Photo by Kirsten Oliver

The last two weeks have certainly been a time of reflection for me. With Umngeni river run approaching this weekend, which was in fact my first ever ultra in 2019, I realised that two years have gone by and how much has changed. I was going through photos and even found the journal entry of the experience and I must say I did have quite a chuckle reading it. My first thought was “Ok, I’ve definitely grown spiritually”, the second thought was how I have developed and grown as a runner, an athlete, a mum, a wife, a colleague, and a woman. It feels like it was only yesterday that I was given the chance to start life over and now, 2. 5 years down the line so much has changed.

I still remember thinking to myself; how can I stop drinking for more than a week; I will become so boring; and life will become meaningless. Only after being in a treatment centre (The Cedars) where I was taught the 12-step programme and learnt the “just for today” mantra did I realize this fact not to be true  – in fact those – just for todays has become 2.5 years of just for today  – meaningful; purpose driven!

I think the biggest lesson for me is that fear is temporary and that if you can overcome that moment of discomfort or insecurity, the rewards often exceed our expectations. Yes, it doesn’t always work out the way we planned and sometimes on the other side of fear it is not what we planned or anticipated but again there is always a lesson in that process. The experience we needed to have at that moment. I have also learnt that fear and change go hand in hand.

“How we view change, can be viewed as either exciting or frightening. Regardless of how we view change we must all face the fact that change is the very nature of life. If you have a lot of fear, you won’t like change. You will try and create a world around you that is predictable, controllable, and definable. You will try to create a world that doesn’t stimulate your fears. Fear doesn’t want to feel itself, its actually afraid of itself.  You can do one of two things with fear – you can recognise that you have it and work to release it, or you can keep it and try to hide from it because people don’t deal with fear effectively, they don’t understand it, they end up keeping their fear and try to prevent things from happening. They go through life trying to create safety and control by defining how they need life to be to be ok. This is how the world becomes frightening.” – The Untethered Soul

How much of this is so relevant to what has been going on in South Africa recently; this fear of not knowing, having no control, and then holding onto to this fear which ends up consuming and paralyses us from being spiritual, kind, tolerant or even effective. We judge others because that’s easy and it keeps us stuck in our fear. As you grow spiritually you realise that your attempts to protect yourself from your fears create more problems – for me it was drinking, using drugs and binging/purging. For others it may be relationships, money, or food. There is so much that we can use outside of ourselves to fix the fear, but the sad part is that it never goes away. It only goes away when you address it.

If you attempt to arrange people, places, and things so that they don’t disturb you it will begin to feel like life is against you, you will feel like life is a struggle and every day is heavy because you must control and fight with everyone. Instead of living life you will be afraid of life – I am not sure if I have shared this before but towards the end of my addiction, I was so scared to leave my house. People would ask me why I do not run on the farm and that it must be such a beautiful place to run but I honestly thought that an animal (particularly snakes) would come after me. Absolute debilitating paranoia that stopped me from living; let alone growing and in hindsight, if I am not growing, I’m then dying.

Its funny how we think that if we avoid our fears and anyone who may temporarily make us feel uncomfortable (even sometimes the beggar at the robot) we think that we have “won” and we do everything we can to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. It’s like running away from something that follows you. Personally, I ended up searching for justifications so that I could keep my “stuff” – carrying this heavy bag filled with shit that we don’t need making the journey quite difficult to say the least. Then when we get to our destination and open the bag, we like “why did I carry this around with me for so long, I didn’t need any of it” – quite funny when you look at it from that perspective hey?

The law and unavoidable truth of the matter is quite simple. When your stuff gets hit (if someone or something upsets you, makes you feel discomfort or just doesn’t meet your standard of what you think is appropriate), let it go right then and there because it will be harder later. It won’t be easier if you explore it or play with it. It won’t be easier to think about it or talk about it. If you want to be free you must let it go right away and not hold it for later. I used to love holding onto to all the bad things anyone had ever done to me so I could use all that as ammunition as to why I have so many problems, I was at a pity party and the only person there was me. If you are sincerely searching freedom, you will keep letting go, keep emptying the bag.

Imagine if all you had to do to be happy was to let go, you would go up instead of down (you would flow up) – remember the weight of the bag! The secret of the ascent is to never look down, just look up. We are great beings who have all been given a tremendous opportunity to explore ourselves, our capabilities, and our limits (PS there are none). The process of self-examination, letting go and then trying to be a better human being is very exciting and sometimes hard but remember the harder and heavier it is, the higher the reward of letting go. Alternatively the harder you fall ;and that’s ok too because some of us need to fall hard and hit rock bottom to get back up.  That which is holding you down can be powerful force which can push you forward, you just need to remember that you are always moving forward and up, even if you have to crawl sometimes.