Reinvent yourself, reclaim your essence

Reclaim yourself from the living dead. Life beckons”
Srividya Srinivasan

Until the last few weeks I had noticed myself saying, “This is not how I normally behave.” “This is so out of character for me.” “I don’t normally do this.”

It’s been fifteen months since the dissolution of my marriage, since my life change irrevocably in so many ways, for the better, mostly. In this time, I’ve become aware of and begun dismantling some of the habits, beliefs and behaviours that developed during the past 22 years.  Initially, I didn’t know how to define myself without the construct of that relationship around me. Who was I when the persona I’d built, to live within the confines of the relationship, was no longer needed?  How do I navigate the world as a middle aged single woman? It was all very puzzling at first because I no longer had to do many of the things I’d always done now that I was no longer in a relationship. My approach to life was different. Routines fell away because I realised I’d created them to provide a sense of control over my life when I had very little control over the direction or depth of my relationship. Interactions with people changed too. I became more patient with people and more gracious. As a result of my intense pain I noticed I was more accepting of others, willing to listen more, less quick to judge or dismiss. Then of course interactions with men changed too. I was able to have deeper and longer conversations. Spend time with a range of men, things you don’t do, well, I didn’t do, in a marriage. I could go out and not worry about being home at certain times. I could go out on a ‘school night’ even.

It slowly dawned on me that I didn’t have to follow the same rules. That I could choose differently.  I began to let go of “you must be who you’ve always been” and just watched where things led.

I’ve experienced things I haven’t before because of the situation I was in, but I can make different choices now.  If a behaviour doesn’t feel right, then I know that I won’t repeat it. If a thought doesn’t gel, then I won’t go down that road again. But just because I haven’t done or thought or said particular things over the last 20 years or so doesn’t mean I’m not being me or that I’m acting out of character, it just means I’m exploring the possibilities, nudging structures that may no longer serve me. And you know what? If I wake up disappointed with myself, I can always start over and begin again.

The last year has been like an experiment to create a new identity for myself. It’s work in progress, so I don’t think I’ll be bursting through a ribbon, at a convenient end point, proclaiming a bright and shiny new me. The process is more like a resurrection. It’s like a remembering and rediscovering of my truth, a truth that become hidden among the needs of others, a truth hidden in the recesses of memory and youth, if it ever truly had time to develop in the first place. I feel that I’m re-emerging and reframing my life.  I’m discovering that what and who I always thought I was isn’t necessarily true anymore. I am reclaiming the essence of who I am and redefining myself.

If you find yourself in a similar position, my advice is to: resurrect, reclaim, restart and keep moving forward.

 

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Under the canopy

Under the canopy

Waking in the still, half-light I ventured out
Barefoot
under the waning gibbous moon.
A wispy banner of cloud hung in the sky
Not night, not day
The earth welcomed me.

In the stillness there was movement
Not rain, as I thought, but the dripping cascade of moisture
from one leaf to another
Weaving a path to the earth below.

Moving into the circle,
under the canopy,
I was anointed,
blessed
with dew drops from heaven.

I’d been drawn from my bed
by the trees
to join a morning ritual,
prepared just for me.

I stood on the edge of the world and magic happened

“Breathe next to me. And I will capture a piece of your soul along with mine.”
Marikit dR. Camba, 

Once, many years ago, I stood on the shore; quiet, desperately sad, with eyes closed, and magic happened. I became one with the ocean. I felt I was the ocean and it was within me. I felt the magnitude of the universe in those seconds. For an instant the whole universe was inside me, I saw it, I felt it, I travelled through it as it travelled simultaneously through me. I was connected to it in a way I had no comprehension of, no prior experience or examples. I did not experience it again. Until recently.

Sitting on the hill of a natural amphitheatre, alone but surrounded by approximately 150 000 people I felt a connection to the hearts of each of them, like I felt with the ocean all those years before. It was New Year’s Eve. I was at Woodford for the annual music festival, six days of music and noise, action, laughter and lots and lots of people. Candles had been distributed throughout the day and at 11:30 they were to be lit, followed by three minutes silence.  The idea of three minutes silence in that place was incomprehensible to me, but I was assured it was a ritual that was adhered to every year.  At 11:30 I passed a spare candle to a man sitting nearby.  He asked how we were meant to light them.  I told him that I believed that was part of the magic.  Within 30 seconds the amphitheatre was alight with the glow of thousands and thousands of candles. And a hush fell over the whole of Woodfordia and I wept.

In the silence, in our quietness we all came together and connected.  It wasn’t like we were holding hands, that’s not the connection, it wasn’t even like an embrace. The sensation began as a ripple then became a gentle, undulating wave that rolled up the front of my body, opened my heart and passed into the depths of me and surrounded me. It was like all those souls were gathered into gentle arms and sent lovingly into the night, into each other. In those three minutes I again touched the inky darkness of the night sky that opened to the universe beyond, and I soared, filled with the souls of those around me.

Our humanity is the natural world

To listen is therefore to touch a stethoscope to the skin of a landscape, to hear what stirs below.  George Haskell

Maria Popova’s recent newsletter, Nature and the Serious Business of Joy, resonated strongly with me and I was struck by how shared sentiments can connect us across centuries, borders, gender, time and place. I was delighted to discover Whitman, Thoreau and I share a love of trees. That the work of Michael McCarthy articulates the deep-seated joy I have when in nature.  Nature pulls me. I am drawn to it and feel very at home, embraced, when in the wild places.

