adventure · grief · love · Spiritual

A year in grief…goodbye 2014

rosmary/flickr

As I reflect back on 2014, the stand outs for me are: grief, loss, change, growth, creativity, love.

This year has stolen loved ones from me.

Death permanently took a piece of my heart, and my world was completely shattered beyond recognition. Everything that I thought I knew turned out to be wrong. My well defined life path came to a blinding dead-end. Comfort was a memory that tormented me in the dead of night; a haven I could never quite reach. I longed for my soul to be at peace, but a tempest of pain, longing and despair assailed me constantly over the months that followed.

I lost loved ones in other ways too. Friends that could not cope with my sadness were absent. My usual sunshine dimmed for a time and there are those that sought my light and warmth elsewhere. I don’t blame them for that. Sitting with someone else’s pain is not easy. The people you don’t expect can be the ones to hold you steady in the storm. Strangers become soulmates. I found a few of those blessings too.

I threw myself into my yoga practise, and running, to take back my freedom. To hold the power over my own physical being and the way that I could push myself beyond what my weak mind thought it was capable of. I loved the sound of the ocean cheering me on and I would spend hours watching the tide roll in. It gave me time to think, to cry, to process, and sometimes to forget it all. I’m physically the strongest and fittest I have ever been, and for this I am thankful.

Some days I didn’t know if I would make it through the darkness, and that was more terrifying then I ever realised was possible. I wanted to die, to not feel the misery anymore. Grief is a selfish emotion. I’m glad I did not give into the easy path of oblivion for the world is bright and beautiful, and I have much left to see. I will see all that I can, I will promise you that.

I turned to writing, letting my hurt spill onto the paper like hot crimson blood. I was vulnerable; I let my fear and insecurity and sadness flow out into the world and showed people my darkest truths. They responded, friends and strangers alike. I connected. I discovered that others were hurting, or growing and that my words had helped them, even if in some tiny way. Hope is a powerful magic. 

Realising how short life was, I took steps towards my dream of writing for a living and I joined a novel writing class. I discovered a whole class of like-minded friends to share my love of the written word. I began work on my first novel, and I will finish my first draft in 2015. When you want something so badly, the universe conspires to make it happen for you. I am very lucky that my company subsequently decided to create a role for me that will allow me to explore my love of writing further in my day job. I never would have dreamed that such an opportunity could exist for me there. I am humbled beyond words.

I know now that I had to reach the lowest depths of my pain and suffering, to break myself open, in order to let the light of change flood in through the cracks. It takes being destroyed to re-build yourself, rising like a Phoenix from the ashes of destruction. It’s hard to appreciate that lesson as the fire burns you. It’s only afterwards that you realise that your scars are beautiful, for they tell a story about you.

So, thank you 2014 for hurting me so very badly. For waking me up to myself. For making me re-assess my paths.

Thank you for showing me who is important, who loves me at my worst. Thank you for the opportunities to meet new friends, new teachers and to let go of the things that do not serve me anymore.

I will not think of you fondly, but I will appreciate the opportunities you have given me.

Who knows what adventures 2015 will bring? Hopefully more laughter than tears, more love than grief, and a mindful life, lived to the fullest. Here’s hoping.

Happy new year to you all.

Advertisements
grief · love · Wellness

Emotional Health is the new sexy

https://www.flickr.com/photos/james_nash/2533278341

“I’m seeing a counsellor.”

My face burns and I look down at the floor. I don’t want to see the pity reflecting in your eyes—I know what you think. At least, I tell myself a story about what you think.

My counsellor taught me that. He also explained to me what other people think of you is none of your business,which is a gem that fits this scenario particularly well.

It’s a mantra I’m still working on—I’m not there yet.

The stigma of there must be something mentally wrong with me or I’m not able to solve this problem alone, therefore I’m weak or stupid or damaged still applies to counselling, even today in this supposedly enlightened society of ours.

I want to set the record straight once and for all, so gather ‘round my friends and hear my truth: therapy is brave. Therapy is empowering. And therapy is sexy. I’ll tell you why.

Therapy is brave.

From the moment I sat down in that chair, I knew I was opening a can of worms in the deepest, darkest region of my soul—a can of worms that, once unleashed, could never be re-sealed again. It was a big decision. One that would have me questioning my thought processes completely, my fundamental beliefs and feelings about my life, my relationships and my childhood.

