Emily’s Quest

November 24, 2009

No More Quest!

Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek,
but a means by which we arrive at that goal.

~ Martin Luther King Jr

For years, I had a blog called “Emily’s Quest”.  I decided that the title of that blog, which has summed up my entire approach to life so far, epitomises exactly why I have had so much struggle with life.

“Emily’s Quest”.  It suggests that I am somehow searching for something I don’t have, ‘questing’ for some answers I will never find.  It suggests I am wanting some kind of destination or answer more than I want the moment I already dwell in.

I decided what I need is not a change of circumstance but rather a change of mindset.  I do not need to reach some specific goal or destination.  There is no holy grail at the end of the quest, without which my whole life journey has been in vain.  Rather, I have looked down and realised I have held this holy grail in my hands the whole time. 

I am already alive.  In every moment, I have arrived.  I don’t need to wait for life to begin.  It is already here, and every moment is available to me to enjoy or not, as I please.

So no more questing.  But that does not mean to stop living or to stop exploring – quite the opposite.  It means to view each step along the way as worthy in and of itself.  It means to love each moment as it is, rather than as it was or should/could be.

For all my pontificating on the value of the present moment, it has only really hit me in the last couple of days what it really means to live that truth as a reality.

So instead of questing all the time for something else, instead I choose to say YES to life, and YES to every moment within it.

I’ll be doing that here, if you would like to join me on teh journey:


For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life. This perspective has helped me to see there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. So treasure every moment you have and remember that time waits for no one.

Happiness is a journey, not a destination.

~ Souza

November 12, 2009

The Definition of Success

Filed under: Inspiration, Philosophising, Quotes — Tags: , , , , — Emily @ 12:10 pm

This quote pretty much sums up the conclusion I have come to about life at the moment.  It is widely attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, although this attribution may apparently be false.  Whoever it was to first say it, I reckon they had their head screwed on and actually got what life is about.  I think this is my new mantra to live by.

To laugh often and much;

To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;

To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;

To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;

To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;

To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.

This is to have succeeded.

It gives me goosebumps.

November 10, 2009


Filed under: Life Updates, Philosophising — Tags: , , , , , — Emily @ 3:43 pm

I have had enough.

Enough running, enough searching, enough trying, enough becoming – enough questing. I have had enough trying to be something different than what I am. Enough trying to become – to become better, different, worthy. Enough trying to redeem myself for sins I can’t identify, enough trying to prove myself, enough trying to justify my very existence. Enough sacrifice, enough study, enough self-depreciation, enough of men who reinforce a sense of worthlessness, enough of believing in worthlessness myself. Enough of being an octagonal peg, an irregular peg, an Emily-shaped peg, in a square hole, a round hole, a triangle hole – in somebody else’s hole. I thought if I made a career out of saving other people’s lives, caring for other people, meaning something to other people – ignoring all the things I love and that make me who I am, to become the life-saver, the giver, the worthy saint – that then maybe I would be enough.

I am enough.

I am enough right now, just as I am, today. I have nothing to prove, nothing to redeem, nothing to make up for or make better. Of course I can continue to grow, to grow into myself, into all the space beyond that my body aches to fill- but that doesn’t mean I have to fundamentally change, to become – to become better, to fix myself, to become someone else, someone more worthy. I am already worthy of all I am and all I have and more. I am already a person. I am creative, philosophical, expansive, hopeful, loving, genuine, honest, expressive, independent, personable, free spirited, spiritual, slight crazy… I have nothing to prove. I already am.


September 22, 2009

Days Like These

There are always days like these.

Days when you feel so shit you just have to revel in it.  Days when demotivation is like a cloak you curl up in, a familiar blanket, a snuggle rug.  Days when you wonder who you are and why and most importantly, how?  How how how?  How do you know, how do you find out, how do you live yourself each day and not lose yourself and still love yourself and not give yourself over to the darkness under the blanket, under the thick, warm, familiar blanket?

Days when you just have to swear out loud, SWEAR in capital letters, even if only in an e-mail, days when you are grateful to have a friend who has shit days too, who swears back, who laughs when you laugh because laughing is the only option left aside from despair and I would choose laughing any day.

Days when all you can do is wrap yourself in musical words, in the thoughts you had that other people wrote but better, in the melody of lyric and verse.  Days when all you can do is drink wine and toast to the darkening sky and be here now because later is too much to contemplate, later is in the too hard basket, later is like the dishes in the sink that you leave for tomorrow morning (when they’ll be so much muckier).

