The Way Change Falls in Love with You: Begin Again + Soul Hacks of the Year.

“Let me live, love and say it well,
in good sentences.” ~ Sylvia Plath

***

“We pass through the present with our eyes blindfolded. We are permitted merely to sense and guess at what we are actually experiencing. Only later when the cloth is untied can we glance at the past and find out what we have experienced and what meaning it has.” ~ Milan Kundera


I love beginnings so much more than endings or the in-betweens.

I love the wave of new creative energy flying around. I know that technically we start another year every day, but there is something special about these collective rituals of rebirth.

It’s a brand new chance to make a kinder, truer contract with life, to turn the page and start another chapter, on your terms. To create more life, as your soul moves you.

But I don’t like starting my year with resolutions. They just don’t work for me.

They stress me out and give me more reasons to sabotage myself and then feel guilty about not falling through on what my mind decided life should be like, before my heart could beat its way through it.

Experience makes fun of all my bullet lists, then she proceeds to show me (vs. tells me) how life can hurt and heal and love and change my story, all at once, through every act.

So, over time, I’ve learned to ease my way into each year, by first reflecting upon all the lessons that have changed me in the last 12 months. By letting my heart reconnect the dots my crazy mind has missed, while running for my life, before I start creating myself again and dancing with life anew. 

Looking at my year in retrospect vs. in advance gives it the marrow, the meaning taught only by living, and it reveals my storyline, my purpose. It also shows me what I want more of, less of this year. 

Without these lessons, my life would be a dull impressionistic painting on the walls of time — rushed strokes of fate I never understood — and which I wouldn’t stop to look at twice or pay a dime for without knowing the full picture.

If looked at from up close, while at the center of the fire, my Starry Night either doesn’t make any sense at all, or it makes disproportionate and crazy painful sense in misperceived details.

But then I take a few steps back and I begin to grasp the mastery, the movement and the wonder, I start to see how light completes the darkness, how every shadow trusts the light. I realize that what would seem to me like thorns, it was the body of a rose.

When I begin to know the painter and the story, this art of mine called life is suddenly worth millions.

I strongly recommend this exercise if you are currently dealing with uncertainty, or overcoming loss, or you feel scared or overwhelmed about a project, or a situation, or any unknown components in your life right now.

This practice of recalling WHO YOU ARE, despite ALL THAT YOU’RE NOT that’s always trying to interfere and hold you back, will help ground you in your own wisdom and experience, and show you where you’re headed. 

Here are my most meaningful soul hacks of the year, the bigger details of my most recent painting, the fires the burned me to the ground and truths that rescued me from ashes, life lessons from my Human 101 to yours.

I’ve added quotable reminders from my previous writings to summarize each point. Some musings that connect the thinking with the being and the doing.

Hope you can find new pieces of yourself inside my puzzle. 

 

1. Your heart is wild and wild things can’t be tamed or lost or broken.

Your heart has its own timing. It can’t be tamed or rushed or programmed into loving or leaving, into holding on or letting go. It can only be inspired, accepted and guided through the process.

Get out of your way and let it beat until your siren song is finished, let it exhaust each note until it’s ready for another. And let it start when it desires and for what it loves. Don’t repress its music. Let it give itself fully and unapologetically to what moves it.

I’ve always been frustrated with my inability to grieve quickly, to let go and move on, with my tendency to hold on to things and people I believed in once with all my heart, yet who were never in my stars. Or, on the other hand, with struggling to fit with those that check the boxes, without quite feeling the push and pull of fate.

And when it’s not with people, it happens with ideas, projects or decisions. The should, would, could has often wrestled with the WANT and NEED for me. 

This year I’ve slowly stopped forcing myself into more feeling or not feeling, wanting and not wanting. I stopped should’ing and would’ing myself out — followed by the guilt that comes either way. 

I stopped my mind from abusing my heart, from interfering with its rhythms and its lack of rhyme, from deciding when it should pause and start over. Let her be. 

Only she knows. I’m just a messenger. 

REMINDER: 


2. You’re dying. Maybe later, maybe sooner than you think. And everyone you love is also dying. Enjoy every bit of time you have left – with your current self and them. 

Take pictures with your mind. Take pictures with your body. Take more pictures. This moment, loved to the fullest, is your only life insurance.

At any age death feels to me too young, too fast, too soon, always unfair. As if forever was our birthright.

After dealing with three bad strikes of illness this year — none of them life-threatening although I had so many “this is it” moments while suffering through each — a renewed awareness of death has dawned on me.

Not in a morbid sense, but rather in a sensitive and more serene, more grateful way of being, with random acts of joy as side effect.

The kind of fever that makes you stop traffic to write poetry, because you can’t contain the beauty of this moment and you just know that if you move you’ll lose it, and you refuse to take another step or drive another mile, without first letting art take a stand for your life.

