29 February 2012

The Elephant in the Corner

There is definitely an underlying something going on. Just tucked beneath the facade of our everyday lives is something we can feel, but can't quite put our finger on. People seem somewhat agitated. No, you don't have to be the world's most perceptive person to sense that something just isn't quite right generally.

It's like everyone's got an itch.

I was discussing this global itch with a friend as he drove me home late last night.

"We have pretty much everything we need, nowadays."  He said, looking at me sideways and keeping his eyes fixed on the road ahead.  "Most of us have a roof over our heads. We have jobs, and if we don't have jobs, we have the resources available to find one. We've got clothes on our backs and we are fed and watered. Even those things that used to be considered a luxury are coming to us as standard, like cars and fancy holidays, for example. "

"That's true." I agreed, nodding at him.

"So now we have all these things that we thought would complete us, but most people still aren't happy. It's like there's something missing."

"Something we can't quite figure out?" I ask.

"Exactly." He says.
Sitting back, I let his words sink in and reflect for a moment on my own life. I am lucky enough to have a job. A job that means I can eat well, treat myself to nice things occasionally, go out when I fancy and put a safe roof over my head. Okay, so I might like to have a bigger flat, a more exciting job, enough money to jet off to sunny locations more than once a year, but right now I have everything I need to live comfortably. Should that not be enough? As that familiar uneasy feeling sweeps over me, I realise that actually, it's not.

My mind quickly scans all the people I have met recently who race around London consumed in the rat race, scratching their heads on how to feel fulfilled in their life. The guy from work who moans as he stirs two thick sugars into yet another cup of coffee, the girl on the train who forgets she's holding her Mulberry handbag, just like every other girl in that carriage. It lacks a big fat meaning, once you get down to the bottom of it all.

How are you?  

Need we ask...

I'm fine.

We hardly register the fraction of a second's pause that follows after those two words, 'I'm fine'. But next time, you might notice that your insides skip a beat.

How much attention do we really pay to our insides?  Not your stomach, liver, lungs and the sort. I'm talking about the insides we can't see. Meditation, inner reflection (or call it what you will) is the art of devoting a little bit of time conversing with your insides. My recent personal battle with sitting down and shutting up in order to converse with my insides hasn't been an easy one. There's always an excuse; a more exciting thing to think about, a distraction or two.
I have perfected the art of putting off facing my insides to the point of almost resenting getting up close and personal with who I truly am. We are taught from a very early age how to interact with the world outside us; to communicate with other people, discover new objects and experience an outward life, so much so that somewhere along the way we seem to have forgotten how to communicate with ourselves.
Perhaps I'm a bit frightened at what I might find by staring directly at my true bare being. It would mean accepting myself for being very absolutely me. 
 A scary thought.  But one worth thinking about. 

It's a bit like the gigantic elephant standing in the corner.


24 February 2012

Inner Peace... Make Mine A Double

"That's it. I've had enough." I say, stomping into the living room after work and throwing my handbag down onto the chair so it thumps loudly to reflect my mood. "I don't want to hear the television, the radio or have anyone talk to me. I need some space; to be just me and to stop bloody thinking."
I look at Liam who's sat slouched on the sofa, headphones on, his iPad balanced precariously on his knees.
I suddenly feel terrible. I've done it again; walked in from work like a gigantic whirlwind.

"Ok." He says slowly. "You have three minutes to moan. But you only get three minutes and then you can't mention it for the rest of the evening. Deal?" He tilts his head and raises his eyebrows without glancing away from his football game.

"Deal." I say and sit down. My arms (which have now been given the go-ahead) begin to wave frantically in the air as I explain how annoying it was, how she really did say it like that, and right about when I'm  describing how unbelievable it was, he puts his hand up to stop me.

"Time's up!" He says as he smiles and kisses my forehead. "Now leave it behind."

I sigh, because I know he's right.

"I need some quiet. I think I'm going to close my eyes, do some meditation and then get the tea." Then because I know how paper-thin these walls are, I ask the impossible:

"Do you think you could be silent for about twenty minutes so I can switch off?"

He raises his eyebrow. "Do you think you can?!"

Taking full advantage of the fact the television isn't blaring and hoping he'll keep his earphones in, I drag my busy mind into the bedroom (ignoring his knowing smirk) and I shut the door behind me.

I close my eyes.

After a couple of seconds, my mind stops its chatter and rather than focussing on six hundred things, I'm only seeing one. I become more aware of my breathing. This is good, I think. As my shoulders begin to drop, the tension in my back starts to let go. The day's recurring phone calls, missing letters, the cram up in the tube so my nose was stuck against the glass... They all begin to disappear. I can still feel the stress stuck in a few knots, but it's surely going.

Deep breath in. Long breath out. This is easy, I think, wiggling my bottom into the duvet. I wonder just what all the fuss was about. Quiet my mind? Easy as pie.

Eyes firmly shut; I begin to imagine the most beautiful white light radiating down from my ceiling. Like I'm under a spotlight. Nice and calming. I'm drifting off into this bright abyss when an unexpected creak interrupts my calm. A padded: thud, thud, thud. The unmistakeable sound of a fridge door opening.  

Rustle. Pause. Rustle. 

