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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.

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