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Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Reactivity and Grievances

Last night just as I went to bed, I was inspired to pick up my copy of "A New Earth" by Eckhart Tolle. I opened the book, as one does, at page 64 and my eyes were immediately drawn to a passage entitled "Reactivity and Grievances", which made me laugh when I consider the three grievances I lodged against my former employer, which only last week were finally resolved.

Tolle says that a grievance is really nothing more than a long standing resentment. To carry a grievance is to be in a permanent state of "against", which is why grievances form such a significant part of many people's (and I include myself in this) ego.

A grievance is a strong negative emotion connected to events past, sometimes a long way past, which is being kept alive by compulsive thinking, by the mind constantly re-telling the story of for example, what happened to us, or what such and such did (in my case, ex employers). It has the power to contaminate large sometimes unrelated areas of our lives (and you cannot get much larger than the world of work, which most of us spent a third of our lives enmeshed in), for the negative charge that it carries can and often does influence the way in which we speak and react towards people or situations in the present.

When I stop to think about this and how my own problems with various jobs have affected my life, this is very true. The latest incident was the last in a long line of problems with various different jobs. I have observed that when I go into a new job, or have an interview, it is almost as if I am anticipating problems, and so so that is what I end up creating. This series of events has as Tolle says, kept me in the grip of ego for when I think about it, the past 25 years.

It requires honesty and a lot of soul searching to come to that realisation, but when I look beyond the thoughts to the emotions that keep this alive, and are the body's natural response, I recognise that there is a lot of work to be done, and a lot of people that I need to forgive, not least of all myself. Forgiveness happens naturally when we realise that holding a grievance has no purpose other than to keep us trapped in ego, the false sense of self, thus perpetuating our own suffering.

The past has no power to stop me from being in the present moment, only my grievances and my pain can do that, and what is a grievance? A bundle of old thoughts and emotions about something that no longer exists.

Moments of Revelation

"All around us, it was as if the universe were holding its breath, waiting. All of life can be broken down into moments of transition or moments .. of revelation. This had the feeling of both." "G'Quan wrote: 'There is a greater darkness than the one we fight. It is the darkness of the soul that has lost its way. The war we fight is not against powers and principalities, it is against chaos and despair. Greater than the death of flesh is the death of hope, the death of dreams. Against this peril we can never surrender. The future is all around us, waiting in moments of transition, to be born in moments of revelation. No one knows the shape of that future, or where it will take us. We know only that it is always born in pain.'" - G'Kar in Babylon 5: "Z'ha'dum"

Michael J Strazynski, creator of Babylon 5, my favourite science fiction television series says that he often has his moments of revelation in the shower. Indeed, that is where he was inspired with the story behind this remarkable programme. It is the same for me - it is in the shower where I receive much of my revelations. Yesterday was no exception to this.

There I was, 2 weeks to the day since my return from Lundy (is that all it is!), busily washing my hair and thinking about the pain that I was in (there is still no news from the island regarding my application), when it hit me like a bolt from the blue; the reason they have not reached a decision is that neither have I. Until I get things clear in my own head (or perhaps more to the point, get out of my head, and I am not talking alcohol here), nothing will change.

So, after I was dressed and had dried my hair, I rang my neighbours and very good friends, and arranged to go round for a cup of tea and a chat. After some preliminaries, we began to discuss how I really felt. My friends husband asked me what I would do if I was offered the job, whether or not I would take it, and I heard myself say "probably". It was in that moment that I knew the answer - for probably does not mean definately, it means that there are doubts, and if I am honest, quite a lot of them. The way in which the islanders discussed other applicants in front of me (which my friend said she would not have been happy about either), the lack of communication and most of all, the fact that by end the end of the 2 weeks, because of the intensity of it all, for the first time, I felt like I actually wanted to leave. That to me says more than that word "probably". It tells me that if I felt like that after 2 weeks, how would I feel after 6 or 7 months? I would be on the floor, or more likely, in the psychiatric ward (in the manner of speaking), back to where I was three or four months ago, when I left my last job.

Now that I have made that decision, and left the island free to make theirs, it feels like a ten tonne weight has been lifted. My partner was a little disappointed initially at not having the six month breathing space that he was quite looking forward to, but in the end I think it was a relief for both of us. So, I have reinstated my gym membership (thankfully just before the end of the month), and started applying for other jobs. I applied for 2 in the local paper yesterday and five on one of the employment sites that I am registered on. At least one of these will hopefully lead to something, and if not, I will just keep plugging away until they do.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

All's well that ends well.

The postman finally delivered the outcome for my appeal today against the decision regarding the three grievances I raised against my former employer. They were very minor points in the scheme of things, but it was a matter of principal, about sending a signal to them that their behaviour towards me was not acceptable, and they were accountable for the effects of all of their actions towards me.

The three points that I raised were as follows:

1. That they had miscalculated the amount of overtime that I am owed due to missed lunch breaks at my first store - that it is 8.5 hours instead of the 7 hours they agreed. This has been upheld.

2. That I am owed money from my second store in regard to staying late to assist with deliveries and to attend meetings regarding Christmas trading and so on. This point has not been upheld, since they insist (without talking to me I might add, to get my side of it), that I was informed that this was voluntary and unpaid.

3. That after they agreed that my contract had been changed without consent, and I had in fact been working more hours than the new contract allowed for, and because bonuses were paid pro rata to contracted hours, these should be adjusted accordingly. This point has also been upheld.

So, there is just this one small very minor point (point number two), which remains. I am talking about maybe 5 hours pay. In the scheme of life it is not that important, and certainly not worth bothering with an industrial tribunal for. It is time to let it all go.

