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Cosmic Justice

Here I am on the luminous island of Menorca about to enter into the final straight of my fifty first year, and what a year it has been. Despite the Covid pandemic starting halfway through it and turning all our worlds upside down, shaking all our priorities to the core, and bringing so many of us down to our knees, this past twelve months have been for me one of the best years of my life in so many respects.

Professionally, I have not gained more knowledge or experience, but our business has had its best year yet, which is rather miraculous in itself, bearing in mind there have been months during which businesses we work with were practically closed; work on various building sites slowed right down; huge delays and insufferable uncertainty were the norm rather than the exception, and due to the widespread lock-down measures and fear of contagion and possible death, we all took stock of what was truly important and suddenly empathy and philanthropy took the place of sales figures, competitiveness and profit. Perhaps there is a lesson of cosmic justice and karma in there somewhere. I would like to think so.

Perhaps the lesson to be learnt was for some learnt too late though. My husband is an addict. He is addicted to his work. He gets high on it; cannot live without it and finds his self-worth and identity mainly within it. And yet, as with any drug, there is a lurking, permanent, pounding hooded claw that slowly but surely gets hold of you and will not let go until the very thing we sacrifice so much for quietly leads us to a certain death. Last Christmas we came to our house in Menorca for what we thought would be 10 days. Covid had a very different idea and soon after our arrival, the situation changed and our flight back to UK got cancelled. At that point we decided that seeing as the number of cases in Menorca was miniscule compared to the UK where pandemonium was ensuing, it would be utterly senseless to not ease into what was initially an adverse circumstance and turn it into a blessing. And so, we decided to stay on a few weeks longer. Unfortunately, by the end of January my husband who continued to have his daily fix of insatiably getting new orders and sniffing out potential future ones, suffered a minor stroke that left him completely numb on the right-hand side of his body.

He is now almost fully recovered. He still has some numbness and pins and needles on part of his right-hand side but again, all in all, it was a miraculous miss, for it could have been the end right there and then. I refuse to take away from that experience the pain, the shock and the after shock of such a dramatic episode and instead, I choose to marvel at the abounding providence that somehow saved him from the dark tunnel at the end of which so many claim to be blinded by the light.

On a more personal level, I am truly easing into my older years. I truly am. The nervous energy of my youth that filled me with so much fear and anxiety is turning into acceptance and a laissez-faire attitude. I do not fret so much. I am not consumed by negative thoughts so much. I am learning to accept that I am just another microscopic grain of sand the sun magnanimously shines on one day and the wind heartlessly blows away another. None of it is about me, none of it. Acknowledging that has given me so much spiritual and emotional freedom. I no longer walk with a massive rucksack filled with the whys, how’s and what ifs on my shoulders. If there is a plus to our doomed fate is the fact that each day that goes by and you see the end approaching that much closer, you learn to live with just the essentials and to discard the clutter, the things and people who selfishly fill another rucksack that may drag you down and prevent you from truly living.

Slowly but surely moving forward in the race against time has also thrown a kind of epiphany my way. Whilst the end is certain, we have a say, to a point, in how the journey evolves. Our bodies truly are our temples, and we can, again to a point, control how healthy or how efficiently they work and for how long. Although riddled with body image anxiety for most of my life, I have been extremely lucky to always be thin without any amount of effort. It is just the way I am wired. However, as we all know, being thin does not necessarily mean being healthy. My interactions on twitter have been on the whole a massive source of a confidence boost regarding my appearance, and that alone has motivated me to try and maintain that shape for a few more years yet. When you are young and your body is in its plenitude, we do not need to do much to remain healthy or strong, but once we are on the other side of 40, subtle signs of ageing begin to nudge and wake us up to the fact that although we may have felt invincible at one point, every meteor does eventually fall and burn. That tragic end is what makes the journey across the universe so incredibly meaningful and desperately urgent at the same time. And yet, the only way to draw meaning out of each passing day is to wind ourselves down to a speed that allows us to see it all, hear it all, feel it all, smell it all and taste it all with every fibre of our being. Sadly, not many get to find in their lifetime that elusive magic button that takes them from sixth to first gear or by the time they do, the chance to truly savour the journey has already passed.

