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Thursday, 15 January 2009

The journey is more important than the destination

Now that my 2 weeks notice has expired, it is time to start thinking once again about my future. Last week I had the idea to write an article about Lundy, the island in the Bristol Channel that I visit around three times each year. Although I have been 26 times now, it was more difficult than I expected, since each person experiences the island in their own way, and my interpretation may not be relevant to, or strike a chord with others.

Sometimes when I sit and think about the island and where my life is heading, I feel like the loneliest person alive. This feeling goes back to what I was saying last week about the fact that for most of my life, I have never really felt as if I fitted in. The island is about the only place where I feel authentically myself - that and when I am with my partner. It would be wonderful to be able to share that experience of being on the island with him.

Until Friday that seemed like an impossible dream, but he has finally agreed after a lengthy heart to heart, to come and visit the island with me. The booking will all being well, made first thing tomorrow morning. We shall be staying in a property called Little St Johns, a stone's throw from the village.

The idea of travelling to Lundy is in many ways anathema to him, since he has never been a traveller, and this will mean confronting a lot of his fears - fears around long journeys, fears around flying, but most of all his fear of loss of control. When you visit an island 20 miles offshore, whose only link with the mainland is a twice weekly helicopter service, then you are pretty much stuck there, and barring some dreadful accident, cannot get off. Since the electricity is switched off overnight (the island is not on the national grid and has its own generator), you cannot boil the kettle for a hot water bottle when you wake up with cramps and nausea due to your fears at 3am. This then is a major step for him to take, and I am honoured that he feels ready to make that choice. I never thought that time would come.

Of course it is also triggering my own fears - will the island ever be the same after I have shared it with another? Will he love it so much that he wants to share my holidays from now on, denying me the space and the time I need for myself? If he does love it to the extent that I do, and wants to make a permanent move, what will this mean for us a couple and as individuals - the end of our life in the community that we have only just begun to settle into, and my role as Editor of the village newsletter, not to mention his web design business. What will it also mean for his transformation from male to female, will he have to go back into male mode full time, and how will that affect us both? Is any of this realistic, and does it matter at all? Perhaps not.

By focusing on our fears they become manifest, in other words, you had better be careful of what you wish for, in case you end up creating it. I have been wishing and hoping over the years for a permanent life on Lundy on and off since 1995, so maybe my dreams are about to become manifest and the seemingly impossible will happen. I guess we only can wait and see. Where it will lead us remains to be seen and discovered, and that is what life is all about. The journey is infinately more important than the destination. I will remind my partner of that next Monday when he is sitting at the heliport in the cold ...

Monday, 12 January 2009

Back to normal - whatever that is?

After a difficult couple of days (my emotions have been up and down like a yo-yo), today I am feeling relatively good. Saturday was the worst day. My partner and I went into town to get some shopping, and my purse was stolen, with all my cards and £40 cash that I had just withdrawn. Whoever it was may well have followed me from the cashpoint. On top of everything else that has happened, it made me feel ill, but I am nothing else if not a survivor, and I will bounce back.

We went straight home to phone the various banks and get the cards cancelled, and also to phone the Police, but it doesn't change the fact that it is gone. The purse itself may not be worth anything, but that is not the point - it takes 7-10 days to issue new cards, and while I am waiting I do not have access to any of my funds. Those thieves stole every last penny that I had on me, and until those cards arrive, I am having to borrow from my patner - I feel like a kept woman.

All of this has made me painfully aware of the little things in life and how much we take them for granted - things like being able to go out for a cup of tea, or to buy a newspaper or some chocolate - the little things that don't cost very much, but we still need money for. At the moment I am having to rely on him for these and everything else.

Our friend Sarah Jane Grace had some interesting things to say in an email yesterday. I am seeing her later on this morning for our regular astrology group (I must remember to ask my partner for the money to pay her). We are both at a bit of a crossroads, my partner probably more so than I am, as all my troubles have been pressing his buttons like mad and making him much worse than I am (I didn't think this was possible after Wednesday).

