I remember vividly the exact point when my life started changing for the better. It was 31 December 2009. I was trying to send happy New Year wishes to my friends but was in too much pain to do so. I had developed a repetitive strain injury. It’d been bothering me for a while, but I did my usual thing: ignored the pain and pushed through it. Except, with every day, the pain in my right shoulder got worse and started spreading across my arm. On that day, my numb fingers refused to operate the mouse of my PC. I sat back in my chair and cried. Life was not fair.
In honesty, I was deeply unhappy at that time. I had recently come out of a long-distance abusive relationship and had no idea what to do with my newly-acquired freedom. I lamented at the lack of fulfilling loving relationship, as if without a man I was not complete in the world.
At the time, I was renting a room in a seven-bedroom house. Other tenants came and left, triggering my sense of abandonment. I stopped getting friendly with my housemates, as inevitable separation was too painful. I kept hiding in my bedroom feeling overwhelmed by house parties and regular gatherings in the kitchen. Although I stayed in the house for three years by then, I refused to put down my roots. It was temporary accommodation and not worth my time and effort, I kept telling myself. Piles of print-outs of various drafts, articles, books were stacked up high on my table and around the room. Old unused furniture cluttered the place. There was not a single thing I liked about my environment, yet I did not do anything about it.
My priorities were elsewhere, I convinced myself. I was in the final year of my fully-funded PhD programme and was desperate to finish my thesis on time. My PhD supervisor was his usual self and was dragging his feet with providing feedback. Although I still had eight months of funding, I kept worrying about the next step. Should I stay or should I go back. If I stay, would I get a job? If I go… Well, that was frankly not an option. I refused to go back to my old life.
As I entered the new 2010, my repetitive strain injury brought me down on my knees. I had to accept that I could not work. Unless I stopped temporarily, I would get crippled for life. Reluctantly, I gave myself permission to have a break.
Suddenly, I found myself with a lot of time on my hands. For a few days, I simply vegetated in front of television, but gradually, even numbing out became unbearable. I cleared my room and gave away everything I did not need. For the first time in three years, I had enough space in my room to move, even to dance from time to time. I sorted out all my papers. I swapped an old armchair that hurt my back for three years to a decent reclining armchair which was a delight! I laughed and cried reading Oriah Mountain-Dreamers’ Invitation. I took myself out on dates based on Julia Cameron’s advice in The Artist’s Way. On my Reiki Master’s suggestion, every evening, I wrote five things I felt grateful for. To start with, it was hard to write the list. With time, I found it difficult to stop. Gradually, the realisation of how blessed I was started sinking in. Where before I saw a lack, now I discovered a cause for gratitude. It was as if I finally woke up: I was completing my PhD in law which was fully-funded; I was free from emotional abuse and had time and space to get to know myself; I could read, write, dance, go for walks, catch a movie anytime I wanted. I was even thankful for my repetitive strain injury, because it was truly a blessing in disguise: it slowed me down enough to gain some clarity and perspective.
That gratitude I felt was the turning point in my life. Because if we are not grateful for what we already have, we would never appreciate more that can come our way. I still lived in the same room, was single, without a completed PhD thesis AND I loved every minute of my life. As I said thanks for abundance and blessings in my life, my heart, which was overflowing with gratitude, started to open up. Within a few weeks, I met my husband-to-be and the rest is history (or rather yesterday’s blog). I completed my PhD two months before the deadline, passed my viva without a single correction, got a teaching position in my department, got engaged and moved in with my husband-to-be — all within six months.
I was transformed through gratitude and so was my life.