Category: Preparation

Packing up

And finally, the spark of excitement flickers…

Today I pack, and in packing I think ahead.  What books should I take to read?  How many yoga vests will I sweat through in a week?  How many miles will I feel like running when the Balinese sun comes up?  Where are my flip-flops?  What songs shall I put on my playlist?

Already, the emotional knots I’ve been carrying are starting to unravel.  How many of those will be left behind, folded neatly with my winter clothes in the loft?

I’m starting to feel the tug of a highly anticipated freedom.  Looking forward to that moment when you’re strapped into your seat, the engines running, picking up speed, the thrust and rattle as the airplane propels off the runway, mechanically tucking away his feet.

I went to see friends in Brighton over the weekend.  Sitting by the window of a double-decker bus, I looked out to sea as we crossed the Seven Sisters and a break in the clouds appeared in the form of a perfect circle.  A tunnel of bright sun-light beamed down onto the water’s surface, not far from the stark white drop of Beachy Head.  It was like a window into what lies ahead.

A few hours later, I was  in a pub in the north lanes drinking Old Rosie and discussing my plans. First two weeks – sign up to the Yoga Barn, and try lots of different classes.  I need to rebuild my strength.  Then the month-long mysore-style classes with Radha and Prem.  A chance to finally learn the Ashtanga primary series from beginning to end.  Just in talking about it, I felt the tides turn, an excitement bubbling up, a smile so wide it made my cheeks ache.

I’ve been pretty hard on myself these past few weeks.  Asking those difficult, stomach-lurching questions that revealed some unhappy and cringe-worthy answers.

What a fool I’ve been.  How much time I’ve already wasted.

Today is the day, I put all of that to one side, confident that any residues will be flushed out in the coming months.  It might happen when I’m tall and steady in a headstand, or in a deepened backbend.  Maybe it’ll be through meditation, or in tasting new food, having a conversation with a new friend.  It doesn’t matter….today is the day that I get ready to start again.


The ghosts of men

With any major life change, comes introspection.  The deeper you go, the more painful and unsettling it becomes.   You move in circles, winding down, take a pit-stop whenever you hit something particularly raw and cry it all out.  Gather your strength and start again.  Thankfully, I’ve been going through this process for a while now, in the hope that when I board that plane I’ll be free of everything that’s been haunting me.  I never wanted this break to be a restructure…more of a renaissance.

I feel like I’m getting close now to the bottom of the barrel.  I’m picking up dregs of things that happened so long ago, I didn’t even know they were still on my conscience.  Sucking them up, drawing lessons from them and spitting them out.  It’s a right old mess.  Hair’s shedding in larger clumps than I’d like, and my left eye-lid keeps twitching.  Bottom lip trembles whenever anybody says anything kind or cruel.  The slightest shift in routine and I’m thrown completely.  Why now?  Why so close to my exciting, life-altering departure?  I guess the pressure’s on.

I’m currently in a battle.  I see myself in fencing gear, a white padded suit and caged mask.  My left arm is elegantly raised for balance as I shuffle my feet and lunge the saber in my right hand towards his body.  Clumsy, but wanting to be agile, I cheer whenever I strike, curse when I miss, looking utterly ridiculous because my opponent isn’t a man, but a dummy.  He stands still, won’t fight back, can’t fight back.

This dummy is the most recent in a sequence of destructive romantic encounters.  I’ve been trying to say goodbye for months now, and can’t quite figure out why it’s so hard.  Intellectually and emotionally, my investment in this particular situation is comparatively menial, but psychologically and physically the stakes have climbed to a pinnacle high.  In fighting him, I have stirred up and summoned all the ghosts of men from my past.

Frank, Luther, Edward, Simon, Christian and Brendan.  I’ve given them different names in recognition of the fact that they are mere projections.   My interpretations of them based on unresolved loss and hurt I’ve yet to make peace with.

I fly to Bali in three days time, and as much as I’d hoped to have left them all behind, it looks like they’re all coming with me – buckled up in the back seat, petulant and misbehaving.

Except for Brendan.  His name hasn’t changed.  Brendan’s ghost is real, and he’s sitting next to me in the passenger seat.  We’re sharing coffee, laughing about life, and he’s in charge of the music.