Sarah feels that we would benefit from some joint soul work and maybe some readings too - as part of that work. She has done this before with couples, and says that it helps them to cement their bond, but also to connect on a soul level, to understand where they are heading, both as a couple and as individuals. She feels as I do, that the incident with my purse was a reminder not to take things for granted, not just the little things (this is my words, not hers) but the fact that I will always have money full stop. This serves as a reminder that I cannot continue to sit around the house, that it is time for me to get out there and start looking for another job.

Despite my longings, I know in my heart of hearts that Lundy would not be the answer - it is my haven and place of solitude, and if I were to make a permanent move, that haven would be gone. There would be nowhere for me to retreat to in times of trouble. Perhaps that is the whole point, as I would have to rely on my own internal resources. That is what Lundy does anyway, by putting you into that space where the mind goes so still that you can hear yourself again, and more to the point, hear your inner guidance, as opposed to the ego. I have been running on ego for far, far too long, and my pain body has been acutely active these past few months. It is beginning to settle a bit more now the worst is over, and I hope it stays that way, for it has been mentally and emotionally exhausting, not just for me, but also for my partner, who has to live with the results. When you form a partnership, as we have, that partnership is not just with the person as a physical entity, but also with their pain body.

Thankfully Sarah does not see us splitting up (the thought had crossed both of our minds), but she does see a three month sabbatical on Lundy, to get my head together. I am not sure about this, for all the reasons I wrote about yesterday, and it is something to ponder a bit more. Perhaps I will get some further answers today. Personally I feel, as of this morning, that is time for me to get back into "normal" life, - a normal routine and a normal job.

Sarah sees me making a living as a freelance writer - I would love this more than anything to be the case, but it takes time to make the contacts and become established. I would need another part time job while I built my business up. At the same time, she sees me doing some form of voluntary work - perhaps for the CAB - after my recent troubles I had thought about this - or becoming a Union representive - I am not a member, but wish I had been.

I have some ideas for a few articles that I need to get started on - the longest and most important of which will be an article on Lundy - what else - which I plan to offer to a leading spiritual magazine that I have subscribed to for a number of years - I have checked the submission guidelines and need to get started, as I keep putting it off. I am also going to try my luck with some letters pages - some magazines pay up to £50 for letters their readers send in, and my revelations re the stolen purse would be of interest to a lot of people. Good can come from bad.

For the moment though, I need to get showered and dressed, and get something to eat, as my stomach is rumbling like mad. My digestion has been haywire these past few months - a sure sign of stress, but is beginning to settle back down. I must also remember to telephone my contact from the village newsletter, who needs help with her housework.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Far from the maddening crowd

On Wednesday night, after a day of major clearing with distressing physical symptoms, I was lying in the bath, feeling melancholy and wondering what life was about. When I began to seriously think about my life and all the things I have done, I realised that for most of that time, and certainly since Mum died, I do not think I have ever fitted in. The small island of Lundy in the Bristol Channel, where I holiday on a regular basis, is about the one place where I truly do feel happy and where I feel as if I belong. I have thought about applying for a job on the island many times over the years, but family lies have prevented from doing this. As I lay in my coconut scented bath surrounded by bubbles, I began to feel that at this time in my life, it would not be such a bad idea.

Lundy is as far removed from mainstream life and society as it can possibly get, while retaining the home comforts and good aspects of the modern technology upon which we have learnt to depend. The island has telephone connections with reasonable mobile phone coverage, and broadband, while staff properties have televisions and other mod cons. I need have no worries about not being able to obtain the things that I need, since everything you can buy in the shops can also be bought online, very often at a lot less cost. It is true that the majority of jobs on the island are less skilled than I am used to - catering and bar work for example, or housekeeping - cleaning, mending and so on, but it wouldn't matter what I did for a living in such beautiful and tranquil surroundings, as there is a different pace of life, where the trappings of modern life and the labels that we attach to them in the form of ego fall away.

