One of my favourite films of all time is Fight Club. It was a film directed by David Fincher and released in 1999 and based on a book by Chuck Palanuik. I didn’t realise it was THAT old until I Googled it! I will attempt to explain why it had such a profound effect on me although I didn’t act on those effects until last year. I wasn’t a huge fan of the visceral violence but that wasn’t really what my interpretation of the film was about. There were so many themes I related to but the overall message to me was about tearing your existing world down and rebuilding it in a different and more meaningful way. The quote that has stuck in my mind was when Tyler Durden (the main protagonist) says ‘Sometimes the things you own, end up owning you’ after he blows up his own condo (oops spoiler alert!) That was a bit of a revelatory moment and started me on a personal journey that has led me to where I am today.
So where am I today? Well in terms of location, I now live in the Scottish Borders having spent 25 years living in Edinburgh. To move from Scotland’s capital to a rural location was quite a big change of scene but one that I knew would bring me closer to living the kind of life I wanted to live. I also grew up in a rural location so there was an element of wanting to return to my roots. The kind of life I was seeking was a simpler and more meaningful one that brought me closer to nature and allowed me to breathe clean air. I felt I was suffocating in the city both literally and metaphorically. I needed to escape and felt I had to do it sooner rather than later.
When I bought my little, one bedroom flat with the small sum of inheritance money my mother had left when she passed away three years ago, I wanted to furnish it only with items that were second hand and had a meaning and purpose in my life. So I spent the first couple of month camping in my flat. I slept on an inflatable mattress with a sleeping bag and had my folding table and chairs for furniture. The flat came with an old washing machine and electric cooker that still worked so I didn’t have to wash my clothes in the River Teviot or use my camping stove for cooking! A friend had kindly donated me their old fridge too. So I had shelter, food and clean clothes. I was indeed already blessed in life and fulfilling the bottom level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and slowly working my way upwards!
The next step was to get a job as despite wanting to live a simpler life you do still need money to get by in this world. Not huge quantities but enough to give you the quality of life you want to live. As I talked about in my previous blog post ‘Cycling is my Therapy‘ I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) in 2012. This has had a huge impact on my life in terms of which jobs and how much physical activity I can do and means that I am constantly having to monitor and manage my energy levels. I had started my third business AC Cycling Services but the freelance cycle training work I was doing was very much part time and seasonal, so I needed a regular job to supplement my meagre income. Due to the CFS I can only work part time nowadays, which I am thankful for as some people with this condition are bed bound and can’t work at all. In the past I tried working in a bike shop but I found that quite physically demanding and I wasn’t keen on working weekends. My career job had been as a Web & Print Editor in the higher education sector so I was looking for something admin related that wasn’t too demanding or stressful. After quite a few rejections, I finally got an admin job that suited me and still allowed me to do my freelance cycle training and lead bike rides at weekends.
I do feel that I have been very lucky and blessed to be in this situation but I also strongly believe that we make our own luck in life. For example, you are never going to win the lottery unless you buy a ticket! So it is up to us to go out into the world and try and remove obstacles and put measures in place to allow us to achieve whatever we want to in life. I haven’t always subscribed to this way of thinking. It has only been in the past three years since my mother passed away that I really started to question my thought patterns and started reading books about Buddhism and mindfulness. I guess it was my way of dealing with the grief. I don’t claim to be a Buddhist and I’m not going to relinquish all my bikes and join the Samye Ling Monastery in Eskdalemuir. Although I did a mini-cycling adventure there last summer and stayed in a dormitory overnight and attended one of their meditation and prayer sessions. It was a truly inspiring and calming place and I feel I gained a lot from the whole experience. Through reading and learning more about mindfulness it has taught me to try and slow my thoughts down and observe them instead of immediately reacting to them. I even made up a little mantra that I say to myself if I’m feeling anxious or depressed ‘Thoughts are like the weather, they come and go. Emotions are like the tides, they ebb and flow.‘ I’m not going to win any literary awards but just repeating those words helps to calm me down and centre me again.
In the Buddhist books I have read there is a lot of emphasis on finding the ‘middle way or middle path‘. It is true that a life lived at extremes is not a healthy one and I suppose what we are all searching for in life is balance. I can’t say that I have completely achieved that goal but I can say that I am definitely on the journey towards that. I am trying to live a simpler and more sustainable life with fewer material possessions (well apart from my 5 bikes) and looking inside instead of outside of me to find the real meaning of inner peace and contentment. Although having said that I do have furniture now but every item I have has had a previous life and I am merely the care taker of those items until I can pass them onto someone else. We are only visitors on this Earth for such a short time so let’s try and make the most of that time by using it meaningfully 🙏