When I think about all the Sundays I worked, where I was paid 8 hours for a 6 hour day, it probably has balanced itself out. When you look at it like this, I am probably not owed anything at all. Like I say then, time to let it go and move on with my life.

Still it is good to know that common sense and justice has prevailed, and I did get them to concede on the other more important points. Namely, that they could not change peoples contracts without informing them, that they had to set much clearer policies and guidelines as to how staff are paid (for example, whether they are paid for the 15 minutes before and after closing), and that when they agree to give someone a pay rise they have to honour that.

I suspect that I am not the only one affected by these points, but cannot worry about others. If they choose (or not) to pursue this for themselves and claim the money that they too are owed, then that is up to them and nothing to do with me. Nothing about that company is of any concern to me at all, not any more. It is time to let it go. Suffice to say, I will not be shopping there again.

Earth Hour - It's as simple as the flick of a swtich

I was listening to local radio the other day when an announcement came on to the effect that today, Saturday 28th March, people were being asked to switch off their lights for an hour as part of Earth Hour. Intrigued, I wondered what this was about. Then today when I looked at my emails there was one from a friend posting the link to a website where all was revealed.

The project, organised by the WWF, is entitled Earth Hour, and just as the presenter said, on Saturday 28 March 2009 at 8.30pm, people, businesses and iconic buildings all around the world will switch off their lights for an hour – known as WWF’s Earth Hour.

The WWF are hoping that a billion people around the world will sign up and join in, to show that they care about not just people, but also wildlife and the entire planet. It seems to me that this is an excellent way to get our world leaders to sit up and take notice, taking positive action to tackle not just climate change (which I know is a bone of contention for many, as some believe that it is all due to natural changes and not man made at all), but also man's wastage of natural resources. Those who are interested to know more are urged to watch a short film on the Earth Hour website.

It will certainly be interesting to see this on the news tonight, as more than 2,800 cities from 83 countries across the world have signed up. A large number of iconic landmarks will be plunged into darkness, including Nelson’s Column, the Forth Bridge, the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, the Eiffel Tower, Niagara Falls, Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Table Mountain in Cape Town.

I realise that it may be a little late to organise elaborate events, but there is a lot that you can do in the dark (apart from the obvious, if you are over sixteen!). You could arrange a candlelit dinner party, or if you are a musician, an acoustic concert. You could sit and meditate for world peace, or you could take the dog for a walk. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

There are Earth Hour communities on the main social networking sites on the web: Flickr, YouTube, Facebook,Twitter, where you can share your ideas and get involved.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Letting go of the old

The latest Wings post from Karen Bishop is impeccable in its timing as always, and seemingly spot on regarding what has been occurring in my life.

I have had the feeling of disconnect for a while, in fact when I look back it began around the middle of summer last year. I remember going to Lundy, where I holiday around two to three times a year, and wondering what in the world I was doing there, as it just did not feel right. Here I am nine months later, applying for a job on the island. In nine short months a lot can change ...

Karen says that the most important agenda for our souls right now is becoming as free and clear as possible as we prepare for residency in a very new place (she is speaking more I suspect of an energetic space than a physical one, although for some it may well mean both). We have been clearing ourselves of lower vibrating debris for a while, which was holding us back yet for many (and I definitely include myself in this) there is still a sense of not knowing where are going, or what we should do next.

Never a truer word has been spoken, as Karen goes on to say that by mid summer of 2008 we began to get signs or symptoms that we were done. This manifested as not knowing what we were now supposed to do, feeling worthless and out of place, feeling invisible and not valued or needed, and generally just lost (this was around the time that I first told the shop that I was working in was scheduled to close). By October (around the time that we were finally given our closing date), the dis-connect was very evident and complete for many, and by January of 2009 (when I left the company for good in very stressful and difficult circumstances), it was fairly clear that something very new was on the horizon for 2009.

January then was about preparing for the new, creating a new space for ourselves and creating new and much stronger foundations. For me this included reinforcing my boundaries about what I was and was not prepared to accept, and being strong enough and brave enough to let people know what these were and that they had been severely infringed - hence the need to depart from that job. Karen goes on to say that for some it was almost as if they were packing up for a special trip (Lundy perhaps - my partner and did go there at the end of January, which led to my decision to apply for that job).

I have been acutely aware for a long time now that the more time I spend in those old and stagnant energies of want rather than need, the more angry and more disconnected I become. It is no longer where I need to be, and feels acutely uncomfortable. Herein lies the problem; I am too old to want to start over yet again, yet too young to retire - I have to be out there in the world earning a living, which means going back into that same old scenario that made me ill.

Thankfully the Spring Equinox and today's New Moon have opened yet more doors - doors to infinite possibilities. Like the lyrics from the song Reflections that I posted a day or so ago, we can no longer go on pretending to be something that we are not, for as I now know from bitter experience, it drives us insane. It may seem selfish to some, but we have to start putting our own needs first, and this means not being afraid to ask for what we need.

The more that we progress with this process, the lighter we become, so when we do go back into the old we become angry and fearful (I have had a lot of both these past few weeks), and my pain body has been positively licking its lips. The more we let go and let God, the more at peace we become, until we reach our perfect centre - the eye of the storm.

Right now things are very quiet - my partner has observed that his emails and phone calls have completely dried up, and the same can be said for me. This is a temporary place of resting that we need to go through, before we are ready for the new. If we try and push ahead too much then we may end up creating things that later have to undone. It is quiet now for the simple reason that we have to wait.

This is our time to relax and let go. A time for creativity and quiet reflection about what we truly and deeply need. The more we concentrate on this, the more we are able to manifest and bring these things into our conscious awakening.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

A Temping Offer

I told myself that if there was no news regarding the seasonal job by today then I would telephone the Shore Office to ascertain whether there was any news. Having just telephoned them, they inform me that a decision has not as yet been made, and the start date for the job has been put back from 28th March (this Saturday) to Tuesday 7th April. I suppose no news is good news, and at least I have something to tell the people at the Lent Lunch I am going to in half an hours time hosted by the Chairman of the village newsletter.

