Yesterday I got a text I wasn’t expecting, and felt a rock drop into the pit of my stomach.
I’d just found a beautiful little studio for Bloody Good Bloke and I to move into in Northern NSW – a 4-minute bike ride to the beach. The owner had said she’d had another offer, but she agreed to hold off on confirming the lease for 24 hours as she’d prefer us to take it if we could.
Then at 9 am the next morning, she texted saying she’d given the lease to someone else who was ready to commit straight away.
I was gutted, and felt a bit duped.
My shoulders slumped, and the fear returned – it’s almost impossible to find places to live in this area at the moment, and the ones you can find are ridiculously overpriced (thanks to too many Sydney and Melbourne folks moving up here after Covid – including us!)
I wrote a blog post about it – quelle surprise – How to handle the jandal when things keep not quite working out how you hoped, which I concluded with the Dalai Lama’s advice: “Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.” (At that stage, I wasn’t yet aware what that stroke of luck would be).
By the end of that day, an even better option had come up through a friend of a friend in a great place with a big beautiful garden, our own little office, and even a beehive! The Dalai Lama couldn’t have been more spot on. Suddenly, I felt settled and excited again.
Lately, a lot of my days have been like this – a rollercoaster ride of emotions as I navigate the inevitable waves that come when you make big changes in your life.
Last week I wrote about the NSW dolphin that helped me get clarity after months of lost-ness,
which really set this big move from Melbourne to the Byron Bay area into motion.
I was sitting on a sand dune, and out of nowhere came the thought “if life were just a game, how would I play differently?”
(You can check out that blog post here: How to get clarity when your brain feels like a muddy puddle).
That one thought shifted how I’ve been looking at the world since then, it’s been a game-changer.
Instead of getting caught up in the seriousness of all the challenges that come and go, I’ve been trying to treat life more like a game. I’m trying to see difficult emotions and setbacks as interesting experiments to be explored rather than avoided.
When we watch a movie or read a good book, we love to feel all the emotions – sadness, anger, fear, joy, love, excitement…
When we’re immersed in a fictional story, it feels fun to surf a variety of emotions. We don’t feel the need to suppress or get rid of them.
In fact, when we know it’s just a story – we LOVE to feel the full spectrum of emotions.
Movies that elicit no emotional response are dull and lifeless.
What if we applied the same principle to our lives?
If there was no rain, we wouldn’t even notice sunny days (also… nothing would be alive). If we didn’t have sad days, we wouldn’t know how good it is to feel happy. We also might never slow down and reflect, as we often do when we’re feeling low.
If we never felt grief, we’d never fully know how much we care about the people and animals and even things and places in our lives.
If we never had conflict, we wouldn’t appreciate how beautiful peace and kindness feels.
Even when things go “wrong”, it’s a perfect opportunity to see what we don’t want, which gives us more clarity on what we DO want.
Our emotions are like a beautiful orchestra – with soaring highs and dramatic, dark lows.
Yet we’re taught from such a young age that we should avoid negative emotions, and perpetually seek to replace them with positive emotions.
I’m sure you’ve noticed by now, it doesn’t work.
No matter what I’ve tried, or how far I’ve travelled to try to escape my difficult emotions, I’ve never been able shake them off, they follow me everywhere. No matter how good life is, something always shifts and something that once brought joy no longer does, or it shifts or morphs into something more challenging.
Nothing stays the same, ever. The harder we try to make it, the more of a boring, controlled, lifeless rut we get ourselves into.
No risk = no newness = no joy.
In a movie, we know this. In life, we often forget it.
Every one of the 7.6+ billion of us are a unique instrument on which life plays all sorts of brilliant tunes. And we only have such a short time to play our part.
We have this incredible spectrum of emotions to play with, but so many of us are fearful of playing our instruments fully.
Somehow we learnt to avoid the low notes at all costs, so we find it safer not to play at all.
We hide our instruments in a case, where they get dusty and out of tune.
Then we wonder why we find ourselves bingeing on biscuits, margaritas, and Married at First Sight.
I reckon my buddy Alan Watts was onto something –
“Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the gods made for fun.”
What if life really is just a game?
When we eventually die, which could be tomorrow or decades from now – it’s all ok because we’re not here to panic about it anymore.
But until then, isn’t it better to play the game as though we only have one shot?
Because we do. This is your shot to play this ridiculously cool instrument you’ve been gifted.
It takes courage.
And it takes some serious emotion regulation skills – so that you can start to learn to be comfortable with – and even enjoy – ALL the emotions – fear, anger, grief, sadness, loneliness, disgust, confusion et al included.
This is so much easier said than done, after a lifetime of avoiding those slippery badgers.
Which is why there’s a whole module of my signature program, Bloody Good Life, devoted to explaining exactly how to regulate our emotions.
Learning to allow my emotions without suppressing or avoiding them is one of the most important skills I have ever learnt.
Life without challenges would be bloody dull.
What if we started thinking of the highs and lows of life like a big, exciting, rollercoaster?
What if we practiced enjoying the deep soaring feelings of grief, the anxious excitement of doing something we might fail at, the disappointment when we do fail, the nervousness of putting ourselves out there to meet someone new, the joy of hugging a close friend.
What if life were just a game, and you were just an instrument?
How would you play?