I loved running when I was growing up. I was incredibly fast. The boys my age used to get frustrated that I could outrun them, and being so withdrawn because of my body and shyness complexes, that gave me a great advantage and a confidence boost that at least I had something I was better at than most. As the years passed, doing well academically became my number one priority and I put my all into my studies. Sport or any kind of fitness took a very back seat. Suddenly, at 51 all the emotional baggage is beginning to fall off and I feel so much freer and lighter. Freer enough to take up running again, even though I have not done any kind of running for the last 35 years. It is truly lamentable how we put so many limits on ourselves. We get to a point when we stop believing, dreaming, trying. It is incredibly invigorating not so much to be able to run and be in better shape than many women 20 years younger than myself, but to prove to oneself that the sky really is the limit when it comes to overcoming, and that the biggest factor that stops us shining and leaving a blazing trail as we journey through time is simply ourselves.

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When our hearts become impenetrable

The last few weeks have been nothing short of a psychological study for me on twitter. I did not set out to do one, but psychology found me, swept me up in this whirlwind of human need, and I simply could not just watch it all happen and ignore it.

Throughout this whole process, I have screamed, I have ached and cried inconsolably. I have laughed, felt overjoyed, been loved and rejected all at once within the same day. I have despaired and felt waves of stormy anger and frustration engulf me whole. I have been reminded by well-intended friends that social media is a tricky and ferocious animal to handle; that none of it is real and nothing is what it seems, and yet, this advice came at the hands of those who breathe in social media the moment they wake up and do not stop to exhale its poisonous, dubious air until their head hits that pillow. Any advice is rendered ineffective if those giving it conduct themselves in a way that disproves their own wisdom. Of course Social Media is real; a parallel reality it may be, but a reality nevertheless. Its deceitful, pantomime-like and bordering on sinister dark corners, often remind me of a Venetian Carnival where people hide behind the most alluring and exquisite of masks to reinvent themselves and step beyond the boundaries of what they would never contemplate doing or saying in real life. The mask however does not alter the person behind it, not really. It may appear so for a while, but eventually one can truly see the gaze behind the glamour and the glitter; the cracks seeping out past traumas, deep hurts and weakening fears that though deeply hidden, betray our newly found identity & automatically exclude us from the romanticism and Utopian mirage of the Masquerade Ball.

There is much that remains a mystery to me about human behaviour, but I have been able to draw some conclusions from my interaction with a number of people on twitter. Most of all, I have been able to find truth as we often do, by simply stepping away and like a fly on a wall, watch it all unfold; letting individuals show their true character and betray their own perceived integrity when they thought no one was really paying any attention.

I have learnt that at an age when we have all the gadgets and the gizmos, when we can be on the other side of the world on the same day and social media dominates and dictates the lives of so very many, never has our need to feel included and loved been greater. There is an impossibly achy loneliness abounding in the secret chambers of the virtual world. Society, even pre-Covid, has been bleeding out and failing to live up to its definition, because the social element has been abducted from right under our feet and a poor substitute has made islands of each and everyone of us trying to find ourselves and each other. The most alarming element of this phenomenon is the fact that most of us have loving families around us and a network of friends or support of one kind or another and yet, we are the lost faces in a multitudinous crowd crying out for acknowledgement, begging to be heard and understood. There is a desperate need to matter at a time when circumstances have made us finally acknowledge that in the scale of things, between the now and the beyond, we truly matter very, very little, and so we gasp desperately trying to hold on to some sort of significance. The more we realise we are but a grain of sand on the beach, the more egotistical and self-centered we become; the more we veer towards mob mentality instead of accepting each person on their own merit and essence. And of course, the power of social media is boundless and so trends that dominate on the virtual world, irremediably feed into our daily lives, our homes, and ultimately our surroundings. Before we know it, we are turning our society into the most inhospitable place there ever was; an Eden made into a hell, and it is all of our own making.