If you’re going to give yourself fully to the good days, why not give yourself fully to the shit ones?  This, too, is life.  This, too, is living.

There will always be days like these.  Today is one too.

August 12, 2009

An Imperfect Post About Perfection

Filed under: Life Updates, Philosophising — Tags: , , — Emily @ 8:02 am

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye.

– Miss Piggy

I have realised that I am too often paralysed by my self-imposed need for perfection.

I haven’t written a post on here for ages because I wanted just the right quotes and just the right words, I wanted it to be a perfect piece before I even sent it out into the world, I didn’t want to expose the messiness and imperfection of my own life.  I have a pile of unreplied-to e-mails in my inbox because I’m waiting for the time when I can sit down and reply to them “properly”.  I start courses and careers and then quit, partly because there is a little voice in me saying – what if I suck at this?  What if I’m not the best there is at this?  What if I’m not perfect?

It’s like I’d rather do nothing than do anything to any standard less than perfection.

Perfection being unachievable, it means I’ve spent a lot of my life achieving nothing.

Recently I’ve been learning to let go of my need for perfection.   I’ve been learning that maybe ‘good enough’ really is sometimes good enough.  I’ve been learning that maybe you’ll get more done and achieved aiming for good enough than you will paralysed by the fear that you’ll never do it perfect so why even start?

So I started this post with a quote I chose, not because it is perfect for this post, but because it is funny.  I’m starting to kind of approach life that way.

My life since I last wrote has followed a convoluted path that has somehow lead perfectly (there’s that word!) to exactly where I need and want to be.  I am now studying a Bachelor of Health Science (Paramedic) at Auckland University of Technology and living on the North Shore in Auckland (that means I’ll one day drive ambulances and you know, fix broken people – at least enough to get them to the hospital).  I love it.  I’m living with a crazy boy and a couple of random flatmates and some nutty-arse dogs and some gorgeous, crazy kids and it’s messy and hard and takes some getting used to and I love it.  By letting go of all need to be seen as perfect, by going with the flow of life and not giving two craps what anyone else thinks of it, I have somehow landed in this happy little niche that seems like it was just waiting for me to wake up and embrace life.

Now I’m about to head off to my part time job  – as a clinical transcriptionist (doesn’t that sound so much cooler than ‘medical typist? :P) at Greenlane Hospital in Auckland.  It is casual, easy, well-paying, has hours to suit, and is – well – perfect.

I will write more of an update on my life later.  But now I gotta run.  So I’m not going to end this on some beautifully phrased piece of poignance.  It’s not a perfect post.  But I reckon, for now, it’s better than nothing – and it’s good enough.


June 15, 2009

Happiness and the Holes Within

Filed under: Inspiration, Philosophising — Tags: , , , , , , — Emily @ 12:22 pm

Recently, in my random web browsing, I came across this article by Steven Stosny called Marriage and the Power to be Happy.  Although ostensibly about marriage, I think there are some really important ideas in this article not just about relationships in general but also about the way we all tend to approach life. 

For one thing, I LOVE this sentiment, expressed in the first paragraph:

I continue to be amazed when people protest about the “unfairness” of having to work to make their lives and relationships better.

As Dr Stosny says, being happy does indeed take work – this is not “unfair”, it’s a fact of life.  In fact, our level of happiness or unhappiness is generally directly related to a) how happy we decide to be and b) how much work we put in to creating and experiencing happiness in our life.  It is nothing to do with “luck” or “fairness”, we are not “entitled” to happiness and damn that bastard old world if it doesn’t provide it to us on a silver platter!  It is a choice and it takes work and conscious decision. 

The second idea within this article that I LOVE and that I think so many people fail to recognise or fully comprehend is this:

The most potent predictor of being happily married is being happy before you marry. Marriage does not make you happy, although the prospect of sharing life with a loved one can provide motivation to make yourself happy.

Of course, this doesn’t just have to be about the institution of marriage – it is about our relationships with people in general.  As Dr Stosny says, we run around believing we have ‘holes’ within us and desperately seeking someone else to fill them, when in fact all we need to do is realise that they aren’t even there to begin with.  We believe there are defects within us, holes that need filling, whereas actually we are all whole and complete as we are.  We don’t need fixing or something external to fill us.  Everything we need we already have within us. 

We think we want someone else to love and validate us, whereas actually, if we can’t accept love and validation from ourselves, what makes us think we are going to be able to accept it from anyone else?  And then we just end up getting frustrated with the other person because we *still* don’t feel loved and validated, as if that is the other person’s fault!!  When, actually, it is just that we cannot accept from someone else what we have no ability already to believe about ourselves.