As someone who doesn’t get sick often, illness has given me this year an honorary PhD in presence and humility. The greatest and most painful of my teachers.

One minute you’re up soaring high, fighting the giants of the status quo with your creative superpowers, the next you’re hiding in your closet, scared of your shadow, drowning in your vomit and praying for your life.

My heart goes out to everyone in pain on the other side of this screen. You are my hero just for standing up and reading this. 

Despite how much I hate being reduced to a powerless, needy, helpless creature under blankets, illness has helped me fear less and love life more, love better, truer, deeper, now — “without complexities or pride.” (Neruda)

Illness has stripped me down to the naked heart of life I’d been avoiding, to the defenceless, broken-open kind of love towards myself and every other creature also fighting a great battle.

By making peace with my mortality, impermanence and passing, whenever this should come, whether tomorrow or 50 years from now, I’ve suddenly become, as Sylvia Plath put it, “acutely aware of all I’ve taken for granted.”

REMINDER: 


3. Get rid of energy vampires who prey on your abundance — of heart, mind, wealth, energy or ideas. Cut them loose.

Invest your love, your energy, your resources in assets, not in liabilities, in what will help you expand, not in what diminishes you.

I have no more patience for unequal relationships or exchanges.

I’ve been taken advantage of in nearly every way: emotionally, financially, creatively — by the many vampires I’ve mistaken as friends, colleagues or lovers, and naively surrounded myself with, looking for company, for understanding and support.

I’ve been deceived, betrayed, lied to, and stolen from, repeatedly, by the very people I rescued, the Frankensteins I made and loved and trusted and did everything I could to help, support, lift up, inspire…

And in the process I have lost myself, because I was too busy saving them, too empty to remember that I needed saving too.

My heart is like a tired European church that just survived the end of World War II. Some walls have been destroyed, some windows broken, some orphaned pigeons nesting in the ceiling. But when the sun hits, you can see the glory that once was, still glowing through the stained glass.

I will rebuild it. Slowly. And I won’t let any more thieves pollute it. And one day I will ring the bells and you’ll come pray and sing with me, as if there never was a bombing.

Because the heart of life is nothing but creative energy. Whether it’s in the form of feelings, trust, actions or resources, it all comes down to how you use this energy.

You can’t avoid life’s fires, but it is up to YOU, my dear, to choose the ones that build vs. destroy you. 

Ask yourself frequently: Is this person, idea, project or action adding up to my life? Is it helping me create more life? Is it inspiring me, loving me, supporting me to the best of their ability, just like I do with them?

If not, please pull the plug. However much it hurts. Trust that something greater will come along, something or someone that does deserve your heart’s investments.

“The way you invest your love is how you invest your life,” sings Mumford and Sons. 

Be wiser, heart, love yourself first. And you’ll attract those who can love you equally. Because THEY ARE THE ONLY ONES WHO CAN, because they’ve learned to love themselves before you.

“No matter how happy you are, you’re not immune to loneliness. Everyone gets lonely on this journey, even those who aren’t alone,” a man in a seemingly loving partnership told me recently.

Another one whom I kicked out of my life earlier this year said: “Fine! Go be alone, if that’s what you want!”

“That’s not what I want,” I said… But I’d rather be alone with myself, than alone with a vampire. At least I can’t suck my own blood.

If I can’t have the summer I want, then I’d rather it be zero degrees in my heart, than minus 50. No one survives winters like that.

REMINDER: 


4. Practice full, undivided presence. Focus single-mindedly on one task until you finish. 

This one trick has increased my productivity like no other app or gadget or piece of advice received in over 30 years of human experience.

Did you know that you lose around 20 minutes of focus just in switching from one task to another? So if I only have 4 hours for this article today, and I multitask between as little as 2 things (writing and also checking social media at least 3 times), I’ve lost at least half of those hours.

Not to mention the extra time I spend scrolling through my phone for nothing in particular, just out of habit, like an addict. 

This kind of wasted time and energy feels unacceptable to me, as I end up empty-handed, with neither job done.

And this is just 2 tasks. Imagine 5 or 7… This is why, having the same 24 hours in a day as Einstein, Beethoven, Van Gogh, Emily Dickinson and other modern humans I admire, my work on this planet is still not even halfway through. 

We have the same amount of hours in each day as everyone who’s ever lived — we just don’t have the same will power, the same focus, the same determination, the same clarity. 

The reason I work well under pressure is because when I only have 30 minutes to get a job done-or-die, and there is literally no other way out but through, I actually focus all my energy and finish it. If you give me 2 hours, I’ll waste the other hour and a half on excuses, distractions and procrastination — all of them ultimately a result of fear.  

So now, to get the job done, I have to switch the whole world off. I’m like a race horse with my blinders on. All I can think about is this one sentence. Nothing else matters. Nothing else exists. 

