I have the distinct privilege of guest writing for the recently launched network The RW a place where rural women can gather to be inspired, contribute to the conversation, learn and grow. Instigated by the ever inspiring Rebel Black, I can tell that The RW is going to become a sanity sanctuary for rural women.
Below is my first piece for the network. I am really looking forward to being a regular contributor.
Do you live a rich life?
I often hear and use the term “a rich life” but I haven’t really stopped to ask what it means.
So what does it mean?
For me, it is about living whole. Showing up as you, in all your magnificence, but also being real enough to allow the not so magnificent bits to show through also, acknowledging that it is the yin and the yang which makes the whole and that some moments in life are pure joy but others will be painful……and that’s ok.
In the words of Brene Brown, author of Daring Greatly (I strongly recommend reading this book if you haven’t already) “owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
Only when we are brave enough to live whole will we live a rich life.
Living in a rural community can make it tricky to live whole. It is as though the yin and the yang are magnified. The support of the community in times of need is remarkable, with swarms of people rallying round to lend a hand when the chips are down, or the guy in the Post Office letting us collect the parcel without any ID because he knows who we are, or the example where the kids are all taken care of when we have to go to Sydney at the last minute, because that’s what you do in a small community, you rally and support. Life feels rich and abundant.
But this same rallying round can turn sour, leading to an overwhelming feeling of claustrophobia and entrapment.
So how can we foster a rich life in this environment?
We be true to ourselves, and live whole.
Stop comparing your cutting floor to other people’s show reel.
The temptation is to judge yourself harshly by comparing to the best in others.
The other Mums bring homemade cakes to the school fete, whilst you are struggling to get to the supermarket to buy the pre made one, so you compare and judge yourself harshly, feeling a failure and a misfit.
Your neighbour works full time and still manages to get the three kids to different after school activities, whilst you “stay home” all day and can’t manage to even make it to sign-on day, you should be ashamed of yourself, how hopeless are you?
In these moments life certainly doesn’t feel rich and abundant.
The thing is, if making cakes and organising extra curricular activities were your cup of tea, if they helped make you whole, you would be there too, but they are not, so you are not there, and nor should you be. Your thing is organising for the Powerhouse Science show to come to the local library or coordinating others to come along to the local musician playing at the local pub on Sunday or doing the Meals on Wheels run.
My point is, if you are not doing things you enjoy, that are true to yourself, you are not living whole and therefore you are not living richly.
Judgment in a rural community can be fairly toxic and it can make it tricky to live whole. It takes a lot of courage to stand up for what you believe in a small community, particularly if you have a difference of opinion with a neighbour, a family member, your best friends husband or worse still, your best friend. At times it feels like everyone knows your business (and if they don’t they make it up). This can make it difficult to stay strong in who you are and what you believe. But the alternative is even worse.
By not being true to who you are you eventually shrivel and wither, no longer aware of what brings you joy and what makes life rich.
It can be difficult to be whole as there often isn’t the opportunity to explore hobbies and activities we may like to try or pursue in a small community, and besides, there just isn’t the time, is there! Well, what if, instead of spending 4 hours a week doing the treasury role for the local footy club, which you detest and are not actually very good at, you organise a monthly music night, something which you do easily and which you really enjoy. You charge a small cover fee with funds raised going towards paying the local book-keeper to do the footy club books. This win win situation comes about by knowing what floats your boat and what puts a hole in it, by knowing what makes you whole.
There are lots of ways to bring richness to rural living and it starts with knowing yourself, really intimately, warts and all, taking the time to get to know yourself. Once you know yourself you then have a self-awareness about which activities bring you joy and which ones bring you pain. Armed with this knowledge you can make conscious choices about what you get involved in and what you avoid at all costs.
And that, to me, makes a WHOLE lot of sense!