In-between.

In-between.

I don’t know how to label this place I find myself in.

I don’t know how to label it because, really, I don’t know what it is myself.

It’s a place that can either come in intense bursts, debilitating bursts, or in a gentler presence shifting me in directions I don’t want to go in.

A few months ago, I realised I couldn’t – wouldn’t – allow myself to go back to those dark places. Would no longer run rather than face the deeper story that was being written beneath the surface. Words etched across my heart but never spoken out loud.

So I turned to therapy. I’m not afraid to say that. Not anymore.

In fact… I’m proud to say it. Proud that after 25 years I have finally taken a step into the unknown in the most frightening way possible.

I thought jumping out of planes was frightening. Taking a backpack with no end destination in sight. Leaving my life behind.

Turns out this journey is the scariest of all.

Because this journey has meant opening a door I fought my whole life to keep shut. And the demons that have crept out have changed everything.

They’ve changed because… now I can’t help but notice when my behaviour, when my mind, takes a swift and plunging turn. The areas I may not have recognised before are now forced under the spotlight.

And they’re areas I no longer want to give space to. My space. Because that space is precious. It’s the space I want to fill with love, learning and growth… not panic and anger.

It’s a space I want to burn bright with trust and an openhearted spirit.

I don’t want it to be a space I retreat to when the walls are closing in and every part of my world is fighting against the need to escape.

But the thing is, recognising those traits and escape routes is one thing. Eradicating them is another.

And right now? That feels like an impossible task.

That mountain I now have to climb? It’s teetering oh so high. It’s covered in slippery slopes and jagged edges.

It’s overwhelming.

The idea that, one day, I’ll be able to shed this outer skin and give way to a calmer, content way of being free from the extreme up and downs feels so far away.

You know. You can see it but you can’t quite touch it.

I can feel myself changing already. When I compare where I am now to a year ago I can already see those beautiful steps I have taken. I’ve walked through the thorn-filled paths of my mind and slowly let myself sink into the petals.

I’m letting go. I’m letting myself be myself and gradually loosening the grip on that looming shadow.

Yet the loosened grip is a grip all the same. It’s still there, in the peripheral.

Right now I’m in-between.

In-between then and now.

In-between here and there.

The life I want to embody whole-heartedly is at my fingertips. And that can only be a good thing.

Estranged.

Estranged.

I find it a difficult sentence to say. Even now, when the words have almost formed a script that I go to time and time again. An off-hand comment said quickly and casually. It invites less questions that way.

“I don’t have a relationship with my Mother.”

The raised eyebrows in response call for elaboration. I never give it.

Because how can you elaborate on something you can’t quite understand yourself?

I’ve written about my childhood before. The story that forever follows my every step, unknowingly. A story of closed doors and uncertainty. The shadow I can’t quite seem to let go of.

Since starting therapy 8 weeks ago, it’s the one I’ve finally started to shine a light on. And that light? It’s a glaringly bright one. Because taking yourself back to the memories you fought so desperately to suppress is long and it’s painful.

I always come back to the same question.

Am I happier having her in or out of my life?

It’s always been a back and forth race. For over two years I didn’t see her at all. I didn’t have a choice in the matter. And still I longed for her in the same way I longed for her love and support as a child. I wanted her to be everything I needed her to be.

When the time came that I couldn’t stand the cut ties any longer, I wove the threads back together. Slowly. Bit by bit.

I tried to forgive her. Tried to let go of the weight I was carrying around like jagged rocks pushing into my chest.

Tried.

She had changed, I told myself. Maybe it would work this time.

And she had. For the most part, anyway. The darkness that had crippled my younger years was gone. She was trying, in her own disjointed way.

So why is it I still found myself in a position where I couldn’t let her back in?

My Mother was a stranger to me. Is a stranger to me. When I looked at her all I could feel was immense sadness over the years lost and the fact she would never look at me the way my Dad did.

She wasn’t my Mum.

And I couldn’t forget. As much as I wanted to, it was impossible. The second a situation arose where I felt her darkness was coming back out, I pulled up the walls and shut my eyes.

I had tried. And I had failed.

I realised I wasn’t ready to let her back in. I never would be until I could accept that she would never be the Mum I wanted.

And that realisation? It brings a tidal wave of emotions.

I feel sorrow when I imagine how different it could be. Brokenhearted at the thought of a future without her in it.

I feel guilt over how little she has in her life. How perhaps I should be the one to help her fix it.

I feel shame over being estranged by choice when so many have that choice taken out of their hands.

I feel confusion over whether to follow my head or heart. Whether I’ll ever be ready to let my heart lead me.

Yet… I also feel certainty that, at least for now, I am not strong enough to follow that path.

