Personal Transformation

I had a conversation recently with a fellow celebrant about why people celebrate the seasons. She felt that as well as honouring the cycles and seasons of the World it was vital to include personal work/transformation within the ceremonies she undertook. To utilise ceremony without the intention to grow and change oneself or the World was – for her – somewhat meaningless. To raise such power and connection and not make use of it in a transformative way was a waste.

I understood where she was coming from and have to admit that most of the seasonal ceremonies I hold include some aspect of personal development work within them; often in the form of a meditation, pathworking or a simple act such as setting goals or intentions. And as readers will know from my Musings, I often expound on how each season can be interpretted as part of our mental/emotional landscape and how we might use the seasonal energies to help ourselves in some way.

I include these aspects because I know they are often expected and because they are a good way of reaching out to the individual in a group setting. Allowing a person the time and space to consider how the season is living within them is an important part of all Walk The Wheel circles and I don’t see myself backing away from these acts of personal transformation anytime soon.

 

That being said, when I work individually – connecting and celebrating the seasons with just myself and the World – I find this self-help aspect a little uncomfortable. In fact, sometimes, it feels downright wrong. This has a lot to do with my relationship with Flow and my desire to trust more. I have never considered myself fatalistic and yet in recent years I have come to honestly believe that the World knows and offers what is best for me and that I am better off working on trusting that and following my intuition than trying to mould and shape myself into a specific shape or way as I see fit.

This trusting is very difficult and can be interpretted as ignorance, laziness or a refusal to accept responsibility for oneself. And perhaps for some people a ritual or ceremony conducted without a transformational intent is just that. I’m not sure I agree.

 

I firmly believe that celebrating for the sheer joy and pleasure of celebrating is enough! More than enough in fact it is vital; as a way of reconnecting to the Land and the Web of Life that we are all of us on this planet a part of. Through celebration we acknowledge our place in the cycles that balance and control all Life which in turn encourages us to be more aware and live more mindfully.

My favourite part of a Walk The Wheel circle is often near the very start, when people share aspects of the season that they have noticed over the previous week. These insights are always so personal and yet so totally universal that they create connection and unity without any real effortbeing undertaken. And perhaps that is where why I don’t relish as much the transformational work that comes towards the end; because in order for it to be truly effective we must draw into ourselves and away from the others in the group. This is not what I’m looking for when taking part in group celebration or ceremony.

 

But why then do I avoid transformational work when I celebrate alone and don’t have to worry about drawing away from other people? Well for starters I don’t like the idea of drawing away from the World in order to find or fix something inside myself. When I am celebrating I am always trying to be with Life, as it is in each exact moment. This, for me, is the easiest way to celebrate and far more important than changing myself or even trying to change the World.

I trust that the World has the power and knowledge it needs to grow and develop as necessary and I dare to believe that my Spirit and my Self can and will do the same thing if I give them the chance. I feed them and encourage them to do so by deepening my connection to Life and its power and its knowledge and I do this through honouring and celebration; anything else feels a little too close to ego and a little too much like trying to control the Flow.

 

That said I know that we all have our own needs and wants and ways and I am in no way trying to claim that my way is right and that my fellow celebrant was wrong. We are doubtless all right and all working towards the same end, just using slightly different lexicons and slightly different maps. In fact I am grateful to her for sharing her needs and opinions because they have helped me to clarify my own.

 

Personal Transformation

There is magic in every moment, in every being, in every thing.
By choosing to celebrate this magic I hope to draw some of its power and potency into my life.

What Life then does with that power I do not try to control.
I trust that by loving and celebrating and honouring I will change and grow.

Silently, inevitably;
Like rivers and mountains and tall trees.

Transformation is not something that happens because of me, but in spite of me.

My role is to allow it, accept it and explore it with curiosity and trust.

The Art of Disconnection

dis·con·nec·tion

 [dis-kuhnek-shuhn]  

noun

1.

the act of disconnecting.
2.

the state of being disconnectedlack of connection

I’ve been disconnected from everything these past 10 days. The hubby and I were whisked off on holiday by the in-laws and we were thrown into a new Land, a new climate and a new routine which included no internet, no work and no decisions to make: bliss! But it also meant a lack of all my usual touchstones that connect me to the Land and to my Self: not so much fun.

