It is safe for things to be simple.
I read that statement a couple of weeks ago in the midst of a small existential crisis. It touched me in such a profound way that I immediately chose to change my trajectory. A friend (some kind of angel who whispers the words just when I need to hear them) keeps saying something along the lines of ‘if you want different results you have to choose a different approach’. He is so right.
As I read it, I remembered that I like my life simple and wondered where I had made it so hard. I decide that the best thing I can do is look to the past and the decisions that sum up where I am right now.
I’ve been happy, so happy… and then things changed and I changed and what I want has changed and now I am here, on the precipice of making a new decision. Decisions that feel big. Monumental. Life-changing even.
I had this vision that I would stay in Mexico through until April 2020 again and then figure out my way from there but I am feeling an entirely different pull. One that surprises and baffles me. Let me lead you down the road of twists and turns from the past 5 months.
The start of summer in London is wonderful and full and speed by so fast it feels like I am barely there. Between the wedding, in-person clients and catching up with friends my feet barely touch the ground. The pace in this city is so wildly different from the little corner of jungle and ocean I have become used to.
Something else is taking up my energy and space and time. A man I met. I went on two dates with him before I left. He demands that we speak on the phone every day and is displeased when I cannot make it. I wish I’d noticed that red flag then, but these demands are so familiar to my upbringing, that I don’t. That’s the thing with trauma conditioning. You don’t recognise it until you’ve healed it.
I return to Mexico and cry more in the month of July than I have in the past 12 months. It’s not the kind of crying that comes from grief and sadness, the one that makes sense. It’s the kind of crying that comes from old patterns bubbling up to the surface and being released, the kind that arrives out of nowhere and leaves me snotty-nosed with silent tears running down my face… I write about it here.
My time and every ounce of energy I have are monopolised by the man I have started seeing. I barely have time to breathe, to work, to do the things that are important to me. I don’t understand. It doesn’t make sense. Nothing feels clear right now and I don’t feel myself.
I turn 38 and it feels like a major anticlimax. I love my birthdays, normally, but this one feels awkward and forced.
I know what I have to do.
I send him a text message. Half an hour later we meet down on the beach. I clear my throat, nervous, my mouth dry, willing myself to say the words I’d repeated to myself over and over on the walk down the hill. “I love you and really care about you. And I don’t want to be in a romantic relationship with you.” Why? “There are many reasons why, but the overlying one is that I want to be with someone that I’m absolutely crazy about, and that’s just not happening here.” Silence. We speak some more about the ins and outs. Give me a second chance.
The day before my return to London for the rest of the summer, something in a dream wakes me at 4am and I twist my body into a new shape as my fluffy kitten Danger curls into the nook of my arm. I drift back to sleep after an hour of chasing thoughts and willing them to still and then wake up again just in time to get ready for my private client calls.
With no time to meditate or move my body today, I stretch out the kinks and slink into the kitchen to make a tall glass of lemon water to rehydrate while I watch the moon set, shower, get dressed and put on a tiny bit of makeup to cover my puffy eyes from the cold I’ve been fighting and the interrupted sleep. 4 hours of back to back calls Iater I emerge with relief that even when I don’t feel 100%, being fully present with each person exactly as I am is all that’s required to show up.
I steam some broccoli and fry two eggs to put on leftover rice and reply to urgent emails for an hour before I slink back to bed for a little while. I need to finish packing. I’m leaving this little slice of Pacific Ocean for a while. 6 weeks on the other side of the Atlantic connecting with other pieces of my heart.
I walk into town for a waxing appointment. All off, I tell her when she asks, and melt as she finishes with a foot massage. Life has been changing and shapeshifting so much the last few days, I sigh to relieve some of the sensations, zip my bag closed and kiss my baby cat goodbye. Early tomorrow a new journey begins.
Intoxicated, I wander around London, enveloped by the city and the woman-tribe who are my community here, that own my heart.