There's a crescendo of electronic humming seeping through the walls. It would be quite calming, except there's a sudden pop! that makes me jump right out of my skin and back in again. I realise it's the toaster. I'm cross because there's no worse a time to be jumping full pelt out of your skin than when you're meditating.

I screw my eyes tightly shut, and try to find my focus again. But I can hear him fumbling about for the butter. It'll be my nice, expensive Lurpak butter. Spreadable. No clumps. Slightly salted. Oh god.  

Warm, melty butter on toast.

I take another deep breath in and one long breath out. It's not important. Focus. It's just butter. And once again I see my happy place.

But now there's a clinking noise going on in the kitchen. It sounds suspiciously like ice cubes being popped into a glass. If there's ice cubes going on, it can only be...

The sound of a bottle scraping the sideboard, the plastic being peeled off, and a muffled "rrrhhhgh" before the cap is unscrewed.

Oh, he hasn't. I imagine him sloshing a hefty measure of my new bottle of Coconut Mahiki rum into the bottom of a glass.

I've lost the six hundred stressful things floating about my head. The one, single thing I'm focussing on is a cool coconut rum and coke with ice tinkling around in a glass. I can see in my mind's eye a bright red straw, bubbles fizzing to the top, the froth settling. One eye peeks open just a little.

I slide off the bed as I hear him walk back and slump on the sofa. Careful not to make a sound I tiptoe across the room, slowly and silently push the handle of the door down and ease it open just half an inch.

"Can I have one?" I whisper. The sudden hissy noise in the silence shocks him, making him jump out of his skin and drop his straw on the floor.

I smile knowingly at him. And ever so quietly add;

"I've not failed completely. One eye's still shut."

14 February 2012

A little love back to you...

I've was nominated by Lo on her marvellous blog, It's Always Something to recieve the Leibster Blog Award - lucky me! And because my German is a very average GCSE 'C' (and not much more than that), I've been sneaky and looked up 'Leibster' online and found it means; darling, sweetheart. But because most of you are darlings and I could go on listing your blogs forever... I've decided to translate my 'Leibster' Award as; favourite. 

Valentine's Day is a lovely opportunity to rave about those bloggers I think are just fantastic. Here are my favourites... With love!

Sharon Longworth at Resistent But Persistent

Because... she carries you along a journey, holding your hand to show you her world. Her posts are always full to the brim of quirky turns, lovely tales and stories I could read over and over again- (and admittedly, I do).

Dicky at Dicky Carter

Because...  the way he writes is real and very open; snippets of life, laying it bare. Eloquently put and often very brave.

Because... his words hold you in a way that allows his people and places to become inked in your mind for a very long time. So positive and encouraging, he's been my favourite blogger from the very beginning.

Steven at The Golden Fish

Because... perfectly captured moments in poetry, enhanced with beautiful photographs completely works for me.

Because... he has an uncanny ability to make me smile with his charm and quick wit. His blog always has something new and interesting to learn about, described with a big dose of passion.

3 February 2012

I'm fine.

Sitting in the toilet paper aisle on the floor of a supermarket with my head resting against a 9-roll pack of Andrex, I realise I’ve hit rock bottom.

Well, at least I'm in the right place, I think, opening up a box of Kleenex and blowing my nose. I know my eyes are red, my cheeks a pale blotchy pink. I know I'm crying in a supermarket, I know people are staring. 
I don't care.
I'm letting it out.
Isn't that what everyone says to do? Let it all out, don't bottle everything up.

I look down at the laminate floor of the supermarket. I like the way it glitters under the superficial strip lighting. I move my head to the left, then back to the right again, squinting until the sparkles soften and blur into a single glassy tear that runs away with itself and surprises me.

I'm probably not fine, I think as I take another tissue from the box. I say it really quietly in my mind- almost whispering the thought.

It's a fairly significant moment, considering I'm in a supermarket surrounded by toilet rolls. I take a short, sharp breath that sounds a little like a hiccup.

Perhaps spontaneous crying isn't normal. Maybe they were right.

The aisle is clear, everything has gone quiet.

I bet they're all avoiding me. Like when someone drops a jam jar or bottle of red wine on the floor. Everyone clears off sharpish, leaving a sad mess amongst shards of glass, staining with a dark disillusionment; those dreams of being so much more splattered up discount signs and shelving units.

I peer up the aisle. 

I half expect someone to walk down with a mop and bucket. Holding one of those yellow slippery surface signs tucked under their arm to put up around me.
But no one comes. 
The shelves across the aisle seem to loom over me. I feel suddenly small. My eyes flick up to the rows upon rows of branded cleaning products. The bright gaudy colours and cheap labels that scream for my attention.
I look at them all; naming, shaming, blaming.
My heart palpitates. A roll of nausea sweeps from my chest, teetering on the tip of my tongue.


I hiss out the letters slowly, my tongue releasing the tension, like air escaping from the neck of a too-puffed-up balloon. For a moment, I revel in that tiny bit of control.
Because I just didn't think it could belong to me. I never wanted that label.

It's ok. I'm fine. 

I wipe the hair that has stuck to my forehead with the back of a clammy hand; it comforts me slightly. I close my eyes, rising to my feet. I will myself not to cry.