Monday, 29 December 2014

From East to West

Christmas has been and gone, and this may very well be my last post of 2014. In the five years of me writing this blog, I have never been one for posting a 'round-up' of the year, so I shall not begin a new tradition now, not that some other new traditions would not be wholeheartedly welcome... I do need to notice, though, that this year has certainly been a year of change and growth. It was the year I learnt more about who I am in relation to the world I live in. I made more active decisions about the way I choose to live my life and the career I am following. I chose new placements, started building my research experience, and the amount of modelling jobs I did, I could probably count on my ten fingers. For once, I chose to travel to a place I fell in love with for myself, not simply because my agent told me I would be loved. I realised that I don't care so much if a place 'loves me' if I don't fall in love with it myself. I am learning more about where I am grounded politically and philosophically. I am discovering what it means to be a woman and what it means to be myself. I am learning that I am constantly learning, and that is OK. For as long as I live I will be learning, and I do not wish to be in a place where I am too comfortable - I would like my answers to many questions to always reflect the changes that inevitably will happen.

But, this is besides the point. I came to write this post because I wanted to share a picture I photographed in York today just before the sunset. But behind every photograph lies a story that is just as important, if not more, than the picture itself. I have indulged myself in a week off from all work duties - but was back tutoring this morning at 9.30am. This meant, in addition to my morning irritation before my caffeine had kicked in, that I had to de-ice the car. I could write another story about my car adventures here - as I am sure it was rather comical to watch me try to prize the frozen boot open to access the de-icer I needed in order to un-freeze the frost that was supergluing my car doors shut! All was OK in the end, as is often the case, and I made it to my students home. To add to my list of favourite things my students say to me/ask me, this is going on: 'are you are feminist?'... I proceeded to inform my 17 year old male student about what feminism is really about - that it is just as much about men as it is about women, and that perhaps the girls at school are somewhat misinformed.... It is a shame, that for some young people they seem to be so loosely educated about these issues, yet the term 'feminist' is thrown around almost carelessly either like a badge worn with pride or as an empty insult. It is a shame - but I was somewhat pleased my student was curious enough to ask me, and that I gave him a more informed perspective...

Perhaps I really am in a typing mood tonight. Back to my picture - I had driven over to York for supervision and decided to take my work to a coffee shop to attempt beginning my case study write ups for the practice file deadline (which shall be upon us before we know it...) so I had my soya chai latte, drafted a case study, wrote up my supervision notes, and heading back to my car to drive back home, I adore the drive from York to Harrogate because I always catch the sunset - I am driving from east to west so whatever the season, I get this incredible view. Some days better than others, but today it was breath taking... Medicine for the soul.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

But does the lightbulb want to change?

I am writing this as I sit on the train and the Christmas Eve busy-ness goes on around me. I am heading to York to meet a very good friend of mine for a walk and drink before then heading back home to see friends and family. It is incredible how easily I have found it to allow everything to just flow this year. I feel ready and I have taken a few days in Kent to spend with family - my mum, sister, and grandparents. And I sent a few of those 'I-must-send-soon' emails when I arrived home but it is really ok for me this year to kick back a little. I still haven't replaced my computer, all my work is being done from my iPad, it isn't as convenient but it is ok just for now. All shopping has been done, I am ready to wholeheartedly embrace Christmas, I even survived being driver through the Christmas traffic around London. It really is ok this year.

Our trip to Kent was brief but it was certainly one of those adventures we will remember. If not for our moment in Peterborough services when it was hilarious to discover the answer to that wonderful question of 'how many men does it take to change a light bulb'... I don't know whether the lightbulb wanted to change, but it certainly needed to, and when you have a mother like my mother when a task needs doing, you can be assured that it shall be done, probably in the most hilarious and entertaining manner possible. Following a failed home attempt before leaving, it had gotten dark and we pulled up in the service station for a coffee break to then find that a green flag van had pulled into the parking space opposite us. My mum said with a giggle 'oh look, Tan - a green flag man. If you pull your bonnet up and stand there by your car he might come over to help you'..... 'Oh, mum', I replied, my feminist 'I am an independent woman, I shall not fall victim to a 'poor me, I can't fix my car' narrative'  So I headed inside the service station, head held high, laughing to myself but fiercely assured that my mother was indeed not going to succeed on this mission. I purchased my soya latte and came back to the car to find my mother stood next to my car with the lightbulb, the green flag man, and 5 additional men (bikers who were en route back to Newcastle from Belgium...) all stood by my car with their torches and tool kits ready to tackle the task of changing my front light bulb. 45 minutes later, small talk, jokes, and 'where are you from ladies?' type of conversations later.... And voila, fully functioning new light bulb fitted in my lovely blue Clio. And off on the road we went giggling far more than we had for months. Thank you to the bikers from Belgium.... 

It was a lovely few days preparation for Christmas; wine, lovely food, beautiful walks, and time spend with the people that matter.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Falling for the festivities

It is now fairly late at night (is 1.30am early or late these days...? Or just plain mad?).. I realise that another week has passed and I have not posted as much as I would have liked. Nor have I done the work I was hoping to do, and I am even shocked at realising that I am really quite behind on my emails. I have emails I promised to send on Monday that still haven't been sent... It might be wise to make a note to self to send these soon....

I have, however, completed (and enjoyed completing) my Christmas shopping. Our tree is gradually gathering a lovely showering of gifts underneath it and my family are slowly joining together. This being said, one of my sisters is currently in Ireland, and I have just packed some luggage for a trip to Kent for a few days. This will inevitable happen though; our lives will continue to be madness in their very nature. Our lives will weave in and out of the each others and our paths will cross in various ways, but as my last post said, at the still point, there the dance is. Christmas feels like a day in which we will be still. We will be the still point and perhaps we will find the dance.

I read a therapy article yesterday reminding us to be mindful of the meaning of Christmas when saying goodbye to clients - in that it holds very different meanings for each of us, so to recognise that for some it is a time of love and hope yet for others it is a time that serves as an inescapable reminder of everything that might be missing. A message not of togetherness, but of aloneness in the world. It is interesting that with my clients I have only wished them a happy Christmas if it has been in response to them wishing me a good holiday. Yet with my students - my Tutoring students and my mentoring students, it has been a huge point of celebration and conversation. I have been given lovely gifts and chocolates during sessions and I have even been instructed to wear my Christmas jumper or Christmas hat to sessions. It has been really interesting to notice how my sensitivity shifts and how the boundaries are reconstructed depending on which role I am in - which 'hat' I am wearing..

As I type this I am also looking at the various tabs I have open and I am texting a couple of very good friends - one about new year plans, and one about booking flights to Spain for a somewhat spontaneous, but bloody wonderful short adventure away to re-fuel the spirit of our soul. We are both working very much at the moment, but both have a soul that does not like to feel too rooted at one time in one place. So, naturally, of course we plan the next trip, and we decide that this will be for us.

I believe I am falling for the festivities this year. I have found a little meaning in it. It isn't about the shopping or the tree or the gifts. It isn't even about the meals or the wine or the travelling 'home'. This year it is about something a client this week so beautifully reminded me of. It is about giving yourself. I can offer anything that commercially we are encouraged to indulge in, because money = love! right...? This is the trap. This is the trap, when really, we are all searching for that one thing. The one thing that 'Love Actually' reminds us of each time we watch that scene at the beginning of the movie that is set in Heathrow's arrivals area. And I have to admit, each time I fly, I am always alone. I always travel alone, which means that I arrive (and return) and nobody is there to welcome me. I think that is why last summer was so beautiful in Barcelona, because although I travelled alone, I was greeted in the city with nothing more than my best friend and a hug. But back to the point - when I am waiting, which has usually been at train platform stations or airport departures/arrivals, I am a (hopefully covert) people watcher; I look around me, and if people are connected through their hellos or their goodbyes, it is often very powerful just to watch. And that for me, is what the festive spirit is about this year - the love.