Everything I thought I knew, and all my mechanisms for getting by in this world were discussed, dissected and sometimes destroyed, and to let that process unfold takes some serious tenacity.

Every bone in my weary body screamed at me to run away—to stay safely wrapped in the warm cosy blanket of ignorance, to bury the feelings deeper where they couldn’t hurt me. I stayed in that chair. And I returned to it every week for a year. I’m still there today.

How many people can honestly say that they have stood their ground as their demons surrounded them,tormenting them in the darkness? Who among us has found the courage to gaze, with fearful eyes, into the void that we try so desperately to compensate for, and acknowledge the emptiness that lingers there?

It takes a certain kind of brave to sit with the agonising pain of grief as it crushes your chest—to acknowledge guilt, to accept loneliness, with tears streaming down your face. My voice cracks with emotion, but I talk on regardless, bringing my monsters to life with my words and then trying to find the strength to begin to slowly slay them. Until I can see them and accept that they are real, I cannot fight them.

There is a warrior in all of us waiting for that opportunity.

My counsellor lets me pour out my hurt in a torrent. There is no judgement. He encourages the floodgates to open and is a witness to my distress, to my story. We all need a witness in this life. I believe it’s one of the reasons we connect with others so deeply—to know that someone cares enough about us to see us, to really see us for who we are as we move through life’s journey.

He questions me in ways that make me think beyond my comfort levels, to see an alternate perspective. My current ways of thinking have not always served me well and he is not afraid to push me hard beyond them, even if it makes me cry.

My insides have been pulled out, examined, cleansed and put back inside on a weekly basis. Exhausting? Yes. Valuable? Beyond measure. I am more myself than I have ever been, which is the best gift I could have given myself in this thirtieth year of my life.

Therapy is empowering.

Coaching and mentoring are seen as the path of the enlightened, the driven, and the achievers. Counselling, on the other hand, is perceived by many as an inability to cope with the world. I have news for you, ladies and gents; counselling is a form of life coaching, too.

It gives me the ability to recognise negative patterns and behaviours, and the tools and awareness to deal with them without melting down. It lets me get comfortable with ambiguity and to sit with my sadness without dissolving into it to a point where I can’t cope or recover from it.

I can apply these lessons across the board: at home, at work, walking down the street. I can understand the motivations and fears that drive people and myself, which is powerful beyond words.

I’m still learning, and I make mistakes, but I am more aware of them now. I’m only human—I still get angry with people, but I ask myself what the positive intention was in their behaviour. I finally understand that no one in this world has the power to make me feel anything.

I create, promote and allow the feelings and behaviours that I want in my life and I give to myself the things that I want to experience.

Don’t love me? Fine. I’ll love myself enough for the both of us. Knowing that no one external can take that feeling away is liberating.

Therapy is sexy.

There is nothing more attractive than a person prepared to own his or her shit. We are all messed up in some way or another; it’s just a matter of how, and to what degree. To accept that fact is to be a real adult in this world—to take responsibility for our own happiness and to stop blaming others when life is hard, or when they don’t meet our expectations.

If a man is willing to face his issues, my god is he a man in my eyes. If he is able to work on himself with the intention of becoming the best version of himself that he can be, for himself, and subsequently for his relationships, that is a serious turn-on. I know that he is going to show up for me, for his family, and he is going to address the issues that he doesn’t want to pass onto his kids.

A good father is hugely appealing.

The fact that you care about your mental health is as significant to me as you taking care of yourself physically. Mental grooming is way more important than working on your washboard abs (though I won’t deny, I like those too).

We don’t have to be perfect; heaven knows that I’m not. We just have to be willing to participate in our own growth, and that will speak to my mind, my soul and to my body in ways you could never imagine.

Originally published here at Elephant Journal

adventure · love · Spiritual

An ode to my sisters

sisters

My life will never be the same again.

From the moment that each of you enter my world, red faced and squalling, I understand this.

My life will be filled with much more colour, love and laughter for having you bound excitedly into my family picture frame—all messy handprints, cute freckles and wild hair.

Our dance through life intricately entangled, our hopes and dreams created in the furnace of a shared childhood.

Though you are both younger than me, you teach me about myself and the world, in ways you could never imagine.

You rub off my sharp corners with gentle teasing and mirth, making me a more gentle and loving version of myself.

