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....