I write answers to questions like ‘What happens when you outgrow a relationship’ and try to make sense of what I learned from the one I just left.
In my journal, I had written about wanting clarity and release around my observation that I only attracted and dated younger men, and that over the past 10 years they just kept getting younger. When I was 31 my boyfriend was 28. My next boyfriend was 27 while I was 33. We were together for 4 years. When I was 37 I had a lover who was 30. Older men simply didn’t exist in my world. I wondered if there was something deeper going on, that needed to be resolved. I asked for it to come to the surface and be cleared.
I met him a week before his 40th birthday. I felt a strange paradox of both familiarity and recognition coupled with aversion and resistance. But there was something there and I wanted to know what it was. Very quickly I started to realise that he reminded me so much of step-father. A man who was manipulative and controlling, whom I had a difficult relationship with. I re-experienced all those old memories from the perspective of an adult and was able to advocate for myself the way I had never been able to as a child. I set boundaries and said “no” and stood up for the little girl who once had been so powerless.
It was incredibly challenging and healing all at the same time. So much fell away. I saw that the man who appeared as a monster when I was little was simply someone who was incredibly wounded and had not had the resources or support to do his own inner personal development work. Just like this man. A long-term cycle was completed and I was liberated from my past trauma.
In retrospect, I’ve decided I prefer younger men. In my experience, they have much less patriarchial chauvinistic social conditioning to work through. They’re kinder, gentler, more emotionally intelligent. But I’m open to being surprised.
On my penultimate day in London, the urgent need to use the bathroom wakes me and I unwrap myself from the thick duvet and sit up, on the air mattress tucked in the corner of the living room of my poet-friend that I am staying with for my final few days in London. I tiptoe barefoot there and back through the house with the intent not to wake anyone and lay back down and think about all the little things in life that I cannot control.
I hear my friend get up and move through her morning rituals until both the kettle and the coffee maker make their familiar sounds and join her in the kitchen. She passes me a mug of bitter black coffee and a honey pot. I spoon and stir and return to bed for a little while.
Later I wash my face and dress and pack my rucksack to make my way to a popular cafe filled with men and women with pens in hand or hair bent over plates of steaming eggs and sourdough and books and laptops and half-empty coffee cups. I reply to through email after email until my inbox is empty in an attempt to avoid another more difficult, more technical task.
A plate of fried eggs, avocado, kale and buttery toast makes its way to me in the hands of a pretty, almost-androgynous waitress. I eat half and let the rest go cold and return to my work, observing that cafes have become the offices of my generation. My friend comes to join me and has lunch while we chat.
We return home and I spread out on the floor to write an article for my intuition course that’s opening for enrolment tomorrow.
It’s time to go, she says and we put on our coats and head out into the nostalgic grey drizzle to catch a red double-decker bus into the centre. Bustling our way into a bookshop we are handed glasses of red wine and find seats near the front to hear 3 poets read their prose on death and grief. I breathe in the familiar smell of fresh ink and newly printed pages listening to the low whisky voice of a man who lost his mother turn his pain into art and think about how we all try to transmute our human experience into something accessible.
I arrive back in Mexico and I see it through new eyes. It is dirty and disorganised and the beauty I once saw in all the wreckage is replaced with disenchantment and critique.
The leaks in the roof that I had asked my property manager to repair many times already were still letting rain into the living room. The washing machine I had bought a few months earlier was still in disrepair and the repairman had run off with the 50% deposit, paint is peeling off the walls from the monsoons and no-one is willing or able to help me.
One day I find myself following a gentle little intuitive nudge to look at studio flats in Brighton. I find two that I like in my price range and enquire if they’d accept a cat. Then I research what I need to do to bring a cat to the UK with me. And then I suddenly realise that my time in Mexico is complete. I came and did and healed and experienced and loved and connected all the dots. The things that had called me here 3 years ago were now finished.
It’s time for a new chapter to begin. It is safe for things to be simple, now.