I’ve spent years working with the Wheel and various ideals, notions, people and places, aiming to deepen and strengthen my connection to the World. In that time I’ve gradually developed a practise that helps me maintain that connection as much as possible (many aspects of which you’ll have read about here at the blog). A natural by-product of this process has been a deepening sense of Self awareness too. I have come to know my Self – my patterns, my drives, my feelings, my needs – in much greater detail than I once did and I have benefited from this knowledge by making better choices and finding greater opportunities in which I can thrive.

That said, the downside to this deepened sense of connection is the deepened sense of disconnection that is its mirror. Often it is triggered by external circumstances – a break in routine, a new location or a sudden turn of events – and I can become so caught up in reacting to the change that I don’t realise I’ve disconnected until after things have begun to settle. As I regain a semblance of normality I suddenly find myself filled with a strange emptiness; an itch inside that tells me something isn’t right. Over time I’ve come to know this as disconnection; the lack of a solid, stable awareness of my needs and truths. It quickly spawns sensations of panic, doubt and fear that it will never come back again; all of which combine to create a void of confidence and a great chasm of disconnection not just between me and my Self, but between me and the World as well.

In the moment I need it most, that sense of connection is lost to me on both fronts and the loneliness and helplessness it leaves can be downright debilitating.
When caught in the midst it seems impossible to break out of; no matter how hard I try to see beauty, to be mindful, to breath deep and open my awareness, all attempts feel fake and flawed (which of course only breeds more panic!). For what could be days I feel as though I’m drifting through life, locked in a perpetual video game or glued to the TV set, unable to turn away. I feel completely oblivious to the World as I once knew so well.

It feels like now is the time for me to give a smile and a wink and offer you the answer that I’ve known all along. I feel like I should offer you some sort of fix: “What I do to shuck off this slump in 5 easy steps!”.

But I can’t.
To be honest I simply don’t know.

But what I do know is this: no matter how strong the disconnection feels it always, eventually lessens, and the connections I so dearly value always come back… eventually. However, i must warn you, that they often don’t look the same.

A good friend said to me yesterday:

“Once you’ve reached a place of comfort and stability, then you’re ready for the next step, the next challenge. But in order to take it, in order to grow and develop further you have to let go of what you had; to make space for the new.” 

So perhaps I can’t tell you how to ‘get over’ disconnection. Perhaps I don’t want to.

Because maybe, just maybe disconnection is actually a space of creation. Disconnection is the place where new connections are waiting to be formed.

*
There’s lots of growth and change coming to Walk The Wheel in the coming days: watch this space for updates and announcements!

Too Many Secrets

There’s a strange notion in our social consciousness that to make something happen or to make ‘magic’ you must keep your wish or will a secret.

You find it in our fairy tales and folk traditions, with heroes and villains often having to keep secrets that maintain their strength or magical ability. More recently it appears in many beginners guides to witchcraft or ‘practical magic’ (often of the neo-pagan kind). These books encourage clarity and determination in our intentions and desires and usually offer prettily worded scripts to help you in the early stages. This is good advice; of course your inner landscape needs to in line with your intent if you want to see something manifest, hence why we are told to ‘dream big dreams’ and ‘wish with all your heart’. Eventually though the books often urge you to work without words and to focus more strongly on internal/subconscious activity; this being the way to greater skill and thus success. But to focus exclusively on internal work disconnects us from the power and importance of our voice and our words in the outer World and the affect they have over on Self and on the reality we live in.

 

For a long time I clung to the notion that in order to successfully create anything I must keep it secret until it actually exists. As if, by putting my hopes and dreams into words, I risked their safety and eventual success. I grew up making many a silent wish upon a star and then, as a teenager, I began reading books – inspiring, important books – that broadened my mind and my possibilities but also reinforced this old idea; that my greatest strength would come from silent graft on the astral plane and not from sharing openly in the physical World. In fact I’m pretty sure I once read somewhere that sharing an idea or dream too early and to other  people actually disseminates the behind them energy likely causing it to fail.

Despite its good intentions this idea was holding me back and gradually eroding my trust in my own voice and in the listening ears and hearts of those around me. Somewhere deep inside an image was forming of a World that was out to destroy or steal my good ideas and my hard earned wishes and my only weapon against it was to turn inside and keep my words and wishes secret. Only then would I be empowered. Only then might I be able to make something a success. For a girl growing up (as so many do) with low self esteem and confidence issues this didn’t just seem logical, it felt right.

