It’s Sunday as I stand on a London Overground train between Hackney and Dalston, sardined by the most people than I have been in two years, my nose safely tucked into my own armpit to escape the humid wet-dog smell emanating in the carriage. I smile to myself about both being in such intimate proximity of other humans and the fact that, if things had gone to plan, I would have at that moment, been 1,222 kilometres south racing through France and into Spain in Punto-baby on a 24-hour visa.
But “not on your timeline,” the universe said.
At the start of September, I do something out of character. I sit down and plan my trip to Mallorca. I write down dates and book ferries and hotels and mentally start packing my things. This is kind of fun, I think, I get why some people love planning. And that’s it. I feel ready.
A few days later I receive a call from the lady whose flat I’m subletting. She tells me she is going to come to Brighton for 10 days to organise and pack some of her things, clean the flat, and handle the handover to a friend of mine that I’ve arranged to take over the sublet. Great! I say. Where are you going to stay? I am shocked and outraged as she tells me that she expects me to sleep in the living room while she takes my bed and bedroom.
The conversation intensifies as I tell her that does not work for me and she refuses to look into alternative arrangements. After half an hour of back and forth, I end the discussion and feel my body fill with holy rage. My boundaries are being crossed and I am quietly furious. I want to know what my rights are and contact Citizens Advice where someone assures me that she has no right to request to stay in my flat while I am living in it. They send me legal documents that I forward to her in an email with a calm and formal statement that she is welcome to access the flat at agreed-upon times but may not stay there. She does not reply.
I am unaccustomed to having to take legal action and hold such strong boundaries. My body feels tense and apprehensive at this new experience. I know I am doing the right thing and also rewiring the parts of me that would have once allowed me to be subjected to such overextensions. I feel it in that quiet place inside that shows me the way.
Halfway through September, I take Danger to the vet for his Animal Health Certificate required for international travel. Inside, we wait 45 minutes until she sees us and then tells me that she can’t do the health certificate because his rabies vaccine isn’t compliant with the brand they accept. You’ll need to get another vaccine and then have to wait an additional 21 days before you can travel. She says. I look at her with disbelief. We are leaving in 10 days. We have ferries booked. We have nowhere to live. She looks sorry in that polite way that British people do, big ‘it’s not my fault’ eyes. She gives Danger new rabies shot and as the chemicals hit his bloodstream he wets and shits himself. Poor baby. We both have a nervous system collapse and drive back home.
It takes me a few hours to collect myself and self-regulate through reframing the situation, rest, handing it all over to the Universe and taking tangible steps to accept these changes. I cancel all our hotel bookings, reschedule the vet appointment and the ferries across the English Channel and the Balearic Sea. I also take to Instagram and ask my community for help. I need a place to stay for two weeks until I can attempt my trip again. Within 24 hours Danger and I are generously re-homed. I feel deeply grateful and so supported.
Twelve days before my move-out date from Brighton I hear back from the lady I have been subletting from. An excessively long, emotionally charged email lamenting me for not allowing her to stay in the flat and accusing me of having destroyed it and inviting strange people to live in it. It’s so ironic. I think to myself. The flat is cleaner and nicer than it was when I moved in and she’s suggesting that I’ve turned it into an opium den. It’s ridiculous. This woman is clearly mentally unstable. Again, I go to Citizen’s Advice who advocate that I acquire written accounts from my neighbours who have visited the flat and see who comes in and out, to affirm that her suggestions are untrue. As advised, I respond shortly and formally with legal statements.
A week later, she replies, again trying to assert her control and dominance with a novel-length email that I skim-read to learn that she will no longer come. She requests peace and time to do an inventory of her things before she returns my £1,000 rental deposit and requires me to give the keys to her friend who will then give them to my friend, instead of me giving them to my friend myself. Fine. I’ll give her to the end of the year. I have all the legal documents ready including information that she is receiving government benefits while being out of the country and will destroy her if she tries anything. My fury with her disrespect and lack of common sense is high.
I spend a week packing and cleaning until on the final day my lower back aches so badly I have to lie down in between washing the floors. I promise to book an appointment with an Osteopath as soon as I have arrived in my temporary home in London, the house of a friend of mine that is empty for a week while she is away. They are fully booked on Saturday and I have plans to see my friend on Sunday, the day I find myself in a fully packed overground train, and walking on the Heath for so many hours I have to support my back with my arm on the way home…
On Monday morning I find myself on an osteotherapy table in my bra and leggings underneath the gentle warm hands of one of the most attractive men I have ever seen.
He tells me that the acute back pain isn’t actually structural but rather a physiological response to the internal organs on my left (feminine) side contracting so tightly to protect themselves that they have pulled my spine and posture out of alignment. He asks me if I’ve been eating anything differently which may have cause inflammation but I instantly know it’s not physical. It’s emotional.
My finely-tuned super-sensitive system has been slammed with abnormal emotional challenges all month long and this is how it has responded. By curling into a fetus position within my own body. He spends an hour working through the tight muscles between my organs in my stomach, hips and back.
I feel relief and release and watch his gentle face concentrate on his work. Tall, dark and handsome, I wonder if it would be inappropriate to ask him to marry me. Come back in a week. He says afterwards. I’m leaving on Friday. I smile back regretfully. And you’re never coming back? His right eyebrow arches quizzically. Probably not. I laugh. At least not until after winter. I leave feeling much lightened and saunter across East London to meet up with a friend who jubilantly reveals that she’s pregnant. I cry, in part because I am genuinely so happy for her, but also because the emotional release from the opening of my cramped-in organs has begun. I find myself in tears from the smallest things for the rest of the day.
A full day of sitting down with private clients leaves me feeling stiff and sore. I book another osteotherapy appointment at another clinic, 90 miles from London, in the town I will spend the remainder of my extended time in the UK for the following week. A sleepless night of progressing aches and pains in my stomach and back bleeds into another full day of private clients. Moving, walking, bending shoots crippling pain through the left side of my body.
My movements begin to resemble those of Gollum as the gurgling protests in my stomach and acute pain that even seldom-used painkillers don’t offer respite to. By mid-afternoon the way I feel alarms me so much I call the osteopathy clinic seeking comfort. The girl who answers the phone looks at my file and assures me that it is expected that I would be unable to do anything but rest for up to a week as extraordinarily deep work had been done. I wish he would have told me.
I cancel the rest of my calls and the next-day yoga retreat that I had been given as a PR gift. Disappointed I find the only position that I can be comfortable in, lying down flat and straight like a sardine with my head propped up. From this place, I can watch films, type on my laptop and drink tea.
The next day, today, I just lie there and type. I type email after email until every email I’ve needed or wanted to write has been written. I write this. I pack up my life once more. Tomorrow we are moving to a new town. One we’ve never been to before. With a lighthouse and sandy beaches and an Osteopath who tells me to meet him outside of the rugby club that houses his clinic.
The month of September has been an extreme rollercoaster of tests from the Universe, recalibration, growth and healing. Landing me in this position here, right now. I know there are many gifts and lessons for me to learn. Lessons around flexibility and flow, around having humour when things change. Lessons around having a strong backbone and supporting myself when someone tests my boundaries, a sign of my growth and evolution as a human, woman.
It awes me how, over and over again, the body shows me that human existence is one interconnected system: thoughts, emotions, experiences, food, actions… everything you do impacts the whole. It’s a classic example of my reticular activating system in action. And if we zoom out and apply that same perspective on the world at large, there’s no question why the planet is facing the difficulties it is right now.
Photo by my delightful Brighton neighbour Fern Edwards.
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