Looking down from up

Looking down from up, Manchester Art Gallery

With winter now descended up North, I’ve been battling the urge to hibernate. And battling the often present dark clouds blotting my creative landscape, blocking me from getting to words waiting on the other side.

It’s now a year since my life shifted the same way an earthquake creates jagged lines in the land. I’ve been assessing where I’m at in this new “place” and that brings about inevitable comparisons with my old life.

On the surface, there are obvious differences. It’s as if I’m hanging upside down, looking back at my old world from a completely different angle. It’s a good exercise, but it’s also tough.

For example, my new country is currently dark and rainy and cold most of the time, while my old one is sunny and bright. Thinking about where I’m “not” brings back vivid memories. The smell of fynbos at sundown. The feel of warm sand and cold seawater beneath my toes. The laughter of my nephew carrying on the wind. Sipping a smooth red wine while sharing a meal with friends, cooked over the fire by loved ones.

But I gave all that up to pursue the elusive something I couldn’t find in that place of happy memories. A reminder that every place that has a silver lining also has a black cloud. Perhaps it’s the yin and yang of things.

On a deeper level, there are different changes taking place as I rebuild a different landscape – that of my identity. Here are a couple of things I’ve learnt so far on the journey…

1. Time is irrelevant

I’ve spent the better half of my life obsessed with time and everything that goes along with controlling it. To the point that I created a career around it. A career that was a survival strategy.

Despite lots of little milestones of improvement and advancement over the past months, I thought I’d be further at this point. Further on the new career front. Further on dealing with my past, embracing my new present, on the way to a different future.

But I’m not. And after battling with myself about the why’s, I’ve finally accepted that I just can’t rush it. I can’t schedule it. I can’t manipulate it to fit a time budget.

It’s going to take as long as it takes. Time is just a variable, it’s not the priority. Becoming a better me is.

And if Robert Greene’s book on Mastery is anything to go by, I need to learn patience when it comes to mastering myself. And be present in each moment while I’m doing it, rather than being misled by a timeline and  pressured by a self-imposed deadline.

I have a plan. I know what I need to do to get there. Setting a limit on that, limits me getting there.

2. The only meaning our life has, is the meaning WE give it.

Nothing has inherent meaning. The meaning comes from the interpretations we make about the thoughts, words, actions, events and situations that impact on us every day. And very often our interpretations are incorrect.

What we “see” isn’t THE truth, it’s simply A truth.

I won’t find meaning in the places I go or stay, or the things the people around me do.

I will find it in how I approach, act and react to the situations I find myself in and choose to be in.

3. The only thing standing in our way of getting what we want, is ourselves.

So, the crux of this “meaning” malarky is that only I have the power to give my life the meaning I want it to have.

It’s a state of mind.

I can’t be a victor if I’m harbouring a “secret” victim mentality. I can’t be a champion if I’m cowering from what I don’t know. I can’t be who I want to be, if I’m putting obstacles in my own way.

Chuck Swindoll said it well:

“Life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it.”

It’s not about what happens (or doesn’t). It’s my attitude to it that matters.

So, as we all gear up for the frantic frenzy of the festive season, giving gifts and thanks, getting another pair of socks or a bloated belly that we don’t really need in return … perhaps spare a moment to think about these three things: time, meaning, space.

1. Be present rather than just giving them.

2. Question the meanings you usually take for granted.

3. Give yourself the space to be, or find out, who you want to be.

Take care of yourself, show care for others.

That’s where you’ll find more valuable meanings.



On the Couch

For the last 7 months, I’ve been a wanderer.

Living out of suitcases. Staying with family, visiting old friends, sharing with strangers. Operating simply. Inhabiting foreign towns and cities, adapting to culture shock, learning new customs and revisiting old ones.

All while on the lookout for a temporary place in the world where I can feel comfortable and settled while I recalibrate.

Somewhere new, with no memories. A pitstop on this bumpy road.

