A Journey. Travelling without judgement or fear. Did I really think that was achievable? That was what I was aiming for. My first post in a while. I lost my confidence there. Tried writing but couldn’t put myself out there. Feeling the need to retract. Go in.
We sent the expert out first. Ahead of the rest. One of the rest had only just learn’t to snorkel, in Barbuda, pretty good place to learn. This was our first real experience, I mean we had met sea snakes and stingrays in Costa Rica but this was Jurassic Park and from our first glances underneath the boat we could see in excess of 25 white tip reef sharks just chilling on the sea bed, vis in excess of 20M. So it was deemed appropriate to send the expert first. The expert who had not equalised properly on a 50M dive and had, as a result, burst the blood vessels around his eyes. However this was ignored in favour of rationale that sounded something like “at least he could and had actually dived”.
SO in went the expert. In I followed and not far behind us A & J jumped in and followed.
We had just been sat at 85M in an explorer sub for one a and a half hours. I had watched pregnant hammerhead sharks circling overhead, Galapagos sharks chasing Amber Jacks, I had watched Tuna’s bullying and herding all the other little nomad fish. I had got the bug. Got it really bad. Got is so bad that all my predisposed anxieties of claustrophobia, fear of death in a tiny submarine-sized-bubble pailed into the abyss that was so evident around me. I wanted to swim with fish, be a fish. This was my heaven and so as soon as I possibly could I jumped into the balmy pacific ocean which coddled Jurassic Park and snorkelled my way to the sleeping sharks.
“Sh*t, F***, SWIM!”
“Huh? check out those Eagle Rays”
“Listen to me, Swim and swim fast, and don’t look down”
“Sh*t, F***, I’M SWIMMING (dying, choking, swallowing and there goes my bikini)
Beneath me swam one of the most beautiful, powerful, aerodynamically frightening sharks I have ever seen. At over 7M long and pregnant the Tiger Shark cruised, luckily in a different direction to me. Maybe the shadow of Matelot and her rig meant that we weren’t visible to this typically aggressive (?) or reputation-ally aggressive shark. I got back, out of breath after I had tried, in vain, to climb out up the anchor chain! A & J didn’t see the shark, they didn’t see the fuss, they thought I was being fussy, funny and I was starkers. But thats OK we were all used to it living in a space only sailors refer to as comfortable and roomy…
So my first Tiger Shark encounter. I didn’t see what the fuss was about, the Expert made the fuss I was simply following orders like all good stewardesses, apart from now when I forget how beautiful things are in the world, all I have to do is close my eyes and remember that shark’s presence. Remember the beauty, the grace and the power. The humbleness, the effortless glide, the sheer violence that might be unleashed.
In the Pacific I learnt to dive and that entailed many shark encounters. Bigs ones, small ones, agile ones, curious ones and frightened ones. Grey, white tip, black tip, lemon and Galapagos, hammerhead babies and hungry daddies. At no point did I feel scared in fact the only thing that scared me once, was a very curious enormous Parrot Fish – have you seen the size of those jaws! and a very curious but equally beautiful moray eel. Whilst in French Polynesia I learnt the devastating fact that at current fishing levels we will lose all our sharks within 15 years.
The top predator think in terms of a Lion, will be fished to extinction in well now I am guessing eleven years. 100 Million sharks are fished every year. Sharks are at the top of the food chain it doesn’t take an intellectual to understand that without them the food chain collapses.
Don’t even get me started on the over fishing – resulting jelly fish epidemic thats going on in the Mediterranean, that we start to remove the predators such as Tuna and its turning our seas into a hostile environment not fit for swimming with little or no life left apart from tonnes of jelly fish. The balance has shifted. We tend to think of hostile environments to be products of some kind of future apocalypse-style radioactive crises. They are not. It has already begun.
Sharks are not the enemy. We are the enemy, over fishing their natural food stocks, encroaching on their environments. I find it hard to believe that human rates highly on the list of shark food. Human only features when these animals are hungry and distressed, when they need to eat in order to survive. When we cock up. When we spear fish with a bounty of bloodied dead fish attached to us, of course this is going to attract a predator or two. Why as humans are we so surprised by the tilting balance? We know all about balance, we strive for balance, yet in the need for food or in the quest for; what I am not sure, but its some kind of thoughtless disregard for nature for our environment, for our existence. Maybe Gaia will shift the balance back, she tends to know when we have put a foot wrong. Maybe she won’t, maybe generations to come will only be able to dream of experiences like those I have had. Just maybe they won’t.