But of course it wasn’t, it was simply adding weight to an already debilitating struggle with social interaction and self image. By ’empowering’ my inner landscape I was losing faith in my ability to access and understand the World on the outside; something which I now count as one of my biggest sources of joy and inspiration. And my dreams and ideas weren’t making an awful lot of headway either because (as the ‘secret and safe’ idea fails to point out) the World they were made for didn’t know about them! Looking back into the (not too distant) past I almost mourn the lost chances and missed opportunities and advice that I didn’t access, because I never knew how to draw them to me.

 

I needed words. Real words. Spoken words. Words out loud. Words offered boldly to the Air with the same determination and trust that I held in my inner landscape. Because its all very well deciding to ‘do it alone’ with nothing but the power of your well-trained mind but the fact is that people aren’t mind readers and its people who will help you get to where you want to go.

To reach people you need to be with them, speak to them, offer them your words and ideas in neat little packages and let them play. I’m not saying you have to be a raging extrovert or an excellent conversationalist (I am neither of those), nor am I suggesting you give all your ideas away without some safety strings to tie them to you. But you do need to be able to speak about your dreams and wishes out loud if you want someone to help you achieve them.

In this World there is very little we can achieve on our own and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing (and goodness knows that’s a whole other strange social idea we could get into!). Last year I watched this amazing TED talk by Amanda Palmer called ‘The Art of Asking’ and it reminded me just that. It covers our difficulty as a species when asking for help and how we might benefit if we got better at sharing our words and sharing our loads; I’d urge you to give it a watch.

 

At the root of our ingrained need to keep our dreams a secret lies a common dragon: fear. We are afraid to lose what is ours, afraid to seem stupid if we do not achieve what we set out to and afraid to be judged on the things we want and the things we do. All these fears exist and are entirely valid experiences; I run through them all, regularly. But what I’m learning (slowly, carefully) is that the fear only exists because I let it, because I believe the old tale about the power of secrets. I believe that if I tell then the bad stuff will happen, why else have I been keeping secrets over every birthday cake I’ve ever had.

But what if I stop we believing that and instead take a chance on a different truth: Speaking dreams will make them come true.

I’ve already seen some evidence to support it.

I’m sitting at home, ploughing through Facebook, pondering on expanding events outside my local area. On a whim I send a message to a friend who lives in one of the areas I’m interested in. He immediately replies, we set up a meeting and after a nice chat over dinner he makes some connections and now I have a new venue to trial in the Summer.

*

It’s a quiet morning at work and the noise from the kids craft event upstairs is filtering down into the cafe.
A customer asks what’s going on and I tell her. “Do you do many things like that here?”
So I tell her; first about the current schedule and then, taking a deep breath I add on the two new ideas I’ve been toying with and considering sharing with my manager.
The woman’s face lights up when I mention one of them; her eyes are bright and her smile says ‘That sounds like my kinda thing’. As she leaves my belly is fluttering but my feet feel grounded and secure. I am joyful: she heard me and her smile has given me faith and confidence in these new possibilities. So tonight I’ll draft a schedule for my boss and see what happens…

 

Words are incredibly powerful things. They move us in ways we’d never expect; novels and poems are fine proof of that. Too often we forget the power they have on other people and even less often do we trust that power in the hands of another. But if we could find the strength to trust them, to awaken our voices and speak up and speak out then perhaps a few more dreams might start coming true.

 

 

When April Feels Like Christmas

I’ve just made my third cup of tea of the day.

The kitchen is in a state of organised disarray.
There’s dishes to be washed and put away and there’s not a lot of surface space left to actually make tea in the first place, but I managed.

It’s sunny outside.

Lots of cloud but no sign of snow; just a wind as brisk as the Arctic (especially at the top of rather tall Peaks) that makes you all the more grateful for the totally-seasonally-appropriate weather today.

The shadows are lengthening across the laminate floor and the light brushing our living room ceiling is golden and warm.

It makes the tea, the sofa and my mood in general as soft and sweet as maple syrup (which incidentally I had on my breakfast this morning).

 

It’s a Bank Holiday Weekend here in England and for the first time in a long time I’m not working during it.

A long time ago Bank Holidays and weekends would not be spent at work; they were enforced periods of time spent with family and friends, in the house or out and about, depending on your circumstance. The idea of going to work on these public holidays was (mostly) unheard of.

