What to Do When Everything Goes Pear-Shaped

I wrote last week about how I was buying, to my surprise, an apartment in my home town. The whole thing snuck up on me over the summer. This small northern town where I grew up edged its way into my heart. Everything about my current situation is in opposition to where I thought I was heading and what I thought I wanted. But I'm also very, very happy. 

So I wrote and told you I was buying this apartment, just three months after having sold my apartment in London, along with almost everything in it.

The apartment I found was perfect. In a beautiful 19th Century Victorian building and what was the town's first mental asylum. The building had been abandoned for some time but had recently been bought by a developer specialising in renovating historic buildings. Alongside English Heritage, they were lovingly converting the listed building into unique, beautiful apartments. The very first time I visited, I felt immediately at home.

I reserved the apartment off plan with that section of the building still very much a building site but was able to get inside to see the apartment a few weeks later. When I saw it, it was even better than I'd imagined owing, largely, to the incredible sweeping original beams that would have been part of the expansive dining room. The balcony, facing West out over fields, trees and the bay, was plenty big enough for growing all sorts of things and sunk deep into the roof it was a private sanctuary - a place from which I'd be able to watch my beloved sunsets. And finally, the velux windows, a childhood dream come true to lie in bed and listen to the rain pitter pattering on the roof. I have always, always wanted to live in a loft.

The majority of the work with the solicitor had been completed. I was soon to exchange contracts. It had all happened so easily. That's the way things have been since I came back up north.

But then I received a phone call with some news that was really beyond anything I (or anyone else) could have predicted.

I'd been sold the wrong apartment. 

Long story short, there'd been a mix up with numbering and the apartment I thought I was buying had been reserved by someone else long before. The one I'd actually had reserved all this time was a mirror image apartment, over the corridor on the other side of the building, darker, facing East into the courtyard surrounded by other apartments all looking inwards. 

There was only one other one bedroom apartment left in addition to the one I had reserved. It was in another part of the building, again in the roof, North facing, slightly bigger, more expensive, but they'd bring it down to the price of the other if I preferred that one.

And this is where the good stuff really starts and what I want to share with you.

You don't have to react badly to bad situations

When I got off the phone after hearing the news, my blood boiled. I was angry, devastated, annoyed, sad. Emotionally, I'd already moved into THAT apartment. And don't even ask me about the hours I'd spent on Pinterest. 

But that boiling rage lasted for maybe 10 seconds before I took my notebook and a pen and started doing Byron Katie's The Work. I've been using The Work for a couple of years but have been using it very significantly the past few couple of months. The Work is a simple but powerful process of self inquiry to essentially remove all suffering from your life. 

I could write an entire post on this alone but if you'd like to know more, I recommend visiting her website where you can find everything you need to know. The book I have, for those interested, is Loving What Is.

Within maybe fifteen minutes of sitting with my notebook and pen and these four questions, the anger had dissolved. I even found myself laughing at the situation. I saw new perspectives. It turned into an opportunity for growth and with complete sincerity, I can tell you I began to feel grateful for this situation and the way in which it had allowed me to see how transformative the work I've been doing these past months has been.

It also highlighted areas for improvement - like how I'd shot myself in the foot by moving so far into the future in my mind with this apartment and imagining how it would all be.

How to make really tough life decisions

After calming myself, I had a decision to make. I could either take the apartment that had been mine all along, take the new one they were offering or walk away completely.

I went back to visit. I saw the apartment that was mine. I felt disappointed. Considerably darker, not at all as private on the balcony and no view out to beautiful green and the sea. The other one bedroom apartment was yet to be built - all I was able to look at was the outside of the building where it would be and the preliminary plans. Making a decision, when I wasn't even able to see the second apartment, felt impossible.

I didn't sleep well the next couple of nights. I turned everything over and over in mind. I went repeatedly through the same facts. This apartment has X, Y, Z. But this apartment has A, B, C. The more I thought about it, the less I knew what to do and the more agitated I became. I knew that going over the same ground wasn't helpful, but I couldn't see anything else to do.

Then one evening I went out for a walk after dinner. I planned to walk to the sea, sit on the rocks and just be with this decision and see what came up.

Just a few minutes after leaving the house, a thought dropped in out of nowhere. Choose the apartment you want and ask them to make a donation to a homeless charity.

My energy changed immediately. Where there'd been rumination, anxiety and uncertainty, now there was a sense of creativity, excitement and possibility.

Calais. The money should go to the refugees who've had to flee their homes. That came too.

I laughed. And I cried. And I walked to the sea and wrote about it in my journal. It was absolutely clear to me that this is what I needed to do. The reaction in my body told me everything I needed to know. There was a lightness to it all. This is what was true for me in this situation.