” Don’t want to sleep, don’t want to die, just want to go a-travelling through the pastures of the sky” – Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
There is a game of catch up to be played here, not least the mention of a fabulous Swedish restaurant called Lisa’s on Portobello. However I have other things on my mind.
This time yesterday I was in a Jammed Yoga studio. My favourite; Jivamukti on Kensal Rise. There must have been upwards of fifty of us in the class. Our mat, our space. Is all. It was a really tough session and I heard, out loud, a few grunts and sighs of sheer exhaustion. Moving through an advanced sequence of poses I was psyching my brain falling into “Where is my mind” – The Pixies I think. Drips of sweat seeming to flow in time. Smiling to “with your feet in the air and your head in the clouds”. Yep thats me feet anywhere, everywhere but not on the ground. Our teacher had it blaring, I was absorbed and I no longer felt my muscles shredding in my back and shoulders, the squeeze as I remembered the inhale, exhale before my foot shot passed my ear and skywards. The intensity, the rush, the release. Then.
Philip Seymour Hoffman, I hear you. We all heard you. Spot on. Our teacher continued, our dharma talk focusing on expectations, pressure, shame, presence. The pace slowed down and on again his voice as Caden Cotard in Synecdoche. A beautiful quote. “We’re all hurtling towards death, yet here we are for the moment, alive”. Powerful. I was still hearing him. Ventured out of yoga. I thought it was nice that my yoga group also valued one of my favourite actors. My favourite film of his is Magnolia, my favourite film, I think, of all time. However I felt weird, to be honest like something didn’t sit right, but I didn’t know what it was. I was talking to a friend in the afternoon and said how tough yoga had been, how kind of close I came to tears.
“Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there.” – Will Rodgers
Remembering India. Today I just got hit by truck, the kind of one that crosses Australia as a road train. It whacked me around the head punched me to the ground and then left, laughing. Actually the first one hit me about 2 weeks ago, this was just the end of the line. And it made that huge uuurrrrhh sound as it left me in its wake.
So I looked to India. And Ted Talks. I found this beautiful picture of Ganesha. J took it, and I love it. Ganesha is revered as the remover of obstacles. I sat chanting on Sunday morning at Jivamukti – Ganesha Sharanam, Sharanam Ganesha. A kirtan mantra that asks us to surrender and shelter in Ganesha. He is worshipped as the God of wisdom, knowledge, education and wealth. Perhaps there was a reason my Sunday morning began like this. Hey it only took until a desperate Tuesday afternoon and a whack round the head by a freight train for me to work out the connection. Guess I was never that quick to start with, full of self-pity I am about as agile as a morbidly obese hippopotamus!
Sometimes it’s really tough. Its tough within, this isn’t to do with anyone else this is the kind of stuff that if you can work through it will make you realise that there is so much to be grateful for and wallowing in the mud of self (doubt, loathing, hatred, sadness) is what is tough and the only person that can make the change is you. Which sometimes sucks because it would be great to have someone else do it for you.
So once the final truck hit me, and believe that’s what it felt like, I went to the bathroom cabinet and started looking for that massive white pill, you know the one, labeled “Grunt the f*** up”. I knew it was around somewhere but I couldn’t find it. So I had a bath. Weird. But hey I thought if I had a bath then maybe a small sleep maybe that pill might be easier to swallow. Climbing into bed at 3pm on a Tuesday afternoon. Not only weird but I sound lazy and quite frankly like I deserve the hit and run. Anyway, bear with me please. I looked under the pillow and found a smaller easy to swallow pill of “man up” there is four of them in the packet and they promise to have the same benefit as that huge one.
Then I listened to a Ted Talk on gratefulness as a source of happiness and that got me thinking, kind of got a HUGE amount to be grateful for. So better wise up to that. People who know me can suss me out, they know what I have got to be grateful for. For those that don’t the list begins with: an AMAZING life with AMAZING boyfriend, friends, family, opportunities… and pretty much its full of amazingness. In every present moment.
I forgot everything. Yeh its pretty tough being unemployed, feeling sometimes like prospective employers believe that you have been on a ten year holiday, not working you ass off, no one knows you are amazing just because anymore, you have to prove it, inadequate to the nth degree because my JOB used to define who I was. I could hide behind it, on it, within it. I was my job, which was my life, which was my job. The rest of the world didn’t matter because I was at the centre. Tragic really. Distorted, disillusioned, sad.
Anyway all that doesn’t really matter because I have been given a second chance to start again, shake it up, change all the bad stuff, find all the good stuff. But its tough (did I say that already?) and I kind of sat down for a while thinking that maybe life would just open up its little door and say “Hey Ro! here s the perfect job, now why don’t you run along”. Na ah. NOT going happen. That’s how I got hit, because I was playing tiddlywinks on the outside lane of a highway.