I have also learnt that at a time when we have more resources than ever; when we are potentially more powerful than ever; we are the weakest beings we have ever been. We lack backbone and deeply rooted convictions. We would rather be a Judas than a Peter; we need to be all things to all people in order to find worth, instead of remembering that it is our uniqueness and not our tribal ancestry that defines us and sets us aside to pursue our own purpose; to make that small difference that no one else can make. We have become cowards that hide behind the group instead of standing on our own two feet when we see injustice, lies and witch-hunts. Our morality and creed blow whichever way the wind takes them. We are chameleons that change colour depending on who is watching. We take a side in an argument with our words but then our actions discredit the very point we have just made. We are in essence regressing to a herd mentality where the blind is leading the blind; where leadership stems from popularity as opposed to integrity tested in the furnace of adversity and going it alone.

I have learnt, and this is the one that has broken me the most, that there are individuals who are indeed beyond rescue. I had two uncles who committed suicide, but I have always believed that what led them to such an unthinkable tragic end was probably a lack of a supportive network or adverse circumstances. Well, I have encountered on twitter individuals who by their own admission are rotten apples, messed up and broken; they hurt others because they simply do not know how to be any other way; they carry deep scars from the past and open wounds that are beyond healing. They look up to people who are no longer around, and they live their lives through their eyes instead of their own. I have learnt that no matter how much light you see still shining within that person; no matter how clear you see the path that they need to follow, nothing will change until they make a decision themselves to break loose from their ghosts and their demons. I have learnt that being rejected by such individuals is not a reflection of my inability to be loved or accepted by them but rather their dismal failure to love, accept and forgive themselves.

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Herd Emancipation

It is excruciatingly painful to try and feel inspired to write these days. People tell me I am a positive person, but most do not realise that although I am instinctively so, the negative voice in my head never lets up. For every positive thought that my brain labours to produce, the hooded claw bounces it back with a double whammy of negativity, smashing any hope of gaining ground; of turning a mediocre day into a day fully lived.

The truth is COVID-19 has revealed for many of us an uncomfortable truth: what are we without a purpose? Who are we if not clogs in the economy machine? What is the point of us if not to keep producing, to keep consuming insatiably? Nothing seems to make sense unless we are rushed off our feet working, striving, competing, gaining, comparing ourselves to the next person. On the one hand, COVID-19 is giving us enough time to ponder on the fact that many of us are not truly sure of who we are when you take away our social circles, our jobs, our sustenance, our communities, our freedoms. The hours go slowly and uncomfortably as we have too much time to think and realise that maybe half our life has already been wasted busying ourselves with busyness but not really living, not really being, not really participating in the miracle that our life and life all around us is. On the other hand, we agonize as news of thousands of deaths is hitting us daily; we struggle to comprehend the gargantuan effort it takes for so many to simply keep on living, prospering, growing and yet, the strife, the battle can be snatched out of our hands unexpectedly with one swift final breath, in one achingly solitary instant. What was it all for? Did we really live or was it life itself that went in and through us?

This last year has also acted as a filtering process which has set apart those who like to swim with the current and those who have enough discernment and courage to think for themselves and act accordingly. As a result, so has increased the number of people who appoint themselves as judge and jury; often individuals who lack the initiative, the bravery, and the curiosity to stand up and challenge the status quo. Instead, they sit in judgement of those who do, because it is easier to detract the attention from their own ignorance, cowardice and fear and focus it instead on those who break from the herd and follow their own path at all cost. Much has been discussed about ‘Herd Immunity’. Perhaps the real point of contention here should be ‘Herd Emancipation’.