As I began to think about the logistics of such a move, various obstacles sprang to mind. Issues surrounding health and the lack of medical care (there is no resident Doctor on the island), obtaining money, what I would do with the house and the car, and what it mean for my relationship with my partner. The medical issue takes care of itself, since there is nothing wrong me with anyway, apart from depression, and a few weeks on the island would soon cure that. As for money - what would I need it for? Anything I bought from the shop or Tavern would be on account, the bill being cleared by credit card at the end of each month. Lundy like Iceland, is a virtually cashless society. Anytime I did need cash, for a visit to the mainland perhaps, I am sure that Nigel who runs the shop would be able to oblige, by cashing a cheque. He does for the rest of the islanders.

The issue of my partner and what it would mean for our relationship is a bit more difficult to solve, and truth be known, the main reason it has taken me this long to make the move. My patner is not a traveller, he never has been and never will be. Try as I might (and believe you me I have) over the years, he refuses point blank to visit the island. If I went to live there, for a few months, or more permanently, that might persuade him to visit, but it is worth taking that risk? If he could not bring himself to (he has a major fear of both sea and air travel, being violently sick last time he tried either of them) then it would almost certainly split us up. That is a risk I am not willing to take.

Apart from anything else, if I did leave this area, who would take on the village newsletter? The previous Editor advertised for almost a year before I stepped forward, and at the time I didn't even live here. I took the job on and cannot just walk away at the drop of a hat, it would not be fair to the rest of the team, let alone the community, who would lose a vital source of news and light reading, that the elderly in particular really look forward to.

A month long sabbatical, as a volunteer, may however be possible, once my issues have been dealt with, so watch this space. I have a week's holiday on the island booked at the beginning of March, and a lot can happen between now and then.

Thursday was fortunately a much better day, as was Friday also. My partner and I went to volunteer at the local computer learning project, helping members of the community learn how to use these machines. I showed a new lady the basics of how to use Word, and was surprised at how well I did, since I did not think I had in it me, or knew enough to do this. Later that afternoon, I had a telephone call from one of my occasional contributors to ask whether I would put something in the February edition asking someone to help with her housework. Given my own situation, and that this is probably what I would do if I did move to Lundy (house keeping), I volunteered for the job. It is only a few hours each week, but every little helps.

It is the second time this week that the universe has prompted me re this type of work, as at the beginning of the week, I had a call from another lady who runs her own cleaning company, wanting to advertise in the newsletter. I don't deal with the advertising myself, so I passed her on to the lady who does. Perhaps this, combined with writing, will be my new career? I used to joke with my old boss that he should change my duties to cleaning so I could get a pay rise, never a truer word spoken in jest ...

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Truth or Life?

Every night this week, the BBC have shown a dramatisation of the Diary of Anne Frank. Anne is known throughout the world for her famous diary, which she wrote while hiding from the Nazi's in an annex above her father's warehouse in Amsterdam. It is a remarkable piece of work, not only for its historical value but also because of the insights that it provides into the mind of a growing teenager living in what were incredibly difficult circumstances.

The family, father Otto, mother Edith and daughters Margot and Anne (Anne was the younger of the two) lived like this for over 2 years, with their friends Hermann and Auguste van Pels and their son Peter. They were later joined by the family dentist, Fritz Pfeffer. Anne's father had been preparing this place as a hideout for over a year, gathering furniture and cooking implements. Anne had received her diary as birthday gift from her father just weeks before the family moved, having left an elaborate trail that led others to believe they had fled to Switzerland in safety.

The family moved into their hiding place on the morning July 6th, 1942, following the Nazis request that daughter Margot was to present herself to the railway station within nine days for transport to one of the camps. Since Jews were forbidden from using public transport, they walked several kilometers from their home, which had been deliberately left in disarray, wearing several layers of clothes, as they dare not be seen carrying luggage.

The Achterhuis (a Dutch word denoting the rear part of a house, translated as the "Secret Annexe" in English editions of the diary) was a three-storey space entered from a landing above Mr Frank's offices. It consisted of two small rooms, with an adjoining bathroom and toilet on the first level, with a larger open room above with a smaller room adjoining it. A ladder from this smaller room led to the attic. The door to the Achterhuis was covered by a bookcase to ensure that it remained undiscovered.

