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.

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Recombobulation

In the past five and a bit weeks life has undergone a pretty big transformation, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised I’ve hit a bit of a wall where energy levels are concerned. I’ve moved country, moved house not once but twice, and started a new job in a new country where the employment system is more complicated than the Matrix. Not to mention the fact I’ve gone back up from working four days a week to five, which in itself is quite a shock to the system (I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t mourning my Mondays off – sniff). So yes, I guess I need to cut myself some slack, as my transatlantic friends would say. Getting into a new routine takes time, especially when the repercussions of that new routine involve a run of terrible nights’ sleep that leaves you feeling like your head is full of cotton wool.

Oh, and did I mention that good old Lady Karma has bitten me hard on the arse for boasting about my amazing new flat by sending me the neighbour from hell who appears to have no concept of bass control on his/her stereo, nor a concrete understanding of the less than concrete thickness of the wall that separates our living rooms. But hey, these things are incidental, and they shall pass. I just hope they pass sooner than later, because I need to get back to writing my screenplay and setting myself on the path to making the millions I need to be able to give up working for someone else and start setting my own agenda in life…A girl can dream (or at least she would if she was actually getting any sleep at the moment…Grumble grumble).

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Pressure

Sometimes it gets a bit much, this world. And all the constant pressures on our time, energy leaking from our pores like sand through an egg timer; drip, drip, drip.

Of course we are the lucky ones, the ones who can afford to have hopes and dreams for the future. Or can we? What price must we pay for success? What price for failure?

We don’t so much follow our dreams as barter and fritter them away. As if tomorrow will never come. But of course it always does. Until, quite suddenly, it doesn’t.

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Sensible / Silly Season

Loathe as I am to admit this, it seems that (perhaps unsurprisingly) my productivity levels sky rocket when I a) go to bed before 11pm and b) go to the gym before work. Today was quite simply exceptional; I ploughed through my work and personal to do lists, completing tasks I had been putting off because I hadn’t previously managed to find the energy to deal with them. I then came home and spent two and a half hours cleaning and tidying the flat from top to bottom before putting up the Christmas tree (fiddly decorations and all) and cooking a stir fry for dinner. Even now as I sit in my newly cleaned and decorated flat my energy levels haven’t dipped to where they would usually be at this time of night. In short, today has been a valuable lesson and one I must remember and make an effort to repeat more regularly.

But whilst another early night tonight and gym session tomorrow are most certainly scheduled into the diary, tomorrow night will be another matter entirely. Why? Because some months back four friends and I decided it would make perfect sense to purchase tickets to the famous Warehouse Project music event in Manchester and, to save ourselves money on accommodation, return to London on the first train on Saturday morning. What we may have failed to factor into that particular equation is that all of us, bar one, are now in our thirties, and not quite the spring chickens we were when we went all night clubbing in the halcyon days of our twenties. Not that we can’t still party with the best of them, but these days I struggle to stay up until the sunrise, let alone to stay up until the sunrise and then get a two hour train home. But hey, it’s Silly Season. Nights like tomorrow are the whole point, no?

Forever young

I’ve never been a fan of beauty features, especially those interminable ones that harp on endlessly about the latest ‘miracle’ cream which most of us would have to sell a kidney to stand even a chance of affording. These days even girls in their early twenties are slathering on anti-wrinkle serum every night in the hope they will forever retain their youthful complexions. Whatever happened to growing old gracefully?

Lord knows I’ve done enough damage to my skin over the years through sunbathing and smoking alone. Fortunately I’ve now firmly knocked the smoking on the head, but I’m still partial to the odd high factor cream-less lay about on the Common, despite the regular health warnings we’re now subjected to (have the people making the announcements actually looked out of the window lately? It would be a miracle if the sun’s rays were able to penetrate the thick canopy of cloud that’s hung over us for the past few months).

But whilst many of my peers won’t use anything but the best on their skin to try and redress the balance of years of excess, I’ve always balked at spending over £15 on any single beauty product (with the sole exception of Boots No.7 Protect and Perfect serum, which is scientifically PROVEN to work, don’t you know). My mum, who’s in her sixties, still looks fantastic for her age and claims never to have used anything but soap and water, Oil of Ulay (as it was ‘back in the day’ – sorry Mum!) and E45 on her skin. So I’m praying to the God of Genes to keep me in good nick without a monthly shipment of Crème de la Mer.

What I have begun to fall victim to now I’m advancing further into my thirties is the latest tranche of fad food supplements. Only last week a packet of Spirulina powder plopped onto my desk (soon to be followed by a packet of Wheatgrass powder). Promising to “combat various forms of malnutrition, boost the immune system, protect against cancer, support detoxification, increase overall energy level, fight infections, counter obesity and relieve stress,” this is one SERIOUS super food.

The downside (because of course there is always a downside with these things) is that it tastes AWFUL. This morning when I mixed up my first dose with some apple juice and banana it smelt so bad I could hardly bear to raise it to my lips and take a sip. But I persevered, because if it does even half of the things it claims to do I might very well live forever – which will likely cost a fortune in skin cream, even if it is the £15-a-pop kind…

Time out

I probably shouldn’t admit to being short of inspiration today, but there you have it: My confession. It’s been a taxing start to the year, to say the least, and I’ve exhausted all of my energy stores – both mental and physical. Training for next weekend’s 16 mile run isn’t helping on the physical front, but it has at least given me a focus for which I’ve been grateful in my lower moments; hard as it is to get out and running when the axe of redundancy (or any other challenging life event) is hovering over your neck, it really is true what they say about exercise making you feel better. Though I’m still not convinced I’m going to enjoy tomorrow morning’s scheduled 12 mile run in the rain….

But this is not to be a negative post, far from it. I’ve found a new job that I’m itching to start, have already got some freelance irons in the fire and genuinely feel this period of change will be the making of me – I’m just looking forward to the change phase being over and the new phase being underway, because it’s the change phase itself that’s so very tiring.

Rather than go home and slump on the sofa this evening (as is my body’s inclination) I’ve decided to be proactive in beating the tiredness, and am planning a return to the Sivananda Yoga Centre in Putney for its evening Satsang class. The Centre is a branch of the ashram in Kerala (southern India) where I did a two week residential yoga course in 2011. Satsang is a free class which comprises a twenty to thirty minute group meditation session, followed by 45 minutes of mantra chanting and a talk on the philosophy of yoga. It sounds a bit crack pot, I’ll admit, but I actually find the whole thing very relaxing, and a great way to ‘switch off’ the mind after a long day or period of stress. To any disbelievers reading this post I will say only this: Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!

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Writing this post reminded me of the few days post-ashram when I and two of my fellow ashramees [sic] spent a few days on the coast, in Kovalam. This pic was when we were still full of the enthusiasm of regular yoga practice – how times have changed (for me at least, I can’t speak for the others!)