So now I am here. Looking at our amazing pictures of an amazing holiday in India. Staring at Ganesha and being thoroughly flabbergasted (great word) at how quickly the descent into madness can happen. How important it is to remember everything we have to be grateful for. How everyday is about getting up, dusting down and doing it all over again. How the only person who can do it is you. And how if you get distracted and stop following the rules and stop grabbing the moment, you will get hit. But the punch is just a somewhat painful reminder to keep on trucking.
A funny five minutes with my umbrella. And a band called Derriere and a friend who I didn’t recognise in the rain. Me and my £2.50 umbrella. We ended up parting ways at Westbourne Grove Tube station at appox 3:00 am on Saturday morning. In the pouring rain. As I hailed down the a knight in shining armour, after the hero next to me had saved me from the advances of a blithering drunkard, that even me and my umbrella couldn’t shake off.
I picked up my umbrella in Tottenham Court Road, in the pouring rain. At £2.50 I thought it was a bargain and would be happy if it just kept me dry for the next five minutes. It did more than that. It gave me three whole days of rain protection. I took it for drinks in Camden, in such pouring rain that my friend walked straight past me and I didn’t notice, eyes drowning in water, shivering as always completely underdressed for British weather. My umbrella and I, we waited patiently for beautiful Alice to turn up, which she did, drowning, laughing, telling me I had strangely smiled at her through the rain drops but carried on. Penny invariably suspended.
We tottered off into the night with the three of us, to our next stop, Andy’s Greek Taverna. Being veggie I had caused a right old ruckus on the day. Could we find a veggie restaurant that satisfied the meat eaters. Interesting question. We went Greek, and dutch in the Greek. There was four of us now (including the umbrella) Poor brolly the weather and lack of umbrella engineering had taken its toll and so it was forced to spend the meal outside. Un – Collapsable. We all laughed as I took my seat and looked out the window to be greeted with the view of my poor umbrella on the street.
“Moussaka please, and the veggie one, for well, the veggie”. “I wouldn’t recommend it”. “OK.. why exactly?” “mmm well we just have nicer food on the menu” “OK but what about the moussaka we are after all in a Greek restaurant?” ” We had a power cut, its up to you but I wouldn’t recommend it”.
We moved on, made different choices, moussaka – less, our other beautiful friend Jo began telling stories we all joined in, wine flowing, only to later turn around and apologise for our waffle, did we really just tell those stories especially the one about dog poop. Yes we did. It was group love. Group love decided to move off to the bar/club to go see Derriere. I was reacquainted with my now somewhat disheveled umbrella. Dear old brolly took me to the club and I had no other choice but to leave it upright, outside, between two pushbikes.
The three of us moved in. We made our way to the front and found the friend’s we were late meeting. We drank vodka and soda’s whilst listening to the sounds of Derriere. A group from Brighton, think 1950′s hair-do, Erika Bardo rhythms, and some great beats. Was fabulous, until some peewit asked if the three of us were on a hen do? Did we look like it – no, did the three of us looked married – not a single sparkling diamond between us, were we behaving – yes, well then peewit what do you think? we are most certainly not on a hen do. Hurrumph.
The night buses of London. Jo hopped in a cab, Alice and I the N31. Oh and I forgot dear old brolly. Brolly had made it, although nearly half of it had now fallen off, sadness indeed, however on the top deck the three of us were sat drifting through the night. Abbey Road, and Alice departed. My first night bus, had I made a plan to get from said bus to home. There was no one there to call, no one to carry me home fireman’s lift style, as so may of my nights had ended. No I was alone, and fiercely independent. I surprised myself. Instead of keeping to plan and heading to Notting Hill in order to change or at least find a cab I descended the stairs and found myself at Westbourne Grove. Hmmm surprise. And thats where the knights did turn up and thats where brolly and I departed (as said knight would not allow un-collapsable broken brolly into cab). We sped off into the night, homeward bound, just brolly-less.
This is Derriere http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nsc1LJM6_MA and this is the Greek - http://www.andystaverna.com where I am told the Moussaka is wonderful well its Greek and easy with good old fashioned service and great halloumi.
Yes I’ll change the picture. It’s always the picture right, not the words. I don’t always get the words right but the picture is my vulnerability. I hate having my photo taken, true as much as snowmen hate the sunshine, point a camera at me and I’d happily melt away into the ground. I am not sure where this comes from, my anguish towards cameras, but in a society where we are continually judged on what we look like, having to put a picture on my CV is one hell of a bug bear.
