There are times in life when it feels like I am holding my breath waiting for something unexpected to happen. I’m scared to exhale in case my next deep breath will fragment the moment. It feels like anything is possible.
Most of 2020, particularly these past 6 months have felt exactly like that. Something entirely new is emerging in my world as I know it. I don’t have the answers yet, but I can feel which way my heart is pulling me and I’ve lived my whole life by that pull.
My entire body aches for human touch and interaction. We’ve been under strict lockdown for almost 3 months. The days feel long and hard and lonely. I’m grateful for Danger being so tactile and snuggly.
Slowly moving between my bedroom, the sofa and the balcony I sometimes toy with the idea of working in a cafe 1 day per week. I’ve had Zoom-fatigue since April. I record a free video course called ‘Pause & Pivot‘ in my living room inspired the uninterrupted stillness I’ve faced the past few months.
The black lives matter movement further unsettles my already stressed nervous system. It’s all coming to the surface right now: the trauma, the wounds that want to be healed, the indoctrinated unjust that permeates our society. I am stunned by the cruelty and saddened by my ignorance and feel overwhelmed.
Sometimes overwhelm is unprocessed grief and trauma from the challenges we have to face in our lives and the world.
In an attempt to bring my physical and emotional wellbeing back into balance I do a 7-day water fast days before the summer solstice. The psychological impact of this strange time is hitting harder than I want to admit.
Lockdown has been unlocked and the streets are teeming with people and it feels like a reverse culture shock as we all try to reintegrate into society.
He stabs a short succession of sharp needles into my stomach while guiding me to breathe. It’s my first acupuncture treatment this year. The past few months of psychological stress and emotional eating have done a number on my health and hormones. He works on my digestion and tells me I have a blood deficiency that he intends to work on. I book an appointment every week.
On a hot summer’s day, my doorbell rings and the voice on the other side of the buzzer informs me that my book delivery has arrived. I run down in torn denim shorts and a little white vest expecting a couple of strong men to start carrying the 500 Plannhers I had developed and printed up to my 3rd floor.
The small, stout delivery man at the building entry informs me that the enormous palette of boxes wrapped in layers of plastic will be dropped off on the street and I’ll have to find my own way of getting them in.
Panicked, I text my neighbours while violently cutting at the packaging with scissors. Ed, Eve and Stuart emerge and start hauling boxes with me until we are sore and tired and sweaty and every last box has filled my tiny seaside flat. I buy them chocolate and wine that we drink instantly lightheaded and tipsy from the heat and action.
I spend the first 3 days filling 100’s of orders, marching my suitcase full of perfectly packed books to and from the Post Office to fly around the Earth to their new homes until I feel like my arms might fall off and my body aches but my heart is full. Plannher has been so well received I feel I am living in a dream.
On the first page of my own Plannher I write:
I’ve always used journaling to identify the under-currents of my subconscious thoughts — as a way to bring awareness and clarity to patterns, habits and beliefs — those that bring joy and gratitude, and those that offer a portal for change. Alongside that, I have discovered the magic of making gentle frameworks of plans, dreams and aims to guide my way. It’s this beautiful weaving of mapping out, contemplation, and being in the journey that is life, that Plannher is created for. A feminine way for women to invite structure and dreaming into her life.
I’m invited to a party but am not inclined to spend time with so many people all at once yet.
Instead, I go to Norfolk for 4 days with a quartet of friends to frolic around wild beaches, gasp at the seals and sit in the sun with icy glasses of gin. We talk about love and life and what it’s like being single in your mid-to-late 30’s. I write about it.
I start dating someone. A man I’ve known for 14 years who on one kismet day in early August reenters my little corner of the universe. In my journal, I note Oxytocin is an amusing and cruel mistress. How a simple intimate connection can cause a shift so great that I can go from thinking about a man 1-2 times per year to wanting to have his babies. It’s ludicrous. Anyway, I continue, this too shall pass and find its own way with time. It’s good to remember that casual thoughts do not reflect reality and that being human is so fucking weird.
It’s my birthday. My best friend Lilly is staying with me. We’ve been through so much together. I am deeply grateful that she is one of the people in my world that I know will be right there whenever I need her.
I wake up excited like a child, thrilled to be alive, to dance another year around our sun. I feel hot, so hot it feels like my body is burning up. I take my temperature just in case. The thermometer reads a cool 36.4. I have a suspicion what I’m feeling is the love directed at me from around the world at this moment that is causing my body to burn.
We sit on the sofa as I open presents. 2 beautiful handmade ceramic mugs. beautiful houseplants. books. a rose. more flowers. a card game. there’s a parcel from him. out falls a thick envelope and something bubble-wrapped bigger than both my hands. It feels like a candle I say to Lilly as I unwrap the gift first. Inside is a large jar of coconut oil. I laugh, hard. It’s an inside joke. Then I open the envelope. There are four handwritten pages that I rapidly devour bursting into ugly tears at the end. I run to the bathroom with the letter in my hands to hide my fragility and quiet my concurrently brimming and breaking heart. It’s the most beautiful love letter I’ve ever read.