Otto's four employees together with a few of their family members, were the only people who knew of the family's whereabouts, risking their lives to provide the family with food and other supplies via the black market, and a vital lifeline to the outside world. Tensions quickly developed within the group who were forced to live in these confined conditions. Anne frequently clashed with most of the adults, as a fiery and growing teenager, detailing all of this in her diary. Thrown together, romance blossomed between Anne and Peter, the teenage son of Hermann and Auguste van Pels, but the infatuation soon waned.

The family were eventually discovered and arrested after an anonymous tip off and transported to various camps. Her father Otto to the notorious Auschwitz and her mother together with the two girls to Bergen-Belsen in Southern Poland. From the eight people who lived in the annex, Otto was the only one to survive. Anne died from typhus in March 1945, five days after her sister, and just one month before liberation.

After the war her father returned to Amsterdam and found some of his employees, one of whom gave him the copy of Anne's diary that had been left behind after it fell from her father's briefcase. The Nazi's had emptied the briefcase to carry the family's gold, which they looted. The first edition was published in France and Germany in 1950, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I visited Amsterdam briefly in 1990 when my sister and I were inter-railing across Europe as students, but did not get the opportunity to visit the house, as we were only in the city for a few hours. Nevertheless, I have always been fascinated by Anne's story and bravery, as a teenager living in what must have been incredibly difficult conditions. The dramatisation was remarkably lifelike with superb acting from all those who took part. I found myself touched by this young girls will to survive and her comments in particular that she did not want her life to have been in vain, that she wished to live on afterwards through the words that she had written. I can identify very much with that myself, as most writers probably can. The final scenes of the family's arrest were difficult to watch and I found tears streaming down my face, as I had become quite attached to them all.

Afterwards I watched a documentary about the family on BBC 4 which provided more background information, including an interview with her father, the only survivor. Included were scenes of the various camps to which the family members were taken and where they died. I have often wondered if I was transported to one of these, during a former life.

I remember when I was new to the spiritual path, I attended a past life workshop with Dick Sutphen. To help set the mood and to test our responses, Dick played a variety of different sounds, one of which was a train blowing its whistle. Every hair on my body stood on end, as I saw the image of a train moving through a darkened tunnel and coming to a stop inside a walled compound with a large chimney in the background. The first time I saw the film Schindlers List, I recognised the image of Austwitz from this workshop. That was possibly the most frightening experience of my life.

The closing scenes of the dramatisation and my reaction to them also brought to mind my visit to the Museum of the Holocaust in Jerusalem, which I visited in 1993. We were led into this darkened dome shaped room, which was pitch black. The only light came from the illuminated handrail that was used to feel your way around, and the one million stars on the ceiling, one for every Jewish child who perished during the War. I don't think I have ever experienced such sadness or tears as I shed that day, sadness for the depths of cruelty and depravity that the human race could sink to, and the dreadful acts that were carried out in the name of politics.

The saddest thing of all is that we appear to have learnt nothing at all from these experiences, as similar atrocities continue to be carried out throughout the world to this day - the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and the former Yugoslavia, the genocide in Rwanda, and more recently in Zimbabwe. Religious wars are no different - albeit on a smaller scale and being much more visible - the senseless destruction of the Twin Towers, the Oklahoma bombing, or closer to home, the troubles in Northern Ireland. What binds all of these things together is the sense that the victims were considered to be different, sufficiently different to pose such a threat to their neighbours that they had to die. Truth was considered more important than human life for a bunch of over inflated egos who had to justify their own belief's and their own survival at any cost.