In the meantime, when I checked my emails after my return from the weekly shop, there was one from a well known employment agency, whose site I have signed up to for job alerts and other related snippets. The email is entitled "Be prepared for temping" and gives hints and tips on how to go about temping in the right way.

Personally I have never found temping all that lucrative, maybe because I have only 20 years experience, am not trilingual and can only type at 45 words per minute, rather than the 60 which seems to be demanded these days. Neither can I use the various software packages which seem to be increasingly used. It never ceases to amaze me when I do go to these agencies, or have an interview for any job that requires keyboard skills that they ask me whether I can type. My book was not written by long hand! I find it frustrating to say the least how little time people seem to spend actually reading the CV's and applications that they are sent.

This email provides a list of various tips on how to speed up the process of registration at employment agencies, and information on what you should bring with you. The most important thing is of course your CV, as well as references and proof that you are entitled to work in the UK. If you are signing up for temporary work, then it may also be a good idea to bring along your bank details, in the vague hope that they may be able to offer you something there and then. The more usual response in my experience is something along the lines of "We have nothing suitable for you at the moment". You then go home and find about six jobs that sound suitable on the company's website or advertised in the local paper.

It is important of course to give agencies the best possible impression that you can, so you need to be prepared to talk about your work history, goals and aspirations. Consultants need to build a "profile" of you in order to know which type of jobs you are best suited for and which companies you may "fit into". You should ensure that you look smart and presentable, and if attending a pre-arranged appointment, arrive on time. It is best to allow around an hour and a half for registration.

This bears virtually zero resemblance to any of the appointments I have made with agencies over the years. Most of the time you are lucky to get more than 10 to 15 minutes of their time, never mind an hour and a half. I wish that one of them would take the time to sit down and talk through with me all these things, as then I might stand a chance of obtaining a job that I like and can stick at, without nasty surprises. I think in all the years that have passed since I left school, I have had just one experience that even vaguely resembles this scenario with an employment agency. Maybe I am unlucky, but talking to friends and acquaintances, I don't think that I am, as they have nearly all relayed similar tales.

Maybe if I was a "career" person then I may be treated differently, but this lack of respect for my time and my life means that I am not given the chance to get that career that could lead to a much more fulfilling life. Perhaps I will get some anti wrinkle cream and pretend to be under 25, as that way I may be entitled to some free career counselling!

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Brain Damage

The lunatic is on the grass
The lunatic is on the grass
Remembering games and daisy chains and laughs
Got to keep the loonies on the path.

The lunatic is in the hall
The lunatics are in my hall
The paper holds their folded faces to the floor
And every day the paper boy brings more.

And if the dam breaks open many years too soon
And if there is no room upon the hill
And if your head explodes with dark forebodings too
I'll see you on the dark side of the moon.

The lunatic is in my head
The lunatic is in my head
You raise the blade, you make the change
You re-arrange me 'til I'm sane.

You lock the door and throw away the key
There's someone in my head but it's not me
And if the cloud bursts, thunder in your ear
You shout and no one seems to hear.

And if the band you're in starts playing different tunes
I'll see you on the dark side of the moon.

"I can't think of anything to say except... I think it's marvelous! ha ha ha!"

Written by Roger Waters
From Pink Floyd "Dark Side of the Moon"

The Dark side of the Moon

Yesterday, with no further news, the fears and insecurities returned with a vengeance, playing havoc with my mind, so much so that I did not feel I wanted to be alone in the house at all. When my partner suggested I accompany him on a visit to one of his clients, a lady who is particularly spiritually sensitive, it seemed like a good thing to do, and I am glad that I did.

When we arrived at her house, my partner assisted her with her computer problems while I sat and browsed through some of her books. My eyes were immediately drawn to a book by Demetra George entitled Mysteries of the Dark Moon. This seemed highly appropriate given my state of mind, and the fact that we are in this particular lunar phase right now.

The dark phase of the moon is the 2-3 days immediately prior to the new phase in the moon's cycle, when the moon disappears from view. The moon, with her phases of waxing and waning became a symbol for the ancients of death, birth and re-birth. The lunar rhythm represents this cycle in our own lives, from the new growth and opportunities of the new moon, ripe with potential, to the culmination of the cycle at the full moon where we reap what we have sown. The moon represents these cycles on both the physical and emotional levels, and also the changes in the seasons throughout the year. It could be argued that nature is in its own dark moon phase, as we wait for the clocks to change this Sunday when the light returns.

Unfortunately in our society, we have learnt to fear and draw away from that which is dark or hidden, since it represents the darker and more hidden depths of our soul, all those aspects of ourselves that we rather not look at, much less admit to. In so doing, we have lost an essential part of that cyclical process and the opportunity to learn much about ourselves.

The purpose of the dark phase of the moon, those 2-3 days each month immediately before the new moon appears is the transition between the old and the new, or death and re-birth. It is a time for reflection, for drawing inwards, for dreaming of the future, an essential part of the process of life.

The dark prefaces the light in the same way that gestation prefaces birth and sleep prefaces wakefulness. As human beings we often experience periods when nothing seems to be happening, when we are between states, but after the event, sometimes many months after, we look back and see that this was a time for resting and preparation for the next phase in our lives. We cannot move forwards with the new until we have let go of the old. The dark moon enables to do this, by providing a safe space in which to rest.

That then is the space that I am in right now, of resting and waiting, the space between spaces where nothing is real, but the feelings have never felt so real. It is a time for reflection, for dreaming of the future, and letting go of the old.