I am embracing the season and also looking forward to re-fuelling my soul over the next few days in the south.

Monday, 15 December 2014

At the still point, there the dance is

'At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards,
At the still point there the dance is.
Where past and future are gathered.
Neither movement from nor towards, neither ascent nor decline.
Except for the point, the still point 
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance'

T. S. Elliot, Four Quartets 

This is (and probably will always be) one of my favourite poems.

There is no better way to start the week than with these words to act as a reminder to live in the present moment. The moments tend to pass us by and before we know it, the days pass us and the weeks and the months. Then we have reached Christmas and somehow we don't remember how we got there. What happened? How did we go from long summer evenings beside the beach, exploring the hidden jewels of foreign cities, learning a new language and watching the sun rise and fall? What has happened is that life has almost taken on a life of its own and I have forgotten to stop and look. Time has taken on a new meaning and those moments of stillness are there every moment but I only see them if I stop to look.

It is Monday morning - actually it is almost lunchtime now and I am lucky that I have had the morning off. It is incredible what a morning off can do - re-finding beautiful words, and time. Time to make good coffee, time to prepare for the day, and time to remember why time is so precious. I can find myself chasing after time to find those moments of stillness where the dance is going on, when the irony is, that the dance is happening always. It is happening now - we just have to stop and look.

The irony also is that I am running late....

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Chaos and the slowing down of time

Last night was spent drinking mulled wine, the evening before was spent drinking mulled wine... I have had the fire on whilst wrapping presents, and I think I have spent more time with good friends in pubs recently than I probably have done all year. It is good to not just go through the motions of existence in this mid-December peak, but to actually find my feet amongst the madness and to jump right in. I am talking about the good days here, when the universe seems to be spinning in the right direction at the right speed and timing isn't an effort - the timing of things seem to fall into place. Synchronicity between the universe and you. I'm sure that is a song..

The week ended with Friday - usually in my mind I have reached Friday by Thursday afternoon. In fact, often I say to my Thursday clients 'see you on Friday next week!' Or I make reference to the weekend/ end of the week. I am sure they either think I am disorganised, over-enthusiastic, that I take Fridays off, or that I am just simply a little bit bonkers. Whatever they think, it is fine, but I catch myself doing this almost every week and I wonder why my brain has reached Friday before the hours have caught up with me!

Anyway, this Friday I decided to take the train, which was a wonderful decision because I forget how much of the scenery I miss when I drive. I had been with one of my tutoring students in the morning, which I always enjoy - we go to a coffee shop in town first thing in the morning and it is the most relaxed way to work and teach/mentor (my role seems to switch at times). What I found interesting about this Friday was that we had agreed to spend the morning session looking at the topic of 'stress' - the body's physiological response to both acute and chronic stressors. The irony is that doing a two hour session about stress seemed to have a undeniably de-stressing outcome. I realised this as I was sat on the train en route to York and dug into my bag to find my book, and realised that in my bag I had the work on stress, and also a brilliant book that had been very kindly given to me earlier this week about mindfulness. There was something quite ironic about my carrying those two books, and I sat with the mid-morning sun shining through the train window and actually what I did was read neither. I think I put my music on and closed my eyes.

This time next week I will be happily en route down to Kent for a few days, but for now I am taking the Sunday off. I am a little sad that my yoga instructor is away today and we don't have my usual morning yoga class, but I have had the most relaxing morning drinking fresh 'Christmas blend' coffee, and listening to some acoustic 'folksy' Christmas songs. I shall spend most of the day reading, preparing a little work for some tutoring sessions this week, but mainly enjoying that I still haven't found myself a new laptop so really I have a wonderful reason to do minimal work and catch up on the small things. I might do a little yoga at home because I will really miss it if I don't. There is a strange sense at the moment of things slowing down, despite the hastened pace of that 'rush' - maybe at Christmas we give ourselves permission to slow down and do the things that ordinarily would be so guilt-inducing or so seemingly impossible because the 'to-do' list dictates so. Perhaps we can joke at work and the excuse is 'well it's Christmas - of course you don't have do do that now/of course you should go and enjoy the weekend!' Yes - of course you can drink the wine and eat that extra mince pie. It's Christmas.. Is Christmas simply what we need in order to give ourselves permission to loosen the boundaries and desensitise ourselves to the pressing numbers of the clock and time ticking away? Because it doesn't matter? Maybe we just realise what it is that really does matter instead.

Whatever it is, I have decided to go with it. I will go with the chaos and the slowing down of time.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Home in the making in December

December has arrived along with the grey skies and frosty mornings and coldness. It paints an appealing picture of life doesn't it? What I see is that life in darkness makes even the spriteliest of souls want to seek comfort and warmth, but what I also experience is that despite the multiple things beyond our control, we are the creator of the darkness and the light and all the shades in-between. 

December has arrived with a message, but for once it is not about research or a student or a client or a session or assignment or report I haven't prepared for. This message is something that has come from somewhere and I am reminded not to be a slave to the system; not to fall in line with the mundane and the expected. Not to find my meaning in the trivialities of the familiar, but to slow the pace down and remember again what it is about this world that keeps us all living and breathing in it. As the words say below, to find home in the making is to not focus on the 'end in sight' but to make meaning out of the process. I often encourage my clients to be more aware of the here and now. To be aware of not their past or their future, but their life right now. It is about time I listened to the advice I so willingly dish out to others...

'Transform new the world you touch. 
Spin the wheels and drag the brush slow
across the canvas of your life.
Find home in the making and find it again'

Tyler Knott Gregson 

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

The radical realisation that we are all one

'The idea of saying Fuck It comes from a radical realisation -
That we are all one and therefore do not exist as individuals
That the world as we know it, reality as we perceive it 
Is just an illusion - and that everything in this illusion is
Simply an arising of oneness - all, therefore, divine,
All beautiful, nothing good or bad, nothing better or worse,
No going anywhere, no point, no meaning,
Just oneness, unicity, playing with itself'

(Taken from the book of the day: the Fuck It Book...) 

Of course I have many responses to this extract - ideas around the concept of our togetherness rather than our aloneness. And why are we making meaning out of something if it may not mean anything at all? The Fuck It thoughts seem to be based on moment to moment acceptance, but what I read seems to challenge some of that thinking. My thoughts are that of course we make meaning - we are humans and by our very nature we are meaning makers, so to assume that we have no point, takes away from the point of our oneness; surely that is our meaning? How can we be one without being the individual needed to create the collective one... Which brings me back to our uniqueness and our individuality. We need that isolation - the things that set us apart. We need those things in order to belong...

Oh, I can tell it is a Tuesday. My brain is still switched on. 

My point in this post is not to write about theoretical ideas, more to simply say Fuck It. Today has been a good day and I believe the Fuck It mantra shall be carried with me all week. We ARE all one - we do all exist on the same earth in the same time. And we are all human

Monday, 10 November 2014

The humanness of research

Today I attended a research conference (well, half a research conference after I attended a mentor group supervision session in the morning). I always leave conferences having learnt something; either something about myself as a person, as a human being, as a researcher or a student or a practitioner, or something more grounded in knowledge. I might leave a conference with new insight into a particular methodology or theory or area that I previously knew very little about. My point is, is that I have never left having gained nothing but free coffee and lunch... I have always taken something with me. I am not a confident presenter, nor am I a brilliant networker (both these things are skills I hope to develop in time!!). But today what I realised is that it is our humanness that pushes us forward and brings meaning into the things we do.

