PODCAST: This Is How It Feels Like to Radically Reinvent Yourself Post-Trauma
Season 2: Episode 4
For the best experience I’d recommend listening, but if you prefer to read the automated podcast please see below: this is an automated transcript using Otter so please don’t take the spellings/grammar too seriously!
Welcome to episode 4 of this season of The Happier Creative podcast. I’m your host Ruth Hoskins, thank you so much for tuning in.
The Happier Creative is a podcast that’s part memoir, part a collection of essays on creative life, to help you think about and explore your own creativity and artistry as well as if you’re growing, or thinking of growing a business based around something you love to do.
I’m here to help you explore how you live and work creatively as we navigate lockdown and beyond. I believe that creativity is a tool to help reduce anxiety and help us live and work better, whether we work full-time as a creative or have a creative business or we want to bring more creativity into our lives for a simpler, more joyful life.
In today’s episode I’m looking at the time-old art of radically rebirthing your life and why now is the time. I’ve seen lots of people talk about how to do this, but I’m not going to give you any kind of blueprint today – I don’t believe in blueprints no matter what people say – but I’m going to share how I’ve done this time and time again, post really shitty times and talk about how it’s made me feel.
For me, the scarier life gets the stronger the F**k it moment is!
So, if you’re into baby steps this might not be the podcast episode for you. I’m sharing my experiences of jumping in head first and showing you how have some of the greatest gifts have come to me in this way. Of feeling compelled to take huge leaps of faith even when it feels as scary as hell.
To put it in some context; the world has changed. You know, I know, we all know. And I don’t want to reinvent the wheel on that story, it’s being told to us in a myriad of ways every day. Instead I wanna touch on the aftermath, the future, to help you get a glimpse of possibility. In my first episode of this series you might remember that I talked about how I’d found hope and courage to look ahead to the next chapter, well, today I kinda want to expand on that by looking back at all the times I’ve done it before.
And I know from the many conversations I’m having, people are actively seeking more simplicity, more travel, more flexibility once we can all move again, so radical rebirth feels pertinent and never more important however it might look like for you.
For me, I kinda have cancer to thank – quite honestly – for giving me some of the richest, and most rewarding experiences of my life.
When I look back at it now it’s mad in lots of ways, but at the time, sitting through endless chemotherapy sessions, re-starting life again without my parents, which felt especially sad having being born into an orphanage and with no siblings to share this grief with.
I can clearly remember the deep-rooted traumatic experience of being with my mum as she died and having to go straight into the chemotherapy ward for my own treatment knowing she’d gone, wondering how far behind her I’d be.
But this isn’t a sad story, I’m painting the picture so you can imagine my state of mind and it might be something you can relate to right now: sad, traumatised, confused, anxious, unsure, frightened. Whatever you’ve been through these feelings are all entirely natural when we’re living in such a scary time.
For me, I can describe it as looking over the face of a kind of cliff, realising I could properly just lose my shit or I could say FUCK it and take extreme action. Big trauma for me required big action, that’s what my instinct told me. Baby steps wouldn’t be enough.
I think being absorbed so wholly in that world of scans and treatment and stats gave me a new normal, and when you get a sense of new-normal your desire to cling on to your life that was wanes somewhat.
Because these traumatic experience changed me so wholly as a person. I can still be the same person inside, the foundations are there, but I’ve grown, and in growing, I’ve outgrown the life that was, if that makes sense.
I remember sitting in that beeping treatment ward, with the Red Cross lady offering hand massages, people eating huge vats of sweets – whatever gets you through I guess – and just thinking how much I’d evolved in the eighteen months or so.
So when Tony held my hand, and spoke to my heart suggesting we move away for a while, to take a family sabbatical, it galvanised me into taking action to make it happen as soon as possible.
It was the biggest F**k is moment of my life!
Just the act of making that decision felt liberating. We were getting ourselves out of this new normal. There were fears and “what if’s” about the cancer coming back, I had no idea if the treatment had worked, BUT that was the kick up the butt we needed to grab life with both hands.
We’d be sitting in the ward, planning our adventures, laughing like mad as we chalked up some darkly hilarious scenes, stored into my memory bank for a future screenplay. The repressed and socially awkward nurse who must have a juicy back story; the effervescent enthusiasm of the red cross nurses trying to persuade me to eat a plastic-wrapped sandwich – if you’ve followed me for a while you’ll know I hate to have a bad meal in any setting. I’d be there, just like my food-mad dad would, with a roasted veg tart and a green juice.
So, yeah. How you feel. There are times you mourn the life you had for sure, although they didn’t really come to me until we were settled in Spain. I think I can compare it to going through a break up with someone you love. You know it’s right, you know you can’t go back deep down but you still have to go through a period of deep grief and a phase of releasing before you can make way for the good stuff.
I also believe that when you’re on the other side of trauma, you need a practical and inspiring project to work on. Something to see you going; and for me that was daydreaming about living a life filled with sunshine and the sea and the outdoor life, close to mountains and costa’s and landscapes far removed from North Yorkshire.
A bit like coming out of a coma (I’ve been there) and seeing life with fresh eyes, that’s how it feels. Bright, so bright that you need sunglasses but more vivid and colourful than before – the extreme brightness of a robin’s chest, the scent of early summers blossom, the crackle of a fire. This is what the rebirth feels like.
