Rising from the Ashes

Dad told me I should write more. At the very least some updates on my blog. His dream of having an award-winning novelist of a daughter seems to be dying by the day. And, yet, from the glowing embers of this dream a phoenix (of sorts) is rising. It’s small and scraggy now, stumbling on Bambi-esque legs amongst the ashes, coughing and shielding its eyes from the light. But it exists, this spectre of old, only now coming into being after years of steady manifestation.

By ‘It’ I am referring to my venture back into the world of psychology, and, simultaneously, my journey into the unknown-and-terrifying-yet-also-exciting world of coaching – in the form of a combined Master’s degree.

It’s not exactly how I’d planned it. We thought we’d be in New York City by spring. I’d envisaged endless cups of coffee, walks in Central Park with a new puppy; days stretching out with nothing but study and writing and play. But life doesn’t always work out how you planned. Which means that sometimes you just have to play the hand you’ve been dealt.

We’re not going to New York anymore. Already it feels like a pipe dream blowing in the wind. At first I shed a lot of tears, and then berated myself for mourning a life that never was. The tears dried up. Reality bit. I’d signed up for this Master’s safe in the knowledge I’d have ample time to devote to it. At most I’d have been working on a part time basis. Now, things have changed. We’re still in Brussels, and will be for the foreseeable future. I still have a full time job (really a full-and-then-some time job). Suddenly the very thought of finding more than twelve hours a week to do my course work has me coming out in hives. Right now I’m barely managing six.

I am exhausted. There have been more tears, for this and other – more personal – reasons that I won’t go into here. I am struggling to find my equilibrium. I tell myself that I should meditate and then remember that ‘should’ is a performance inhibiting thought; a thinking error. I’m learning all kinds of new things like this, even though I make such errors daily, sometimes hourly. I tell myself I’m not good enough on a constant repetition loop in my head. Compare myself to others. Panic. I do a LOT of panicking.

And then I switch on my computer, turn on Skype and I become a coach. I listen attentively and empathetically. I silence my inner chatter and focus on another person for a whole hour. And I take them through a process, and share with them what little I know of concepts like self-limiting beliefs. And, like magic, almost always there’s a moment when their faces light up and they get it, really get it. And in that moment I’m suffused with so much joy and energy. Which is how I know that even though it’s hard, and will likely get harder, and even though I don’t know where I’m going to end up, I’m on the right path.


Down by the river

Down by the river all was quiet, save for the occasional beating of runners’ feet against the stony ground some feet away, or the call of dog walkers whose pets had strayed out of sight. One such pet – a cocker spaniel with a pronounced limp – was here now. His wet nose pressed into the leaves he inhaled deeply in an attempt to track a scent that was too faint for his old nose to detect. With a snort the old dog gave up and limped off.

But it would not be long before another, younger canine would be successful in its quest to track the scent. It would sniff at the damp soil beneath its feet, dislodge it with a paw, slowly at first but with increasing fervour once the scent became stronger. The surface soil brushed aside, it would inspect the object protruding from the earth with something close to reverence, if dogs were capable of such an emotion. And once the finger was licked clean the dog would bark, it’s owner would come, and her screams would shatter the early evening peace into a million irretrievable pieces.

But for now, at least, down by the river all was quiet.

The Stowaway

Silently he creeps up the gangplank and onto the deck. He circumnavigates the hull, darting behind heavy wooden crates covered in nets that reek of fish guts to avoid being seen by the crew. 

He knows not how long he’s been crouching there; long enough to lose sensation in his knees and start to wonder if he’s doing the right thing. He shakes the thought off like a dog shaking its fur after a swim. He thinks of Benjy, lying by the fire, his wet nose resting on his mottled brown paws. His stomach clenches from both homesickness and hunger but he doesn’t falter. He’s made his choice and he must suffer the consequences. He is now a soldier of the sea.
The activity on the deck is building. Men in smart naval uniforms are boarding the ship, lost in important-looking conversation as porters carry their belongings in heavy trunks.The sailors set to work on the rigging, climbing up to the mast head with dexterity and ease, their sinewy bodies glistening with sweat and salt.
Not long now until his maritime adventure will begin. He wonders briefly whether he’ll be missed, if it will occur to his family that he’s set off on a voyage across the seas. He knows he might see pirates and vagabonds; he knows he must be brave.
“Hoist the main sail!” A cry from the captain. “Wait!” A second voice, much closer than the first. “What’s this we have here….?” The tarpaulin shifts and light spills through into his hidey hole. But it’s not the Captain’s face he sees. He blinks. “What the…?”
“Oscar!” His mother’s face looms large above him. “What are you doing? Come down for your tea!”
Oh well, he thinks as he disentangles himself from his blanket (formerly the main sail), there’s always next time…