Friday, 2 March 2018

Body Love

Our bodies are incredible things. I remember the time I was out with a crowd from a building site I was working on a couple of years ago. One operator sidled up to me and said “you have really great legs, you know…” It was clearly intended as a compliment so when I said “I know” he looked a bit bewildered – this isn’t how the modest young woman reacts to a compliment, is it? But I continued to say “They take me up mountains, swimming in cold waters, with them I can run, jump and turn cartwheels.” And that moment was a defining one for me.

Our bodies are not objects which are there to add to our beauty or to attract others to us. They are functional, beautiful things in their own rights, and it’s a really joyful thing to realise. All these thoughts came tumbling back to me yesterday during a yoga session.

My hands are wonderful and I adore them. During a plank, they looked so strong and steady on the mat, holding me up. My strong capable hands. And although they were taking a good portion of my body weight, I knew that when the need changed they also would stand up to any new challenge.

With these hands I create, I build, I caress, I dance. With these hands I knead bread, I pet my cat, I thread a needle and fix rips in my jeans. They are soft and gentle, or reliable and tough. They do not fail me.  

Our bodies are constantly bombarded with should and wishes and diets and punishment. We all do it: western society has trained us all to believe our bodies are not perfection in themselves. We are taught to lose faith in them, to wish them different, but perhaps, actually they are just right in themselves. To feel at one with your body is wonderful. Perhaps do it right now. Concentrate on where your legs are, your arms, what position your head is in, and your neck, your back. Are you comfy, are your muscles supporting you? Or is something array?

Let’s all gang up on Western culture telling us that beauty is skinny, or beauty is hairless, or beauty is make-up and let’s all decide on what we want our own, personal standard of beauty to be. No judgement, for let’s all concentrate on ourselves and our own bodies and how they make us feel and how they get us through life.

And now and again, perhaps, instead of saying to our bodies “I wish…” say “Thank you for being the way you are.”

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Diving Deep

Cold waters are a respite. I’ve written this before. The joy of summer dips, of cooling off on a mountain walk by submerging hot limbs and bodies in the cool water. But this has always come to a pause for me in autumn. Normally by October, the water has become too cold for anything more than a quick in/out followed by a shivering dry-off, and where’s the joy in that? So I stopped swimming, but I never stop thinking about it.

And now I am the proud owner of a wetsuit. A delightful second skin. A selkie skin, which feels like I’ve added at least 5cm of blubber – an impervious layer which protects me from that blood-freezing pain which stopped me swimming. Now, no water’s too cold. Winter swimming in the Atlantic Ocean. Oh yes. The wetsuit is delicious. To put it on is to feel anticipation. To get in the cold water is to come alive again. It is freedom in an item of clothing: what better thing could there be?

We came from the water; there happiness lies. To hear water, to feel water and to be in water. Now, I feel like I could live in the water. Succumb to its cool embrace. I wrote recently about the feeling of sonder I wonder whether there’s an equivalent word which is the feeling of rootedness, of connectivity. When you enter the sea, the world is within reach. America is just over the way, south, Africa, or north to Iceland. The seas connect even the most isolated of islands. For we and our planet are one.  

So some activities are just true joy, and such with climbing and with yoga, with swimming there is utter freedom from endless thoughts and worries. In the cold seas, all you are is purposeful porpoise. Or weightless whale. Or flying fish. I’m not even the best swimmer. I won’t win any races, but it’s not necessary, to always be expert to enjoy something. The enjoyment is in the participation; the breathless feeling of absolute pleasure and being in the perfect place at that perfect moment for that perfect unchangeable truth.

I’m off to Scapa Fest in May. A whole weekend of soul discoveries is something I am very much looking forward to. Activities range, but as the weekend festival is being marketed as yoga – movement – adventure – mindful living it’s basically this in a nutshell. As we become connected to the things that makes each of us individually, truly, ourselves, it is wonderful to find that the world is conspiring in this way as well: we’re all part of this larger change that’s happening in the planet right now. A move towards a more hopeful, sustainable, natural way of life. For me right now, jumping into that cold sea is step one. Scapa Fest is a hint of what other discoveries are to be made this year. And so it’s with a happy heart that I ask myself “I wonder what positive thing is going to happen to me today?”