Look at me
You may think you see
Who I really am
But you'll never know me
Every day, is as if I play a part

Now I see
If I wear a mask
I can fool the world
But I cannot fool my heart

Who is that girl I see
Staring straight back at me?
When will my reflection show
Who I am inside?

I am now in a world
Where I have to hide my heart
And what I believe in
But somehow I will show the world
What's inside my heart
And be loved for who I am

Who is that girl I see
Staring straight back at me?
Why is my reflection
Someone I don't know?

Must I pretend that I'm
Someone else for all time?
When will my reflection show
Who I am inside?

There's a heart that must
Be free to fly
That burns with a need
To know the reason why

Why must we all conceal
What we think, how we feel
Must there be a secret me
I'm forced to hide?

I won't pretend that I'm
Someone else for all time
When will my reflection show
Who I am inside?

When will my reflection show
Who I am inside?

The above song, which was written by Matthew Wilder (music) and David Zippel (lyrics) sums up pretty much how I have felt for the last four months. It comes originally from the musical entitled Mulan.

Many artists have recorded the song over the years, but my favourite version comes from the Michael Crawford Disney Album.
The words speak for themselves.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

What will be will be

My mind and pain body have been particularly active these past few weeks, especially since my return from Lundy, turning over and over all the little things that in the scheme of life, do not matter at all. It is all of course borne from ego, from the need to maintain appearances and be seen to be doing the right thing. Will the residents of our small village judge me for wanting to move away, albeit temporarily, and leave my partner on his own, will they understand why I need to do this, will anyone step forward to fill my shoes as Editor, and how will I appear to these people if I do not get the job. This incessant stream of thoughts fills my head from morning 'til night with little respite. Even at night I find myself dreaming about the island and the possible scenarios that may or may not happen.

I have become aware of this empty hole deep inside myself, which feels like a vacuum, which nothing can fill. Thinking about this hole and where it has come from has made me aware of the various things that I use in order to try and fill it - food, exercise, work, housework, the Internet, reading, writing, going for a walk, annoying my partner, and yes, the island of Lundy. I expected the island to fill that void and have been deeply disappointed to find that it did not. It has left me feeling what now? I have to learn the fill that hole for myself. None of these things work, for the answer lies within. It is a cliche, but I am the only one who can fill that void, and no one can do this for me. The answer therefore lies in changing my attitude - change your heart and change your mind, so the saying goes.

Yesterday was the Spring Equinox, where the day and night were once again equal in length. The light begins to triumph over the dark. I see this as a mirror for my own life, as once again, a chink of light begins to shine forth. It has been a long and dark winter for me, in more ways than one. The light though has begun to return, and with that comes a lightness in my step as I realise the futility of all this negativity and all these what ifs? Why do they matter and what does it matter if others do judge me, for what they think is none of my business.

From today, and every day until my birthday on June 21st (the summer solstice), the light will become stronger and stronger, until after this date, it once again begins to wane. This is the perfect time for working with that energy of spring and abundance to get out there and manifest what we need. What I need more than anything else is peace of mind.

That comes from viewing this situation not as a problem, but as an opportunity. I know I have been saying and writing that this is how I do view things, but it it all words and they have been hollow and shallow, devoid of meaning. From now on things will change. Sharing accommodation with strangers is not a problem, but a wonderful support mechanism and an opportunity to form some meaningful relationships with two others of like mind. It means that when my partner is not around, I need never be lonely - for there will always be someone to talk to, whose presence will add to the experience of being there. When I feel the need for solitude, as I surely will, for we all do, I have a 3 mile island with which to play, and if the weather is bad, the privacy of my own room. As for food, well I have to take responsibility for that and know my own limitations, this will be a lesson in doing that and listening to my own needs.

The air and the light has changed, and around the area where I live, as on the island, spring has suddenly sprung. The birds have started to sing and new life has burst forth from deep within the frozen soil. This too is a mirror for myself, for new life has also burst forth from deep within my frozen soul. I have reached the point where I can now honestly say, that what will be will be.

Friday, 20 March 2009

As it should be

So, how do I feel now I am back, with no news regarding whether or not I will be asked to move to the island for seven months. Two days before I left, I received a letter from my old job stating that most of the points that I raised in my grievances have been upheld and confirming that I will be paid most of the money that I am owed. I bet my ex manager was pleased about that, but not as pleased as I am. It meant that I am finally able to move on and begin to put this behind me, except when I returned home, expecting the money to have been paid into my account, I was disappointed to find it had not been. So, it was another phone call to HR to try and sort things out, and eventually a phone call and several emails back to say that the money will go into my account next week. It is a good job I thought to ask them to re-calculate my bonuses, which were based on contractual hours, as the 2 hour change in my contract that I disputed made a difference of a further £10 which I shall also now be paid. All is hopefully well that ends well, but can I say the same for Lundy?

Feelings and emotions are transient, so it is difficult to remember exactly how you felt when in the midst of a particular situation. That is why it was so important to write and post the diary that I kept (taking out references to certain islanders and some of the more personal bits). The morning of my departure, as I waited for the helicopter to whisk me away saw me crying on the shoulders of the 2 islanders with whom I share a special bond - a lovely married couple who are very much on the same wavelength as my partner and I.

All the doubts were finally given voice - how I felt in the Tavern that day as the islanders discussed the other applicants, how difficult it had been for me to work alongside one of them (other applicants that is - I was told that she was offered but turned down the job), my feelings when I saw the staff accommodation and about having to share, but most of all my doubts as to whether I could really work on the island without a break for seven whole months, being away from the man I love. We shared a cuddle and some reassuring words before they both had to get back to work, which set my mind to rest somewhat.

