Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Embracing Change

Change is inevitable, it happens to all of us, yet it something that evokes mixed reactions in many people. Despite its inevitability it still can come at us like a bat out of hell and disrupt the routine of life. Someone dies, someone announces their engagement, someone breaks up with their partner, someone leaves or returns, someone quits their job which was destroying their soul, someone who is usually so accommodating learns how to say 'no'.

We fight, we deny, we laugh it off, we demand and spit the dummy. Sometimes we say 'come and get me', or we are thrilled and energised by it. The adrenaline gives us a hit and we are motivated and inspired or we reach for a distraction.

I think about change a lot. How to do it, why bother with it, why not - what have I got to lose, what do I want to do, create, become, how can I harness it instead of let it overwhelm me. I am glad I have thought about it a lot so that when my GP decided to start me on this bizarre protocol I was up for it. This is enforced change, and I could spit the dummy, or I can embrace it and use it to make something beautiful.

Many times in my life I have embraced change as a catalyst and thrown myself headlong into it. At times I didn't know if I was extremely brave and adventurous or just plain desperate.

My brother Julian died in 1995, not long before I turned 30. It was a life changing event, not only because I lost someone I really loved and who was one of those people I felt understood me, but also because it made me consider my own immortality and how desperate I was for change in my life. I couldn't go on living the way I was. I wasn't living I was just waiting to not live anymore.

At the time I knew I had to do something to break free. I could feel myself sinking further into a dark place and the usual things I used to distract myself from this darkness were only pulling me down further.

So I did what I felt I needed to do. I turned 30, and a month later I embarked on a round the world trip. Other than NZ and OZ I hadn't travelled before, I was always just waiting for the next audition, the next for maybes and forgetting about the gift of now. I wanted to break free from the way I was and how I felt others perceived me and find out who I am without my past mistakes holding me back. I also needed to grieve in freedom, without any perceived demands or expectations, without being needed and without pretending to be strong. Stoicism is a great deflector. Our family had gold medals in it.

Maybe I could have done it where I was, but at the time I didn't feel I had the strength to do it without relying on my old crutches - they were too familiar, too safe. In all honesty, I don't think I would have survived.

First stop, the US of A. I never had previously much desire to go there, but I followed my intuition and embarked on a life altering experience. I arrived in San Francisco after a brief stop over in Hawaii. I didn't know anyone, or where I was going to go but was fortunate to meet some wonderful people and eventually ended up living for 8 months in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I felt freedom for the first time in my life.

I loved it there. The people were beautiful - most of the time - (having a dark tan, long dark hair and hanging out with Native American's I was often considered one of them and got the privilege of experiencing the racism they endure on a daily basis).

The desert enraptured me and the Sandia mountain ranges looked magnificent (Sandia means watermelon in Spanish and refers to the colours of the ranges at sunset). I loved watching them turn pink at sunset and was blown away when I saw the face of a Native American warrior emerge from the contours of the rocks - I called him Scarface. My hosts were pointing out other images on them that regularly 'appear' when I saw Scarface - and they were stunned when they saw him as they had never seen him in their lifetime of living there. I continued to see him regularly for the rest of my stay. At the time I lived on the outskirts of Albuquerque and could take a walk out into the desert. Not far into the desert, as the land undulated, I could turn back around and it was as if the city had been swallowed up. All I could see all around was the desert broken only by the horizon and the Sandias.

I grew so much there (in more ways than one - I put on 2 stone!). I reconnected with the spiritual as I lived with Native Americans and was involved in their rituals and ways. I saw things I still to this day wouldn't believe it if I hadn't seen it for myself. I stripped away my image and started to emerge more grounded and more real. I learned how to laugh heartily. It was an incredible time and I have the Native American Zia sun symbol tattooed on my back, not only as a memorial to my Bro, but also as a symbolic remembrance of a time I started to reconnect with the world.

Julian and I had always talked about how we would get tattoos. We both agreed we wouldn't get one until we were exactly sure of what we wanted. We didn't want to just get one for the sake of it. We dreamed about one day doing a road trip through the States together and we'd get one there.

I had forgotten that conversation, til one day when I was working out in Bosque Farms fixing horse tack and hand stitching English bridals (my boss was a Vietnam vet who startled occasionally and threw a knife whizzing by in my direction. He also called me the 'wettest wet back' he'd ever met).

I looked up to see a pair of chaps hanging on the rail. There on the chaps was the Zia sun symbol, which was also the state symbol for New Mexico. The conversations I had had with Julian flashed instantly in my mind and I knew without a doubt that I was going to get that tattooed on my back. I went home and asked my incredulous boyfriend to take me into town to get it done, at Route 66 tattoo parlour no less. I have never regretted it to this day.

The Zia sun symbol has four lots of four rays coming out of a circle.  Each ray represents the four directions, four seasons, four stages of life,  , and four times of day. The centre symbolises the circle of life and the four sacred obligations (strong body, pure mind, pure spirit and devotion to other's welfare). Symbolic to me in more ways than one.

It was this time that I began to realise that underneath it all I had not felt well for a long time - probably since I had glandular fever as a child. I had hidden it for so long, reaching out for what ever fix would energise me and give me a lift - whether it be crisis or substance. I had never slept properly. I knew I had to make some changes. I had to embrace change on every level. I needed to do whatever it took to commit to life and strengthen my body, purify my mind and spirit and satisfy a long denied urge to devote to people's welfare.

Never did I believe at that time, my ongoing journey would take me back into the depths of depression, into the welcoming arms and safety of life on the Sunshine Coast, out into the sunshine and poverty of the Philippines - living on a ship and delivering medical aid into the jungles, into the prisons and darkness of Britain's drug and criminal underclass, and finally breaking down physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I gave up fighting and trying to make my life work in the UK. I accepted how unwell I was. I also realised that I felt deeply unsafe on every level I could not recover somewhere I felt so unsafe. Once again I knew I had to make a change, and it had to be drastic.

Spent on every level, I am now home on the Sunshine Coast. Finally I realise and accept that this illness is real, it's not something that can be pushed through, overcome by helping others or ignored. I'm going to be still now and embrace this change, I am going to love it and love myself back to life. I am going to learn to feel safe again. Might even let some people love me back to life too. I still have a lot to give, and I bet it's in ways I can't imagine right now. I look forward to the surprises.

 Siblings L- R: Julian, Me, Adrian and Damian                                                      
The Zia sun symbol as seen on the state flag of New Mexico 

1 comment:

  1. Wow. I never knew that! about your odessey in America. And I'm so glad I was part of the process.:-)