Never Too Late

In the realm of business, I often find myself grappling with an inner voice that insists I’m lagging behind—that I haven’t achieved enough, that time is slipping away, and opportunities are dwindling. It’s a nagging narrative that tells me I should have accomplished more by now, that I’ve missed the window for new ventures or connections. Even though I have created and built two successfulI businesses and it is better than I could have imaged –there is a feeling that I need to keep working towards more and that it will soon be too late.

I suspect I am not alone. The message, from an early age, has been to work hard to achieve your goals. However, no one ever explained that working hard didn’t have to be hard all of the time nor that my goals didn’t have to be someone else’s.

What if I rejected this notion of always working towards more? What if I embraced the belief that there are always opportunities ahead, even if they come with the risk of failure? What if I trusted that time, though finite, still holds enough moments for growth and exploration? These questions provoke a shift in perspective, inviting me to ponder the courage I could summon if I discarded the shackles of “Its too late.”  What if time was not as a constraint, but as a friend in my journey.

Perhaps that is why I have used Telemaco Signorini’s painting, The Ward of the Madwomen for my featured image. Somehow it seemed relevant, perhaps because it evoked the feeling of sisterhood. There is a solidarity in the absurdity and commonality of women trying to do it all–burning out–being strong–being soft–going mad–being told they are mad–working hard–resting even harder–time of our lives.

Going More Softly

I was reading Lisa Olivera’s Human Stuff blog, Stay soft, I wrote and four spiraling things;

Remind yourself it’s okay to be soft. Stay soft. I said this in my most recent therapy session and my therapist responded with, “can you write that down for yourself?” It’s in my notebook now. My heart has been thawing for the last six months while also dealing with an immense amount of both personal and collective grief. To open one’s heart in the midst of continued grief is to make oneself vulnerable to the elements of being alive: the harshness and the tremendous and everything in between.

I find myself embodying a sense of calmness and softness in many aspects of my life. Yet, when it comes to excelling in endeavours, I have to admit that mediocrity holds no appeal, I firmly reject even the good if I think I can be great. I hold myself to high standards, a trait deeply ingrained within me, no doubt  stemming from a primal longing to be exceptional, acknowledged, and selected. This drive to stand out and be recognised feels rooted in a profound psychological need, which likely stems from childhood experiences of my parents splitting and my dad living in another country from an early age. Within the framework of Jungian psychology, this drive for excellence can be seen as an expression of the individuation process—the journey towards wholeness and self-realisation. The desire to be special and seen may stem from the archetype of the “hero” or the “persona,” where one seeks validation and significance in the external world. Devoting so much time to ballet also fed this drive for perfection and external validation.

In recognising these dynamics, I understand that my pursuit of ‘excellence’ is not solely about achieving external success but is intertwined with my inner journey towards self-discovery and integration. I am now taking the time to decide what excellence is for myself in this stage of my life. And that is where I am currently at–this place of slow, soft discovery and onto something great. And it feels bad sometimes. It often feels slow, unproductive and boring but when I read about it from others, like Lisa Olivera, it rings true so deeply. Saying that, I will also give myself permission to rage whenever necessary. We need both the softness and the fire, the dark and the light. Come as you are, we are all a work in progress.

Stay soft, for in softness lies strength, resilience, and the richness of experiencing life’s beauty and pain with an open heart. 

On that note, check out Andrea Gibson’s substack, below is her beautiful poem,

 

The Lifegiving Benefits of Befriending Our Mortality

At first I thought it was a stomach bug, 
but when it started feeling like a stomach anaconda, 
my doctor convinced me to get a cat scan. 
I’d been a lifelong hypochondriac with debilitating panic attacks 
and a chronic fear of death, so was already trembling 
when the scan technician said, “Andrea,
do you mind pulling down your pants a bit
so we can get a view of your pelvis?”
I knew my doctor hadn’t ordered a scan of my pelvis. 
There was so much sweat on my palms 
I could feel my lifelines drowning. 
The technician broke protocol and walked me out to my car. 
We stopped twice on the way so I could hyperventilate in his arms. 
The next morning my phone buzzed in my pocket.
Several large masses on ovaries. Malignancy suspected. 
I couldn’t feel my hands. They’d gone numb 
from trying to hold onto everyone I had ever loved. 