This feels like it’s so relevant right now. We’re all feeling different, right? We’ve all grown and evolved through the last couple of months. It’s a bit like when you leave college or uni and know there’s a whole new life waiting to unfurl itself, but you have no clue how that’s going to manifest itself.
And it really is a good thing. The hurt, the sadness, especially if you’re been personally affected or lost someone through this, you’ll know deep down that you will evolve through this, those sunbeams are still there.
The thing with radical rebirthing your life is that it’s a compulsion. It’s tuning into yourself, to forget all the external influences and just be. Be with your memories, be with your truth so you can feel your way to the future vision.
It’s how we evolve and grow into being more compassionate, to actually live out the stories we’re eventually going to pass on. This is the making of a legacy.
Plus, If you think about the concept of radical rebirth in the context of creating, or art, it’s always been there. Artists express their truth as the landscape of their lives is enriched and painted with the experiences they have. Look at Madonna or Bowie and how they’ve reinvented themselves. Or the radical reinvention of art in the Cubism era for example, you can see how by making dramatic changes you can push creative and cultural boundaries and create something new, something progressive; a legacy.
This evolution in storytelling is playing out at it’s highest level.
And as well as liberating it feels really, um, true. Because, each time I’ve radically shifted, I’ve become more of the person I think I was meant to be!
It is all quite a paradox when you explore it; one the one hand I’m saying you feel brand new, like a whole new person, and on the other hand I’m saying I’m becoming more me, I get that. But there are multiple ways of looking at it.
At the core, post trauma you have the same values, the same belief system, that’s unlikely to change so significantly. BUT, the experiences give us a whole new perspective. And that’s the galvanising factor that inspires us to change wholly, and not bit by bit.
When you get a glimpse of your truth it feels so good. Nourishing to say the least; partly because often we forget who we are, or we put ourselves in a different narrative context because of what other people have bestowed on us. It’s so exciting to unlock the truth, it feels kind of raw and risky, but it is absolutely compelling too.
Baby steps are good when you want to work towards something over time; a new career, or to find a new relationship or whatever; when you have a goal. But a big, traumatic experience is likely to warrant big, radical changes. I think that’s what I’m trying to say. It’s not really driven by goals, more of a FUCK IT I HAVE TO DO THIS KINDA FEELING.
To put it in the context of our two year sabbatical to Spain. If I’d have said “oh in two years’ time our plan is to move to Spain” I can’t be sure it would have happened. I was way too compelled for that. The anticipation of healing, listening to our intuition about what we needed, the realisation and then acceptance that we needed to make some big shifts was way too galvanising to take a baby step. We made it happen in the shortest time possible.
And honestly, hand on heart, it was the most and best investment in our time and money we could have ever made. Those two years gave me space to heal yes but it’s way more than that, the radical change in environment makes you just have to go to the core of who you are, to reach into the oceanic depths of your infinite human potential. To feel like a beginner again.
Those might sound like big words, but the reality is simpler. Just trying to figure out how to call up a local restaurant to order a paella, or navigating the healthcare system when Jemima got pneumonia just two weeks after being there. Of rolling around laughing as we learned to love feeling like beginners in life again. Fumbling around trying to buy our campervan, or getting the papers sorted we needed in the council offices, working out the queuing system as you’re listening to daily lives playing out in the rich Catalan language.
I’ll save my memories of the experience we had in Barcelona for another podcast episode, because I believe everyone should have the experience of taking a sabbatical, no matter where you are in life. It’s the single most enriching and rewarding experience ever.
Being – and feeling like – a beginner is powerful stuff and I’ve always loved it – our wedding song was Bowie’s Absolute Beginners and I think it’s the best state of mind to be in – curious, learning, eyes and heart open. You don’t have your comforts around you; your home, your routine and rhythm, the everyday signposts and familiar boundaries to live within. When those things are removed you just feel, well naked. It’s you, your intuition, your survival mechanisms and mostly, if I’m honest, your sense of humour!
You start to expect things to go wrong; to predict the obstacles that might happen that day; to observe the day-to-day lives of people and the cultural differences and make the unfamiliar feel more familiar.
It’s like learning on speed! Dialled up, to the max. Feeling that naked, losing all your comforts is opening the way for huge shifts personally. You’re releasing the shit that doesn’t matter and staring at a more enlightened, and expansive version of you than you could ever imagine.
I don’t think for a second this is only relevant to travel experiences either. Because maybe the idea of a family sabbatical to you isn’t as much of a calling as it is to me.
It could be anything – quitting your job to write a book; taking your kids out of school to permanently home school them; selling your house to free up money to move to a remote Scottish island; Anything at all.
We spend our lives collecting learnings, qualifications, job titles, experience in the things we’re good at. Making a radical reinvention is like unlearning all that in a big huge leap of faith.
And I really hope that lockdown has given you this gift in some way – a desire to live differently, to think FUCK it and be more you, to worry less about possessions and titles and results and go back to having a beginners mindset.
I really hope today has helped you get a glimpse of how you could feel if you’re sitting there thinking you want to change something in your life. I’d love to know how this has impacted you, and what it is you’re feeling compelled to do, post lockdown. Please do get involved and share with me on #thehappiercreative as I’d love to see and support and share with you.
And to wrap up, I’d like to say a massive thanks to you for listening. I really am grateful for any shares, reviews or ratings, if you’ve enjoyed the show. If you’d like to connect further with me you can find me on Instagram on @ruthie_hoskins so I hope we can hang out there a bit more. Thank you so much again and sending you love, sunbeams and beginner vibes your way.