So often, in modern society, this leads to us feeling dissatisfied with our partner for not inducing within us all the feelings of adequacy we are unable to give ourselves.  And so we assume our partner is not good enough, not loving enough, not ‘right’ for us, and we discard that person and look for someone else – the ‘one’, the Mr or Mrs Right who is going to finally make us feel worthy, fulfilled and lovable.  And so we go through this string of relationships, wondering why we can’t just find a decent partner who will incite all these cosy feelings within us.

It is a simple, often repeated idea but one that far too few people are able to really take in the truth of: If you can’t love yourself, you will never be able to accept love from someone else.  I have brown hair.  I believe strongly that I have brown hair.  If I started going out with a guy who told me every day that I have blonde hair, I wouldn’t start to feel happy and excited about my gorgeous blonde hair.  I would think he was talking a load of bollocks and go right on believing I have brown hair. 

It’s the same with love and feelings of worthiness etc.  If I have a deep, underlying belief that I am unlovable and unworthy of love, even if one hundred people appeared on my doorstep telling me they loved me and I was an amazing, lovable person, I would go right on believing that I was unlovable until I was able to shift my own inner belief about my lovability.  Hell, you just need to look at celebrities for evidence of that.  Being adored by millions doesn’t seem to make many of them any better able to treat themselves with love and respect.

So the moral is: don’t expect anyone else – family, friends, lovers – to fill the holes you perceive in yourself, or to make you feel things about yourself that you can’t feel in their absence.  You only, and you alone, can come to the understanding that there are no holes there to begin with.  Until you understand that, you will forever be searching for the way – or the person – to fill them.

June 11, 2009

A Great, Big, Philosophical “Wheeeee!”

What has travelling taught you?

When I first arrived, I acted like a tourist.  I was attracted to the beautiful landscape.  I took tons of pictures and wrote my dairy every day.  Later, I found that life is just the same no matter where I am.  It is always the people I meet that make the difference.

~ Shuk Fan Ip (quoted in TNT backpackers magazine, Issue 524)

 “Life is just the same no matter where I am”.  I cannot think of a more perfect sentence to sum up where I find myself in life at the moment.

So I embarked on my travel adventure last month, at the last minute actually landing in Brisbane rather than Sydney.  I had decided – with the blank slate of life before me and truly nothing written on it, total freedom in my backpack and very little else (besides a change of undies or two) – that I was just going to follow my whim in every decision.  I was travelling utterly alone and unencumbered and nothing mattered but what I felt the pull to do next.

I had a friend once, a blocked creative working in an office job, who told me about how he had one day gone for a walk through town and decided that he was just going to follow wherever the urge or pull took him.  Along the path of this walk, he came across an independent magazine which he ended up finding creative outlet in, by doing a lot of design and illustration for them, and I think was an important step on his path to being more true to the voice inside himself.

This was exactly the approach I decided to adopt to my travel plans, just on a slightly grander scale – not “which street shall I turn down next, soul?” but rather “what city shall I travel to next?  What shall I do there?”.  I truly had no idea where I would end up or what I would end up doing.

Shortly after arriving in Brisbane, my good friend was in Cairns for a conference, so I took a train up and met her there, and had an absolute blast.  After that, my whim took me to Darwin, down to Alice Springs, then on a camping trip via Uluru and the Outback to Adelaide.  The plan had been to continue on to Perth, where I would get a job and settle for a bit.

All this happened in the space of about 3 weeks, but I learned an important lesson in amongst it all very quickly: Life is just the same no matter where I am, or in other, oft-quoted words: “wherever I go, there I am” – something everyone knows to be true but really is best learned through experience.  No matter where you go, you are still who you are and you still have to do something with yourself and your life.  Life is not suspended or changed because you are in another country or city.  Life is still sitting there saying: How are you going to use me?  What do you believe in and are you living those beliefs and values in the actions of your life?

I also learned another very important lesson, between being alone in Brisbane, to partying and chatting and hanging out in Cairns with my good friend, to setting off alone again once she went home and I continued on.  I have said this in a very old post once before and I learned the truth of it again: life exists most significantly in the interaction between the self and another.  Cairns was one of the most fun times of my life, not because of the town itself but because of the company I shared and the fun we were able to create together.  The tours and experiences, the memory of which I cherish the most, are those I shared with other people, whether it was my good friend or new found friends.  People are what make life what it is, sharing your experiences and your self with other people is what makes an adventure fun, memorable, meaningful.  The freedom of solitude and independence is a small price to pay for the deeper contentment of interaction and sharing with another person, especially one you care about – even if that sometimes means compromise.

