I forgot to put the coffee in my coffee this morning. Yup, that about sums up the chaotic but beautiful disarray of my life just now, back from two months in Europe, staying with a variety of different family and friends spread across, like jam on toast, from west England to southern Germany. But we’re home, and the richer for it.
Today I’d really like to share a bit of my trip with you. I hope my reflections and pulled drawstrings of conclusions can help you in your world. Sometimes its not those articles with catchy titles, bulleted numerical and emboldened points that help us the most, its those articles that have a personal edge that we have wiggle room to find ourselves in too. Those are the ones that don’t try and spoon-feed us what they think we need to know. It may be as muddled and scattered as my life right now, but that’s ok- fitting in fact- the form reflective of the content itself.
My children and I went on a magnificent adventure, stuffed with unforgettable moments and priceless memories. Now we’re left with precious pictures, imbued with a quiet, knowing attachment of joy, to cling to both our photo album sleeves and indeed our hearts and minds. We’ve been surrounded by the faces that we love the most and treated to incredible hospitality from all those we stayed with. We visited Dorset, Somerset, hired a cottage in north Devon with my parents, aunt and uncle then to London, East Sussex, Stevenage, Salisbury, Kent drove through France, Luxembourg, Belgium and spent a week in Germany. We celebrated special birthdays, attended a wedding, reunited with loved-ones in a backdrop of quirky settings; an English country pub, a walk through trails in rural Germany, the buzz of the west end in central London for a show, shopping in Bath, a hotel frequented by Thomas Paine in the heart of Lewes, East Sussex, to name a smattering.
Brilliant as it was on the whole, it was a long time to be away from home and the extended break was not without its challenges. See, when we’re at home we have a tendency to establish our lives in a way that maximizes, polishes and platforms what we’re good at. We oftentimes do a job we have a certain level of aptitude in, cushion ourselves with people who compliment our lifestyle and conform to our own ideologies. Therefore it can be helpful to observe ourselves in different environments, not crafted by yours truly. Helpful perhaps, but not always pretty…
Europe showed me ‘me’ without all the things I use to define myself. I had stripped myself of my husband, home, pets, yoga community, comforts such as my own prepared food, friends, lifestyle. Removed from all the stuff that I had attached to myself I got to know me better. Yep, parts were ugly! Europe eventually prized out of me bits of me that festered in moaning, complaining, being in an irrational grump.
I was forced to call on crevices of my character not usually in service too; fiercer independence and courage, responsibility in having to drive hundreds of miles through multiple different countries, sole responsibility for my two young children for two months, a poorly and newly disabled father. I was steeped in dramas and gossip and dissatisfaction from differing corners, my comfort zones consistently being bludgeoned out. There were long spouts of having to negate any dose of what I call quiet time (time to myself) to refuel to instead be Yvette Social Butterfly full time. Its like a car that you nigh exhaust on the autobahn, full throttle, as supposed to humming along contentedly-never been tested- round the locale. This is probably the reason people don’t usually have two month holidays!
So yesterday, depleted, still wrestling with jetlag, more on my to-do list than squeezes onto both sides of an A4 piece of paper and surrounded by half-unpacked cases, splayed on bedroom floors, I sought the sanctity of my beloved yoga studio. Once there, I flopped my much-missed mat out for an hour of delicious asana in the hopes of getting glimpses of thoughtlessness.
Afterwards I was chatting to the co-owner, Shannon Kidwell, about how much I’d missed yoga and the community these past two months. She, one of the wisest and most esteemed people in my world, said something that struck me. Shannon reminded me that its oftentimes helpful to let go of things that we hold dear for a while. After all, nothing is permanent, and it doesn’t do us any great favor to grasp, white-knuckled, anything that can be taken from our life, whether it be healthy or not. This reminded me of one of the Noble Truths of the Buddhist Teachings. Suffering, it says, comes from being too attached and not letting go of those things that we desire.
Once, Shannon said, in a stage when she was deeply consumed with exercise and maximizing her body’s potential, she witnessed a man with a prosthetic limb and it suddenly dawned on her that her very own physical abilities could be likewise threatened and even snapped away. It forced her into thinking; who am I without exercise? She realized exercise was beginning to define her.
This sober realization encourages us to seek balance in our lives, to resist defining ourselves through any one thing able to be snatched away from us at any given moment or, even slowly stolen away by the course of Time. Even non-tangible things like beauty, strength and health fall victim to this. The suffering comes in when we refuse to accept this part of nature and stubbornly cling to what is transient.
Now I’m clambering back into the saddle of my life. But sometimes I think its very advantageous for the soul to be cantering through the life of another, to ride their reality for a while. Sometimes we need to step outside of our lives to realize what we have, want, what we can get rid of. We need breaks, even if its just letting the reins go for a while, realizing how much we benefit from our habits, experiencing how our hearts bruise in their absence. It offers us clarity on our path, or introduces an objectivity which allows us to make any fresh changes in our life in what we’re doing or where we’re going.
We get this intricately wrapped gift called Perspective. And that is what Europe handed me on my return.
Course, most of us haven’t the ability to bugger off somewhere foreign for two months. Nor need you. If your soul is tired, pull the plug on mindless routine and spruce up areas that you feel need a shift. In fact, it needn’t even be for the better; change is becoming congruent with the natural rhythm of life. It forces us into conscious living, at least for a while. And that can’t be bad.
Sometimes discovering who we are is discovering who we’re not, or what we don’t choose for us. A process of elimination, if you will. And that’s ok because it means we still haven’t given up on us. We’ve not lost ourselves to drudgery, sameness and compliance to others’ expectations of us. Who am I outside of this routine? Who am I when not bound by the confines of Time? We’re still searching, discovering, evolving, testing. Never let go of that.