A few years back my family and I were holidaying in St. Vincent, the Caribbean. A huge storm hit our beach resort which was located in a valley by a river leading to the sea. As the sea surged, the riverbanks overflowed and within a short period of time our resort was almost completely flooded. The resort management instructed everyone to head to the emergency meeting point which happened to be one of the restaurants on the edge of the resort right by the beach, not that much higher up than the rest of the resort. At that point, I suggested to my husband that the sensible thing to do was to go higher up. We discussed it as a family and in that instant, we knew our lives were at risk and keeping with the ‘herd’, obeying instruction was not an option for us.

We sought higher ground and managed to climb various floors within the concrete block of flats where the resort staff lived. From the balcony of the flat where one of the members of staff lived who kindly let us in, we watched in shock and horror as rain continued to pour, the river began to burst its banks, and the beach was rapidly being taken over by the sea. Hours later, a member of the management team came looking for us as we were the only residents of the resort unaccounted for. They took us down to the restaurant and we had a very mixed welcome.  Some showed joy and relief when they saw us. They were kind and found us chairs and a blanket to sleep on. Not surprisingly, in stark contrast there were those who frowned and gave us hateful looks for daring to challenge authority and act based on our own judgement. We were being punished for having the audacity to think for ourselves. And so goes the human race.

Whilst we regret enormously having caused concern and worry to those who came looking for us, we will never regret having made that decision in such extreme life-threatening circumstances. As morning came, we saw the devastation caused by the storm and learnt that people had died that night right there in our resort. The restaurant where everyone was gathered was ok, but it could have been very different. They were just incredibly lucky. They could have all been swept away so easily, had the surge been any greater or the storm lasted longer.

That night I went to sleep with a clear conscience. As a parent I took the decision to challenge authority and follow my own judgement and gut instinct to protect myself and my family. If anyone wants to judge us for doing that, it is on them, not me. I would do exactly the same now with hindsight, if a similar situation ever presents itself again. I will do what I have to do to protect myself and those entrusted to me as best as I know how, even if that means breaking from the herd, going against ‘the rules’.

This global pandemic is also pushing people to their limits in more ways than one and it is revealing people’s true character or lack of. Will you be the person that sits in judgement of others’ choices and right to choose or will you be the individual who extends a blanket and tells you they are so glad that you are still alive? I know whom I would rather be and whom I would rather have by my side.

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Diana Krall is just what the Dr ordered!

Listening to the velvety tones of Diana Krall’s suggestive voice is most certainly the tonic I need today to rescue me from the mundanity of family life.

Covid seems to be gathering strength for round two of contagion and devastation, at least in Europe, and because of it, we are all battening down the hatches, regrouping and stocking up for what is promising to be a very interesting or rather challenging Autumn and Winter.

Despite governments trying their best efforts to reassure the population about the measures in place to prevent the chaos that ensued the first time round, there is a real sense in the air of the despair that comes when you realise you are about to fall into a deep hole. No one really knows what is coming, but everyone agrees that the next few months are going to be incredibly difficult.

New rules of social distancing, new curfews in bars and pubs, new limits about who you can meet up with, where and when. The prospect of having to wait endlessly for medical appointments, the loneliness, the anxiety about businesses closing down for good, but above all, the fear and suspicion abounding wherever you go; the restlessness and gloominess that is depleting the air we breathe from oxygen, and turning it instead into a poisonous dread that will get to us even if Covid doesn’t.

It is so damn easy to get caught up in all this darkness. I am not perfect. God no. I am as wretched as the next person, but the Leo spirit definitely bursts out alive within me every time adversity swallows me up like sand does water. Like a lioness, I instinctively put on my invisible armour and I fight; I fight to the death whatever is coming against me. I sometimes surprise myself about some of the ways in which I have coped with some very challenging circumstances; how I have fought to give the best I can to those whom I love when they themselves have come under attack, scrutiny or discrimination of any kind.