One day the heartache will subside. I hope. Perhaps a time will come when I can let her back into my thoughts and back into my life. We will create our own version of a Mother Daughter relationship and it will add happiness rather than toxicity into my inner being.

Or maybe not. I just don’t know.

But right now? It’s a truth I need to own.

Without the shame that tries to sneak along beside it.

Is paying attention the key?

Is paying attention the key?

I find myself questioning a lot. Too much, maybe. I question the root of my battle with anxiety and depressive episodes. I question how I can balance my longing to be free against the notion of what freedom really is. I question my writing and what I want to achieve from it.

I question everything. I guess that’s what this blog is, really.

And I think that constant hunting out of the answer to all these questions is precisely that… a need to find that bigger answer. The one lingering in the corner of the room, tapping you on the shoulder and following your every movement.

How do I live my life to its fullest?

A dear friend and I talk about these questions almost every day. We share reflections on the week gone, help one another work our way through the existential topics that frame our very being.

Recently, with reference to a recent blog post where I spoke about throwing myself headfirst and giving it my all, she said:

“I wonder if your natural tendency, what comes easiest to you, is to be active, pushing, striving it’s quite a fierce approach… so what about the wildness in softening, letting go, grounding, getting present?”

It’s something I’d never considered. Not on a deep level, anyway. Whilst I strive for a mindful life I’d be lying if I said it was a path that came easily. If at all.

I’m fiery by character. A textbook Sagittarius, my passions are intense and my life tends to run on impulses. I follow my gut, always, and fly through every experience as if on hot coals. A moment wasted is a moment lost.

And mostly, it’s a trait that has served me well. That desire compelled me to leave my comfort zone and take on many of the life changing experiences I pride myself on. It helped me get the jobs I have done and grab hold of my achievements.

But it also made me slip through them at full speed; a conveyor belt continuously taking me to the next destination.

Because when I look back, I can’t help but wonder… how different would things have been had I found the space inside me to press down on the brakes and ground myself?

To be in that moment, to pay attention to it, rather than tying up my laces ready for the next step?

I’ve always told myself that my inability to stop is simply a manifestation of my urge to live every second out of life. The thought of reaching the end of my life and feeling any regret for the opportunities missed fills me with a debilitating terror. I want to be able to tell of my adventure, to hold it close to my chest and know that I made every moment count.

And yet… am I really feeling those moments?

Mary Oliver puts it beautifully:

“Attention without feeling, I began to learn, is only a report. An openness – an empathy – was necessary if the attention was to matter.”

Is this, then, the answer?

Perhaps the key is to surrender to a gentler way of life. To stop comparing this place I find myself in to the past and let go of my expectations for the future. To let the water carry me. Let it quench my thirst.

As if on cue, I stumbled across this quote today from the global spiritual leader Thich Nhat Hanh:

“To dwell in the here and now does not mean you never think about the past or responsibly plan for the future. The idea is simply not to allow yourself to get lost in regrets about the past or worries about the future. If you are firmly grounded in the present moment, the past can be an object of inquiry, the object of your mindfulness and concentration. You can attain many insights by looking into the past. But you are still grounded in the present moment.”

It seems so obvious. But I’ve got 25 years of behaviour to unthread to make it a reality.

Because to truly live in the moment… to appreciate being and to show up to it in an open way… it means letting go of the control.

And that is my ultimate challenge.

But recognising that? Acknowledging it?

At least that journey has finally begun.

Wild and free.

Wild and free.

I’ve struggled a lot with the transition between “being away” and “being back.” Here and there. Back and forth. The difference between days spent wandering white sand beaches blissfully disconnected from expectations and those laced in routine and demand. Which one provided more meaning. Which one offered a version of my true self.

It’s a struggle I dip in and out of. When my current path is paved with achievements and fulfilment, that struggle drifts away. I am present and so very at peace with this life I have built.

And yet other times that question mark seems to trace its silhouette back in glaring focus. All too quickly the walls around me shoot further and further up, encasing me in panic and confusion. When life takes an unexpected turn I wasn’t quite prepared for. When mindful living trips into monotony.

It’s coming up to a year since I’ve been home. And for a while now I’ve stayed on the lighter side of the gate. I’ve been able to embrace the beautiful relationships “being back” has brought me and feel true joy in the simple pleasures of time spent in my hometown. I wake up inspired by what my work day may hold and excited about the places the next few months will take me.

Because, maybe, I can still find that wild freedom that made me feel so alive in that sacred time “being away”?

Maybe, being wild and free doesn’t have to be jumping out of planes and diving into the ocean depths?

Maybe, being wild and free doesn’t have to be endless evenings spent beer in hand dancing under the stars?