I spent the next half hour sitting on a bench in Millcombe Valley listening to the birds, where the following words came to mind:

"The reason why people do not get involved in others lives and stuff is a protective mechanism designed to prevent the onslaught of overwhelming emotions. In order to thrive in this environment you have to be emotionally stable and sure of who you are, willing to stand within your own boundaries.

One of the islanders once said to me that in order to live here, you have to "have someone", and I think I now know what he meant, that in order to protect yourself from the worst of the islands storms one has to have a special friend or confidant that one feels that you can talk to and unburden yourself. That islander is lucky enough to have found that in his wife, who came to the island as a volunteer as I did, and then a seasonal worker, before being made permanent.

Having seen what I have these past 2 weeks and experienced the insularness of this experience, I can see why the island has such trouble finding staff. The majority are there not the job itself and not for the way of life, but for the island itself. How they do this continually year in, year out, especially during the long, cold winter months, I have to confess is a little beyond me. There is the feeling on Lundy on a summer's day when one is surrounded by nature and by stillness that permeates the soul, seeming to wash these problems away, but look beneath the surface and they are still there, not hiding, but slumbering.

Sooner or later in the midst of all this beauty the bubble bursts and you realise that paradise is not all it seems. It always has its price - and in this case it is a trade off between beauty and ugliness - like our own light and dark everything has to have its opposite. Perhaps we cannot appreciate the true beauty of this place without seeing its shadow - the hardship and relentless grind that living here would bring. Has it though put me off - in many ways, yes it has, but in others no. Like I said, you have to be strong and secure in yourself and self reliant and emotionally mature. The island is not for wimps.

These past 2 weeks have made me realise how much work there is still to do on myself - addressing my issues of neediness and control. Sitting in the Tavern listening to the others I was working with, my knew I had applied for this job, discussing other applicants and being forced to work alongside one of them was not an easy situation to be put in - especially for one who is as vulnerable as I have been. I have not always been like this, but events of the past few years have led me to question many things and also challenge."

The rest is too personal for me to continue with here.

Sitting in the upstairs room of the Tavern, while I relayed the story of why I left my last job to the island manager it felt like I was listening to someone else. The issues paled into insignificance and it began to sound like a comedy sketch or a farce - which in many ways it has been. The island certainly has a way of putting things in perspective.

Despite the challenges and the emotional intensity of being there for those 2 weeks (which was magnified by the shattering of the illusions anyway), I still feel that this job would be one of the best things that could happen, helping me to come to terms and deal with so much of mt stuff on my terms and at my own pace. The job itself may not be glamorous, but it doesn't matter - out there everyone is equal and such work is not seen as demeaning, but an essential part of island life. The staff are valued and appreciated for the contribution that they make, even if their boss is a little stressed. The only problem would be in finding someone to talk to when it all gets too much - my partner would be at the end of the phone, but I could not keep calling him every other night, even if he were willing to call me back. I get the feeling that once I had been there on the island for a few weeks, maybe a month, I would start to relax into the role and become much more myself. No one would be able to maintain the mask for longer than that anyway, and sooner or later the real me (whatever that is) would have to emerge - warts and all. I just hope that I would like what I saw.

So, yes all in all, I still feel (rather than think) that this would be a wonderful opportunity to find out who I am, and help the island that I love, while working and earning money. Whether I will be granted this opportunity is up to me (everything works as it should do in the higher realms), I just have to talk to them (the higher realms that is) and make sure that they agree to my terms.

Wait and hope

Friday March 13th

I am as prepared as I can be on the eve of my interview, after a long days walking. It started with a trip to the island shop this morning for some milk and vegetables, which was followed by a walk down to the Battery. The helicopters were going backwards and forwards, which the sheep seemed completely undisturbed by. I was joined at the Battery by a group of three volunteers who have been staying in the Barn - abseiling down the eastern slopes on ropes to help cut back the rhododendrons - they are braver than I would be. Following that, and knowing that I have only enough rice cakes for 2 more days lunches, I went to the Tavern for a nice jacket spud.

So, this afternoon it was a walk down to the Pyramid and to scramble round to the next bay, and then back to the east side for a walk past the Quarries and through the aforementioned rhododendrons. The island is very wet and muddy at the moment, so it was hard going in places, but exhilarating in the wind.

So, 2 weeks from now what will I be doing I wonder? Will I have arrived back on the island on the first boat of the season, or will be at home licking my wounds and wondering what to do next? Perhaps I will be in the midst of packing up having been offered the job a little later than anticipated. This can happen - being Lundy anything is possible.

So, I will go to bed tonight with a belly full of fish cakes and chips, and hopefully have some sweet dreams. Before I close my eyes I shall ask the universe and all the angelic beings and guides I can muster to help me through tomorrow so that I get the outcome that will give me the most growth and everyone else in my life with it. Whatever does happen I know that it will be meant to be, and as they say, resistance is futile, so I will go with the flow and see what transpires.

Saturday March 14th

Following my interview this morning, I am no closer to a resolution than I was before. I hoped and prayed for some news by the time I left, but the island manager has further interviews to conduct on the mainland next week. I am likely to have to wait at least another week. This is not the news I wanted having come this far, but having waited this long, I guess a bit more won't hurt.

It is just that this seems to have been dragging on for so long, and I know the islanders are as keen for a resolution as I am. He did confirm that there are two jobs, so I suppose that at least is something, and in theory at least, doubles my chances. I just wanted to know where I was.

Coming on top of the last few months, makes me wonder really what this is all about. I just seem to spend my whole life waiting for other people to do things. I get so tired of it all at times - maybe I should just get it over with and become my own boss. The trouble I have tried that and it didn't work - maybe I tried the wrong business, but how do you know what the right business is? One that pays good money and doesn't require a lot of expense - if I find the solution to that I will let everyone know.