REMINDER: 


5. Prioritize your health, peace of mind, and wellbeing above all things. It’s not about quantity, but about quality — of life, of time, of people, of decisions.

It’s not about living longer, but truer, deeper, more alive, more present, more yourself. Not later, NOW. Not somewhere else, RIGHT HERE. Not someone else, but YOU. 

I used to have the “one-last-time” self-flagellating mentality — thinking that if I just pull this one last all-nighter, if I just love the latest narcissist a little more – maybe i’ll change him, if I just work myself sick through this last-ever crazy project I came up with, maybe I’ll manage to accomplish the impossible.

Just this one push, this one last deprivation workathon, this last inhuman effort to create something which, by the time I’m through, I don’t even want anymore… and I’ll redeem myself and make it to the greener, other side of what’s possible. 

And then I’ll live out there in space, on that beautiful Planet of What’s Possible, with all the crazies and the misfits and the dreamers, who jumped over the edge, and I’ll be set for life and in good company, speaking in quotes, and I won’t have to stretch or jump or sleep deprive myself anymore or stress another day in my life. 

Reality: I go through at least one last-time-ever situation every day. I’m faced with at least one daily choice that asks me to sacrifice my current wellbeing, my principles, my values, my peace of mind, my self-respect and my intelligence, as a means to a “better end.” Better for whom? 

What kind of better feeds off of my worst, unhealthiest, most mindless choices? I don’t want any end that disrespects my journey. 

This year I’ve realized — in flesh and heart and bone, that the very means is the end, the journey is the destination, the later is the now, created with intention.

That my time travels are not outward, or forward, or away, but always inward and within, always back home to my true self. That nothing worthwhile can come out of any worthless way I treat myself. 

That “I do not want to kill and dissect myself any longer, to find a secret behind the ruins.” (Hermann Hesse)

Because there is no secret, no arrival, no holy land, no heaven — maybe a “broken hallelujah” at the most.

At the end of the day, my greatest success is enough mastery over myself to unplug from the work I both love and feel enslaved by, to get to bed before midnight, and still have half an hour left for drinking tea, reflecting on my day and reading fiction (best sleeping pill there is).

At the end of the day, the real meaning of my life is life itself, well lived, right now.

REMINDER: 


6. Ask for help when you need it. You’re allowed to want. It’s okay to need. You can’t do this alone. You’re not supposed to kill the dragon by yourself.

This is the one I’m struggling with the most. It’s just not natural to me to ask for anything.

I can’t seem to find the point where Wonder Woman should lay down her sword, and the damsel in distress I’ve never identified with should make an entrance. 

I don’t know how to be rescued. Maybe there should be courses in this passive art, just as there are in rescuing.

If I’m in prison, I escape. If I need help, I help. But then I end up more exhausted and empty than before. 

So technically, I haven’t learned this lesson yet? But maybe if I write it down, and maybe if I say it more, maybe I’ll start believing I can do it, and maybe then, just maybe I will do it.

Help me! This is too much. I’m overwhelmed. I can’t do it alone.

(Is this when I start crying? At least crying I’m good at.)

REMINDER: 

 

7. Let life love you, it any shape or form it chooses to give love to you right now.

The more you open up to love the more it multiplies. Practice love in any way you can, and you cannot feel empty, cheated or defeated.

Prior to this year, my idea of ultimate love was somewhat limited to people — namely to the one person that becomes your partner.

After a deeply disappointing experience early in the year, I’ve opened up to love in a new way. I started noticing it in everything, in everyone around me, in ways I’d previously missed it or ignored it. 

It seemed as if I was in a relationship, a love affair with Life — as if Life itself was my partner. And it kept throwing love at me from every angle, not just through people, but through animals and nature, through moments and emotions and ahas that shook me to the core.

How could I have blocked love so much and limited myself to just one person at a time, who couldn’t even comprehend the word, let alone live or give it?

It’s like being starved and suddenly realizing there’s been a feast of healthy, fulfilling and delicious foods from all over the world laid out for you, and it just never occurred to you that all you had to is sit down at the table and enjoy it. Really? For me? How so? Am I in trouble?

I was so full at the end of the day, I didn’t even miss the partnership component. My heart was flooded with so much wonder, I had no place or energy for more. I was exhausted in the best way possible.

I began to feel rich where I’d previously felt poor and unfortunate.

I started to heal from previous disappointments and regrets not by seeking or forcing or trying or fighting, but by surrendering to what is, and simply allowing myself to receive the love that had been mine since the beginning.

Because real love doesn’t enslave your heart in any way. It doesn’t make you smaller, needy, jealous, scared or insecure — but greater, vaster, deeper and more infinite. Real love creates more freedom for you and everyone you come in contact with.

FINAL REMINDER:

***

How about you, my fellow Warrior?