When I was younger, Bank Holidays were starting to be used by shops and pubs and public services as extra working days; which suited the people not working as it meant more leisure services were available for use. For the employees they were something of a bonus because working a Bank Holiday meant ‘Double time’; so, yes, you’d spend the day at work, away from family and friends (which lets be honest is sometimes preferable!) but your wage packet would be that much heavier. Okay then. Tit for tat.

Nowadays that incentive has been mostly taken away. Most places (even offices and businesses) are open all day, every day and employers no longer have the funds or the desire to reward their staff for missing out on valuable rest time. ‘Double time’ became ‘Time and a half’ became ‘a day in lieu’. Today, most people are lucky to receive even that for working a Bank Holiday weekend.

 

For my entire working life (until now) I have worked for companies who have expected me to work weekends, evenings and Bank Holidays as par for the course. No incentives (financial or otherwise) and no chance to decline them. No chance to put your family and leisure time first. I didn’t realise how much I missed having free weekends and Bank Hols until today, until right now even; sitting here, drinking tea on the sunny sofa and practically purring under my breath with peace and satisfaction.

It’s like Christmas come early.*

 

I spent yesterday evening in front of a blazing fire, eating good food, drinking the health of those I love and gazing at the beauty of the stars. 

Today I went walking up two of the three Peaks (Bleaklow and Higher Shelf Stones if you’e wondering) and caught my breath at the beauty and majesty of this Land that is my home.

I came home and cooked another meal for my Husband and friends, which we ate with gusto and polished off with thickly buttered bread and wedges of intriguing and exciting cheese (beer cheese, people, beer cheese!).

And now (as I’ve said) I am on the sofa; sated, softened and full.
The boys are playing a board game and we women are reclining in mutual silence.

The air is warm and easy, we are comfortably bubbled in joy.

And the kitchen is clean enough and the kettle is full and the cheeses have been gathered and wrapped in cling film in a way that only my mother could have done, surely.

And work and wages and time and incentives are all a million miles away.

 

I am more blessed than I know.

 

Bank Holiday Greetings everyone!

 

 

 

* And there is likely some irony there, what with Christmas being the other big Christian holiday alongside Easter (which is also this weekend)… but I’m too blissed out to find it.

 

Want It All

I’m trying really hard to come up with something meaningful and interesting for you to read.

The Wheel is turning wonderfully, the Land is greening all around us and the days are longer, sunnier and offering up more opportunities for both adventure and repose. Things are growing, gaining momentum and as the energy builds so does the excitement; as demonstrated by the almost endless birdsong that now wakes me in the morning.

I have any number of beauties I could describe to you here; to marvel at and count as blessings to be grateful for. In this bright Spring season I simply can not deny my good fortune… no matter how hard I try.

 

It is hard sometimes to be happy. To always see the beauty and the blessings in things. It seems to take an enormous amount of energy and attention and vulnerability. For the acknowledgement of one wonder leads irrevocably to another and another until suddenly you realise that you can never, will never, be able to know or appreciate or achieve all the wonders that are possible in this wonder-full World.

And there is a sadness in that.

A sadness we don’t talk about and are often encouraged to ignore. To bury deep and hide away or to gloss over with fake smiles and empty words.

Is it a sadness born of greed perhaps; a consumerist inability to settle, to always want more. I am living proof that it doesn’t have to be flash cars or fashionable clothes that you covet, in order to swim in that strange sea of desperation and endless desire. I long for sunsets and sea breezes, vast moorland vistas and the Spring breeze on my skin at all times. I constantly crave the deep connection to earth, sky and sea that I feel when I am in the midst of a long walk, a quiet meditation or a vibrant woodland. I want to feel that full, that aware, that whole all the time.

But I don’t. And there are times when I wonder whether it might not have been easier to never see the World through well-jaded eyes. To have avoided the Wheel and the wonders altogether and found my buzz in television or chocolate or meaningless sex instead; all things I can access with (relative) ease and at a moment’s notice.

Sepration-

For it strikes without warning this unusual apathy, this longing for less and more simultaneously, and I’ll be honest I’ve yet to discover a reliable cure. It often feels a bit like a systems crash; too many programs loaded in at once (joy, love, gratitude, hope, dreaming) overwhelming the hardware and leaving me with a strange blankness in my head.

Because anything I do or say or think in those moments simply isn’t enough. Can’t be enough. Because it can’t be everything.

