Tag Archives: be present

You can run…

28 Apr

I’ve always been a bit of a nomadic soul. For many, many years I moved house about once a year. I enjoy change. I get bored quite quickly. I like “new”.

So, whilst most of my friends and peers seem established – with a family, a mortgage and steady employment – I find myself two months into a three-month trip to South Africa. And with no home to return to.

My hubster and I decided to come out here to volunteer at a project and explore future possibilities in Durban – a place very close to my heart. I love South Africa – the people, the sunshine, the optimism and opportunities. I love it, and yet I find myself feeling strangely displaced. Not-quite-at-home.

It’s a feeling I am accustomed to.

I tend to gravitate towards the periphery, towards the outsiders. I often feel not-quite-at-home.

I am realising, however, that being-at-home is much more about the inside than the outside. Much more about feeling at peace and settled in myself than whether I live in Durban, London, Mumbai or Texas.

I can “move home” as many times as I choose, yet one thing remains constant – me. I can relocate anywhere in the world, but I cannot escape from “Becca”. I cannot hide from the flaws, doubts and insecurities; they refuse to stay in the garage with my belongings.

Being away from the life-I-got-used-to-in-London has taken me out of my comfort zone. In some ways, there are less distractions here – no internet in our home, no TV, fewer phone calls and text messages. This makes it harder to hide from myself.

So I find myself searching for definitive answers and, as yet, uncovering frustratingly little that is certain or absolute. I am desperate to know what is next – to find some comfort and security – and, yet, this is eluding me right now.

I am learning, once again, that maybe it’s not “what we do” that matters most anyway.

Maybe a better question is: “who am I?”. It requires more soul-searching and wrestling, but the discipline of facing ourselves – looking in the mirror – is far more important than “what we do”.

This is a hard lesson for me – I am, by nature, an activist, a doer. I like to be busy, to feel productive. I find it hard to just sit and “be”.

All the running, though, has made me tired.

So I am choosing, once again, to look in the mirror, to face the deeper questions and doubts, and ask again: “who am I?”.

It is, I think, only when we choose to move on from our futile attempts at hiding – from myself, from others and from this world – that we will find “home”.


Under the cloud

9 Nov

It’s been one of those weeks.

I saw the dark cloud approaching, hovering on the horizon, probably about ten days ago. I spotted it and I ignored it.

For some reason, I thought that denial might work – this time.

And as the cloud approached, I remained naively optimistic. It will be different this time. I can do this. I can win this battle.

I started feeling slightly disconnected – from those around me, from conversations, from life. And I still carried on thinking I would be ok.

Then. Then – the crash. Unable to get out of bed. Unable to answer my phone. Unable to connect – with anyone, anything.

The cloud had enveloped me. I could no longer deny its presence. I could not fight, I had no resources or strength. Nothing.

I felt so sad. Overwhelmed by disappointment. A sense of loss. A sadness at the world we live in, at the suffering of those I love. A sadness and a questioning – of the path I am on, the world I occupy.

I could no longer see, enveloped by blackness. Bleakness.

I have been under the cloud before. And it is horrible. Awful. It is lonely, isolating, enveloping, all-consuming.

No-one should ever have to live under the cloud.

And today? Today, the cloud is still there but there are some rays of light too.

So please don’t worry. I write these words not to alarm anyone, but in the pursuit of honesty and truth. Of vulnerability.

For I spend many years pretending I was strong. And I am not.

I cannot do this on my own.

And I cannot pretend anymore. It’s been one of those weeks.

Letting go

1 Oct

I am surrounded by boxes, piles of paper, chaos.

We move house this week.

I’ve moved house almost every year since I was 18. I am used to it.

Or not.

If I am honest, I may never get used to it. Isn’t it only human to want to be settled? To long for a “safe space”?

Each move necessitates some refining-downsizing-letting go. Each move requires me to remove my tight grip on that which I own, those things I tend to call “mine”. Each move challenges me to loosen my hold. To let go.

So I try to let go. And in doing so, I start thinking that life is a constant journey of acquiring and letting go. Embracing new possibilities. Letting go of old dreams. Purchasing new things in the belief they will make us happier. Then letting them go when we realise they are only things. Making new friendships, and letting go of those who were, it seems, never really “friends” after all.

I must let go. Whether of things, people or hopes. You see, I get weighed down when I don’t let go. I carry my baggage, I carry my “dream future” and in doing so, I cannot make space for the unexpected, the surprises.

So I let go. And I may weep as I do so. For life does not often turn out as we expect. Instead it brings unpredicted joy. And little sadnesses too – which sometimes mount up and merge to create a big sadness.

I let go. I say goodbye. I pack my life up once more.

And as I leave – with fewer boxes, I feel lighter somehow.

Life before (certain) death

22 Jun

This blog post is really worth reading – a deeply challenging and very moving account of a man facing his mortality, unable to hide or pretend anymore.

Somehow these diagnoses – the bad news of cancer – seem to bring clarity as well as sadness.