At a research methodologies conference, what better way to learn about being human? The very nature of scientific research is something one of the presenters discussed; the notion of 'turning art into science', or vice versa, depending on what one is doing. How does one study human beings without being human ourselves? We can often get so very involved in procedures and protocols, in 'getting it right' (I think this applies to not only research ventures, but to much of work and life itself). We can become focused on a mission of new discoveries, ensuring no stone is left unturned, and somehow in the process of developing a human feeling into an interest, and this interest into a wealth of knowledge, then from knowledge is born a scientific paradigm, we lose what it is to be. We become out of touch with our 'subjects'; they are interacting units of human data - useful chunks of information, no longer living and breathing vessels of life that we worked so closely with yet so far removed. In principle, they might be at the heart of our work, but perhaps we sometimes might work so hard to make them central that in practice we end in precisely the place we began; knowing little more than those before us knew. I left today thinking about my own research experiences and my response to others. It is interesting, especially in psychology or the social sciences that if we do not tread the waters carefully, eventually we have uncovered no more than a paradigm of human beings, instead of the meaning of the human being themselves.

I wanted to keep this post brief, but I wanted to post it nonetheless.

As always, the more we learn, the greater the scope for more learning is revealed...

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Looking for red lip stick

This Sunday evening I am skilfully doing anything but the work I set myself to do. I am still to write up this weeks client notes, write up my supervision notes, edit my case study.... OK, I will stop myself there because I don't intend to re-write my to-do list. What a dull blog post that would be... What I manage to do I will do. And what I don't manage to do will get done - no rush, no worries, no need to lose sleep. What will be will be.

I spent this morning at yoga, followed by a soya natural honey latte in town with my reading. I have given myself the task of learning more about anxiety and panic attacks so I can practice some mindfulness and relaxation techniques with a client. I subsequently decided to practice on Bryony who willingly became my 'tester subject' this afternoon. For me -  a person who tends to think more about the nuances of our psychological responses, I was reminded of the power of not only the mind but of our physiological response to fear. The adrenal response to that immediate feeling of having the safety of the ground ripped from beneath our feet is a powerful one, and I am reminded once more of the intimate connection between mind and body. The power we have over our minds once we allow ourselves to live in the moment in our bodies. It also applies the other way around; the power our minds can have over us if we try to run from them. The faster we run, the more we hide, the greater the suit of armour we wear to mask what is sitting beneath, the more power we give away...

The day then continued and of course I ended up at the reservoir out in the nature watching the sunset and once more being astounded at the glory. I wrote about the insignificant glories a good few months ago, and this was one of those instances - the insignificant glories. A glorious moment of insignificance, but by the very nature of being glorious, perhaps it was more significant than we realise. There was something significant today about being by the water in good company and watching the sun set. The significance is that we could have been at home, head buried in work staring at computer screens. With our diaries and ever incomplete to-do lists breathing power down into our bodies, the significance is that we chose to be there despite the demands of life and time we chose to be there.

Amongst these many things, one of our latest tasks is to keep a dream journal. Life as a trainee therapist is many things... Tiresome, compelling, exposing, encompassing, fascinating, challenging, honest... many many things, but it is never dull. For the next few weeks we have been tasked to keep a dream journal - an honest account of our dreams and nightmares as they happen. When we were first given the task, i thought 'I have no time for that!!!' then I quickly corrected this thought and realised that if I wanted to do it, I would make time for it. Then my thoughts quickly turned to 'I never dream!!! I have about 4 dreams/nightmares per year - there is no way I will even dream. I will have nothing in this damned journal anyway, even if I make time!' But now, 5 days later, I have five stories written in my journal. One dream for each morning I have woken up convinced 5 days ago I would have no stories to tell. Isn't it interesting - we only see what we look for. We are looking for a new car; all we see are cars of that make and model on the roads. We look for a new red lip stick and all we see are people wearing red lip stick. We look for the dreams, and as soon as we make space for them, they are there.

I think if nothing, we must start looking for what we want to see...

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Ironic dust gatherings

A late evening post as I drink tea and wonder how we reached midnight already. I have been tutoring and mentoring today. Teaching about gender roles and stereotypes; what does it mean to be a man/woman in a wider social cultural and historical context, etc... Since it is apparently half term my students can see me during the day and it seems to work well. Then I met some of my students for mentoring sessions this afternoon after making the journey down the A59 happily occupying my space in time where all that is required of me is to keep alive and alert, drive on the left hand side of the road, keep within 60mph and sing to the tune of the shuffled spotify playlist. This drive sounds wonderful; blissful in fact. Probably because it really is, once I befriend the fact that I commute it is really my saving grace some days. My car is my breathing space where even my phone must be unattended to. 

I have reached the point where I get clients or students who don't show up or who cancel and of course I worry or at least I hope that they are OK. And of course I will always seek to rearrange their session. But lately (and I don't know if I am 'allowed' to feel this way) but I have almost been thankful for the inevitable late cancellations or no shows - they have been a small window in time for me to catch up on things that would otherwise be left until now (midnight is not always my most productive time). The things that I cannot do whilst I drive. 

As I walked back to my car yesterday I realised that I could not recall the last time I took my car to be washed, and as the rain poured down from the heavens I was ashamed to discover that I have become of of those people who thanks goodness for the rain because it cleans the car. Because the rain cleans the car... Goodness. And yet despite the rain the dust on my car has somehow remained. And as it is autumn and the leaves and twigs are gathering on the ground, the interior of my car seems to be a magnet for such autumnal debris and since cleaning the outside of my car is a challenge and task that only Mother Nature can attend to, cleaning and hoovering the inside is a new concept altogether. There is a small forest gathering in the foot space of my dear Clio. This is a somewhat hilarious concept for most who know me to embrace pristine homes and cars; my car is less than clean but you know what? It is fine and I am fine with that.

I have spent some time drinking wine or eating dinner or generally in the company of some very good human souls lately. It has reminded me that there is much more to life. So I have accumulated dust on the paintwork of my car. So what? It simply means that my life is too full of what matters to stop and waste time sitting in the car wash whilst I pay an extortionate price to have it washed only 24 hours later for it to revert back to its dust-gathering ways. I have realised whilst writing this that there is something ironic about the dust on my car. Dust usually gathers when something remains static; when something remains still and untouched for a long period of time. But life is anything but static and motionless. Life is full-speed and the universe is constantly turning so that nothing stays the same. Let us not gather dust, but also allow what settles to settle. 

Time to rest! 

Buenos noches 

Monday, 27 October 2014

'to alter the time of the clock'

It is very almost the end of October. This weekend just gone saw many things but we also saw the clocks go back; not that I changed any of them myself (although I realise as I type this that my wrist watch needs to be adjusted!!!). The wonders of modern-day technology now means that I simply have to look at the time on my computer screen or car or phone and voila; instantaneous. I accept it as it is. No more waking up in the morning wondering whether it is indeed 8am or 9am. Did my phone change automatically? Must I change it myself? is it ACTUALLY 9am? Did I sleep in this much? Must I suddenly pay real attention and question the time that is presented to me!? Must I then be accountable and responsible for adjusting this authoritative number that appears on my wrist or phone screen that I check religiously and that dictates most of my daily routine? What is the REAL time? Well all those thoughts didn't happen for me. My trust was placed in Apple and I knew that I had indeed slept until around 8.30am - it was actually 8.30am and I wondered about this 'time' business.