It may be a cliche, but it is as true today as it ever was, that we cannot stand by and allow these things to continue to take place or to ever happen again. There are some alive even today who refuse to believe that the Holocaust took place at all, but I have travelled to Israel and shared a room with someone who was there, I have seen the sites of the mass graves in Russia and the Museum of the Holocaust in Jerusalem, so I know that it did. We must never allow anything like this to ever happen again.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

The clearing has begun

I had a good day on Tuesday and felt that I was dealing with things well. I managed to do all the things I was supposed to do without feeling bad. I see now that I was kidding myself and I was not coping at all - I was finding things to do, distractions, so I would not have to look at, or feel my pain. The most important distractions were this blog - I have been editing some of my older posts, and watching television.

Yesterday it hit me like a bolt from the blue. My partner had an appointment in town, so I went to the gym, and arranged to meet him afterwards in the coffee shop. As we were walking to the car park, I began to feel really bad, with waves of nausea and stomach cramps. He told me I looked as a white as a sheet. When we got to the centre I decided to sit quietly and have a drink to see how I felt, and as I sat I began to read Eckhart Tolle's "A New Earth". My partner had begun to read a few snippets, so I opened the book where his bookmark lay, which happened to be at the chapter about the ego (chapter three).

What Tolle had to say made me feel even worse, since it was such a perfect description of me, a section that try as I might I cannot now find. Maybe I no longer need to find this, as I have recognised myself and begun to move beyond it. Yesterday I certainly moved beyond something.

After I had finished my drink, and the tears began to fall, I did my best to exercise. I thought that if I tried to make the effort it may help, by moving things through the body. It did that alright, but not in the way I would have hoped, for instead of moving things through, it brought things to the surface in the most unpleasant of ways.

When my partner and I got home, I was gripped by what I can only describe as fear. I could not tell you where this fear was coming from, even if I tried, and I don't particularly want to try. I hope I never experience fear of that magnitude again. As the day wore on, and the symptoms got worse and worse - waves of nausea, cramps and backache, with the most intense fear and shaking - all at the same time - I began to appreciate what my partner has been through all these years with his own issues. I have not been the most sympathetic of partners, but from now on, I will be.

The symptoms although unpleasant were to be expected. When you challenge boundaries, as I have done, my own and others they have placed upon me, and those boundaries begin to break down, it moves you into a new and different space. This is one of taking responsbility for ones own actions, and in my case, recognising that it was a choice to walk away. This brings up all your fears and issues around safety - your own dark night, or in my case, dark day of the soul.

As the day wore on, and with plenty of rest, and no distractions, the feelings gradually wore off, to be replaced by early evening with a great sense of calm - I had entered the void. The void is that empty space between states, where you are waiting for the next thing to occur - what my partner refers to as the "chrysalis". My Journey teacher referred to this as the "unknown zone". This is the message that appears on our computers when we are waiting for a web page to open - so even Bill Gates has some spirituality.

I awoke this morning after the best nights sleep since I last returned from Lundy. I had been been hoping to go to Iceland this summer, but after what has happened, I do not know what my financial situation will be and if I will be able to afford it. When I saw there were 2 weeks free on my beloved island at the end of July on Tuesday morning, I telephoned the Landmark Trust to make a booking. I suppose I could have waited to see what happened, but those two weeks would probably have gone and then I could have faced the prospect of having no summer holiday at all. At least this way I know I will get the break I will need - and in this case that doesn't mean a broken leg!

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

What's the worst that can happen?

Despite my best efforts to see things through, yesterday I chose to walk away. I should have realised when the tears began to fall as I got dressed that it was not going to work, but I felt I had to try, no matter how difficult it was. I managed to stay in that space for 3 hours, but when I left for lunch, the pain hit me like a bolt from the blue. When I found myself sitting in the local coffee house, with tears streaming down my face, I knew it was time to call a halt. A tearful call was made to my beloved to come and collect me, and when I got home, I did the only thing I could - and should have done months ago - I walked away.

It is a relief to know that I can finally put this to bed, although it is not over quite yet. I still have other issues that need to be resolved. These will be dealt with in their own time, and once they are, I can begin to move on.