You teach me selflessness and loyalty and about protecting others. I long to shield you both from the despair of the world, yet part of my learning is to understand that I cannot always protect you.

Most of all, you teach me about friendship. Long before new companions enter our lives, our bonds are tightly formed, best friends for life.

In those precious moments where we become two, and then three, I instinctively know that I will never be alone again.

There will always be two pieces of my heart floating around out there in the world.

Two sets of veins sharing the same lifeblood as me. Two minds that hold the same values of family and deep care for others.

Two sets of blue eyes, the exact same shade as mine, reflecting my own soul when they twinkle mischievously back at me.

As soon as you come into being, I understand how to truly love.

Beyond all else.

To gain that exquisite realisation that I would die for either of you, because there is no reality in which you cannot exist, two shining lights in life’s darkness.

A sister’s love cannot be compared to any other.

It is unconditional—always a safety net against sorrow.

It’s us against the world.

We fight, in ways only siblings can, an entire lifetime of ammunition at our fingertips.

But we never hold a grudge. Always we are friends again before we sleep, creeping into each other’s arms and beds with soothing words, tears and whispered apologies. We may swear and cry and grump and call each other every name under the sun; it’s our sisterly right.

But woe betide the outsider who targets any one of our trio. We rise together in defence, a roaring tsunami, eyes blazing with indignant rage. We know that we always have two supporters fiercely backing us, no matter what.

It’s all for one, and one for all.

Though we are alike in so many ways, I celebrate our differences too, for they compliment each other. We each bring something into the mix that balances the others. We accept each other for who we are, not trying to change the other. This is something I seek to take into other relationships also.

I am proud of you both; strong, beautiful and creative women, who I have watched flourish from the day that you were born.

We will never grow old in each other’s eyes, for always we will remember what we have been.

We have shared heartbreak and celebration, private jokes and secret languages, our histories and memories forever entwined. We have seen each other at our worst and adore each other all the more for it.

Life is a much more exciting journey with my two musketeers beside me, each holding a hand as we venture into the unknown, shoulder to shoulder.

There are many roles that I will take on as I move through the various stages of my quest; career woman, wife, mother, but the one that lingers with me is the one that will never ever change.

I will always be a sister.

Originally published here on Elephant Journal

Musings

The race that stopped a nation and ended two lives

Horse Racing

Fascinators flutter in the breeze, like butterflies dancing over bright flowers.

The glamorous masses prance, and shriek and laugh, placing bets and downing bubbles. Spirits are high. The fillies stamp and snort in their holding pens and a hush falls upon the crowd as the main race lines up to start.

I can understand fully the appeal of the day: the glitz and glamour, the pomp and ceremony. We all admire the unbridled power of a muscular stallion as he thunders towards the finish line, black glossy coat shining under the Australian sun. He seems to move in slow motion, the handsome jockey skillfully guiding him to a glorious triumph.

Most of us could agree that this spectacle moves us. The intensity of one of nature’s most graceful creatures, coupled with the thrill of the race, the striking spectators, the festivity of winning.

And yet today at the Melbourne Cup, as at so many horse races, tragedy raises its solemn head. Admire Rakti, a Japanese racehorse, pulled up distressed after the cup race, and collapsed, dying in his stall.

Later this evening, Araldo, unable to be saved after breaking his leg, was also put down. The race that stops a nation turned out to be the race that ended their lives. My heart aches for their owners and carers, for whom this would be such a very personal loss.

This isn’t a one off occurrence, of course. Last year French runner Verema was also euthanized after breaking her leg in the same race.

There comes a point then, where we have to ask ourselves how long we can justify the party. An animal rights group called The Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses recently launched a new campaign striking out against the industry, calling out not just the issues that accompany racing, but also the treatment of these racers at the end of their careers.

The industry has hit back, arguing that welfare is at the forefront of their minds. Yet one could reasonably argue there is still a fair way for them to go in order to learn from the deaths of these fallen beauties. Animals Australia is calling for a retirement plan for all racehorses, the abolishment of whipping and jumps racing. I for one would support this wholeheartedly.

Though there will always be a risk in racing—just as there is for any human sport— horse racing doesn’t always have to mean pain and a bleak future for our four-legged friends.