George Vernon Hudson proposed that we change the clocks to preserve the 'working hours' that we have; i.e. to make the most of daylight.

'To alter the time of the clock at the equinoxes so as to bring the working-hours of the day within the period of daylight, and by utilising the early morning, so reduce the excessive use of artificial light which at present prevails.'

As a human being who loves nothing more than chasing the sunsets/sunrises, and believes that the sunlight makes a real difference to our mental and emotional wellbeing, i.e. I believe that for many of us, living in darkness can be a real challenge and there is something about the natural sunlight that enhances our mood and also allows us to live in a more appreciative way that is more connected to our environment and other people. But this is for another post... My writing here is more about the questions my sister raised and also questions I carry around myself too.

'What does time mean? Do we ever know what the time really is anyway?'

Well of course the clocks change twice a year for very valid historical and indeed philosophical reasons, but the essence of this question is something that I always carry with me. I have experienced different cultures that have different attitudes towards time; and indeed different generations and their attitudes towards time. Even different sub-cultures within our lives that are divided by job roles or family roles or age categories. Life experiences shape who we are but they also shape our ideas and relationship with the concept of time. We turn our clocks backwards or forward, most of us without giving it a second thought. Perhaps, ironically, we are too focused on a time in the past or future to look and listen to what we are doing in the present.

The point is, is that we do this - we adjust our clocks and have whatever thoughts we have because this is just what we do. There are too many things that we do just 'because' - too many things that we do without paying attention to our thinking because we are too preoccupied trying to do it 'in time'. Ironically time seems to run out before we have even really allowed ourselves the time we had readily available to us. Physically and literally time is time; 60 seconds, 60 minutes, 24 hours... These are all units of time that we can contextualize and understand. Sitting in a philosophy talk recently I realised that my scientific thinking rationalized and debated with much of the philosophical debating such as 'why is time as it is? Why do we think it is as it is...' so this is not what I wonder. I realise that after years of psychology I was actually somewhat disappointed to find myself cognitively and scientifically reasoning with the discussion.

Back to my point -  emotionally and mentally how much of our time do we dedicate to allowing ourselves to fully exist in the moment we are so well versed at denying or rushing through? What I have seen, perhaps more recently so, is that when something is approaching an end we have a tendency to want to hold onto it for longer; to enrich what we have left, to make the most of it, to appreciate it more, to take from it something real and meaningful. To look at the nuances of what we have rather than to touch the surface and no more.

It is Monday morning and time means that I must now go to work... I hope the hours of this day are not just surface hours. I hope they are hours that are more than surface-deep.

Happy Monday :)

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Mulled wine, sunsets, and being an agent of change

In the spirit of keeping my blog posts going and taking 'time out' for myself (it is the weekend and I believe this is permitted. Side-note - I actually advocate time out any day of the week at any time, if that is what the body/mind/soul requires... But this being acknowledged, I do not always practice what I preach).

Anyway, I have decided to write another post. I have no inspirational book or quote - probably due to the lack of free time I have had to indulge in the finer pleasures of life. But I do have something I have been reminded of over the past week or so. This is that simply the act of letting things be can be the most infuriating and testing process, yet the most liberating and empowering at the same time. If I choose to let things be rather than surrender to letting things be because I have no choice, it is a much more invigorating and validating process. It is always a balance; how much do we actively push for change and how much can we sit back and enjoy (sometimes endure) the ride? Afterall, isn't life constantly in motion and thus, the world does not stop turning just because we choose to close our eyes and stop momentum for a short while. It will carry on turning, it will continue in motion; we just decide when and how we give it a little direction and which view we choose.

A balance, as always. It seems I have given it more direction than usual lately. New placements, suddenly presentations and talks to give, acknowledging that in certain roles I am 'expected' to know a great deal, yet it can feel that I really don't know very much at all... new responsibilities and new connections with people who may or may not become key parts of my life. I thought mid-way through my course and my training that things might feel the most settled than ever before. I was very wrong! But I am coming to realise that it is me that decides for things to be unsettled - it is me that doesn't want to settle. I enjoy the change - perhaps for now though, things could settle just for a while whilst I gather my breath and enjoy the view.

I shall wrap up with a picture I took this evening. Red sky at night... or something like that! We went walking and took mulled wine and watched the sun set. It was quite a way to spend a Sunday evening

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Early October and the concept of change

Early October and I am sat in a corner of a coffee shop. Of course this is standard blogging opportunity - I'm responding to emails and sat with my work, writing up the findings of some research for a report, and feeling that life is taking a new direction lately.

I had a placement interview yesterday and one of the questions I was asked was 'how do you respond to change?'. My response took me by surprise because my unfiltered response flew out of my mouth before I managed to contain it.. I said 'oh I love change!' But why is this response a surprise? Am I expected to state my reservations and reluctance to change? Is it expected that my resistance should outweigh my motivation to engage with life? I then paused before I elaborated on my somewhat enthusiastic words! And I thought that change is a concept that we either take in our stride or we fall victim to circumstance - the latter is never an idea I am comfortable with accepting, although the socialist or post-modern argument inside the small corner of my brain might dispute this. Probably to little effect! We are only a victim if we allow ourselves to be, and we can only move forward if we allow life to change. It is not about what we like or don't like, it is about what we choose to allow. Taking forward with us what we need and trusting that the rest will fall into place feels like a cryptic message, but strangely I am trusting in it nonetheless.

I am always surprised by the direction in which life moves... Equally the trust that others seem to place in us; In our capabilities and our decisions. Perhaps it is just the way it is, but it also reminds me that trusting in ourselves is a powerful thing. The rest usually follows then...

I shall now get back to my task at hand but somehow my coffee shop corner didn't feel quite as it should without posting a quick blog too. Life has indeed been in full speed but it has also meant that my writing here has taken a back-seat for a while...

Thursday, 25 September 2014

intuition and intent - a late September post

A kind-hearted gift to myself this week is the gift of time this morning. I have given myself a morning of being at home and it has been simply wonderful. It is almost the end of September already and the month has taken me by surprise. I have transformed from a temporary snazzy pants-wearing, soul searching, sunset seeking human being to one who is trying to balance that way of being with a more, dare I say it, 'sensible' approach to life.

I doubt my approach shall ever be dull, but I do think a degree of sensibility is required when life requires me to navigate my way through the different professional hats and roles whilst constantly learning and developing new ways of doing the jobs I actually quite enjoy. I have lots of new students, new clients, new mentees, talks and conference/research 'stuff', etc.. each looking to me for something unique. And I think that life this month is a test of my ability to hold both my snazzy pants and my love for my work in the same hand. It is about the balance of spontaneity and sensibility. Of instinctive, intuitive living and intentional decisions. It is interesting how these things come together and how they actually work in a very complementary way together, but working with other human beings means that I am also witness to how the extremes of living can be so damaging.

So here I am, mid-week, learning from the human beings around me, and making the choice to allow myself the morning off. And to make good coffee...

On another note, it is getting colder and I am missing the warmth. I think I shall have to wear a coat this afternoon...

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

What is a 'sin' anyway?