Yesterday I wrote that if I chose not to see this through, I would be giving my power away all over again, but having made a different choice, I can see that this is not the case. This was about giving myself the opportunity to make a choice, and not being fearful about that choice, but also about taking responsbility for the choice that I made. It is easy to pass that responsibility to others and let them make the choices for us - that is what I hoped would happen on Friday at the meeting I had to attend.

As you grow from a child to an adult, there is always someone playing on our fears by telling all the things we cannot do - most of the time they are projecting their own fears onto us. We learn through our interactions with the world, ways to make our own lives as easy as possible, as when we are told we cannot do things, we believe that, and instead of pushing through our own boundaries, we stay enclosed in theirs.

We eventually realise that we give people our power so that they can make choices for us - the choice of whether to stay in a situation we hate and that makes us ill, simply to pay the bills. By staying in these situations, we become even more ill, until we are forced to take time off, and then all our fears are realised, as we have less money with which to pay those bills. If we had walked away when our egos first told us to, then we would not have been in this situation.

It would be easy to buy into the fear, the what ifs and all the buts, but as Jelaila Starr says in her latest video, what's the worst that can happen? It already has, so what else is there to fear?

I know that I will be taken care of, and that something wonderful and much more appropriate for my needs is just around the corner, beckoning.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

With power comes responsibility

What a year 2008 turned out to be! With so much going on these past few days and not having the space to think, let alone write, much has remained unsaid.

On New Years Eve, I watched the film Chocolat starring Juliet Binoche. Binoche plays the role of Vianne, a wanderer who obeys the north wind, drifting across the country as it blows, with her six year old daughter (her inner child perhaps). The film is set in 1960's rural France, when Catholicism maintained a stranglehold, dictating both morals and behaviour. As a single mother who did not go to church, Vianne caused more than a few ripples. Although these ripples were difficult to go through at the time, ultimately they changed the town and its inhabitants for the good.

I have noticed over the years that I too am a catalyst for change - especially at work. It seems as if I go into a particular job (I have noticed this with other non work related situations as well), ruffle a few feathers by bringing things to their attention, and then leave. This seems to act as a catalyst, whereby within a very short space of time, other people do the same (leave that is). It is almost as if there is something about me that awakens things in others - the realisation perhaps that there is more to life than they are currently choosing to experience, and that they can make another choice that is much better and more appropriate for their needs. I do not go into a job in order to create this, but to live and survive, like everyone else. This seems to happen spontaneously, and is totally beyond my control.

The last two weeks have been extraordinarily stressful. I do not think I realised the full extent of this stress until I attended a meeting yesterday to discuss my issues. I finally had the chance to say my piece and be heard, presenting my evidence. I was surprised at the outcome, which knocked me for six.

It seemed as if I had two choices, to either return to that situation and see it through, or to walk away. After much deliberation, and on the advice of friends, I have decided to return and see it through.

This will be one of the most difficult things I have ever had to face, but face it I must, as if I don't, then everything I have accomplished these past two weeks will have been in vain. It does not affect my other issues, which will be dealt with in their own way, but it gives me the opportunity to work through this in my own way, which is crucial if this is to be resolved. Having made this decision, I feel like a ten tonne weight has been lifted.

When you begin to challenge and push through barriers that have been imposed by others, you move into a completely different energetic space, which to begin with feels alien and excruciatingly uncomfortable. That is the space that I am now in. In order to acclimatise to that space, you have to remain in it, for as long as it takes. It may take a few hours, or days, or it may take months. It takes as long as it needs to, but you have to allow that process to unfold in its own time, as you cannot see the bigger picture.

As you work through these issues and begin to reclaim your power, you realise that with power comes responsibility. You have to take responsibility for the choices that you make, and cannot blame others. For many years those in authority have sought to stifle the power and authority of others, but we have conspired to allow this by not speaking out and by not voicing our truths. In the past I have been guilty of this, but I cannot by any stretch of the imagination say that I have done this in the past two weeks.

It took courage and strength that I did not know I had in order to see this through and to challenge those that sought to take my power. If I choose to walk away at this stage, having come this far, then they will take it all over again. That is why I have to return to this situation and see things through.