I don’t want to be the fun police. I also don’t want to assume that I know what’s best for these horses. Perhaps they are given access to the best care, and vets and luxuries that they wouldn’t otherwise receive in a far off paddock somewhere if not competing. Perhaps they love the thrill of the race, the feel of the track beneath their hooves and the wind in their mane. Who can say for certain? Not me.

All that I really hope for is awareness, and through that awareness, accountability.

Let us recognize that there is more to Race Day than just an afternoon of revelry, drinking with friends.

Let us remember there are real lives at stake here.

Let us understand that it is our responsibility to hold the industry responsible for the well being of these majestic beauties, to fight their fight where we are able, for they most certainly, are not.

“If not us, then who. If not now, then when?’John E. Lewis.

Originally published here on Elephant Journal

adventure · love · Poetry · Spiritual

I dream in colour

dreamer

Sometimes I walk in the shadows between dreams and waking,

letting the light of my imagination
burst forth from the grey nothing,
into fireworks of vivid ruby and emerald.

I am endlessly amazed by the power of the unbound mind,
where freedom and creation dance a fiery seduction,
forever one step ahead of where dull logic can reach.
Reality has no place in this world we create for ourselves.

Let us play in the realm of magic,
Let our minds run free through the inky night,
A sleek dragon covering unknown soil, dust shimmering under indigo sky,
chasing the smeared red promise of a horizon.

The future is ours to breathe into life.

Let us forget all we have been taught,
Throw sense and reason to the purging wind,
and recall to memory what we have known from birth,
the long forgotten secrets of the earth,
so easily supressed by the tedium of existence.

Imagination is a seedling, full of life’s exquisite promise,
that cannot grow bigger than the pot that embraces it.
Life should not be contained by societies boundaries,
as dreams refuse to be.

The indifferent ranks, so grim in black and white,
beckon with melancholy fingers towards their drab procession.
They march ever onwards towards their dreary tombs,
Caring not for the enchantment that lies beyond their grey lives.

I do not follow them.

I dream in colour.

Originally published here on Elephant Journal

love · Poetry · Spiritual

Storm Woman

rain

I have always worshipped the radiant sun.

Years have passed pining for her rapture, chasing her calm light. My mood eternally governed by the kiss of warmth on my skin and glitter over sapphire waters.

Yet, my restless heart seeks further of late. My pilgrimage leads me from the luminance I once coveted, into the unknown. I find myself a fearless explorer facing much darker spaces. I’m not afraid. I realise that somewhere along the way, I have grown to love the majesty of the storm and all her stunning chaos.

A sense of peace stills my busy mind moments before the first raindrop plummets to earth. I sense it before I see or feel it. The ethereal light plays on rooftops, a lantern lit by angels to herald the storms arrival. I bask in the eerie golden glow, the only soul in sight, face upturned to the rolling clouds as they sail by on gilded wings.

All is still.

The passing wind holds its tremulous breath, teasing me with a whispered caress. I watch as an old newspaper takes flight, the silent ghost that haunts deserted streets. The air hums and crackles with magic, and I have two choices: find shelter, or embrace the tempest.

I choose to do both.

I stand small against the powerful rage that builds above me. Thunder commands my full attention in glorious grumbling tones, as white-hot lightning leaps and twists, a wild dancer against the darkened sky. I am frozen, mesmerized.

The rain comes.

From beneath the open porch where I stand, I watch as rain begins to pour, humidity relieved by tears from heaven. The fresh smell of rain is punctuated by fragrant jasmine and I close my eyes, breathing deeply. My ritual begins.

Stepping out into the onslaught, I laugh with wild abandon as the first cleansing drops soak my hair, streaming into my face, my eyes, my mouth. I want to feel and taste it all.

I hold my arms out to the sky, embracing my liberation. It’s just nature and me—locked in this fiery battle of wills and neither of us are backing down any time soon.

My saturated clothes hug my body, laying my form bare for all to see. Torrents of cold water expose the curve of my breasts and hips as I dance in the downpour. I feel the full power of my natural self. I do not care how my hair looks, or that my mascara is streaming down my face. I am free. There are no rules in the eye of the storm.

The wind, a howling demon now, screams over roofs and rattles fences. It fitfully throws chairs in a rush of passion, destroying ancient trees without a thought. It feels no guilt for it’s urges and we all could learn from that. It is time for me to take cover.