This afternoon I talked one of the islanders into letting me see the staff accommodation that I will most likely to placed in. Spartan is the word that springs to mind. I am obviously spoilt having never had to share. A few items from home would soon have it looking better and feeling more like home.

I am beginning to see that living on the island is not what it is seems. The staff work very hard for very little pay and live in these less than perfect conditions. I can see why many find it necessary to go off the island at such regular intervals. That would a luxury I would not have, as seasonal staff during the summer, are expected to stay on the island and not take their holidays at all - just be paid for them when they leave. This is a great way to earn more money but at what cost to your health - to work for seven months without time off. It is a long time since I had to do that. Then again, I have said for the last ten years (to myself at least) that I would love the opportunity to spend the whole summer here - I have to be careful of what I wish for as it seems that I might just get it.

So decisions, decisions, what to do if I am offered this job. For the moment as per usual, there is nothing I can do except wait and see, wait and hope.

A mirror for the soul

Thursday March 12th

It feels like I have been awake for hours, as I sit by the window in my cottage tapping away at the keys. Yesterday was a strange day - I woke around 4am on Wednesday morning and peering outside the door without my glasses it seemed like I was seeing through a fog - when I finally roused myself shortly before 9am (well, I am on holiday), the mist was swirling outside the door and the property in the next field looked very faint. The wind was blowing across the island, which I guess is why the fog lingered for the rest of the day, and so it was a day indoors with nothing but my thoughts for company. Apart from a short trip to the shop to buy some mayonnaise for the chips I cooked for lunch, I did not leave the house all day.

It used to be the case when I first began to visit the island, and before I began to spend all my holidays here, that I usually lost at least one day of walking for each week I was here due to the weather. As I have got older and able to read the weather more, and more clued in about my own limitations, these days have lessened until it has become quite rare for me to have whole days indoors like this. I should be used to it living where I do, and being as I am currently between jobs, but I found the long hours indoors quite uncomfortable. You see, the mind begins to wander.

I have noticed a different quality to the wanderings this time around, with less list making and less going over previous and future visits - I have though made a list of what I will bring with me for the seven months. It as as if being here, this time around, with everything that happened at my last job, the wind has blown it all away, so it seems a dim and distant memory. Maybe it is because not being at home with my partner and surrounded by reminders of how things were and have been, the mind has been able to let go. I can see that in retrospect none of the things that happened there were really that important - and still in a way they were, for it is those experiences that have brought me to the space I am in now.

What space am I in now - the space between spaces, where I am not yet a part of things, and yet where I am. I am in a place of waiting, of anticipation, a place of transition, where I have been making a conscious effort to go within and to work with yesterdays Full Moon to facilitate what I most deeply and truly want. It occurs to me that perhaps this was the reason for my confinement to quarters yesterday - as of course it always is.

On Tuesday night, which was clear and still, I went for a walk to the village and back for around half an hour and stood on the lawn behind the Tavern just gazing up at the sky. It was one of those moments of deep reverie and transcendence, where one becomes lost in the timeless depth and blackness of space, feeling very small but infinite at the same time. Gazing at the blackness and the vastness of space is like journeying into your own void, into the depths of who you are, and the Moon acts as a mirror to reflect the light of your soul. It seemed to be saying to me that my time has come and this was a new beginning, a chance to really let go of the old and the run with the changes that will be monumental and very much needed.

I said when I came here that I did not know what would be worse - if I did get the job or if I didn't, but as the wind has blown, it has taken all of those thoughts with it, so that it no longer matters, all that matters is that I embrace this experience and go with the flow, wherever it takes me.

Whatever happens ...

Tuesday March 10th

A lot has happened in 24 hours - not least of all the end of my weeks volunteering. I shifted rapidly from worker to holiday mode in the space it took me to take off my Lundy sweatshirt. Of course I then realised that I had no pictures of me in Lundy attire to remind me of the last week, in case I do not get the job. One cannot after all assume anything, and from what I understand they are getting quite concerned about the lack of decisions re staff, as several are due to leave in the next couple of weeks. From what I understand there are 2 jobs available that may be of interest to me - one will be as full time housekeeper and the other combining both Tavern and housekeeping. This is what I would prefer, as it combines the best of both worlds - the solitude and the ability to lose yourself in more mundane tasks, with the stimulation and more hands on approach of working in the Tavern, which will bring me into contact with visitors and islanders alike. The fact that I may be working in the Tavern does not mean that I have to eat there while on duty, as breaks can be taken at home. As for the toast breaks, well this week I brought wheat free bread with me, but most of the time I shall just have to call mine rice cake breaks instead. I can also leave a stash of roobosch tea bags pugged away in the store room, for my own use.

So, this morning I saw the island manager and have arranged to have a proper sit down interview this Saturday coming at 9.30am. I was a bit disappointed that it could not be done sooner (he is busy all week doing work on the jetty), but at least it gives me a little more time to mull things over and think about what I will say. I was quite emotional to relay the news to my partner back on the mainland, as now it really is a possibility, and I know that I am definitely being considered. It makes me wonder whether it would have been a different story had I not volunteered for this week - but it matters not, for what is meant to be will be, and although I will be naturally upset if I am not granted this opportunity, I know that I will have had this week to see how things really work, and will be grateful for the opportunity to learn and experience this. Nothing will mar the Lundy experience for me, and whatever happens, I will be back.

Bed and breakfast

Monday March 9th

Well, this is the day that I should have been flying out to the island for the start of a weeks holiday, the same day that the island manager returns to hopefully discuss whether I am suitable to work here returns. Will this be the day that changes my life? I am trying to get the mind out of the way and have no expectations. One of the ladies who works in the kitchen said to me yesterday that I should not be disappointed if I do not get the job, since it will not necessarily mean that I am in my own words "crap", just that there are more suitable applicants.