So here I am, trying to think of something to say to you.

 

Perhaps…

 

Perhaps the sadness isn’t really sadness at all: perhaps it is actually peace. A peace born of the acceptance of one’s place in the Web of all things. One tiny spark of life amongst so many others, that shines brightly in the light but is a truly cosmic beauty when viewed as part of the greater, grander whole. To be a part of it one can never step out of it, not even to see and marvel at the wonder of it all; so I will never truly experience it fully. Instead I remain steadfast and explore the beauties that are unique to me and try not to mourn those which are not. Perhaps I can appreciate those and trust that they are – in their own way – microcosms of the awesomeness that is everything.

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This awesomeness.

And though everything can not be mine to possess I can claim it as my heritage, my lineage, my reality. Things which will last far longer than the biggest chocolate bar and will bring more comfort than the most mind-blowing sex. And when I recall this, remember this and truly believe it then I perhaps I won’t need anything more than what I already have. For even in my blankest moments I’ll know I am whole, connected, part of It All.

And I can be at peace.

 

 

I tried really hard to think of something meaningful and important for you to read. Apparently I’ve ended up with something meaningful and important for me to read.

 

Thanks for sharing it.

 

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Photo credits:
1) spiritualjounreyguide.com
2) nationalgeographic.com
3) http://peoplesadvocacycouncil.wordpress.com

Times and Trials

It’s been longer than expected since my last post. Despite a lot happening lately and a Drafts folder that is comfortable full I still couldn’t find a time or place or way to put anything into words. Here’s what’s happened since we last spoke:

 

Walk the Wheel’s two Woman events happened on Saturday. They were a success – I think – certainly an enjoyable (if exhausting!) experience with wonderful support from our regulars and some new faces too. Money was raised for an excellent cause and I took another step on my path of creating and facilitating and offering all that to the World. There was laughter and deep thought, careful silence and joyful chatter, and an abundance of food for feasting that came from the generosity of the attendees and for which I am hugely grateful. A full write-up will follow in the coming weeks.

If nothing else, our Woman events demonstrated a coming together of community: the creation of a safe and sociable space with a sacred and specific focus. A lovely balance and an inspiration for the future 🙂 A future which, right now, is feeling a little more real, a little more possible.

 

My nose has proved its mettle as my seasonal indicator, for Spring has arrived here in the Peaks. Snowdrops are fading, giving way to the bright beauty of crocuses and the tips of tentative daffodils. The air is warm, the Sun is bright and the sky is the brilliant blue of imagination. Time feels more fluid, flowing out ahead but also circling and spiraling around us, in the moment. The World is offering itself up to be enjoyed and now the events are finished I feel I can give it the time it deserves to be thoroughly appreciated.

The earth is softening and so are my Winter defenses. I am opening slowly, with the still-cautious daffodils, to the notion of growth and change and happenings ahead. I might even say I’m a little excited…

For more on the approaching Spring look out for our next event announcement in a few days!

 

I am also awash with relief. Standing at the end of a somewhat traumatic few days following a late night hospital visit, I feel like I’ve faced the Minotaur and found my way out of the labyrinth with my limbs – miraculously – in tact. There were long hours and even longer minutes at the end of last week where I wasn’t sure that would happen. I was convinced I’d lost an arm or at the very least a finger or thumb* and that without them everything would simply slip out of my grasp.

But I made it through in one piece and in the clear light of hindsight I can appreciate that I have actually gained much from that long night and the even longer days of worry that followed. I am full of gratitude and humble joy that myself and my loved ones are healthy and here. That I can revel in the pleasure of a night on the sofa, leaning against his arm and letting my heart slow till I’m dozing and not worry that when I wake up he won’t be there.

I am blessed to be alive and to share that life with people who love me and who allow me to love them too.

Knowing that makes the labyrinth worth facing every now and again.

 

It’s been an eventful couple of weeks but one that’s ended with sunshine and smiles so definitely no complaints here. The excitement isn’t over; this week I have a day out with my sister, the hubby is having his wisdom teeth removed and I finish my current job on Friday! All that, topped off with a weekend in Matlock meeting and working with Glennie Kindred and Annie Keeling on creating ceremony.

 

Overwhelmed? A little. Excited? Definitely!

 

( *Not literal limbs folks, metaphorical ones! )

Stirring

If you’re looking for my Grow Your Blog post for 2014 go here!
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

As we approach the end of the month and step into the New Lunar Year I am filled with a rather unexpected feeling: Hope.