So, I recently moved into a little place of my own. It’s in a town I never, ever thought I would be. It’s a million miles from where I was before. On so many levels.

I only realised after I’d turned the key in the door of my new place, that I’ve never actually lived on my own.


I left the shelter of my family home to live in student residence and then digs. When I became an ‘adult’, it was house shares, and then finally I lived with a special man who would become my husband, who would share my life, be with me through ups and downs, create happy memories with me, and say sad goodbyes.

For all my so-called independence, it seems I have always been part of a unit, a group or community when it comes to living spaces.

So, when I contemplated what living alone would actually mean, there was a little bit of fear. I questioned whether I’d feel exceptionally lonely? Would it feel like a home if it was just me? Would I feel safe? Could it be a sanctuary while I continued my journey of self-discovery and recovery?

Well, the place was in sore need of a lick of paint, so at first I filled my time with the physical task of repeatedly washing yellowed walls and ceilings, thick and sticky with the years of someone’s smoking habit.

Then it was painting and repainting them until the residue of that history was no longer palpable.

Then it was acquiring furniture.

I have just a few items, all that I need, picked wisely. They may have someone else’s memories attached to them, but they don’t have a history with me. They may be in various states of ‘lived-in-ness’, but they have a good feeling about them.

Particularly the sofa.

It’s big enough that I can stretch out on it. I can see the distant hills from the window as I sit on it. I’ve watched movies and moonrises on it. I’ve fallen asleep on it.

It’s soft and supportive. It’s comfortable and comforting.

I discovered that I feel at home on the couch.

There are plenty more to-dos on the place, but somewhere along the way, while stripping away other people’s memories and making my own, I’ve come to feel settled here. Even if it’s only a short-term thing.

I have herbs on my window ledge, music on my playlist and inspiring books to keep me company. There’s a table big enough to host a dinner party, when I’m ready to be more social. And when I’m in need of comfort, I’ll be on the couch.


Scratching the Surface

It’s been a while since I’ve written here. It’s been a while since I’ve written anything.

Just over six months ago I blew up my world. For so many reasons it’s hard to quantify.

It came as a surprise for most people.

And it caused a lot of hurt and pain.

For others I care about. And for me.

But I had to do it.

Because I’d got myself so tangled up in my own unhappiness that I couldn’t breathe.

Because I could no longer ignore the inner voice shouting at me to find my purpose.

A purpose which didn’t have space within the place I was in.

I needed to follow a new path. And I needed to do it on my own.

Accepting that decision sparked a myriad of knock-on changes, both big and small, some good, some bad, all emotional and all necessary.

I ended a long and meaningful relationship, because I was no longer able to contribute to it in a way that it deserved. I turned my back on the type of work I had been doing for almost 20 years. And I moved countries.

Starting from scratch can take a lot of energy and focus. I’ve had a bit to work through. Despite so many thoughts, feelings and emotions whirling through my mind during this time, I’ve felt unable to speak or share words. My default was set to “mute”. I was unable to voice what was going on in my head and heart.

So I’ve been laying low for a while. Healing, rebuilding my strength and doing lots of learning.

Learning about new things that will help me on a new career path.
Learning how to be a better person, for me and for others. To accept, let go and move on.
And learning to just “be”. To be in the now. To be myself. To be happy.

I still have a way to go, but after 6 months, I finally feel like I’m getting to a space where I can start writing again, from scratch so to speak.

And scratching out a few words here is a start.

The Darkness Between The Lights

Have you ever heard of Alexander’s band? No, it’s not a student rock group, (that I know of).

Alexander of Aphrodisias defined this band in 200AD. It’s the unlit (dark) arc of sky that is visible between two rainbows.

Double Rainbow Alexanders Band

The other day I found a reference to it in my doodle book. And it made me think about an inspiring video I’d recently watched by Kamal Ravikant, all about ‘love and entrepreneurship’.

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