When I stop to think about it, I do have a lot going for me. For one thing, I would be prepared to do almost anything to be here, despite the hard work and the challenges that I now know that this will bring. Yesterday I worked in the Tavern from 12 noon until 9pm, and by the time I walked back home I was absolutely cream crackered and that's no lie. They showed me how to use the till which wasn't too bad, although I did make one mistake. Nothing however that could not be rectified. I then cleaned and sanitised the games, and the tables before setting to work cleaning the kitchen itself. This really was hard work, not helped by the fact that I am so short in height and was unable to reach a lot of it. I did the best I could though, which I think was pretty good.

I had a half hour break around 1.30pm when I had the obligatory jacket spud, and then around 45 minutes between 5.15 and 6pm (it was supposed to be an hour but we had to all be back by 6pm, when we start to serve food). During this time, because the weather was so foul, with hail and storm force winds, I sat in the Tavern and ate some of the food that I had wisely brought with me - two rice cakes with cheese, an apple and a packet of crisps.

Four of us were on duty for the busiest night of the week - plus one at the bar and of course the chef. Each of us was assigned to a different task - one on the till, one on the servery, one clearing and taking out the plates, and myself on the dishwasher. For three hours then I loaded and unloaded the dishwasher, drying the stuff as it came out, just in time for another lot to be done. In between I scraped and collected plates, and took the occasional plate out to the diners as well. Then at the end of the night we had to clean and mop the floor and empty all the bins - after three hours of this I was fit to drop and by the time I walked back home battling against the wind (thankfully it was a relatively clear night), I rang my partner and went straight to bed.

It was a fitful nights sleep due to the high winds that continued to battle the walls all night long, and a mind that has not yet switched off. It is interesting how working here this time, there seems to be a different quality to the way in which my mind has been working. I have been doing things work wise that I would never normally have considered - hands plunged into a sink of mucky water fishing out bits and bobs of leftover food, scraping bones off plates, watching the chef cook slabs of cold, hard flesh and folding so many towels and sheets that I have doing them in my sleep. Despite the initial reluctance (and a lot of it is me just being so tired and stressed to have got here and done this, and yes, I admit, my own shattered expectations), I think I would prefer to do housekeeping full time rather than the Tavern. It seems to me that this is easier work, less manual, and more regular hours. One of the seasonal workers who has been here for five months during the winter, says that she has put on loads of weight due to eating such huge amounts of junk, because of her own irregular hours. I would have to order half my stuff from as you cannot get wheat free food in the shop. Such is life.

Yes coming to work and live on the island would be challenging and would also be hard work. But can you imagine a better way to forget your troubles and strifes than good old fashioned work coupled with such wondrous surroundings. Try as I might, I can't.

So perhaps, or maybe despite of these things, it has not put me off wanting to be here, but strengthened my resolve all the more. Of course I may change my mind at the end of the day after I have helped with changeover. For the moment though, a hot shower and a breakfast in the Tavern calls.

On the periphery

Friday March 6th

That was Wednesday and this is Friday. Since then things have gone from bad to worse, if that is the right word to use. It is as usual borne from my own over active imagination and the water trait of feeling so intensely. The weather has not helped. Today being my second of two days off this week, the mist has descended, bringing with it that incessant damp almost drizzle that makes it impossible to see, let alone walk anywhere. I managed an hour on the Quarry Beach before the rain began and forced me to trudge reluctantly back to base. Still, it gives me the opportunity to spend time indoors with nothing but this computer, my book and thoughts for company. Walking I have discovered, is as much a distraction as the over incessant mind.

This is a time for me to go within and reconnect with my core, the deepest part of who I am in order to re-find my inner balance and equilibrium. This has been severely challenged of late, and one thing has become abundantly clear from being here, in that I am not as balanced as I thought I was. It has not always been that way. Until I began my last job, in fact if I am honest, long before that, I knew who I was and was comfortable in my own skin. I suppose this really began to change after I met my partner, but became more exaggerated after Mum died, perhaps because I realised at that point that there really was no one else upon whom I could rely. Sure I could rely on my partner to some extent for emotional support, but when you live with a borderline transsexual, who oscillates from one day to the next as to what form he/she wants to inhabit, especially when this person chooses to go on hormones a mere three months after you start to live together (which he was initially quite reluctant to embrace - circumstances forced us together), then you start to question everything about who you are. I have become aware these last few months, and especially this past week, just how needy and dependent on him I have become. Still there is this deep sense of not liking the person that I am. Perhaps I need to spend an extended period of time on Lundy living on my own apart from him in order to find out at the age of 43 who I really am, and what I really want, more to the point, whether I really want him.

I think I do (want him that is) in my life in some form or another, but whether that will be as partners I cannot say. What I do know is that he is my biggest support mechanism, and the only one who has ever truly come close to understanding who I am and what makes me tick. I don't think I have ever felt that I fitted in, in all the jobs that I have had and all the places I have been as much as I do when I am with him, or when I am here on Lundy. Working on the island is not though the same as being on holiday, that has become abundantly clear.

The person I have been working with for most of this week says that she and her husband try to return to the mainland for a few days once every six weeks, which I found difficult to understand. Perhaps I will understand once, assuming I get the chance, I have spent more time here. The most I have ever spent is three weeks, and I must admit that that did seem a bit long, as once you have done all your favourite walks, and seen the animals, what is there to do and see? Working here when you have 2 days off each week, and are exhausted from changeover days is though a different kettle of fish.