I feel we are about to enter one of those big black clouds of adversity. I am all geared up for the fight. I am standing at the gate doing my watch night and day waiting for that enemy to approach. I remain fully aware however that the biggest enemy I will ever have to face and have already faced on many occasions is despair, fear, negativity. There are many ways one could define life but right now for me life is that overrated journey everyone keeps raving about but most forget to mention about the amount of unimaginable shit that you have to face along the way.

All that said, it is down to each of us how we navigate those turbulent waters, and turbulent they will become more often than we care to endure. So as for me and my house, we will sail through it with perspective, taking one day at a time, not focusing on the unknowns of the future or becoming bitter for the resentments of our past. We will live in the moment, glad that we are alive for as long as we are.

Well, that and for me personally, a big dose of soul-builders like Diana Krall and heart warmers like this delicious glass of Tempranillo Tinto I am having with my dinner tonight.

If you are reading this, I send you my warmest wishes for the part of the journey we are all about to embark on. From the greatest adversity births and flourishes the most beautiful refinement that makes us shine and stand out; that makes us be of good use and support to someone else. Here’s to us all embracing what is yet to come; here’s to us all looking out for that one person nobody sees who needs protecting, encouraging or helping along the way.

As a side note, my 19-year-old just stepped into the kitchen as I am writing this and asked what I was doing. I told him I am writing on my blog. He asked what about. So I told him the gist of it to which he replied: ‘God mum, you sound like Winston Churchill’. I’ll take it!

My double-edged sword!

My heart is so full tonight! On the one hand it aches with guilt at the thought of so many exceptionally selfless, brave and committed individuals who are giving their all to keep us all alive, fed, and content. I am at home looking after the ones I have been entrusted with. Yes, I will be the first one to complain that it is no easy task to always think of other’s needs before one’s own, but my kindness is being extended to those closest to me whom I love and care so much about. It is quite a different challenge to give your all to complete strangers, specially when circumstances dictate that those close to you will in turn go without. Saving the lives of complete strangers; seeing to their every need whilst being torn away from those whose needs you feel compelled to meet even before they feel the need themselves. Such is a mother’s nurturing instinct and double-edged all-consuming gift.

Yet, even though the guilt tugs at my heart like a yoke round a cow’s neck, I feel my heart is bursting at the moment with the sheer joy of being alive one day at a time. They say we cannot see the light without the darkness; we cannot know good unless there is evil or joy unless there is sadness. Such is the ugliness, the horror, the chaos, the inferno that is burning in most hospitals and nursing homes around the country, I feel like as the fire intensifies, so have my senses been re-tuned and enhanced. The bigger the hooded claw reveals itself to the world, the more uplifted I feel by the supernatural around me. As the darkness around us has grown, so has the light within me.

The colours of the flowers in my garden are so much deeper and pure. Their hypnotic scent impregnates the whole of my being and lifts me into a kind of Eden where there is no pain or hurt, no death or loss, no fear, just hope and exhilaration at the thought of taking in another breath of treasured, infinitely sought-after air.

The birds are evermore present and synchronised, and I am treated to a new symphony of sheer acoustic delight and perfection every evening, as I catch the last rays of the incandescent zenith that proudly stares intently at me throughout the day, jealous, capricious, resenting its isolation; longing to be down here enjoying with me the myriad of inexplicable equations of nature that makes for a heaven and a hell simultaneously coexisting in perfect harmony.

Even the Poplars just the other side of my garden, which always stand so haughty and aloof, have thrown caution to the wind and dare to waltz in my presence, reminding me with their soothing sway that I will once again be at one with the ocean. The ocean, like me, toils tirelessly back and forth under the guise of freedom. And yet, its repetitive motion in the confines of habit reveals a soul that is enslaved and far too entrenched in its own familiar rhythm to ever brave the unknown.

Poplars waltzing!
A robin nesting outside my kitchen door. His eyes speaking right at me the words he is unable to utter!