Within the yachting industry it is not unusual for captains to reel off a list of requirements to their recruitment agent which sound usually like this: stewardess, blonde, attractive, size 8-10, blue eyes, max 60kg and at least 170cms, under 25. This is NOT unusual. So putting my photo on a CV should be de rigeur for me. It’s not. The one thing I know I shouldn’t do is sales. I can’t sell myself. At least not in the way I should.
Question – what is it you are looking for? Answer- I have no freaking idea. Dude, at least give me some direction with this. What is it I am looking for? Relaxation, spiritual enlightenment, a million pounds, world peace, cure for all bad things, immortality, my watch I lost that about a month ago, everyday I wind up looking for my hairbrush and a hair toggle. Oh you meant what kind of job do I want. Is easy the wrong answer? Yep. Note to self. I am looking for a good job where I can transfer my yachting background and can excel in everything I do, with a great big smile on my face even if you have jacked a broom up my arse so I can multitask on a whole new level. Still the wrong answer? Ok. Is it fair to say that I might find what I am looking for when it comes along. That I am not prepared to set boundaries, rule anything out, that actually I would just prefer to safely say I am looking for a job, you can see my experience, you can meet me and then you decide, would I be good at it?
“List your strengths and weaknesses”, oh back to this, OK here goes, I am good at finding things, also good at losing things, I am good at advice, bad at taking it, I am good at organising others bad at organising myself, etcetera you can imagine… With me it’s a double sided coin, the reason I am good at things is because I have experience in the being bad at it. I am so good at finding things because I have countless hours practise in searching. I am good at organising because I have to sort out my own disorganisation. Not so sure I am selling myself here. Hope no one other then kind friends are reading this blog. Future employers not allowed.
Often thought imagine a world where we did a CV without disclosing our sex, age, height or weight for that matter (not so important in the London world) no photo, no address even. Just name and location, mobile phone number and three words to sum us up. Taking into consideration that generally people apply for jobs a) they know they can do or b) would give their right arm to do, either way you have a willing candidate. Imagine that, three words. Three real words. I have no idea what mine would be. Not ones to sell me. Ones to say hey this is me, this is who I am.
So it looks like I have got to go and find another photo, one where I look relatively professional – not up a tree or as a bridesmaid, but one that shows me, sums me up in one picture. It looks like I have to put my head down to the drawing board really work on the selling myself. It’s not good enough to dedicate a weeks worth of yoga practise to positive manifestations of job searching, it’s tough the real world. Me up a tree is the best I can do on the me front, that’s who I am. If I was sat all stiff and smart you would wonder who this fake person is? You never know someone might think hey she is a real person who loves trees and look she has a great big grin or her face, ear to ear. Probably not. Only in Rowena world. And what of the three words… To really know me today, my three words are: searching, fragile and hopeful.
Inhale, exhale, connect, inhale, exhale. I was dying. I could hardly breathe, let alone connect with my breath. He had his back in my hands pushing me, moulding me, asking if it hurt, is there a way I can push my thighs inward and upward, straighten my elbows, breathe and don’t forget to smile. For a moment my yoga instructor was supporting a massive backbend, he asked me to let go, I felt his presence and his support and my spine softened. It began to allow the moulding. This was a giant cup of trust, support, awareness, compassion, understanding, mindfulness and openness.
In yoga our teachers remind us to be compassionate all the time. Coming from a place of love, we try to approach others with kindness and understanding. As a human with a fully functioning ego I find this quite tricky sometimes. All to often we allow our egos to want something from other people. To want to feel loved, appreciated, respected, liked. When this doesn’t happen we become unbalanced, feel unworthy, lacking somehow and probably to others appear needy. I remind myself to want for others. This changes and unhinges my ego. What do I want to give to another, how do I want them to feel, what do I want for them, not from them.
Compassion for ourselves. Remembering to give ourselves the love we give to others. Then I found the quote above, about love. About love and acceptance, and understanding that the two are inextricably linked. I am beginning to trust myself and be more aware and present. I want to learn to accept. To accept who I am right here and right now. Its so easy to look at the description of love in that quote and apply it to a relationship or another person, however the most important person we can accept is ourself. Even if we are on a journey or are trying to change something about ourselves, who we are today, right here, right now, needs to be loved, enjoyed and accepted. This reminded me to take it back a bit. To peel back the layers of what it means to be compassionate and to give love. The familiar saying that we must love ourselves before we love others, in order to even begin this process we need to accept ourselves. Even if we are dying in Urdhva Dhanurasana. That’ s OK.