Imbolc is approaching and life is opening itself to new beginnings all over the place so it might seem ridiculous that hope should be unexpected, but recently has been as elusive as a cool spring of water in the driest of deserts.

I delved deep into the darkness of Winter over recent weeks. It wasn’t always poignant or meaningful, a lot of the time it was scary, unpleasant and deeply unsettling, and it was difficult to imagine anything beginning or feeling hopeful whilst I was there. But it also gave me the one thing I’d been craving, that gift which the season offers but so few choose to take: Rest.

chipmunk

(credit)

Taking a rest was almost a challenge, especially as a lot of it was spent alone and without distraction. I struggle to keep my mind focused on the present when I’m alone and this can lead to worry or fear creeping in, which are not restful in the slightest. But through perseverance and hard-won acceptance I discovered that I was able to trust my Self to want and do the right things, the things that my body and soul needed to rest and heal.

Sometimes those things were quiet and solitary – lots of long walks and spots of meditation – others were more vigorous – writing stories and planning events (more on that to follow in future posts!). All came together to weave a soul-bed in which I could allow my self to rest and ponder and dream; the kind of space that Winter holds so well. And not only did I benefit from it with a renewed energy supply and new ideas, I also felt more in tune with the World than I have in quite a while.

spring-11

(credit)

So now, on Imbolc Eve, I can truly feel the first stirrings of Hope and Inspiration that the Goddess Brighid comes to bless us with. I am also aware of a New Moon shining tonight; the beginning of a beginning as it marks the start of a New Lunar Year, which the Chinese are calling the Year Of The Horse. I am hopeful that all these auspicious signs are weaving together with the land itself, as it starts to wake from its Winter slumber, to urge me (and all of us) into new beginnings and new opportunities  of our own.

Chinese-New-Year-2014-Horse-2

Happy New Lunar Year!

(credit)

Having woken from my brief hibernation I can promise a round of new posts in the coming days and weeks. Look out for an Imbolc Musing, an update on some new real-world events, the final collection of my January Small Stones and some in-depth looks into Walk the Wheel – how it works and why.

I hope you’ll join me there 🙂

Hands

My hands have always been a good indicator of my general well being. When I’m tired or low on energy they tend to dry out, the cuticles fray and even the bones start to ache a little. This could be genetic (arthritis is rife in my family) or it could simply be because my hands also act as a barometer for my mood.

When I am tense, my hands curl into fists, becoming solid lumps that hang from the end of my arms, weighing me down, unnoticed for hours with the joints often creaking in protest.

When I am anxious or worried they curl and uncurl, slowly, the fingers rubbing and writhing like restless serpents or affectionate cats. If I become nervous, or skirt the border of panic then those cats grow teeth which they turn on my poor nails and cuticles.

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Sometimes my hands can tell you my mood better than I can.

Years ago, at University, I would pick and peel my fingernails and tips till they were raw and bloody. I would wear plasters for weeks to cover the damage or eventually as a precautionary measure if I knew that something stressful was coming up; those plasters were shields not against germs but against my own anxiety.

Thankfully I kicked that habit a while ago and it’s been a long time since my fingertips have been stained red. But they are still the part of me that suffers first and most when I’m feeling in any way threatened or under pressure.

My hands also reflect the good times in my life. I gesture frantically when I’m talking about things that make me passionate, so to see my hands in motion, fluid and frantic in front of me, is a sign that I am engaged and enthused by life in that moment.

hands

Hands as a symbol of commitment. Photo by Alice Roskams

My nails have never been as healthy and strong as they were in the weeks around my wedding and on the day we were married I bound my hand to my husband’s as a promise and a commitment. Now my hands are dressed with the symbols of that commitment (my wedding and engagement rings) and if you ever see me with nail polish on then I must be up to something exciting because, dammit, I’m too lazy to wear it otherwise!

For years I have hidden these hands or tried to forgot about them. They were not a part of me I particularly liked or appreciated because they have always appeared older than I actually am. The skin was never clear and smooth, the fingers not tapered or graceful. There is age in these hands, a feeling of time that I can not escape. Sometimes I think I have ‘Old Hands’ instead of (or as well as?) an ‘Old Soul’.