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Little things that make me happy

Inspired by this post

  • Shards of sunlight peeking through the clouds
  • Clouds pouring over the top of hills
  • Snowy hills lost in the white sky 
  • Journey's end
  • Purring cats
  • Collecting and then cooking eggs from my hens
  • Stretching of limbs and feeling the coursing of blood through them
  • Walking uphill and turning round to view progress
  • The sweet smell of hay
  • Gulls riding the wind when all other birds have given up
  • Smiling at strangers and receiving a smile in return
  • Walking wild and stripping naked to jump in peaty burns
  • Howling like a wolf into the wind

All things from 2013 still stand    They are still loves of mine

I'm 5 years older, but I'm still me    And always will be

Now.... who are you? 

Monday, 19 February 2018

Other People

Did you know that there's a lovely word for which the literal meaning is 'the realisation that every person has a life as vivid and complex as your own'. Sonder. It's a wonderful word, but the meaning is just as rich in possibilities.

As we go about our lives, it is always worth remembering that all the people we interact with are also living out their own futures, dreams, desires. Heartaches, sadnesses and hardships.

It was brought home to me again recently how true this was. Sitting outside bars in Copenhagen, with blankets on our knees and watching the twilight come and the cyclists and walkers pass by was a new type of wonderful. It reminded me how important it is to visit new places: this long weekend is the first true holiday I've had in quite a while.

And it did well to remind me of that feeling, emotion, of sonder. All the people cycling past were off living their lives. Their deeply interesting, odd, quirky lives and if they noticed me at all I was just a smiling face in the light of a bar - nothing more. Which felt just right.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Thoughts brought in with the Wind

Carrying on from yesterday’s post I lived the realization today of: Is nature not all of our cure? I truly believe that to be in nature as nature intended: with peace, patience and fun, is to find happiness.

Today, with work, we needed to take the high path to mark out our new guided trail. And it was a stunning day. The crescent moon hung in the sky, effortlessly highlighting the endless aons of worlds above us. The sun rose as a golden disk undisturbed by cloud or atmosphere. And the frost took time to vanish.

The temperature has probably hovered a couple of degrees above freezing all day. And the wind was gentle and cold, but just present enough to bring tidings of the sea, and memories of other lives and other places. It was the most perfect day to be outside: clambering, jumping and cartwheeling.

Instead, I was working. But there was plenty of clambering, although the jumping and cartwheeling happened only in my heart. The rocks were slippery with ice, but still there was a spider, crawling. There were plenty of other things both seen and unseen. A goldie welcomed us, flapping effortlessly over our heads almost as soon as we set off. I cannot remember the last time I didn’t see an eagle at Loch Druidibeg.

I realise more than many how overwhelming life can be sometimes. But although there are times that nature is just too sad, too much to be in, when in a reasonable frame of mind it can reach corners of the mind that no manner of thinking, of conversation, of therapy can reach. It does something essential, and that is that it reminds us of the beauty of other people’s lives. It reminds us that actually, the world does not revolve around us, ourselves. The world revolves in a seemingly endless vacuum and the fact that we are here at all is some incredible miracle.

Nature has a wonderful gift of making us feel small and insignificant and yet, in that same instance, of feeling invincible and eternal. I have no idea how it does that, but what a remarkable gift.


Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Black Dogs

Have you ever heard of Churchill’s Black Dog? This, rather personable description, was how he referred to his depression, which followed him for much of his adult life.

I have a black dog, and his name is Loneliness.

I want to be candid, which is why I have been unable to write this post for rather a long time. It’s been a difficult time, and I have struggled for a while. My last post was on the 17th of November, but I’d already been feeling swamped by anxiety and whatever else for several weeks before I wrote that, late one night.