My sunset chasing this week has taken me on some inadvisable adventures - but adventures that I shall not erase nonetheless. I have learnt to always trust my instinct - that is with the exception of the inevitability of the lack of trust I can place in my 'internal GPS'. In this case, I have learnt to always trust Google Maps... And at the very least, I must remember where the car was parked! Under no circumstances must I lead my good friends blindly into the dark...

It is now September (unbelievably) and summer is indeed over. Work is picking up - I am meeting new students and clients, attending training, thinking about conferences, thinking about the coming academic year, and thinking even more about the emails I haven't yet replied to and wondering why some get a response from me within five minutes yet others are sat there in my inbox, static for days on end. There is something strange yet liberating about working around the academic year - and that is that this time of year for me feels more of a 'new year' than January ever does. 

I just caught sight of an article entitled 'how to erase the sins of a well-lived summer'. And my first response was 'goodness - why on earth would one ever consider erasing all that is good in their heart?' My assumption here is that 'well-lived' implies something positive, but my initial response has not changed much. I can certainly say that I have had a well-lived summer, and in the very nature of something being lived, there has been no 'sin' in sight. A sin being something of immoral intent in which we feel eaten alive by remorse and guilt, si? Or simply an act that another human being frowns upon from behind the fenced off boundaries of their own lives? Either way, I am not sure that anything we have fully lived can ever be erased; not really - not that I believe in a true 'sin' anyway. Not even if a little guilt emerges. Not even if we have acquired a small scar or wrinkle. Not if we have loved and let go. Not if we have made decisions and life is in the process of change. Have we not realised by now that life is ALWAYS in the process of change? And we are always changing with it; changing and emerging and learning more. If we erase where we have been, how will we ever understand the meaning of where we are? All that has been well-lived is good - and all that has been good over these past few months is securely anchored in my being. It will move forward with me. I shall not erase.. I shall probably also continue to seek the sunsets, to get lost, and to discover the new. 

Monday, 25 August 2014

The end of one book and the beginning of another

'I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race - that rarely do i ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words so damning and brilliant'

I finished the last few pages of the Book Thief after savouring them for a while. I couldn't not share these words here (aware of the double negative). I do share the words that stay with me, and these words are beautiful and deserve to be shared. I actually have four people now waiting to borrow this book. Four beautiful people who I am certain will enjoy it as much as I did. These words do a wonderful job of summarising what it is to be human; that we are ugly and glorious, beautiful and damned, powerful yet powerless. Alone yet forever connected. Human beings are really quite amazing creatures. We embody dark and light and we manage to combine the two simultaneously and it is the most natural thing to us. It is what makes us precisely who we are.

It has been a disjointed weekend, filled with both ugliness and glory. So this is a very disjointed post but I also wanted to share a couple of pictures of a walk we went on a couple of nights ago. Dusk/sunset is my favourite time to walk without a doubt. You encounter the odd friendly dog walker or the occasional couple, perhaps even the stranger who may or may not be the stranger your parents warned you about. But really my favourite thing is that the sun is deeper and and shadows are longer and the views are just a little more spectacular. There are less people, and because it is the end of the day the head space is good for the soul. Some people think it is best to begin the day with a clear mind but for me it is best to end the day with clarity. If not, it is like going to bed carrying with you an unresolved argument or knowing a deadline is at lunchtime the following day but you still have your conclusion to write. We can find ourselves living in the past or the future before we have even experienced what the now is offering us. I am reminded of this often - never often enough! But often..

Saturday, 23 August 2014

On having power and a voice

It is Saturday morning and I am enjoying a good weekend off. I have good coffee, a beautiful book, some fresh melon in the kitchen, and not an appointment or meeting or job in sight for the entire weekend. It is a good feeling. I can honestly say that I have learnt the art of embracing time in the palm of my hands. Of course I have a few work 'things' that need to be done, but taking weekends like this are part of my taking time to 'refuel' my soul. For me, in its most simplistic form, fill it with good things and the more we are able to do good.

Life as I always write, is a balancing act, but nothing becomes perfect without trial and error. In fact, we probably will never perfect it for as long as we try, but the point is, that we will not get it right first, second, third time around. We make mistakes and we learn and then we are wiser and more informed to make different choices next time the universe throws a hurdle in our path. We live and learn always. My balance this week has been about knowing I do not always have to be a positive-Buddha-Gandhi-zenlike-graceful-mindful-goddess figure of wonder and calm. It is always good to be aware and accepting and trusting that the universe shall conspire. But I have engaged in a few conversations this week that always make me feel a little uneasy. And the interesting thing is, is that I have happily initiated these conversations and even acknowledged that my ranting is considered and that it is justified. It is uneasy because I wonder what good can come from my rants or complaints? Why can't I apply my acceptance and invest a little positive energy into even the things that wind my insides up and that I carry with me despite my knowing that this bundle of negativity does me no good?

My answer is that we are human beings. I am a woman and I am a human being, and with that comes power and a voice. I am not a mat on the floor, I am not a painting on the wall, and I am not a person who quietens my voice simply because it might not be a voice that is agreeable with the rest. In fact, I have found that if one voice speaks, chances are that there are others that will join. Some advice I was given yesterday was to keep on ranting. 'Rants' for me come from a place in myself that is well-considered. A place of integrity and assertion. If that means that I don't sit as a pretty wallflower and watch the world pass me by as I accept and trust that things will change then that is fine by me. I think this might otherwise be known as 'knowing what I can change, accepting what I cannot, and applying the wisdom that I know the difference!'

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Zen on the top of the cliffs

Last week I threw myself into a life of train journeys and over-priced takeout coffee. I was up and down the country almost as a daily commute, but it really was not so bad. It was enjoyable actually. I was able to work, see good friends, shoot, drink cocktails, acquire redder hair (which I love), meet new people and make temporary friends with fellow travellers in passing. It was really a good week. I did manage to spend a couple of evenings at home, I made it to a research meeting (half an hour late...), walked the halls of a very empty university, and finally caught up with a very sun-kissed and peaceful mother after quite some time.

After such a busy week, I have once more found myself away with my trusty (broken) suitcase, and this time one of my very good friends Moor has joined me. I am in Kent and we are staying with some of my family and making a few road trips around the South East coast, re-fuelling our bodies and minds with fresh air before the next stint of life. Yesterday we went to Eastbourne and decided to take a walk by the coast and then climb the cliffs to see the view and also find some zen. We sat down on the grass in silence. It might have been meditation, still yoga, spiritual stillness, zen... Whatever the 'correct' terminology, this is what we did. It was peaceful, and for the first time in my life I walked out of the house and promised myself no work emails or calls. I did take one, about an invoice, but that was all (I am only a human being!)

Something I notice lately (in fact, more so since reading the Monk who sold his Ferrari) is that my mind is constantly working out what it is that I am learning. What have I learnt each day and how can I take it to the next one with me? What does it say about me? It is surely a side-effect of being a counsellor and having a natural appetite for self-growth. Perhaps I can even log the CPD hours! But it is interesting the conversations that take place which stem from that one question. We never quite realise all we are capable of unless we stop to allow ourselves to be accountable for the changes that have happened so far.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

the tightrope to the sun

'It was a Monday and they walked on a tightrope to the sun'

These words are the most beautiful I have read in quite some time. I have been reading lately - a new and novel experience for me, and one which I have made an agreement with myself that I shall continue. I do read a lot, but usually academic journals, research reports, interview transcripts, or psychology or counselling related study material. It has been something of a miracle to allow myself the time to read books. Stories and novels and life. Oddly enough, I associate books with places too. Where was I when I read those words? When my life meant something a little more than before because I understood the words between the lines and the meaning between the pages? When I discovered the truth? When I learnt the meaning of the truth? When I learnt that really the truth is not a global truth, but an individual truth...

