About a year ago, I was not myself. It was a paradoxical time. Having just married the love of my life and celebrated a wonderful wedding with our loved ones, my heart was full. I had been showered with love and surrounded by blessings which truly humbled me. It was an incredibly special time.
On the other hand, I had been through a year of intense stress and was also coming down from a major high. Being a perfectionist, allowing my wedding day to be anything less than perfect was not an option. I wanted to execute my vision perfectly and was acutely aware that this was a once off event – the most meaningful and important of all the days I would have on this Earth. I promised myself that as long as I did every single thing I could ahead of time to ensure that the day would be as faultless as I had the power to ensure, I would “let go” on the day itself. This would make certain that I could be present in the moment with peace of mind, knowing that the rest was out of my control. Being naturally future orientated, living in the present is very difficult for me, but I knew that on this day, being present was the most important thing I could do. I am grateful that I can look back on our wedding day and see, feel, hear and experience it again in my memory. I was able to “let go” and be as present as I could be, and that is largely thanks to extreme planning. It was a beautiful day and even my inner perfectionistic critic is overjoyed with how it turned out.
However, in striving for this unattainable level of “perfection”, despite convincing myself that I would not be “one of those brides”, I caused myself immense anxiety related to the wedding details. During this time, I was also striving to maintain perfection at work, and ironically, work demands were at an all time high. In addition to this, working 8 to 5 and spending between 10 and 15 hours commuting each week, moving house, buying property and taking out a mortgage, travelling to attend many friends’ weddings in different cities on weekends, trying to find time to exercise and eat healthily in preparation for the wedding, along with countless other stressors, I became burned out. I spent many nights wide awake, my mind spinning with to do lists so long I could not even fathom where to start. I often became paralyzed by my mental chatter, worrying about so many things at once. At the time, the best way I could describe it to my fiancé was that I had so many “tabs” open in my head that I had run out of mental “bandwidth.” I spiralled into a cycle of anxiety and insomnia caused by the impossible demands I was placing on myself. Despite having an incredible support system and a fiancé, family and friends who were at my beck and call, I found it difficult to delegate, and took on way too much myself.
Eventually, with the unwavering support of my loved ones and by slowly accepting help with tasks, I made it through this time. I’m so grateful that I can look back on my wedding day with joy, as well as compassion and understanding towards my perfectionist self, who was only trying with all her might to make this day as memorable and sacred as she possibly could. I am grateful for her, because she executed our dream wedding, and we can hold on to that day and all of its beautiful details.
Looking back on the past year, our wedding day and the few weeks away on honeymoon feels like a beautiful oasis in the midst of an overwhelming period of life. I am grateful that we had the foresight to enjoy this time as much as we could, knowing it was fleeting.
Weddings are known to be a “positive stressor,” and for an introvert and a perfectionist such as myself, juggling so many competing priorities caused mental and physical strain. It has taken time for me to make sense of this, especially since so few people are open about how difficult this period of life can be. At times, societal expectations were in competition with my internal experience, causing some inner turmoil, and even a little bit of shame.
In the months following the wedding, life was full and wonderful, yet still extremely busy and overwhelming. Coming back to my baseline level of anxiety (which is naturally still well above the average) was a challenge. For a while life did not slow down, and we had commitment after commitment for a few months. I continued to feel like I was being pulled in all directions. My head was so full and my time so limited that moments of quiet were few and far between, yet I desperately craved time to process things and reflect on the major life experience that I had recently been through. I became more anxious the less time I had to truly be with myself. Becoming overstimulated very easily by my external environment, I became more and more aware of the essential, inherent need that I have to be alone to restore my energy and centre myself. It is in retrospect that I learned that for me personally, this is a critical need, as important as breathing.
The busyness of life left me feeling like a (frazzled) robot and I started to feel myself slipping into “auto-pilot” mode. I felt as if I had exhausted all resources; mental, emotional, spiritual and physical, and that I had very little energy left for the important people and activities in my life.
In search of some relief, I became drawn to using meditation and mindfulness techniques to calm my thoughts and slow the running commentary in my head. As if it was meant to be, we started the “Mindful Communication Challenge” during this time. It was as if The Lord was giving me the tools I needed when I was most in need of them.
These are some of the excerpts that stood out to me during this time, which I wrote down in my mindfulness journal which formed part of the course:
“When our minds are spinning, and we have so many thoughts going on, it’s hard to listen to ourselves, or to the still small voice of God. Taking some time to quiet our minds helps us listen better. By taking time for meditation, our mental chatter quiets down, and our hearts and minds may open to the divine. We open to a reality beyond our day-to- day frustrations. We see the big picture of life more easily, which can be both refreshing and humbling.” – Mindful Communication, Week 1: Am I Listening
“The deepest communication of our spirit is with our breathing and our heartbeat; thought connects with our breathing, and affection – an attribute of love – connects with our heart.” – Heaven and Hell 446
“We are engaged in obvious thought when our spirit thinks in the body, which is especially the case when we are in the company of others. But when we are moved by an affection for understanding, and in consequence of it, we come into a perception of truth, we are then engaged in the thought of our spirit, which is meditation.” – Divine Love and Wisdom 404:8
In finding quiet time to be alone, I have been able to, bit by bit, tap into my intuition, which I believe is synonymous with the “still small voice of God.” It guides me and nudges me in the right direction. Identifying as an “intuitive” and an “empath”, trusting this voice has served me well in the past, yet I had become so consumed by day to day worries and frustrations, never having enough time to listen, that I began to silence and supress this voice. I am grateful to have had the experience of getting to a point of reaching my “mental bandwidth” which forced me to prioritise time to go inward, listen, and trust my inner wisdom again.
In addition to listening to one’s inner voice, The Mindful Communication Challenge also highlights the importance of truly listening to others in order to help them discover their own true selves. My husband has been an incredible listener for which I am deeply grateful. He has spent many hours listening with calm, loving, non-judgemental understanding, allowing me to make sense of the chatter in my head.
“Open-hearted listening lies at the heart of all great relationships. When we listen deeply to another, without judgement, we honour the person’s whole self. We let them feel seen. It’s ‘heavenly listening’” – Mindful Communication, Week 1: Am I Listening
Although consistently implementing a meditation practice in my daily life is a constant challenge, during the time spent listening inwardly, I am slowly starting to uncover some truths. I am beginning to understand the importance of allowing myself to be vulnerable and to let go of perfectionism and external expectations. I have become more aware of how important it is to be compassionate towards myself and to “keep oil in my lamp” so that I can give more to others. I have been reminded of the power of tapping into my intuition and trusting that that which my heart is seeking is on the other side of fear.
Over months of soul searching, listening to God’s guidance and being listened to and truly heard by my loved ones, I have been able to identify the daily stressors and frustrations that were leaving me with limited internal resources. Through this process, I have faced overwhelming fear, taken some major leaps of faith and made drastic life changes. Slowly, I am gaining the courage to cut out that which no longer serves me and take action. The still small voice eventually became so loud that I could no longer ignore it; this year I have taken steps to pursue my passions and what I believe is my life’s purpose, which has resulted from slowing down and turning inward.
“God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer.” – Mother Theresa