I move inside, stripping off my wet clothes and jumping into bed. I lay warm under soft thick blankets, watching the room illuminate as lightening prowls the streets on sharpened claws. The rain is a lullaby, pattering on glass as rivulets stream down the window, making my eyes heavy.

Before I surrender to sleep, I give thanks to the roaring storm. She speaks to the boisterous part in me, stirring my sleeping desires, reminding me that even smooth sailing is dreary after a while. Shy and retiring will not always serve me well. She shows me that destruction can be beautiful, for devastation is freedom to create anew once again. And create I will.

I recognize that some part of me will always seek the tranquil sun, but I know now that there is so much more to me than just that. Some dark and turbulent place inside demands my attention also.

She exists in you, too.

She wants something for us—a life that is free and full of our own natural power. She wants us to roam the world with wild abandon, seeking beyond our meeker selves. She tells us not to be afraid of chaos, for it has many gifts to share with us. We can storm through our life any time we choose to, and it is that choice that is important here.

The storm will pass, and the world will be new once more, shaped by our passion. So, be a child of the sun by all means.

Embrace peace.

Chase the light.

Sing your dreams.

Originally published here at Elephant Journal

grief · love · Spiritual

A letter to my 10 year old self

love message graffiti

Dearest Me,

I know that you don’t know me, not yet.

You can’t conceive of a you that has a career, a fiancé, pays bills and drives a car. You don’t know that my favorite food is Indian, or that I drink Merlot like water. But I’m here; I exist out in the world. And you know what? We’re doing okay.

We live millions of miles from home right now, and for the most part we have loved our time here. We run by the ocean, and we still love the sound of waves crashing onto the shore as the breeze plays with our hair. We miss home terribly though.

If I remember rightly, you have it all figured out by now.

You have already decided that you are going to be a writer. You plan to travel the world and absorb all the magic that lingers in the far-flung corners of the earth. You want to climb mountains, and sleep under the stars. You want to meet those enchanting people that dance into your life and change your perspectives forever. I can tell you, 20 years on, that your dreams haven’t changed much. But your life sure has.

There is now a desire to please our loved ones, and to live up to the expectations of our peers. We are scared to break free and do what makes our spirit soar. Please, listen to me when I say—take English Literature at University, not Business Management. It’s what your heart aches to do, but you crush the longing in order to give yourself a “career path.” (It worked, but you are miserable.)

I want you to understand that the pain you feel right now, and the heart-wrenching agony that will hit you later when our parents divorce, is not your fault.

Somewhere along the way there will be darkness, emptiness. Times where you will sob your heart out to a God that you are certain is not listening. Or, if he is listening, is punishing you for something. You will sit on the upstairs landing at night, shivering with worry and cold, listening to our parents talking in low angry tones in the kitchen. Later you will realize that there was nothing you could have done to keep them together. You will understand that love is complex, and that our parents, like us, are just human too.

You will decide that marriage isn’t for you, and that love can’t be trusted to last forever. It will haunt you, and it will make you behave badly sometimes. Don’t worry too much about that; I’m here to tell you that we meet people along the way who redefine love for us. They give us their heart freely, and we finally understand that someone can love the essence of your soul without expecting anything of you in return.

I’m sorry to have to tell you, we lose people we love along our journey.

Sometimes we go our separate ways from them and sometimes, more permanently, death steals their sunshine from our life. Everything that we think we knew turns out not to be true. We hurt. We grieve. We change. We grow. I’m here on the other side of it today. You will want to give up. You won’t. You are more of a fighter than you ever realized you could be.

I want you to hang in there and to understand that your scars tell a story to the world. A story that makes you so much more beautiful and interesting then you can ever know.

Lastly, because I have never acknowledged it before, I am proud of you. You are a dreamer, and you haven’t lost that. You still make mistakes and sometimes you hurt people, but you aren’t afraid to apologize and try to make it right. These days we surround our life with people that share our values and honor our dreams. We give them all the love that we have in us, and they give it right back.

We laugh a lot. I like that about us.

Do remember that life never presents us with more than we can handle, and that every struggle is a lesson, even if you can’t see it at the time. I don’t know what’s in store for us next, and maybe that’s a good thing. Perhaps I will never send this letter to you. After all—the unknown is what makes life such a wonderful adventure.

All my love,

Me.

Originally published here on Elephant Journal