Anyway, I have been reading The Book Thief over the past week - it requires real attention. Attention to detail, not because it is challenging to read; it is actually very easy to read from page to page, but the artistic and poetic way of writing that Markus Zusak has requires the reader to read his words slowly. The book is one to be immersed in. A story narrated by 'death' does not sound enlightening, but it certainly has kept my mind fully captivated for hours on end as I've been travelling. And there are moments when the words hit me so much that I have to stop and read them over again.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Suitcases, showers, and unfamiliar cutlery

Back home if only very briefly after travelling all afternoon. I would not have even come back, but there are only so many trips one can make with a large suitcase that is about to fall apart! It was time I returned at least to unpack and re-pack a smaller, lighter, and more portable load. This week I will be up and down the country until the end of the week when I plan to return to the south for some more road trips along the south coast to see friends and visit beaches and embrace some more of this life.

Everything is the same, yet in the same breathe everything is different too. I know this is possible; it is the difference between what we see, what we know, and what we feel. It is almost like reading the same story written by two authors worlds apart. Yet it is startlingly clear to me today. I have been gone long enough to get back into my car and it takes a while to find the bite in my clutch again. It is an odd feeling, but I do know this feeling very well. I enjoy the newness and I know when I wake tomorrow it will be gone so I almost want to hold onto it for as long as I can. Perhaps this is why I am going again. Perhaps this is why prolonging the 'return' is what I do best. Turning the shower on is not an instinctive move of the hand, the cutlery does not feel right in my hands, the trains and tubes are not as I have grown accustomed to, I have to force my brain to think in English and not constantly try to translate my 'thank you' to a poorly pronounced 'gracias'. My clothes feel different on my body, my taste for coffee is changed, and my wardrobes are full of the rubbish that I do not need. Things are the same yet vastly different. I am glad I will not stop moving for the next couple of weeks. This being said, it is good to stop off home. A brief stop, but a good stop. In fact, no one is home so I am enjoying being quite alone for the evening.

It was also good to be reunited with my sister at the weekend after over a month. We had both been on our own travels and to see her blonde head walking up to me as I waited to meet her at Kings Cross was simply wonderful. Absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder. Birmingham tomorrow for another reunion with my Spanish friend, room mate, and dearest soul mate. And to return with a little more ginger in the hair....

Thursday, 31 July 2014

The insignificantly small glories

It is late Thursday evening and I have now returned back to the UK after an incredible month in Barcelona. There has been too much to write and far too much to accurately illustrate in my small corner of the world wide web. But I do know for certain that I shall return next time the opportunity is there. Just as this time, I will not question it - I will just go. Life is too short not to. The month was over before I had chance to feel ready to leave and I have never taken a work trip that has been so fulfilling and so full of friendship and freedom. I am certain that part of my soul belongs in Spain. Despite my fair skin and the constant requirement for factor 50+, my very basic knowledge of the Spanish language (probably flavoured with  Yorkshire twang), and the inability of my hair to adjust to the warmer climate (my poor hairdresser will have a lot of dead ends to chop), I have never felt so welcomed in a country other than my own. In fact, I am certain that even when in our own country in our own home, we do not always feel we are 'home'.

Why is it that even the strangers of Spain display much more kindness and gratitude than I ever see in some familiar faces at home? There are cultural differences of course, and the differences in climate and language. But this is about the nature of human beings. What it means to meet face to face - human to human. I have always thought that there is a collective language and culture bigger than the one we are born into; more universal and widely spoken. Perhaps there still is - we can travel and still understand the 'strangers' we meet, but somehow there is something about certain places and people that invite us in, and there is something about others that is so very boundaried and unknown. I suppose I have learnt a lesson that our culture really and truly shapes who we are - our identity. How we think of ourselves and how we are in relation to others. It is a much more powerful force than I often like to think. I always prefer to think that our individuality is a stronger force than any external factors We are unique beings; we are who we are and we exist in isolation. But how naive to assume that we are not shaped by the very culture we know and the relationships we thrive in. We exist in relation to the world we know. We create boundaries in response to the culture that we are part of, but certain boundaries do not allow for the human to human language - it is a shame that the boundaries of a culture can act as such a strong barrier to something much more powerful than the self we create within the boundaries we draw.

Anyway, my ramblings could extend for days and days. I am meaning to write about my wish to be back in Spain on our balcony with Zan, eating olives and watching the moon and the stars, but I am back in the UK. When in fact, I shall not wish my time away. I will not wish for it to be anything other than now. I am spending some time in Kent before I go back to research and client work. I am taking a little time in a place I know well. It is still beautiful weather and I still believe I can soak in some more vitamin D and travel to some more beaches, swim in the sea, walk some more, breathe some different air, spend time with people that matter, and yes do a little work in the evenings! Time passes too quickly, and we often take life far too seriously that we forget to marvel in the small glories. As my Nan reminded me this afternoon, it is never the 'big' things that matter; it is never the things we thought would make a difference. Always the small things that have the most impact. It always requires my stepping back and examining the full picture in order to realise once more that I must magnify the insignificantly small glories...

Friday, 25 July 2014

A Spanish morning

I thought I would be blogging much more whilst I am here but it seems that I am only writing one, maybe two each week... It must be a sign that other things are occupying my mind, or perhaps just that most days are either spent at castings or outside. Something would be not right if I were to spend days sat inside writing about the life I am living when I am not really living it at all... It is far too hot (and beautiful) to sit indoors and write blog posts. Nevertheless, it is Friday morning (Spanish morning... It is actually 12.25pm so to most Brits it is lunch time) and I have the day off as far as I know. It has been a busy week and despite sleeping for approximately 8 almost uninterrupted hours last night, I still sit here in the apartment on my second coffee wondering why I cannot wake myself up. It is still hot but it is surprisingly grey outside and there is a thunder storm which I think has passed now... Perhaps I am simply a child of the sun (despite what should be a genetically inherited aversion to the sun due to the freckles and ginger hair DNA).

This week a friend of ours from the agency at home has been visiting us in Barcelona and it has been wonderful just to have the time to spend time with good friends. If I take anything from this trip, it is a lesson in living; a lesson in how to relax and how to embrace time for what it is. Before the agency closes for August we had a last dinner and proceeded to barely sleep before shooting the following morning. The shoot was interesting to say the very least... However, a balance of work, friends, beach, drinks, and sunshine has certainly been achieved this week... My brother jokes about my talking about the soul. But the soul is the most integral part of our being and it is good to understand in greater depth what that means. It is definitely the best week so far... I have never been on a work trip where I know I will not be ready to leave.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Breaking the glass

Hola from an incredibly hot Barcelona 4th floor apartment. Really, it is very very hot - not a complaint at all, more an appreciation that the sun can make an unbelievable difference, particularly when combined with kind people who make it seem that it is always a pleasure to wake up in the morning and to live life, rather than one more day to endure on the never-ending treadmill of living and working and breathing just to get by. This is something I notice here; it is not only the pace of living that is significantly different to 'home'/UK. But the pace of living is different because the way of being is a very particular way of being that embraces any time of day. It embraces all people, and it chooses to fully live in whichever activity a person may be doing, be it working or sleeping or spending time with friends or strangers. Life is embraced and so people treat each other with much more kindness and respect than I have ever seen on the tubes in London (granted, Yorkshire is a more grounded place to live...). But nevertheless, the way we as human beings treat other human beings dictates who we are as people, and what I notice is that it makes a difference.