These past three weeks have been just what I needed.  Lazy and quiet with family close by.  It feels very strange not having a place of work, a home of my own, or someone to say “i love you” to.   But I’m starting to realise that the reason for that is not because it’s what we need to make us happy, it’s because its what’s expected of us, by our peers, by society, the media, the literature we read as children under the duvet with a flashlight, by ourselves.  It seems that we are defined by what we do, who we’re with, what wrung of the property ladder we’re clinging to.  I haven’t so much as thrown all of that away, as had it pulled out of reach, and in response have had a slow burning revelation – I don’t have the energy to fight for it anymore.  Not right now at least.

Somewhere between my job applications, Master’s deadlines, London Marathon, failed relationships, and lost friends, a part of me disappeared.  It’s like it got buried beneath this drive to get on, to do stuff, to make something of myself.  Achieving is great.  Crossing the finishing line in front of thousands of people, handing in a dissertation at the end of weeks of sleepless nights, gives you a sense of pride, validation that if you put your mind to something you can do it.  But who is it really for?

I asked myself a few months ago if I was happy.  Signed off work with bereavement, letter of redundancy discreetly tucked under my laptop on the desk, it’s hardly surprising that my answer was “No.  Right now I’m not.”  The funny thing is, I didn’t truly appreciate what that meant, until I sat outside in a field somewhere, under that unseasonably hot October sun.  It was a weekday, everything was silent, except for the gentle brush of air across the grass and leaves.  I’d packed a book, crosswords, I-pod, everything that one takes in order to distract themselves from themselves.  But I never took them out.  I sprawled out on my back, and felt the firmness of the ground beneath me, the warmth, and just closed my eyes.

I was happy.  It wasn’t just the silence around me, it was the absence of noise and images in my head.  Should such a moment be so rare?  The last time I’d felt that happy was in June, around my birthday.  My writing was going well, I’d had some time off work and I’d just done a three-day yoga intensive course with Matthew Sweeney.  The physical strain of difficult poses and bends had given way to meditation and peace.

Our final sequence was Shavasana – the dead man’s pose.  Matthew was taking us through a guided meditation, focusing on a ball of colour as we moved up the chakras.  Meditation takes practice.  Shutting out the voices, focusing on the breath, as simple as it sounds, is a great personal challenge.  When we got to yellow, the solar plexus, I experienced something I will never forget.  Up until that point I was so fixated on imagining the rotating colours, manifesting energy, that I didn’t feel anything.  When we hit yellow, I didn’t have to think at all.  This rush of light washed straight through me and in that instant any reservations or doubts I had about the benefits of yoga and meditation fell away.

Lying there, in that field, I knew that if I could find that clarity and release for each part of me – basic instinct, sex, introversion, love, voice, intuition, consciousness – then I’d be a very happy lady indeed.

Free Spirit?

In seven days time I’ll be on my way to Heathrow – bags meticulously packed, tickets and passport clutched in my sweaty hands.  It doesn’t matter how well-organised you are, there’s always that heart-pounding fear that you’ve forgotten something or got the dates wrong.  That disbelief that you’ll actually make it on time, and clear security.  I’m a worrier.  With seven days to go, I’m waking in the early hours researching insurance, exchange rates, accommodation; writing lists of things to pack – categorised into shoes, health, electronics, important documents, books and journals, and clothes – which are sub-categorised into sports/yoga, leisure, weather conditions, sleep, going out and beachwear.  I’m fully-versed in what I need to do if I so happen to get bitten by a rabid dog, or catch malaria, and have practically committed my insurance policy to memory.

Its hard to believe that the last time I went on a big adventure, nearly 8 years ago, I was such a free spirit.  I’m almost certain that this obsessive compulsion to over-analyse and organise is a sub-conscious desire to create control at a point in my life when the future is an unknown.

In reawakening, revamping this blog, one of my biggest questions was “what is its purpose?”

The practical answer is to document my trip.  Learn from past mistakes and capture my experiences, alien environments and the people I’ll meet in a way that enables me to look back in years to come and see, feel and hear it all again.

In terms of achievement, crossing the finishing line, which my previous blogs (triathlon and marathon) were predominantly focused on, I’m uncertain at this point as to what that will be.

I’m not training for a big race, or working towards a degree.  There will be no medal, or certificate at the end.  I’m venturing into the unknown with a mind to stop trying for things, working towards something and perhaps my challenge this time round, is to let go and just be.