Maybe, being wild and free doesn’t have to be snap decisions to fly to a destination of your choice with nothing but your backpack and a sense of adventure?

I’m beginning to wonder whether being wild and free can also grow in the thrill of throwing yourself headfirst into something new, simply because. Of giving it your all, regardless of the end result. Or perhaps it’s there when you push away the barriers and let another in. When you don’t even think about the risk, weighing up the pros and cons, holding yourself back because it’s “easier that way.” Letting time and life do their thing and see where it takes you, for the better or worse. Could it be trusting the process? Is it learning to love yourself in a way that means everything makes sense, just a little more?

What if it’s saying yes rather than no?

What if it’s saying goodbye to fear, in every aspect of life?

The pang of what else is out there will forever walk beside me. Curiosity follows in my shadow… and that’s okay. Thirst for life and living the hell out of it is a quality I never want to let go of.

But doing that? Embracing that quality?

It exists within me, in every moment regardless of where or how that moment comes into light.

It’s here. And it always will be.

“The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the motherfucking shit out of it.” – Cheryl Strayed.

Thinking out loud #2

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The big cup of coffee in bed every morning. The cold beer sitting on the terrace. The taste of mango, avocado and tomatoes on olive bread and the reassuring feel of pen to paper as  I pour my world out to you, drip by drip. These are the things that make me feel at home. These are the moments I can simply be. And whilst worry has crept back trying to steer me out of this path of joy into one of safety, I’ve fought back. Told the dark force that, this time, it won’t win. I will. From now on.

“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.”

Letting go of the shackles. Putting myself in the face of excitement.

Trusting the process. Trusting it all.

Comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Last week I attended my first Buddhist group. I didn’t know what to expect, unsurprisingly. I just knew it was an area of my life I wanted to explore a little further with the hope that, maybe, it would help me understand *things* that little further.

Maybe.

I have also been desperate to establish a meditation practice to sit alongside my yoga one. Because, to me, they go hand in hand. And I can’t help but think that in that joint practice sits the key to a mindful life.

And not just talking about it. Not just writing about it. Actually living it.

The group started with some chanting. Fine, no problem. I’m a-ok with chanting from my yoga. I love the energy of it.

But then it came to the next bit and the words I had no idea would fill me with such dread.

“So now we’ll take 30 minutes of silent meditation.”

That’s right. I’d come to a Buddhist group with the sole purpose of meditating and yet the actual act of sitting cross legged with my eyes shut for longer than a few breaths made me a nervous wreck.

I know. I didn’t understand it either.

But here’s the thing. The thought of being in that silent space without any stimulants panicked me. I couldn’t help but think “Jesus, I could be using my time SO much more effectively right now” and even “well if I count X breaths in and out at a speed of Y then I should reach the 30 minute mark at Z.”

For the life of me I could not imagine how I would be able to convince my mind to take a step back for that time without it running circles around every topic under the sun.

It was anything but comfortable to me. My shoulder was causing me grief having pulled it the night before and my ankle was sitting at a funny angle. My neck felt stiff. My toes started to go dead.

So. Many. Different. Feelings. And. Sensations.

And that was all within the first 30 seconds.

It was exhausting.

Then this quiet voice in my ear.

“You’re pushing your attention on all these things because you’re scared to be alone with your own thoughts.”

And it was true. Being totally alone in the silence of my own mind terrified me. It’s for that precise reason I fall asleep with Netflix playing. Why when I find myself in a situation where I can’t nod off either with laptop at my side or a book in my hand I don’t sleep and instead the insomnia kicks in.

That huge, empty, vastness… it panics me. The nothingness? I avoid it at all costs.

Yet… it doesn’t have to be a “nothingness”, does it? Is that not the whole point of meditation? That in the “nothingness” we are able to find “something”?

“When your attention moves into the Now, there is an alertness. It is as if you were waking up from a dream, the dream of thought, the dream of past and future. Such clarity, such simplicity. No room for problem-making. Just this moment as it is.” – Eckhart Tolle

So I forced myself to be with it. To spinal breathe through the chakras and take note of the uncomfortable aches and then move on. To let my mind try to wander but trust that it would find its way back.

To be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

It wasn’t easy. I can’t sit here and pretend that this sudden epiphany instantly made me a master of the big M.

But it was a process I stuck with. That I committed to.

It’s a concept I’m trying to bring into my daily life. That sense of living not in despite of any stress, difficulties or simply awkwardness… but within it. Trying not to fight it, but understand that you will grow from it.

Because, surely, if we stopped resisting the inevitable, worrying about what “could” be and instead accepted each passing moment as it was… passing, fleeting… then surely everything would be a hell of a lot easier?

Surely we would understand *things* that little further?