Feeling the truth of these two lessons to the core of my bones, there was another thing adding to my experience of my trip.  I had a cold/flu the entire time.  I arrived with it and it never quite left me.  By the time I arrived in Adelaide, I was feeling very sick, I was running out of money and didn’t feel up to job hunting in my condition.  So, trusting the voice as I had been the whole trip to guide me to the next step, I flew home to Wellington.

So did I come home because I was sick?  It would be a convenient excuse – it certainly was at the time.  But if I dig deep and am really, truthfully honest with myself… no, I don’t believe that is truly why I came home.  I believe I came home because, running out of money, I was also running out of the luxury of ‘running’ – I was going to have to stop and get a ‘pay-the-bills’ job.  I was going to have to stop and re-enter the real world and face life and either answer or continue to try to avoid its eternal questions.  No matter how long I kept running or filling my days with filing and reading, I realised that Life was always there, just beyond my point of focus, asking: How are you going to use me?  What do you believe in and are you living those beliefs and values in the actions of your life? 

The thing with office jobs (or really any job that isn’t your true calling) is that they require just enough concentration to be able to block out that silent whisper much of the time or at least silence it to a dull, irritating background noise.  But they can also be mindless enough (or not engaging enough of your true interest) that every now and then, and far more often than is comfortable, that little voice of Life starts nudging its way into your awareness, tap tap tapping at the edges of your self in ways that make you squirm and desperately seek out something else to file or another spreadsheet that needs updating, as if you could somehow fit Life between cells A1 and D12, insert formula, done.  Ctrl-alt-delete and start again.

I believe physical illness is an outer symptom of a deeper dis-ease, something that manifests when there is a gap between what we are currently doing and who we are being in life, versus who we truly are and want to be and what we truly want do – when there is dis-ease between our soul and our actions, our outer circumstances.  So I don’t believe I was the pitiful victim of a nasty flu.  I believe I subconsciously created the circumstances that would require me to face up to myself and to what I actually want from life – in fact, not just want I want from life, but what I want to give in life.

I know to some, especially to worshipers at the alter of science, these beliefs sound airy-fairy, written off as new agey, esoterical nonsense.  But the more I get in touch with myself and with life, the more I believe and see evidence of them, and the less ashamed I am to admit to them.  I like to explore all of life, all of its nooks and crannies, I am not content to just sit on the surface of it, and yes, that means exploring spirituality and being open to all the possibilities.  Spirituality has become a dirty word these days and I think that is sad.  Even science is just part of the unquenchable human need and quest to understand life and all its mysteries.  Erwin Chargaff, the biochemist who discovered base pairing in DNA, said of biology: “No other science deals in its very name with a subject that it cannot define.”

What is life?  And how are we best to live it?  That is all any of us are trying to figure out.

So I came home, which was just the next step in the subconscious path I was following; I came home for a few moments of solitude, that I may hear the voice waiting for me in the silence.

I believe that when you are following your true path, things will tend to all just slide into place.  I believe that your true path is like a river and when you surrender to it, it will naturally sweep you along to places you had barely even imagined, and the best thing you can do is just let go of the oars and enjoy the ride.

That is kind of what seems to be happening in my life right now.  Anyone who knows me knows I have always been interested in health and medicine.  I sought my path in allopathic medicine, in doctoring and nursing.  As my ideas and beliefs have developed, I have become increasily interested in natural health and traditional approaches to holistic health and wellbeing.  I have long been drawn to a natural therapies college in Auckland called Wellpark.  I admire their integrative and forward thinking philosophy – they have a vision in which allopathic and complementary medicine work hand in hand, rather than in battle as they seem to be currently.  This is where I truly see the future of medicine and healing to lie – I believe all forms of medicine have important things to contribute and we would do well to work together and learn from each other, so that a more holistic form of medical treatment can arise, one that unites both the art and science of healing.  They are also the first institution in New Zealand to introduce a degree level Bachelors of Naturopathy, to begin next year (2010).

So I made a couple of enquiries and before I knew it, life was sweeping me along.  For the second semester of this year, beginning the last week of July, I will be doing a Certificate of Aromatherapy at Wellpark College in Grey Lynn, Auckland.  I think doing this 6 month certificate will give me enough of a taste of the field of natural therapies to decide whether I want to pursue the study of Naturopathy and Herbal Medicine ongoing – and if that makes me a crazy, tree-hugging, hippy new ager, then I take the title happily :P.  And I am making the move this Tuesday coming!  As I say – life is sweeping me along.  I’m just throwing up the oars and going “Wheeeeeeee!”

