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