What are your Life Lessons this year? If you can’t count them all, tell me just one. Share your aha in the comments. I’d love to hear what mama Life has taught you lately. 

Love you and thanks for reading!

A.

P.S. Happy 2018! I hope you let life throw you a love feast this year. I hope you train your eyes to see it, and get your heart so high on it, that nothing else is missing.

 


 



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Comments

  1. Thank you for your sharing, I can relate to the relinquishing of what isn’t true, in order to receive what is. No matter ones age, we all seem to get caught up in a hopeful mess sometimes and even if the truth hurts, losing the hope is what hurts most. Still, it is liberating to be able to admit that we chose to fly and leave the cage behind, yes? It’s good to know there are others with wings!

    • Andrea Balt says:

      Hi Patricia! Yes, I agree. I think the hope is what I most struggle with, and the danger to giving in to cynicism. This would have to be a part II follow up. The dark side of hope? — But I guess this is part of the journey. Step #1 is escaping all that isn’t true to your soul. Step #2 would be learning to not just survive but also be alive in the world of your own choosing. Which is a whole new art. I guess this is where I’m at at the moment. From one bird to another. 😉 xx

  2. Keeptryst says:

    I learned that I’m on a divine curriculum. I get these assignments – projects, people, experiences, relationships, and I pour myself into it and live and die by it, until it’s over. I inevitably know when it’s over and the universe is rolling out my next assignment. It’s in living fully, listening for the cues and promptings of inner guidance, following it wholeheartedly and then opening your fists and letting it go when it has unfurled itself through you. Over the years, it has become easier to let go.
    As Mary Oliver put it,

    “Every year
    everything
    I have ever learned

    in my lifetime
    leads back to this: the fires
    and the black river of loss
    whose other side

    is salvation,
    whose meaning
    none of us will ever know.
    To live in this world

    you must be able
    to do three things:
    to love what is mortal;
    to hold it

    against your bones knowing
    your own life depends on it;
    and, when the time comes to let it
    go,
    to let it go.”

    Over the last year, I’ve realised what you do insightfully pointed out – that it’s not about that embracing that one person, it’s about embracing Life itself as your partner. Dancing with Life, as Life is all we’re called to do, nothing more. And seeing that love is smiling through all things.

    • Andrea Balt says:

      Thanks for your lovely words and the poem. Reading your comment made my morning. 🙂 I LOVE what you said especially in the first paragraph, about getting assignments. I have this same sense of knowing (it just takes me a while still to let go of the most hard-earned or hard-lived assignments). But you’re right, it does get easier overall. Or maybe we get lighter? The more we live, the less luggage we carry…

      In a similar analogy, I look at it like moments or episodes or chapters in a book or a film I’ll be creating for the rest of my life. The big picture is the book (or the film), not the individual chapters. Though each chapter adds to it and transforms it, the book will go on, it doesn’t end yet.

      big love

  3. Hi Andrea! It was so lovely reading your article. I admire your depth of thought, your insight, your vision, your courage — you’re a true soul warrior!

    We all learn as we go and yes, we do get lighter as we go. We learn that Life is what carries us and Love is the vehicle we travel with. Love in all its meanings and feelings. Not just a person, not just one thing. We are Love ourselves and it starts with the love we show ourselves.

    I’ve had too many small steps accomplished, sometimes I find it hard to piece it all together. But I get a feeling of it and it gives me hope and faith that all is well. I think this last year I learned what TRUST means – trust in the grand scheme of things, trust that universe will have my back, trust that I have the power to keep going, trust that I’m on the right path.

    Wishing you a healthy, insightful and full of life year!
    Love, Vilina

    • Andrea Balt says:

      Hi Villina!

      Thanks so much for your lovely words, soul sister. Funny how the universe works, I read your comment just as I was in need of a trust infusion. So thank you for taking the time to share. We never know the intricate ways in which our journey impacts others. The best we can do is to show up in the truest way we can. And like you said, trust in the bigger plan, and trust ourselves.

      Sending you massive love on this 2018 adventure! 🙂

      A.

  4. Ajmal Raza says:

    Hi Andrea,

    Regarding your perception of mortality. I used to be a Paediatric intensive care nurse. Although I still work in nursing I am now in a different field. May I recommend a book called ‘Life after Life’. And some light reading around Raymond Moody and Elizabether Kubler-Ross. Being a firm believer in quantum mechanics and there being a source to all of us. Whatever you may call that. I found their work very apt.

    I digress. I’ve seen babies barely borne, the size of small bags of sugar die. And children struck down my horrendous life changing illlnesses. It’s been illuminating and heart breaking. On a soul-uller level it’s been a humbling of sorts. Now I don’t say this to be morbid. But rather to say that I can understand what you mean by being ill and pondering over one’s mortality.

    Any how I wish you a speedy recovery.

    Best wishes

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