I wrote these words in the last post on this blog before I left on my trip, and they are as appropriate to this next step in my journey as they were to that last one:

Emily’s Quest is about living and loving the questions in the faith, hope and trust that I will somehow live my way into the answer.  And so I am going to embrace the unknown and keep asking the question into the darkness, in the faith that one day I will look around and realise I am living the answer already and always have been.

I haven’t stopped asking – I have realised I can’t, no matter how hard and far I run.  So I’m sitting inside the question now, and keep living answer after answer until finally something fits.

It is enough that one surrenders oneself. Surrender is to give oneself up to the original cause of one’s being. Do not delude yourself by imagining such a source to be some God outside of you. One’s source is within oneself.

~ Ramana Maharishi

June 7, 2009

And Sometimes All 3 At Once…

Filed under: Inspiration, Philosophising, Quotes — Tags: , , , , — Emily @ 5:02 pm

The Universe has only 3 answers to our wishes:
1. Yes!
2. Not yet!
3. I have something better for you!


(a reader’s comment on the blog of the mighty Paulo Coelho)

May 4, 2009

The Dream is Easier – But Living’s the Thing

Filed under: Philosophising, Quotes — Tags: , , , , — Emily @ 8:52 pm

My friend just texted me this quote in awareness of the profundity with which it explains her life.  I couldn’t help but feel it’s aptness equally.

“My dream is now realisable, but if I try and fail, I don’t know what the rest of my life will be like; that’s why it’s better to live cherishing a dream than face the possibility that it might all come to nothing.”

~ Paulo Coelho, The Zahir

April 19, 2009

Taking The First Step

Filed under: Life Updates, Philosophising — Tags: , , , , — Emily @ 12:51 pm

Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

I have learned that to adhere to ‘stickability’, you have to know yourself enough to know what you want to stick at.  I continue to believe that when you find your own unique place in the world, you will automatically be driven to ‘stick’ with it, to keep going even when it’s hard or unpleasant, to commit for better or worse because there is nothing else for you, because what you do is driven by who you are and who you essentially need to be.

I had been thinking about going back to Med School.  I think because my head had been going overtime and I needed an easy answer.  I need to know that my life is worth something, that it has meaning in some way, some purpose.  I think Med School seems like an easy panacea for me – it’s like  a ready-made purpose all wrapped up in social acceptability, so that I wouldn’t have to think anymore, wouldn’t have to keep asking the question – not just who but why am I?!

I came to the conclusion that going back to Med School was rather more running from the question than moving towards the answer.  Flailing about in the unknown, the blank slate of unknown purpose, I gravitated back to that which seemed a nice, neat definition for me, something to make my life make sense.

But Emily’s Quest is about living and loving the questions in the faith, hope and trust that I will somehow live my way into the answer.  And so I am going to embrace the unknown and keep asking the question into the darkness, in the faith that one day I will look around and realise I am living the answer already and always have been.

So in a way I was right about this year being about stickability, but not in the way I thought.  It’s not about sticking to an arbitrary sense of external validation and definition, but rather about sticking true to that little voice in my soul that urges me on and learning to just be with it long enough to really hear what it is saying, not trying to cover it over with easy solutions and quick-fix bandaids.

For some reason, that little voice  – that is not really a voice at all but a sense, a knowning, an urging – has been pulling me for a long time towards Australia, and in particular Sydney.  Don’t ask me why or what I even mean by that – it’s just there.

So, I am finally, finally, finally, just going to have the guts to just bloody do it.  Enough talking, enough thinking, enough questioning of motives.  I am currently in almost exactly the same situation that I have been at least two other times in my life.  I talking exactly the same right down to where I’m working and where I’m living.  There is a pattern repeating in my life and I recognise the place I am at with much familiarity.  And you know what they say about what happens if you ‘always do what you’ve always done…’

So I am making a difference choice this time.  I am (hopefully!) breaking the pattern.  How lucky I am to live in a life where I get to choose again.  The first two times I chose wrong.  So life as brought me back the exact same situation and now I get to choose again.

This time I choose the fear, I choose the excitement, I choose the small voice inside of me that won’t be drowned out, I choose the absolute unknown and the vastness of the world ahead of me, I choose to dance with the questions of life.

I am terrified.  I am excited.  I am alive!

Sydney here I come!

Sydney here I come!

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