After I compose myself we make granola with coconut yoghurt and berries for breakfast and get ready for my birthday picnic party on the beach. I laugh and smile and drink champagne with everyone but a small part of me stays with that letter the entire day.
August peaks in energy and intensity in every way. It’s dry and hot and the 10.30 pm sunsets followed by restless nights and 4.30 am sunrises make the days long. In an attempt to make up for all the lonely months prior I throw myself into every convivial activity with enthusiasm.
At the same time, I navigate the challenges that arise from the gentle, fierce commitment I have to live a life that is my own. There’s a sense of closure of one chapter of my life, a cycle that began 5 years ago and ended here. My life is steering into foreign waters.
To process, I write:
People love to ask me what my plans are. What’s next? Where are you going? It always makes me smile. I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going to happen next. I’m very comfortable in the uncertain vulnerability of not knowing the future.
Here’s what I do know.
I will love in ways I’ve not loved before. I will take pieces of my heart and soul and turn them into things. I will see beauty I’ve not witnessed previously. I will seek out new experiences to inspire me. I will learn and grow and change and the world around me will do the same. I will follow the threads of what feels good: what inspires, interests, captures my heart… until those threads run out… and then I will follow new threads. Some threads last for moments, years, lifetimes…
I won’t get attached to knowing how life will happen because I know that people are terrible at predicting the future. I trust the kismet unfolding of life as it happens, now.
I will meet life, every day, with all of myself. I will show up to it fully. I will pour my heart and creativity into everything around me. I will touch each moment with all the presence I can muster. And it will be enough. It will be enough.
A yoga class abandoned to make it to an appointment as I slide into my 1950’s cropped slim leg trousers and cashmere jumper. Wrapping up warm in a fluffy coat and wool baker boy cap to traipse across town for brunch with a woman I’ve only recently met but already adore and admire. Lying on a rug on the floor with her and talking about love, pain, growth, sex and the lives past that we lived in this one with sticky flakes of pain au chocolat on our fingers and ginger tea cooling too quickly beside us. Walking home through the rain feeling smugly untouched by the wet on account of my coat and cap humming songs to myself. Sleeping in after a week of full-moon restless nights, a 5k run through soft drizzle and a lit-up carousel on a pier to greet me. Roasted vegetables in the oven, neighbours that meet me on our adjoining balconies as the wind and wet tear at our hair and clothing to exchange baked goods over the side and work that requires my creative words while my phone lights up with sweet messages that flutter my heart. Danger-Zone squeezing his furry body between my ribs and hip bone to settle into that nook that he loves. A perfect weekend. The sense of freedom. My life is my own.
I see him a few more times since that first. We are taking things slow. I want to protect the sacred, fragile, first flourishings of this love as we are exploring each other’s lives and landscapes. I am astounded by the depth and intimacy met with the freedom and sovereignty that I never knew possible before. Within it breathes a tender vulnerability and rawness that makes my heart ache. It feels innovative… like we exist at the very edge of the world in the way we are relating. We are experimenting with relishing each other absent of expectations of what might happen next.
A second love letter arrives. I strive to take my time reading it this time. I want to savour the words. To feel them touch my soul one by one. Once more, giant sobs escape from me before I even finish. I’ve never before met a man who can touch my heart with words in this way. I don’t contact him for 3 days out of fear of lacking the depth I want to express under the welcome guise that my friend Anna is staying with me. When I finally reply I choke up during a voice note as I try to reveal how I feel and begin to cry.
He invites me to come to Italy with him. I say I’d love to. It’s equal parts exhausting and mesmerising. We harvest olives and play with babies, eat too many pastries alongside Italian cappuccinos, run through Tuscan countryside, see each others’ humanness flake through in difficult moments, and gently soothe those moments with intimate conversations and lovemaking.
I am discovering so much. About myself. About love. About relating. I don’t have the answers yet but I am willing to learn.
I read a sentence that said something like we are watching each other go through withdrawal from the emotional addiction to the myth of certainty and those words… they have stayed with me as I see the world shapeshift over and over again trying to make sense of things that we cannot: the mystery of life that is uncontrollable and beyond our intellectual capacities.
We need to come to a place in ourselves where we are to be able to hold the paradox in our hearts and minds that we can endlessly grasp for more our knowledge is limited. That while discovering and learning about ourselves and the world is exciting and fascinating we can never access the whole truth of anything because we are limited by design.
Truth reveals itself in layers.
There is no certainty. We cannot predict the future. Anything is possible. We can only choose, moment-to-moment, what feels “right” right now and have faith that everything will work out. Learning to feel safe and secure and happy within uncertainty is a skill we all need to learn.
Everything is always changing. Nothing remains the same.
Photo: Nadia Meli
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