It is my third weekend here already and we have the weekend off to do as we please. We have been joined by three new housemates from Sicily (although one is leaving today).. After deciphering Spanish messages from our landlady we are assuming that one leaves today and the other two will leave over the next week. We have been incredibly fortunate to have our apartment to ourselves for so long, especially considering that most model apartments are anything but comfortable and homely. So it is only right that we share it for a little while. Again, castings have been somewhat slow as most people seem to be slowing down for summer and the agencies close during August anyway... So it has meant that free time, a concept I did not understand before, is now an idea I understand more fully. I am on my fourth book, and I am learning to get my bearings around the city. In fact, I was even stopped and asked for directions by a Mexican yesterday. To my delight (and surprise) I was able to help him out and send him on his way, confident that I had directed him to his destination. Even he was surprised. His response was something like 'you don't speak Spanish - how do you know the way!?'

One of the books I finished this week was a beautiful, if not short piece of work again by Paulo Coelho (By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept). It is so rare for me to make time for reading for pleasure that I am grabbing this opportunity with both hands, and likewise wanting to share each of the words I find.

'Break the glass, please, and free us from all these damned rules, from needing to find an explanation for everything, from doing only what others approve of'  

Of course he writes about much more than breaking glasses. He writes about falling in love... But the metaphorical breaking of the glass might otherwise be known as breaking the rules we so carefully create for ourselves over the years and years we have spent living and adjusting to the expectations of others. He discusses the way a child lives compared to how we live as adults. A child who has no glass to break because he has not yet realised the power of the other. Ironically, it is when we realise the power of the self again that we can live more freely and fully, not afraid to do the things that break the four walls that confine us regardless of the fact that our external surrounds have a part to play in the creation of the four carefully and uniquely formed walls.

Now to drink coffee, gather my thoughts and myself, and head to the beach...

Monday, 14 July 2014

The universe

I came across this Max Ehrmann poem not so long ago and when words stay with you I always believe that they are words worth sharing. It is a much longer poem than these few lines below, but these lines particularly mean a great deal. It is a good reminder for the times when we are uncertain about decisions we make or the times when we make the decision and suddenly life is changing and we cling to the things we are too afraid to let go of. It is good to remind myself that change is good and that life is unfolding just as it should. It might feel like madness and complete chaos, but the universe is working with us, alongside us, all the time. My studies and training remind me of the power of 'trusting in the process' which is a phrase I both love and despise sometimes at the same time (I am sure I'm not alone in this!). But when I have taken that advice it has been the most trustworthy advice I have chosen to take.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars;you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you,no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Max Ehrmann - Desiderata 

post weekend, pre-casting

Currently I am sat in our apartment about to head out to a casting. I wishfully thought that today was a day off, but we got a call for a casting so we have to head out soon. I would much rather head to the park with a book in the sunshine than attend a casting that I have been instructed to bring a bikini to, but it seems that the Spanish way of living (and working) is a very relaxed process so we almost knew that last minute castings would come up on our 'day off'.

I was looking forward to relaxing because we had the most wonderful and busy weekend with two of my very good friends from England coming to visit. I only knew that Tasha was coming, so to see Mark walk along the beach front with her to meet us was a total surprise. There is something wonderful about friends who travel across the sea to surprise you. We did so much, ate and drank so much.. walked around the city... it has been lovely. The way weekends really ought to be spent. Not the kind of weekend I typically have in England where I work and mostly rush around racing against the clock barely making a couple of hours to spend time with the people that matter. We went swimming in the sea and for the first time in my life I realised how liberating the water can be. There has always been something I hold back; perhaps my breathing or my thoughts or not really allowing myself to swim or feel the movement of the water properly. But yesterday I felt it for the first time. My favourite place here is the beach, with a book, and an occasional swim in the sea. When we are surrounded by beautiful boutique stores, independent cafes, and an abundance of wine and coffee bars, it is not the material things but it really is the simple things that make the difference.

It is half way through the month already and I am sleeping in later, eating dinner later, reading actual non-study related books for the first time all year, getting to know my bearings, and understanding the metro system in the city... I am also discovering and embracing the exotic fruits (no better thing to do as a vegetarian temporarily residing in another country). I am so very fortunate to have spent the entire weekend in one of my favourite cities with some of my favourite people.

Casting time now...

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

'Right now'

I have arrived back at our apartment and I am sat out on the balcony (with the rather noisy traffic somewhere beneath me) with a coffee and my laptop wondering how to spend the evening. We had a TVC casting today which had such a long wait (probably all the models and actors in the city were there...) so naturally we went to get coffee and went back still to find at least an hours wait... I finished my book already and then made my way back. I am really a very impatient human being, which can be a helpful characteristic of mine when appropriate. But for some reason I don't mind so much waiting for castings when the weather is so perfectly beautiful outside. It is not so bad at all.

I have been reading The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho) over the past week - well, re-reading it anyway. It is one of my favourite books to read especially whilst I am travelling. His writing is a beautiful reminder of the things in the world greater than ourselves that connect us despite the things that set us apart. Here are some of his words...

'Because I don't live in either my past or my future. I am interested only in the present. If you can concentrate always on the present, you''ll be a happy man. You'll see that there is life in the desert, that there are stars in the heavens, and that tribesmen fight because they are part of the human race. Life will be a party for you. A grand festival, because life is the moment we're living right now.'

Monday, 7 July 2014


Hola seems to be my most spoken word these past few days since my Spanish vocabulary is very limited and it it always nice to be polite to the person serving you coffee or wine or the people you are working with! I am, however, with the assistance of Zana, learning a phrase a day. It seems that the best way to learn a language is to live in it... So far I can ask for a soya cappucino, directions to the bathroom, I can state that I do not speak Spanish (although who knows - this may change!). I can say 'no problem', and I can ask for the bill :)

Barcelona is nothing short of a beautiful part of this world. I keep having to remind myself that this is a work trip, but after more time spent on the beach than at castings it is a reminder that is easily forgotten about. I am slowing my usual manic pace of life down for a while and embracing no early wake up calls. Life is far more relaxed with late nights on the balcony, navigating my way around with a street map and no wifi device glued to my hand, and the fact that drinking good wine or coffee at any time in the day/night is absolutely unquestionably acceptable. There is nothing quite like waking up in the morning and drinking your morning coffee on the balcony overlooking the Sagrada Familia.. It is really quite beautiful.

There was a rather spectacular thunderstorm last night which kept us both awake. I have never woken up and almost jumped out of bed because the smashing of thunder was so close and startling.It is still going on now... hours later. Which means that the sun is not out and it is much more comfortable to sit in my room and write than it is to sit out on the balcony. It is really fine though. I am reminding myself of the power of living in the moment, and the moment right now is just fine. We have castings later but not until 4pm. Since it is not so hot due to the storm, I might even wear jeans for the first time of this trip...

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Moving with time

My endevour to complete all research interviews and all 57 pages/20,000 words of my practice file before my month away is a mission completed. It is happily sitting in my bag ready to submit tomorrow. All left to do is a couple meetings tomorrow to check in with research work before leaving, a meeting with my tutor, a trip to get some euros, and a late night of suitcase packing/maybe a little wine drinking. I shall always wish for more time in the day, but as discussed yesterday with a good friend, we are often fooled enough to think that we want or need certain impossibilities so much so that we wish for the day our fantastical illusions are made real only to find that it is not all that wonderful anyway. To have more time would take meaning away from our days. And to live in a perfect world as an inevitably imperfect and flawed human being would be just as torturous as wishing for perfection anyway.