I know that I felt exhausted after my first days work in the laundry. Mind you, to be fair, I had just driven 200 miles to the heliport and worked an evening shift in the Tavern, followed by an early start at 6.45am. The day began as it usually does for the housekeepers with cleaning the toilets outside the Tavern, and in the Black Shed. We then went to what is called the warm room, which is where the bags of soiled linen from the previous days changeover had been placed. These were emptied and sorted into piles. Some went into laundry baskets to be washed, while others were bagged up and counted to be sent off to the island to an industrial laundry. The rest of the items were then washed and tumbled dried and folded ready to be ironed. I had huge trouble folding the fitted sheets, which I found impossible to do without getting them on the dirty floor. I am not sure why I found it so hard, whether it was because my shoulders were stiff and aching or whether I was just not tall enough to handle these items, with large enough hands and arms. Whatever it was I felt extremely foolish. I know I am too hard on myself, but when you have risked so much as I have to come to the island for this weeks volunteering (not that the person I worked with could have been expected to know this from the little I told them about my life), then it is very hard not to get despondent and start beating herself up.

Thursday, my next day in was better as we were cleaning two of the properties, which I found I enjoyed and was good at. I started to use more initiative and offered to do tasks without needing to be asked, which I think was appreciated. Again, it is difficult to know when you have such limited feedback - another example I guess of my neediness.

What really nailed it for me though was sitting in the Tavern when this same islander became very excited about a phone call from the island manager who was interviewing on the mainland, to say that he had arranged for two women to come to the island for a working interview, one that weekend, and one on Monday 16th, the day that I am due to leave. I immediately realised that this meant I would not have a decision by the time I leave, which puts me right back where I started. It seemed very insensitive to discuss this in front of me, knowing that I had applied for this job, and that I was trying to work out what I want from my life, and did not make it any easier in what were already difficult circumstances. The worst thing was hearing this person who is due to come over for a working interview referred to as the "new girl", when the decision had not been made.

This left me feeling very lonely and bereft, as if I am part of the island, but not quite. It is a difficult feeling to describe, but I rang my partner in floods of tears. He persuaded me that I needed to call the Shore Office to see where I stood in regard to my own application, but all they were able to tell me is that it has been received and the island manager will speak to me when he when he returns to the island on Monday.

I am still not sure how I feel to be honest, whether this is right for me or not, but am aware that I need to get things clear in my head by the time he gets back as to why this is so important to me and what I can bring to the job and the island community. Only time and patience will tell.

The Lord Giveth

It has been four days now since I returned from Lundy and I have spent most of that time mulling things over in my mind - during my time there the emotions were raw and intense - right on the surface, but now I am back the island as always feels a million miles from home. Now I am back how do I really feel, and what decision will I make should a job be offered - major decisions need to be made. The following is an amended transcript of the diary I kept during my time there:

Wednesday March 4th

The last few days have been an emotional roller coaster of highs and lows caused as always by my resistance to the path that I seem to have chosen, or more accurately perhaps, the path that seems to have chosen me. As the day for me to return to my beloved Lundy approached, I was besieged with fear and doubt as to whether this truly was the right thing to do, and despite a rocky start to my sojourn on the island, marred by the absence of the island manager, I am more certain than ever that this is indeed the right thing to do.

It is strange how half an hour in the bath can completely change your life, and yet at the moment I am in limbo. It seems that I am waiting for the universe to make my choice, and I am at the mercy of others who hold my fate in their hands. This may sound melodramatic, but it seems that having come this far, and made preparations for a possible life here by making it known to others at home what my intentions and hopes are for a life on the island, I am in the state between states of waiting for things to occur. I suppose everyone who comes to live on the island for a short period or for longer experiences this to different degrees.

Yesterday I worked in the laundry with one of the other islanders. She said that one has to have a reason to be here that goes beyond the job itself. She is not here for the job which is repetitive and routine and not what she wants for the rest of her life, but she is here for the island and the peace that being here brings. I think it would be fair to say that the same is true for virtually all the staff.

Lundy has something indiscernible that no other place I have ever experienced has, the natural elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water (plus of course Spirit) are completely balanced and in alignment, with the silence so deafening that God can not only be seen, but also heard, in your own footsteps, with each breath that you take, in the whispering of the wind and the crashing of the sea as it pounds against the rocks that make up this barren yet bountiful isle. How do you explain this to anyone has not been to experience the island for themselves - you cannot for descriptions lessen the intensity and words are merely symbols that can never convey a fraction of what lies within ones heart.

What lies within my heart is a yearning so intense and so profound that only being on the island can begin to address. It has become a part of who I am, a part of my blood and of my soul. It has wormed its way in, sneakily and consistently under my skin, until I can no longer tell where the island begins and where I end. Part of the pain that I felt this morning, the day after my first full day of work on the island, in the laundry, came from my own resistance and the shattering of the illusions as to what life and work on the island would really be like. It is far harder than I could have anticipated and I ached from head to foot from lifting heavy bags of linen and cleaning implements, ironing what must have been around 50 sheets if not more. I would never have seen myself doing this work, much less standing in the Tavern delivering meals to peoples tables and lifting a loaded tray from the dishwasher, which in truth is probably not much heavier than one from a conventional household dishwasher. I suppose the difference perhaps is that a domestic one does not need to be emptied and lifted out by hand, and a domestic kitchen floor is around half the size of the one I mopped on Monday night. Still, in time I shall get used to it all.

It is natural to feel overwhelmed when one faces such enormous change as I now do - upping sticks and leaving all that I know for a desolate lump of granite in the midst of the Bristol Channel that has given me so much. This job, if it materialises will mean giving up so much, that it occurs to me this may be the islands way of evening up the scales - the Lord giveth so that he can take away, so they say. The rewards will more than compensate for the life that I may be about to begin.