Taking Life to the Next Level

by | Conscious Living, Print Articles, Winter 2024

If you are feeling stuck or recycling old painful patterns and looking for a way to shift and set yourself free, I have just released this book which is intended to be a resource companion to those who want and need it. It is the friend I wish I had when I was facing tough times and didn’t know where to find help from a trusted source. I share some of the ‘adventures’ and catalysts that catapulted me into the life I now live and love. It is my mission and passion to take my experiences and lessons learnt and ‘pay it forward’, so the knowledge and insights I have gained offer comfort and inspire courage in others to take a leap of faith towards the life they long for and deserve. Jo

My inner war

“The inner war was raging inside me. I needed to make clear and responsible decisions that would set the trajectory for the rest of my life. I was furious, like an unreasonable, irrational teenager, because my life was being restricted AGAIN and I was crying, sometimes uncontrollably, as if someone had died. I have never felt so alone and so scared – no family, no partner or husband to console me or talk things through with me, let alone comfort me. The C-word felt like a death sentence. My thoughts and emotions were all over the place like a bucket of frogs. I had just been given a clean bill of health from my cervical cancer on one hand and then, on the other, the Universe seemed to be saying: “Oh no, we are not done with you, you have another rodeo to go.”

Now here I was again! I couldn’t believe the injustice of it all. Why? Why me? What had I done to deserve this? I didn’t deserve this? Was this some sort of karmic debt? My plans were being screwed up for my new life and, worst of all, the echo of my deepest fears (since my early teens) rang loud in my ears: “Please God don’t let me be a divorcee and please don’t let me get breast cancer.” I couldn’t understand why I was being punished with the two things I so wanted to avoid in my life!

I went through the entire spectrum of emotions and questions and I was gutted that I had to cancel all my plans to move to the UK. Why now?

I had to gain some control and have a plan. So Step One was to go to the UK, close that future chapter for now and process what I had to face now. Then Step Two, on my return, I needed to meet the surgeon, talk about my options and come to a decision about the way forward, as that would then determine my steps to follow.

I woke up on Friday morning as though I were waking up from a nightmare. Only this wasn’t just a nightmare – it was my current reality. I had to meet Mark and break the news and face the disappointment of letting go of what I was so looking forward to. I could not take the job. However, time with my precious friend, Antonella, would be comforting medicine for my soul and I could rely on her wisdom, absorb her compassion and be encouraged by her clear thinking. She really was an anchor in my life and I trusted that she would help me process all this and find some clarity and maybe some answers and direction. I was searching for hope …

Upon reflection Antonella stood up and said boldly: “Right, that’s it, we are going to Waterstones to get you a book you MUST read. There’s a profound book I want to get for you and I think it might help to make sense of things and clarify your choices. Let’s go!”

I had no clue what she was talking about – I just knew it would be something positive and constructive in this mess. So she took me to Waterstones bookshop in Piccadilly to buy me the book that started the REAL change I NEEDED and not the one I was ‘looking for’ by moving to the UK. It was called Women’s Bodies Women’s Wisdom by Dr Christiane Northrup.

With book in hand, a hint of hope and renewed energy, we headed off to Carlucci’s in South Kensington to delve into this tome over a coffee, so I could understand more about what I was facing and how to navigate through it. It was an eye-opener for sure and far too much to digest in one sitting! This was going to be my companion on my flight back home to SA.

After meeting with Mark and withdrawing from my job, I left London to go back home. It was bittersweet saying farewell to Antonella and an opportunity lost.

“You are a gutsy girl, Jo, and taking bold steps. I am cheering you on every step of the way. You are making the right decision, just limit whom you tell, as not everyone will buy into it through their own fears and perhaps lack of knowledge. You don’t need to be derailed by other people’s opinions. So stay focused; I am behind you all the way! You can do this!”

Her words gave me confidence. Even though her background was in science, she was totally supportive of my decision not to take the conventional path prescribed by the medical fraternity, as that would not heal the wounds that caused the disease in the first place. After all, two diagnoses in quick succession ‒ I was the common factor and therein lay the clue and the message.

On my way to the airport, I was reflecting on this particular trip. It was quite surreal, as travel has always represented an adventure of some sort, or was business related, yet this time it was everything but that. I had this sinking feeling of going home and ultimately facing the road ahead alone. It was not a trip home I was looking forward to, as I had no idea how my life was going to unfold.

Yet, somehow, I felt lighter in my heart than when I arrived in the UK. I was feeling more empowered, with a new-found understanding that I had more choices than I thought I had, which were clearly outlined in the blurb at the back of the magic book. This gave me hope. I could take charge of my life, to take the next steps on my terms and not have to succumb to others’ imposed directions. I was also making a decision to change my life the right way around – from the inside out. Healing the heart wounds would heal the bodily wounds. This would ultimately be more sustainable and more honest, rather than this constant seeking joy outside (which is a BAND AID) and hoping it would fill the hole inside!

My journey home was a long rollercoaster ride of emotions and deep sadness at the loss of such a wonderful opportunity for a new life. From having a clear plan for my future, it was now unclear, uncertain and unknown. I was scared and there were no guarantees. What a mess! I needed to make real changes within me and what did that all mean and require? I also needed to accept the fact that ‘everything happens for a reason’ as unclear as it was and that my life had been brought to a grinding halt for me to pause, reflect and redirect my life.

With that I took that huge book out of my bag and decided to stop the swirl of destructive thoughts and make better use of my time in this confined space, till I landed in Johannesburg.

I opened the book, flicked through the pages. There was so much information that I was overwhelmed. I was battling to concentrate and feeling restless. I read the same lines over and over again and nothing was going in. I got up walked up and down the aisle to settle my nerves and watched my fellow travellers immersing themselves in films or their books, some on laptops, while others slept. I certainly couldn’t sleep and movies couldn’t distract me. All my mind would entertain was the fearful prospects as I played out all the various ways the road ahead would unfold.

I knew I had to change my life and change the type of choices I was making. But I knew for that to happen, something had to change inside me. I couldn’t keep finding myself in the same situations and recycling the same patterns in response to them. I was always afraid of speaking what was true for me or to stand up for what I wanted because there was invariably some form of inflammatory backlash, and I hated conflict. It was making me sick and I couldn’t do that to myself again! I was being given a second chance to recover fully from two rounds of cancer – I couldn’t allow myself to recycle the same patterns that would result in the same experiences or situation. I was clearly ‘sick’ of it or getting sick from it and it needed to change.”

Excerpt from ‘Fearlessly Free to be Me’ by Jo Marsh available from takealot.com

Today Jo Marsh is the face behind the hugely successful overlanding adventure brand and YouTube channel Essence of Overlanding. But designing a life of adventure, love and excitement almost cost her life. Just a decade before, Jo was diagnosed with two cancers within six weeks of each other. A diagnosis that stopped the top businesswoman in her tracks. This led her on a different path that saw her studying mindfulness, Yoga, meditation and reflexology. Over the last decade she has become passionate about enabling people to become comfortable with who they really are. She empowers them to live and speak their truth and find inner peace.  To find or about Jo or her book: www.jomarsh.co.za