So I reach the conclusion time and time again that I shall not fight time, I shall move with it. The universe works in wonderful ways and I am certain it does no good to fight against it. I am looking forward to packing up tomorrow evening and heading to Barcelona for a while. It is typical of me to question my decisions, but this one feels right. I will of course be working; taking some research with me but I will be modelling mainly, although only time will tell how much!

Friday, 27 June 2014


Another week gone and I am frantically trying to wrap up everything I need to do in the country before I leave next week. Well, perhaps frantically is not the right word, but it does feel that way sometimes. In the same way that it can feel like the universe conspires for or against us, and in the same way lightness breeds lightness and darkness breeds even more darkness.

After research interviews and meetings and a lot of driving and writing and emails, clients, phone calls, supervision meetings, the list goes on... I am ready to wrap up the last of my assignment and leave the country for a while to warmer climates, beautiful company, and hopefully some wonderful jobs. This weekend will be a battle with my perfectionism as I tackle the editing down of thousands and thousands of words but I am hopeful that it is a battle I can win. It will probably be a very lonely and solitary weekend - me, my computer, and my coffee mug! However, the loneliness has been counterbalanced with each human being I have encountered this week. When you allow yourself to open up and be touched by the story of another, a small part of your own story alters in the process. This is why I love the work that I do; I am never a stagnant human being. I am never unmoved. My existence is not within a confined space

A little adventure goes a very long way...

Friday, 20 June 2014

Mid-June update: Travel and time

A mid-June update seems most appropriate for the title of this post. I am in disbelief that we have reached the 20th of June already. I actually looked in my diary last night for a date and I shocked myself by thinking I was looking at the wrong month when I saw June. I then realised that it is indeed June. We are in June. June is now. Do we ever stop looking at the time and being surprised at the slow or fast passing of it? Do we ever stop looking at the calender at the day of the week and feel in wonder at the mysteriousness of the illusion of one day disguised as the next? Convinced we are living in tomorrow when actually it's yesterday. Do we ever stop being surprised at how quickly the years pass by as the numbers change from one to the next? That moment of writing the date and feeling that you are writing as if you have travelled to the future and it's not really the year 2014, it is in fact still 1997 and you're still dancing to the Spice Girls dressing up for the school disco and naively applying your best friend's mum's lipstick with all the elegance and grace a pre-adolescent child can muster, feeling so grown-up, mischievous and alive that it feels that time will stop forever, but time is not even a problem, because you will live forever. You have not yet experienced the race or the cruelness of time.

My supervisor must have thought me a little insane as my internal conversation was voiced on the phone. Anyway, the point is, is that we are over half way through June and so much is happening so very quickly. If I were to write this post a couple of days ago, I would have written something entirely different. I might have written something about the frustrations of waiting; waiting for essays to be marked, waiting for phone calls, emails, confirmations... But the frustration and impatience never lasts for long. Nothing lasts forever. I am fortunate really, that my life is anything but predictable and monotonous. It teaches me that no amount of preparation will ever truly prepare me, so I might as well fill time with the things that matter and trust that I will do what I need to do. It all sounds ever so vague, but I am following my own train of thought here. It does not often make sense at 1.30am on a Friday morning!

The past couple of weeks have seen my last students (but one) disappear from my schedule now their exams are finished. We said our goodbyes and good lucks, and I now have a little more time in the evenings. I have been able to see a couple of friends, and go to the theatre and dinner again, this time as a birthday treat for my sister. In addition, I have been able to fill with some evenings with my love for running and chasing sun sets for the first time in five months. I had been feeling so tired, probably due to actual physical and mental tiredness, but I know that exercise does help, and it is sad when life gets so busy that there is no time left in the week for a short 30 minute run. Fortunately now my only commitments are to my one student, my clients, my research, and my last assignment, I do have some time to focus on my fitness. It has been surprisingly easy on my body to get back into the swing of things too. This being said, my commitments are still somewhat wide-spread!

I will be taking a month out of the country in Barcelona very soon - to model and to take some research with me so I can continue with work even though I'll be out of the country. England is beautiful, but I am ready to take flight for a short while and embrace Spanish living. It is easy to conclude that the universe is providing some very good things this week; good and vast in quantity. I have a lot to do before leaving for Spain; we have a busy week or so of research interviews and I have a ridiculously sizable client practice file to complete and submit before I leave, and clients and students to see and temporarily say goodbye too. The next of our research interviews is tomorrow morning, and it is something quite special to be meeting people and listening to stories that matter. Perhaps stories that have not been shared before, or stories that only make sense to that person in their life, in the way they have structured their character and their being. It is really quite moving to listen to a story being shared. So although there is a lot of work to do, none of it I despise.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

The week of madness

Today I was meant to prepare some tutoring things for tomorrow and I also needed to prepare our first research interview with the young people (also for tomorrow). I did get most things together, but curiously, most of the day was spent with my body unable to function very well. The week has been one of those weeks that has looked *fun/ interesting/ crazy/ exciting, etc... from the outside, but from the inside it has been nothing short of madness. I even resorted to asking my sister to do my laundry and have not even had chance to sit down and eat one real meal. Getting home last night was certainly a wonderful feeling. After returning from our trip to the Lake District last weekend, I went straight to Uni, submitted our second to last assignment, and we celebrated the end of the year in the only way we know how; wine, friends, more wine....

Amongst various pieces of work, I also went over to Bradford to the Alhambra with Ella to see War Horse on stage. It was spectacular. So beautifully performed and written, and I was surprised at how natural it was to see the horse on the stage - the horse was of course not real, but the breathing and the movements and the emotion made it the most alive man-made object I have ever seen in a theatre.

The latter half of the week has been spent in Manchester modelling. My modelling work is usually more spread out, so it feels like I have done much more than usual this week. My hair is destroyed and I am fortunate that my skin has held up (and it can't be due to the necessary increased levels of coffee and wine I have consumed lately...) What I have been reminded of is that the people I meet through this job are what keeps me keeping on, as such. But on the other hand, they can sometimes be the very reason that I wonder what might happen if I leave the set. If I just walked out... I have thick skin, which means that for work, I can leave my sensitivity at home. But I do, however, have a very strong moral position situated in the core of me. It is more of a challenge to separate what I believe in from who I am, and I am not entirely sure that that's a good thing anyway. Things such as integrity and equality are values that I carry with me; they are not situational, they are part of who I am. Nevertheless, I am fortunate to have left this job after spending a few days in the company of a couple of really wonderful human beings. But there are also many many things I could choose to rant about if it only felt appropriate to use this page as a platform for my rants. I have considered creating an anonymous blog simply for my rantings and musings....

Back to the work I should have been doing today. My body still feels reluctant to cooperate with my to-do list and I know I must sleep if I have any hope of reducing these terrible black bags underneath my eyes. I sometimes like to consider the 'fuck it life'. For those who know what this means, it means questioning what we think is important and replacing it with what really and truly is important in life... If I were to adopt the fuck it attitude this evening, I would be drinking wine and falling to sleep right about now. It is a Sunday evening afterall and I have had the week from the world of madness. I could even leave the wine aside and fall straight to sleep. Or alternatively I could give myself thirty minutes until fuck it time... Thirty minutes.

Here are a few of the photographs I've taken en route this week...