My aunt was recently told she has cancer of the lining of the lung. If you are the praying kind, please say a prayer for her. She is so brave.

The bad news of cancer is a reminder that none of us are immortal. That life should not be taken for granted. And that the important things are often different from those we prioritise day-to-day. As Clive James – another man facing his own death – said this morning on Radio 4: “we can’t take anything with us anyway”.

The challenge – for those of us who are healthy today – is to remember that we are not immortal either. And that our time here on earth is limited too. How does this shape how we live our lives today?

Life observed

18 Jun

I haven’t felt “right” for a little while now. Under the weather physically. And in my mind and heart too.

Not sure that I can articulate why (and why do we always need a “reason” anyway?). And so I find myself retreating – it seems easier than trying to explain that which I don’t understand.

These times – of discombobulation, of uncertainty and anxiety – are hard. I find myself retreating from “normal life”, struggling to do the simple things. The basics – like getting out of bed, getting dressed, going to work – feel, each time, like a mountain that needs climbing, rather than the everyday habits of a 35 year old urban dweller.

I am not used to these sort of mountains, they scare me and I feel so ill-equipped. Life becomes a battle rather than a joy, an unknown rather than familiar.

And so it is, during the difficult days, that I feel like I am observing life rather than living it. I am watching others “live” whilst I just “get through”.

It is the strangest feeling.

As though life is passing me by, happening to others. While I am on the sidelines.

I am trying to learn how to respond. How to not simply “get through” but live – even when life feels hard.

How do we embrace uncertainty when we crave the feeling of being-in-control?

How do we find peace when anxiety is intent on crowding it out?

How do we enter into life – in all its fullness, ups and downs – and not stay stuck on the sidelines?

For the sidelines might feel safer, but they are – after all – not the main event.

Who am I? Where am I? Part II

11 Jun

What did the clever man think? He liked it.

And I liked that he liked it. It felt redemptive somehow. Redemptive – yet confusing.

What should I do with that which has been salvaged? Plucked out of the dark and brought into the light? For that is how it felt – as though part of me long locked away was being released, allowed to re-emerge. “The failure” may not, after all, be the end.

Can failures be rescued, re-imagined, resurrected? What can we do with the remnants?

In Mozambique, several years ago, I visited a rubbish dump known locally as the bocarria. There lived the scavengers, those who made a living from others’ waste. Those who were so poor, so desperate, that the unwanted remnants – discarded by fellow human beings – became their livelihood.

These entrepreneurial rescuers knew instinctively that worthless things may actually be deeply valuable. That life is often found amongst waste, that hope often dwells in unusual places – and can be buried within a smelly, forsaken mountain of shit.

Many of us in the West never get anywhere near the shit. We live complacent, comfortable, there-is-always-enough (or there-is-always-too-much) lives. We throw away that which is valuable – both literally and metaphorically – because it’s easier, more convenient, than salvaging from the rubbish. We put the rubbish in the bin automatically, and we lock our failures in the cupboard in the same way. We discard that which may, sometimes, need to be salvaged.

And so we miss out. On redemption. On hope-restoration. On real-life resurrection.

We miss out because salvaging is hard work and costly. Painful. It takes time. And it rubs your hands (and heart) raw.

I – like many – often make the easy choice: sanitized living – clean, safe and predictable. I prefer order to mess. Hygienic surfaces to those strewn with waste. And yet, occasionally, in the midst of my need-for-order, the unexpected occurs. Scavenging – whilst terrifying and confusing – becomes the best choice. And so I choose it. And there, if only for a brief moment, is the sweet aroma of redemption.

Not human enough?

11 May

This morning, I read these words  of Richard Rohr:

“We end up trying to be spiritual before we have learned how to be human”. It is not often that a sentence stops me in my tracks. This one did.

Why? Because it contains a truth so obvious, yet so rarely acknowledged.

In an increasingly secular culture, many people strive to become more spiritual: yoga, prayer, Ramadan, meditation, shopping. Each of these is an attempt to “escape” secularization and find a deeper meaning (and yes – it did mean to include shopping in that list!). Each is an attempt to rise above the mundanity of the every day and discover meaning, stumble over peace.

But what if we’ve got it the wrong way round? Richard Rohr seems to be saying that we need to start at the beginning – becoming more fully human before we can become more spiritual. If we cannot appreciate the beauty of the flowers around us – or a sunset, a rainbow – then how can we expect to grow in the unseen? If we cannot love that which is right before our eyes, how can we embrace that which we cannot see?

These words challenge me deeply.

Life in a hectic city is invariably  hectic – work is demanding, commuting is stressful, sleep can be hard to come by. Lack of time and lack of slumber rarely help in the quest to appreciate the mundane and cherish the obvious beauty in front of our eyes. Yet these are poor excuses. For all we really need to do is take a deep breath, open our eyes intentionally and taste the beauty of life. Is that really so hard?

I’ve made a decision. This weekend, I will choose to slow down. Slow down and look, listen, smell and taste life. And in so doing, I will, I hope, become just a little bit more human.

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