What I want to tell you is that I didn't come up with this idea. I didn't think my way to this decision. It wasn't about me being a good person or choosing the higher path. My personal thinking, actually, was just taking me round and round in circles. This idea came from somewhere else. Somewhere deeper than my worried mind. This idea was given to me. It was the solution that already existed - I only had to drop into a space where I was able to access it.

I've been thinking this more and more about decisions. We seem to worry so very much about the choices we think we have to make in life. But I'm opening myself up to the possibility that there are never decisions to be made, only decisions and solutions to access by dropping into a space and state beyond the mind.

I didn't choose this. It chose me.

Please don't mistake me. I'm quite aware that choosing between one wonderful apartment and another isn't one of life's worst decisions, but I do believe this applies to decisions of all kinds.

Next time you have a difficult decision to make, consider the possibility that you don't have to make it at all. Consider the possibility that what you may actually need to do is to drop into a place outside of the mind where new creativity and ideas become available. 

Accessing that place is another question entirely. For me, it likely had something to do with being in nature.

It takes enormous courage to stand in your truth

I called a trusted friend that night and told her about what had happened on my walk. When I'd finished she just said "Leah, you know what? It just sounds like this is your truth."

She was right. It was. I knew immediately when that idea came that it was my truth and what I must do.

The next day I told a couple more people about it. The reaction was different to that of my friend. I felt suddenly a little silly. Was this a childish idea? Was it a bit ridiculous? Would I be laughed at for suggesting it? 

It hadn't felt silly when I was out on my walk. My body reacted so powerfully and with so much emotion and joy to the idea that there wasn't any part of me that doubted it. But the further I got from that experience and as I noted other people's reactions, the doubt did creep in.

So when I went back to the development the next day to take one last look, make a final decision and make my request, I wasn't sure whether I'd be able to follow through. I was shown around again. It was a beautiful sunny day and it no longer felt like I had to decide between apartments. I just knew which one was the right one for me. 

When we went back to the office to sit down and talk, I told them I'd made up my mind and that I'd like to take the one I'd always had reserved, with the beams and the velux, facing inwards to the courtyard.

"And I have a request" I continued.

I could feel them shift a little in their seats. They looked a little nervous. I was nervous too. The cup of tea they'd given me shook in my hands.

"I'd really like it if, as a company, you'd make a donation to a homeless charity."

I told them how the idea had come to me and how it had made me feel. I told them that it's something that would allow me to move in to the apartment feeling good and excited and how i felt it would be such a good end to everything that had happened. 

As soon as I'd got it out, my eyes welled up. And then theirs did too. They were taken aback and so happy about the suggestion. They told me how the company already raises money for homeless charities, so this would be perfect. They'd need to speak to the relevant person to get it agreed, but they'd make sure it happened, they promised.

We then had a long conversation about homelessness, mental health and how the media have a lot to answer for in the fear they create in the world. When I left, in place of a formal handshake, came a hug. Something human. Something real. Something warm.

I left that meeting on top of the world, feeling so completely aligned with my purpose on this planet. But you know what it showed me? It showed me that to really follow your path, stand in your truth and do YOUR work in the world, it takes a huge, huge amount of courage.

Callings always ask for courage. They ask you to do something unusual. They ask you to tread a path that to others might seem crazy or foolish. You'll be discouraged. You'll doubt yourself. But for goodness sake, hold on to what you know to be true - those moments when something moves through you and you KNOW it's something you need to do. Hold onto those moments. Trust them and follow them through. Because these moments, followed through to their end, are what change things. They disrupt the way things are and show people the ways things could be. They teach people what it looks like to stand and act from love rather than fear. These moments are important. So very important.

Good things flow from standing in your truth

When I talked about all this on the Facebook live stream the other day, I entirely forgot to mention the final (so far) and very exciting part of this adventure.

After leaving the development, I wandered back down the hill into town. I walked to the train station to take the 14:22 train back to my parents' village. The train was overcrowded, as it always is. I hung back, as I always do, to let others on first. I noticed someone else hanging back too. A young man with a big backpack on. I always like it when people hang back and don't push to get on. I've never understood why people do that. 

So we were the last two to board. We stood almost opposite one another in the corridor outside the toilet. A few minutes after we set off, he caught my eye and smiled. And a minute or two later he asked...

"How was your morning?"

"Well..." I began. "As it happens, I've had a really great morning..."

And I smiled and smiled to have the opportunity to recount my morning to a charming young man as the train chugged along the beautiful northern coastline on this wonderfully sunny, Autumn day.

His name was Simon. And he teaches kayaking on a lake in the Lake District.

Funny how life happens, isn't it?

Love and courage,

Leah