This is the beginning of a nightmare, I thought.
A diagnosis my doctors would later declare incurable. 
My worst fear come true. But stay with me y'all-
because my story is one about happiness 
being easier to find once we finally realize 
we do not have forever to find it. 
About mortality being the seed of our bliss 
though I know from conversations with friends 
we were all taught the opposite. 
Andrea, are you sure you’re not being toxically positive?
Please, let your misery come out of the closet.
No need to wear this straight jacket of joy everywhere you go.

I will never deny how badly I want to live. 
I have a measly wrinkle collection compared to my dream goal.
I would absolutely love to be a before-picture. 
This world looks at super models the way I now look 
at ninety year olds who have hair so silver 
they could tinsel their own trees, so many 
laugh lines their faces look like roadmaps to heaven.

But I did not meet this life until I met its brevity. 
Did not meet my voice until I knew every word 
could be my last. I did not know what prayer was 
until I started praying for what I already have. 

Praying for what I already have is 
the reason I have spent three years now
saying my heart is an heirloom 
I didn’t inherit until I was told I could die soon. 
And no, I am not on death’s door 
but I am in the neighborhood, just like you
strolling through the cul de sacs, waving 
at eternity’s porch light, knowing the afterlife 
has a really big welcome mat, and maybe 
we’ll be welcomed soon or when we’re much much older, 
but this is what I know for certain–
warming up to the idea of a promised tomorrow 
is the surest way to give today the cold shoulder. 

For decades I gave my days the cold shoulder
and that is no longer something I am willing to do
with my one wild and precious life. If I’m to be 
what Mary Oliver called a bride married to amazement
I can’t file for divorce from amazement 
when receiving an audit notification 
just twelve hours out of surgery, or
when my dentist takes out the wrong tooth
and still insists on charging me,
or when I’m getting caught in two tornadoes 
on the way home from chemotherapy
when just weeks before I thought I was cancer free
(all of this happened, y’all, so I hope 
you can’t help but laugh with me)
I whisper the words my therapist said 
years ago, The only thing we have control over in this life 
is where we put our attention.

In the darkness I put my attention on the the moon 
spilling through the skylight above my bed,
to kiss my love’s forehead, to turn our ears toward 
the windchimes on the apple tree outside our window. 
Life is so sweet, I have said to her seven thousand times 
since I was diagnosed, and only then realized
I’d been bitter before, living like I was owed my days, 
owed the sunray that traveled 94 million miles 
to warm the hardwood floor where my 3 puppies dream, 
owed a strangers kind eyes 
turning my social anxiety into butterflies.

When I speak of the sweetness of this life
I don’t mean my butterflies never cry.
I don’t mean my heartbeat never aches.
I mean I am learning the infinite difference 
between saying I fear death and saying death isn’t fair
if it finds me soon. A short life 
doesn’t always equate to a life cut short. 
A long life doesn’t always equate to a full one. 

My life is so now full it is overflowing with
how many beautiful things can be seen in a single second, 
how it is possible to blow up a second like a balloon 
and fit infinity inside of it, until I am bursting
with laughter when anyone calls me an old soul
because I can’t help but feel like this is my first time here
marveling at the steam rising from a cup of coffee, 
or two wild geese stopping traffic as they mosey across the road,
or my own breath and another birthday candle 
to celebrate the holiday of having a body. 

At the end of our lives don’t we want to
say we celebrated the holiday of having bodies? 
Don’t we want to know we lived like we never forgot 
we were born astonished and were never intended
to grow out of our awe?

Awe is the most powerful medicine in the world. 
I have never felt awe and shame at the same time, 
awe and loneliness at the same time, 
awe and judgment at the same time, 
and nothing wakes us to awe more than life’s brevity. 
which is to say forming an intimate relationship
with our mortality could not only save us, 
it could save our world. If you don’t 
believe me, tell me the last time you saw 
anything bite with its’ jaw dropped. 

I know the culture we live in.
I know mortality isn’t small talk.
But I wish it was.  Because it is the seed
of connection, the seed of true healing, and the seed of love. 

 

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