I inherited these hands from my mother and my maternal grandmother. I see both of them clearly in the shortness of the bones, the wrinkles in the skin and the knuckles that are freckle-covered and carry an unexpected strength within them. My hands are not delicate or graceful, never have been; they are working hands and they serve to remind me that life is often a struggle but that I have the means to survive it all here, waiting, at the end of my (conversely) thin wrists.

I am tied to history by these hands, family history, the good and the bad. I see the skin crack and dry and I fear that I will live out old patterns, suffer the same problems, fulfill unwanted fates. I worry that these hands are signs of all I cannot escape. But then I remember how soft my Grandmother’s hands felt when I was a child and how pretty my nails looked on my wedding day and I realise that these hands do not bind me to anything (except my husband, by choice and choice alone). They offer change and a means to create that is shaped by the strength and determination of my ancestors, but that reveals itself in swirling gestures and shapes as intricate and unique as I am.

 

“If you ever need a helping hand you’ll find one at the end of your arm.”
Yiddish Proverb

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The hands in question. Photo by Jon Rouston

Which parts of yourself speak loudest to you? Do you have features that connect you to your family or ancestors?

“Back to life, back to reality…”

Song quote from Soul II Soul, Back To Life (However do you want me)

It always comes with a bump, the return to ‘reality’ after the suspended animation of Solstice/Christmas/New Year. My festive season stretches out to 3 weeks, to incorporate all three, which is the better part of a month and quite frankly far too long for me to be living on the cocktail of excitement and anxiety that it brews in me. My nerves feel shot and I’m craving crap food and fresh water in equal measure. I’d also like to sleep for the better part of this month to properly recover my senses… but no such luck. I was back to work on the 2nd, dealing with crabby customers by the 3rd and it has quickly become apparent that despite last weeks festive cheer we are all now suffering from festive withdrawal.

What frustrates me the most is that we have no choice but to accept this sorry state of affairs; to strap on a smile, pick up our feet and plunge back into life, pressing ourselves into the same mundane cycle that we have been working so hard to escape these past few weeks. I feel like an escaped convict returned to her cell, breathless and desperate. The proverbial stuffing being forced and cajoled to fit myself inside the turkey’s arse.

I know I’m not the only one; thousands if not millions of us will have felt the same way over the past couple of days or will (if you’re lucky) have that joy waiting for you on Monday. This is not some sort of childish pity party I’m attempting to throw. I simply want to shed light on the fact that I (and so many others) am being forced to suppress my needs – physical, emotional, spiritual – not for my own good, not for survival, but in the pursuit of something I can’t eat, can’t drink, can’t breathe and that doesn’t give me warmth or shelter or love.

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My Mum swore by these when she was giving up cigarettes

If I had a New Years wish I would be able to give up Money as part of my New Years resolutions. It would be a dirty habit that I could kick given some perseverance and a jumbo packet of Fisherman’s Friends. Then I would be free to rest my weary brain, relax these strained muscles and allow myself and my home to recover from the December madness and make way for the possibilities of the year ahead.

Instead I have already started selling my time and my mood to people I’ve never met in the hopes that I can scavenge together enough pennies to keep myself in food, water and warmth – things we are told are part of our basic human rights.

I didn’t think I’d be starting 2014 in such a grouchy mood but the sky was grey this morning, my nose was cold and my hubby far too warm and cosy to leave on the train when we reached my stop. For a while I did feel like a petulant child, one who hoped that enough ranting would get her what she wants, even if that is a new version of reality. Perhaps I spent a little too much time with my 18month old niece these past few days? Or perhaps I’ve been listening to too much 90s pop? Either way I am here, there’s a whole year ahead of me and I’ve got 363 days to kick these withdrawal symptoms.

“Back to life back to the day we have
lets end this foolish game
hear me out don’t let me waste away…

… back to life back to reality
back to the here and now yeah”

(lyrics)

***

If you would like a more uplifting New Years read I can heartily suggest checking out the wonderful Janie Rose at Beeswax and Broomsticks. This post is a heartfelt and uplifting call to shine in the year ahead.

Accepting Normal

Despite being blessed with a relatively happy and simple life (don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my share of trials but never yet anything I couldn’t handle) I have always found myself the bearer of discontent. It can strike at any moment, or simmer in the background over days, weeks of my life and usually doesn’t make any noticeable impact. It’s just this niggling, itching thought that maybe I should be doing ‘more’ with my life. That something isn’t quite right.

