and touch my life’s perimeters on my daily walk to the library through the grey Dunedin streets. I was suffocated in negative thought after negative thought. I was uninspired about my career direction. I despised my body. Eating made me feel guilty. Any aspect of life, I’d find a problem with it.

Although I am no longer this same person now, I think there is power in sharing one’s story, revealing all of our layers - to show that I can understand you. I have walked in those shoes myself. Heavy, hopeless footsteps - dragging myself forward into each unbearable day.

It took almost 5 years to begin to find my spirit again. The outrageously loud, weird and goofy girl that I was up until 15. It took therapy, medication, my own daily discipline and a heck of a lot of supportive humans in my corner. I guess my recovery is a story for another day - right now, I want to share one small but powerful thing that my journey has taught me and how I use it to let the light in, every single day.

Now, time for another disclaimer. Please know that I am not claiming to be some sort of guru who preaches to know everything about how each cog in our brain rotates around the other - far from that. Until recently I didn’t realise ducks could actually fly or what real, true heartbreak felt like. Like all of us, I am learning and growing through life. This is simply my story. A story that I hope can offer you something - whether it be hope, perspective or simply a little bit of laughter.

Pain is relative. All of our life paths are incredibly unique. But we can keep our hearts and our minds open, and learn so much from one another.

Ok, so you’re probably wanting the positive stuff now. You’re probably sat there thinking, “Maddie, stop droning on and trying to sound profound. You said this was going to be refreshing and positive.” I hear you! Let’s flick the switch. Let’s talk about how to be happy, and yes, I mean actually happy in a time where our world is confined to our bedroom walls and our only connection to one another is through a pixelated screen. I am a huge believer that it all begins with taking back your power. Realising that life is not happening to you at all, and that there are still certain things you are very much in control of - truly, completely and entirely.

I love the analogy of being a pilot. My plane would have lime green fluffy seats and complimentary M&Ms for everyone on board. That’s not really part of the analogy but a cool detail that I like to entertain. So, we are all in our planes, flying through this vast and unpredictable sky. We can’t control whether there’ll be a storm ahead, or if we’ll hit some unexpected turbulence. What we can control however is how prepared we are to encounter these storms - whether we alter our flight path, we choose to panic and stop the plane altogether or whether we keep cool headed, make ourselves a cup of tea and steer through all the bumpiness.

I think, and I am sorry to say the dread “C” word, but COVID has us all feeling like victims. It’s the storm outside but it has somehow hijacked the pilot seat and tossed us into the cabin. We have passed over our power to something external - and, we really need to take it back.

We were all born to be pilots of our own planes. However scary this is or unprepared you may feel, it’s true. You decide the course of your life - through all the calm and all the storms. So let’s climb back into that pilot seat. Take some time to readjust the seat if COVID’s messed it up a little. Look out on your life ahead of you. Amidst the storm clouds, what is still going to plan? Assuming you’re not an alien and reading this through your fingers, you have eyes that are working! What beautiful sights can you see today? Are there any spring flowers blooming in your garden today? Can you use your eyes to read another chapter of that book you’re half way through? What about look at someone who loves you - whether they are with you in the flesh or through a screen, that’s a real human you’re seeing - and they adore you!

Suddenly, our flight path is looking a little more manageable - and we’ve only gone as far as our retinas! Think of all the good things you can do today. Breathe in your biggest breath of fresh air. Go and find some grass, maybe get muddy. Remember how fun it was to grub around as a kid. Do you have sunshine today? Or is it raining? Rain means it’s going to be cosy! Make a cup of tea, draw the view from your kitchen window or, if you really want to feel alive, go and run in the rain. Everyday you have so many things that you are in charge of. The food that you eat, the music that you listen to, the people you interact with - and you can choose to make these all beautiful, positive and loving things. Focus on all that you do have, not what you don’t.

So friends, I may be annoying, but hopefully I have shared with you one thing. An insignificant yet significant fact - that even when the world feels like its ending, we still have 100% control of how we feel, act and think. We have power, perspective and a full toolbox to help us steer through the storms ahead. Because we are not the victims, nor the passengers.

We are the brave, determined and persistent pilots.

And, this just came through my radio - there’s going to be clear skies ahead. Life says to hang tight, we’ve got this.

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