This time last year I hadn’t yet had the interview for this job in which I am now. I was still on the mainland, working in the role that I was really unhappy in. Moving to a new place is not a fix-all, and the things that have really dragged me down this time are more to do with things in my past than loneliness per se. The inability to have deep, meaningful conversations out here has put a spanner in my ability to look after my mental health.

However, things are looking positive just now. I had a break over Christmas of almost three weeks, spending real quality time with beloved mainlanders. I have now come back to my wee house on the islands, and it feels okay. Not perfect, yet, but give it time.

Management techniques are in place, and there are a few things I will be changing to really put my all into island life. This has been a dream for a long time and to give up now would leave me dissatisfied and that’s no good for the future. I have a bit of a cold at the moment, so I haven’t been doing any of the social stuff that I normally do in a week but that’s okay. One part of looking after myself is being kinder to myself, and if after a working day I need to sit in front of the telly and watch some rubbish, then that’s what I’m going to do.

I am lucky in that I have a fantastic job. The island I live on is extremely friendly. My boss is brilliant and I really like my colleagues. I am lucky. My black dog can be tamed, and with a few bits of self-care he can be managed. He may never disappear completely, and yet his presence is a wee reminder to look after myself and to practice self-kindness.

Loneliness is something that I never really thought about prior to experiencing it myself. But it’s dreadful, and I know that I cannot go on like this, as unless I make real connections with fellow islanders, there’s not going to be a future for me here. I have a couple of ideas that I am working at putting into action. But for now, my mantra is not just “be kind to yourself”, but also, “forture favours the brave” for unless I summon up my courage to grasp island life by the proverbial horns I may end up bowing out of this dream.

In the meantime, I hope you are all feeling hopeful, happy and healthy as we enter 2018.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Musings on a Dream

Last night I dreamt I was trying to do a particular yoga pose. I had an audience, a casual one i.e. people around who were watching, even if they hadn't come deliberately to see me. And the fact that I couldn't do the pose meant they were judging me.

The last couple of weeks have been weird. Emotionally, that is. The islands have felt strange at times, as though I am floating on the surface and not penetrating any deeper. It started, I think, a couple of weekends ago. Meeting someone and feeling wrong-footed, like I wasn't enough. I then spent some time with one of the best people I know, and just had the most wonderful time and then, for the first time in too long, I was just right: I was enough.

And then another day another several heartaches. It sent me off on a spiral of strangeness, and I've not quite got my equilibrium back yet. I walked in the dark last night, stretching my muscles and reaching for the starry sky. It was windy, and showery and I did get soaked, but I could feel and that's all I want: to feel. To be me.

But since I last left the islands I am not sure that I've properly arrived back. Tomorrow should help. I've got a day of reforesting the Uists and that should reconnect me with the earth, but the problem appears to be in my head, rather than in the soil.

I've not been doing yoga: that will impact. I've been missing my friends. Since I spent that wonderful night back in Inverness, I think a part of me has been wondering what brought me out here. I left magnificent people behind, and while I have met really lovely people out here, have there been any that I feel that ultimate connection with?

My dream probably speaks for a lot: disconnection, feeling watched, and wanting both to be alone, and to be part of things. When no one has a Heather-space in their lives, how do I fit in? Too often lately I have been walking, or doing something when I've felt an emptiness beside me and a wish to have someone in that space. I was going to compromise with the wrong person, until that wrong person pulled me up on that. A friend was meant to be coming out to stay, but never came, just when I needed that companionship the most.

And, bizarrely, the more time I spend alone the more time I want to be alone. Will I survive out here? Will I flourish? Will I carve out a little space of Uist community and fit into it? Or will I end up wrapping my hermit crab of a home around myself and take myself back to the mainland, back to the friends and family that I love, and that love me, and back to places that I know.

Not yet: the Uists are still under my skin in a way I cannot explain. Their gentle horizons, the cairns on the hillsides, the wheeling gulls. The big skies, the endless stars, the owls, the harriers and, in the summer, the corncrakes that have left the islands so quiet now... these wonderful, strange, unique islands are still it for me, and this is still something that I need to do.