Over the years I have realised the pull of nature and my respect and adoration of it can only stem from being of the earth myself and of sharing the same transcendent source as the natural world. Rachel Carson expresses it beautifully:

 “Our origins are of the earth. And so there is in us a deeply seated response to the natural universe, which is part of our humanity.”

Michael McCarthy has walked the same paths as I. He too has felt, numerous times, that sudden and involuntary love of nature that bursts forth with such “a startling intensity, in a burst of emotion which we may not fully understand, and the only word that seems to me to be appropriate for this feeling is joy.”  And yet what is joy? Sadly it seems a term used only by those delusional romantic types (like me), caught up in the fanciful, magical type of thinking that a weary, cynical populace denounces.

McCarthy weighs the precariousness of joy in our modern world: “Joy is not a concept, nor indeed a word, that we are entirely comfortable with, in the present age. The idea seems out of step with a time whose characteristic notes are mordant and mocking, and whose preferred emotion is irony. Joy hints at an unrestrained enthusiasm which may be thought uncool… It reeks of the Romantic movement. Yet it is there. Being unfashionable has no effect on its existence… What it denotes is a happiness with an overtone of something more, which we might term an elevated or, indeed, a spiritual quality.

Nature speaks to so many of us, it awakens our senses and, at times, offers us a glimpse into the extraordinary, yet so few speak of these experiences publicly.  We should extol nature’s virtues loudly. Share the revelations uncovered while in the wilderness. Thoreau recognised nature as an antidote to the diminishing of spirit amid a fast paced, ego-driven society — “In the street and in society I am almost invariably cheap and dissipated, my life is unspeakably mean,”

McCarthy takes Thoreau’s idea further and reminds us of our origins, the roots of our being and our evolution with the earth and our connection to her —

“They are surely very old, these feelings. They are lodged deep in our tissues and emerge to surprise us. For we forget our origins; in our towns and cities, staring into our screens, we need constantly reminding that we have been operators of computers for a single generation and workers in neon-lit offices for three or four, but we were farmers for five hundred generations, and before that hunter-gatherers for perhaps fifty thousand or more, living with the natural world as part of it as we evolved, and the legacy cannot be done away with.”

We are not separate from the natural world, we do not simply walk upon it, we are part of it as it is of us. We belong to the natural world and ought to rekindle our connection to be once again filled with joy, substance and beauty.

“After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, love, and so on — have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear — what remains? Nature remains; to bring out from their torpid recesses, the affinities of a man or woman with the open air, the trees, fields, the changes of seasons — the sun by day and the stars of heaven by night.” Whitman.

Nature’s micro structures

This week’s Weekly Photo Challenge from The Daily Post is for the topic:

STRUCTURE

Here’s the prompt the good people at The Daily Post offered:

Today, take a moment to notice the structure of everyday things around you. Note the lines, freckles, and tiny hairs on your arm, and imagine the biological blueprint that created them. See the bricks of a building, and realize that they were individually placed there by another person. Then, share with us a photo of the structure of something wonderful. We’re eager to see details through your lens.

There are examples of structure all around us.  I am fascinated by the intricate way things fit together and work in conjunction with each other.  I marvel at architectural structure and the process of building but my focus today went to the natural environment. With so much on offer I could not settle on one image, nor do the several below fully sate my curiosity.

Looking into the micro structures of life

My polyester castle in the forest

My whinstone house my castle is, I have my own four walls.
                                                                        Thomas Carlyle

In my plans for this year I resolved to go on a solo overnight hike. I decided to experience life this year through being more adventurous, for me anyway.  Sometimes adventure is simply venturing out the front door and going some place new and sometimes adventure is, well, just what we expect adventure to be: an exploit or escapade.  I’m no newcomer to multi-day hikes but I usually embark on them with my beloved at my side. Going solo, a reckless escapade to some, is to me a compelling  imperative.

I am most at peace in nature and I have a thing for sleeping with my back to the earth, and while I love to share these experiences I want to experience something different.  I want to go it alone, to experience real surrender and solitude and to rely totally on myself, outside the normal routines of life. I am getting closer to my goal each day.

I bought my own tent last week. I’m pretty chuffed. My research turned up a neat little three season tent made for one.  It’s perfect for the walks I want to do but not great for snow and ice but I don’t plan on going to Everest anytime soon. I ordered my tent online and it arrived two days later.  I was bouncing with excitement as I collected my package from the post office. The Postie asked if I was going camping.  I’m doing more than camping.  I’m escaping.

More exhilarating is that I actually managed to erect the tent without help in about three minutes flat.  I known that’s not exactly a huge achievement but when one defers tasks to another on a regular basis it is affirming to know you’re capable.  It’s funny how a little thing like this can cause so much excitement.

My beloved was horrified at its size.
“It’s small.”
Exactly – it’s meant to be.
My polyester castle is roomy enough to sleep in and wriggle in and out of clothes. It’s a shelter from the elements and bugs and best of all, it’s only 1.3 kilograms.  What else would a girl need? Well, as luck would have it, the one other thing that I did want was a vestibule for my hiking pack and voila, this little tent has a very generous space for that.

The weeks draw closer to my first solo overnight hike and I find I am well prepared. I have my tent, my permit and a spirit for adventure. I know roughing it outdoors isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but there is something magical about choosing a spot of rough ground to call home for the night that transforms it.  That rough bit of ground, a small nook in the woods, begins to transform into a haven, a place of comfort and rest by the time one has pitched a tent and claimed a spot for the night. For a long time now I have delighted in the solace of nature, the calm it brings and the return to simplicity and I am looking forward to returning to it.  I’ll let you know how it all goes.