I met Sonia online through our shared experience of having written a memoir. It’s not often I get to speak with somebody else that understands the joys and frustrations of writing, and then trying to promote, your book. I read Sonia’s memoir and found it to be a wonderfully written, powerful and moving account of finding your true self, after the twists and turns of life have steered you off-course. I’m very pleased to be able to share Sonia’s story with you.
A lion’s roar
Involuntarily, I fell to the ground, clutching the grass in an attempt to steady my body from uncontrollable shaking. Bent over with my forehead almost touching the ground, my heaving sobs were unrestrainable. The air too thick to swallow, I could barely breathe.
The roars of Big Boy, a rescued lion now in his large grassy enclosure, behind a chain-link fence at the Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre in South Africa, continued for yet another few minutes as my cries rang out from a place deep from within, a place I had never been to before. The reverberation of each roar punched me with a thud, rattling the armour I had spent decades creating to protect myself from the outside world. A world in which I had endured bullying at school and then at work.
Each roar squeezed my heart, trying to dislodge years of anguish and hurt. My tears, as they fell on the grass below, wrung with inner pain. For half an hour more, the roars continued and still I clung to the blades of grass. Each roar willed me to listen to a message I would not heed for a good few years yet. Although I did not know it at the time, this moment would change my life forever.
A derailed life
Only weeks earlier I had packed up my life in Toronto, selling my flat and putting my belongings into storage. I even found a temporary home for my beloved cat Bandit – an unbearable separation, soothed only by the knowledge that the arrangement was temporary. I had moved to Toronto ten years earlier, desperate to be free from a grey life, under grey skies in North West London.
I vowed my life would be different in Canada, but now a decade later as I stared at the blue walls of my apartment, unemployed and single yet again and now well into my thirties, I knew my life had derailed far off the course I had set myself. I was broken.
Not only was I severely weakened by a third round of depression in three years, but crippling bouts of anxiety also held a vice-like grip around my daily life, making just getting out of bed a monumental event. I lost jobs because of it. I lost friends. Boyfriends did not stick around long either. I had no family to turn to. I was staring blankly into the emptiness of nothingness that was my life. Through a series of serendipitous events, I found myself on a plane to Johannesburg to spend three months as a volunteer on wildlife reserves in southern Africa.
Whisperings of a new beginning
The three months out in the southern African bush passed all too quickly. I returned to Canada, picked up Bandit and spent another three years enduring harassment in the workplace. Nothing had changed. None of the strength I had gained from my trip abroad sustained me through the loneliness and bullying that would greet me yet again.
Moving back to North West London, old habits were hard to break. I found myself working for a government department, forced to quash any creativity and outside-the-box thinking. My anxiety reached monumental proportions. Every morning I fought paralytic fear of just getting out of bed. When I finally made it to work, I sat in a large, airless, open-plan office, among endless rows of people robotically typing on laptops.
One day I closed my eyes. The incessant clacking of hundreds of pairs of hands on keyboards felt like fingernails down a chalkboard. In the whirr of competing emotions to flee or fight, there was something else—a whisper. I strained to listen. It whispered again.
Chinks in the armour
An acrimonious exit from this job plunged me again into another severe bout of depression. During those days of despair, the chinks in the armour that Big Boy’s roars created, grew bigger, letting in light where none had lived before. His roars had made cracks in the walls I had built to defend myself against situations that often did not need defending. Not only were there space and light, but there were more whispers.
I started not only to listen, but also to hear the message I had been ignoring all along; a message that Big Boy wanted me to hear. I could no longer hold onto that which refused to be held.
During those days of darkness there were more whispers, whispers that made me answer an email about running a business. A few months later, I was a franchisee, a dog walking and pet sitting business owner. The number of days in which anxiety took hold became farther and farther apart. However, as time passed, the whispers came again.
Reaching for more
As much as I loved the animals in my care, I knew I wanted so much more and I knew I had the ability to run a business entirely on my own, without answering to anyone. Through fortuitous circumstances I could never have predicted, I now run a digital marketing company, helping small business owners rank more highly online. Every day I help small businesses shine a little bit more brightly, allowing them to showcase their talents and gifts in a way they did not before.
Twists, turns and truth
Life does not always work out the way we would wish. It is not round, smooth and perfect; rather it is jagged, with difficult twists and turns to navigate, sometimes blindly. Big Boy gave me a gift, one that is priceless and immeasurable, a gift that words can never describe. He gave me the gift of freedom to stand in my truth. Freedom and truth that now help me to navigate those twists and turns, no matter how challenging they may be.
Big Boy’s whispers gently guided me towards an alignment with who I really am, freeing me from the burden of allowing the opinion of others to drive my emotions, my decisions and the opinion I have of myself.
Each one of us has a lion’s roar within ourselves. Finding our roar takes years, sometimes decades. To be free, all we have to do is listen.
To find out more about Sonia’s story, her memoir A Lion’s Roar: Fear, Courage and Whispers of Change is now on Amazon. Sonia lives in London and runs Savvy SEO, a digital marketing company for small businesses.