Now some might say this is my subconscious telling me to get on with some serious self-exploration; that life is showing me a need for change. But I can honestly say that after a few years of moving, travelling, changing jobs and building a new life, I am actually rather ready for some stability! I even wrote a post recently about allowing ourselves to be satisfied with ‘just enough‘ and I believe every word, so why the discontent?

Because I was never prepared to be Normal.

And right now my life is wonderfully, joyously, exorbitantly Normal. I work in a Normal office, do a Normal job (that takes no special qualifications or skills) and live in a Normal terraced house (two-up, two-down) on a busy little Normal High Street. I got married to a Normal(ish) husband this Spring and am now his Normal wife. I became a rather Normal Aunt to my lovely Normal Niece and have recently become co-signatory to a Normal Joint Bank Account. I go to the local pub when I fancy a night out and I spend most evenings doing the dishes and catching up on iPlayer.

All these are what make my current life so pleasant and are a big relief from the rather fractious elements that made up the life I lived before. I am happier now than I ever was living in a Big City and trying to work a job in the Entertainment industry. But I am also undeniably Normal.

And that was never never the Plan…

As a child I knew that one day, when I grew up, I would be different. Not famous or wealthy or even particularly successful; just different. I wouldn’t follow in the footsteps of my father or mother, I wouldn’t stay in the sleepy town I was born in and work in a shop or an office; I would move away, see the sights, live and work in a completely different environment that would excite me and feed all my Abnormal needs.

I knew that I was Abnormal because people told me so. And if they didn’t say it to me then I’d hear them say so to my parents. Endlessly.

“Gosh, she’s different.”    

“Nothing like her sister!”    

“Where does she get that from?!

And my parents would smile and nod and agree enthusiastically:

“Well, she’s always been like that…always done things her own way.” 

Then I went to school and the teachers all told my parents how bright I was, how special I was, how I could do anything I wanted and how I would obviously go far.

When my parents weren’t there the other kids would tell me I was different in their own way. I knew I was Abnormal because that was the only viable reason why they would all ignore me, smirk at me, laugh at me and why some of them seemed to downright hate me. Don’t get me wrong I was never bullied too badly, never beaten or shamed hard enough to warrant intervention; but like many bright and enthusiastic kids with a dream I was deemed too Abnormal to be accepted. So I kept to the outskirts, hung out with a few of the other Abnormal kids and came to wear my difference – my Not-Normal-ness – as a badge of honour.

By college I was wearing that badge with pride, expressing my Abnormality with crazy clothes, crazier friends and diving into my dream life shaped by a rather Abnormal career choice – Acting. When I managed to get to the Big Smoke and into drama school I knew I was on my way. All the pressure, all the worry, all the expectation to be something MORE than Normal was about to pay off and it would make all the hard work, the nightmare school days and endless self-flagellation worth it.

Except it didn’t.

The career wasn’t what I wanted, wasn’t what I’d expected at all. And the lifestyle that came with it was Abnormal alright but not in a ‘cool-and-unique’ kind of way but more of a ‘messed-up-and-miserable’ kind of way.

So I left it; abandoned the Abnormal and embraced Normality with open arms. And it has paid off. I am happy now, truly happy and I have hope for the future, something that was in short supply a few years ago. That one choice has made all the struggles of a dying dream feel no less painful but certainly made them seem worthwhile.

Still I can’t seem to shake that niggling, itching rub of discontent.

And I think it’s because that 13-year-old girl, who spent her nights learning lines and trying not to think about picking teams in P.E. tomorrow, feels like I’ve cheated her out of a dream. You see, all she can feel is the pain and the anguish of being young and ostracised and alone and the only thing keeping her going is knowing that what they say to her doesn’t matter because one day, one day she’s going to be special, be different and she’ll be nothing like them. She can take it all because she’s not Normal like them.

Some days her betrayal is hard to bear.

***

This post was inspired by another post over at Eat The Damn Cake and the rather wonderful quote from author Kate:

“What is exhausting is only wanting one thing.

What is exhausting is secretly believing I deserve it.”

Those two lines basically sum up everything I’ve just said, but I wanted to share my story because it can help knowing there are folks out there who think the same (seemingly impossible) things as you. Her post is great too and well worth a read.

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All written materials and images, unless otherwise stated, are property of Kelly Tomlin 2016.
We gather together to Walk the Wheel; to share with one another and be inspired.