It’s a beautiful outside – finally a wave of warmth after weeks of intense cold. I wandered aimlessly through Inglewood, a quirky outdoor shopping area in Calgary. My 3 hours of sleep making anything more urgent impossible.
I practice mindfulness – focusing on the present to keep the anxiety at bay. It’s been a hard week, seemingly everyone else’s drama is creeping in and my coping reserves are spent.
But I walk, and observe and let the thoughts of worry pass by like clouds on a windy day.
A bride, her white sparkling gown dragging in the now dirty streets, laughs as her veil whips over her head in the wind. An old man lights up his pipe and leans against the barbershop storefront – he closes his eyes as if experiencing the inhale for the first time. They remind me to stay present.
I walk into a café and revel in the ability to drink good coffee. My only care is that they ran out of chocolate chip cookies. With each sip of Americano, I sink deeper into contentment.
My phone whistles at me – I get a message from C that makes me even happier, satisfied knowing that I am supported even from afar.
This life is good. I just needed to remind myself of that today.
Last year, life was a hell of a lot different. Last year, I started a post with “deep breaths“. This year, I am so aware of how this has become my journey:
I am in a ‘facing up to things’ type of life. It only makes sense that my practice in yoga follows this shift. For the first time unassisted I was able to get into full Royal Pigeon pose. It’s centimeter by centimeter breathing in and letting go, melting into a difficult pose. This pose, this asana, involves a backbend, a hip opener, and opening up your chest and shoulders. And so with each backbend, I hang onto this teaching:
Backbends take us into our future. As they open our heart, we begin to forgive others and let go of seeing ourselves as victims. We can through forgiveness dissolve the hurts that have kept us from our true nature, which is love. It is not possible to simultaneously play the victim and be a realized enlightened being. The choice is ours. With practice, we develop tremendous strength that enables us to move forward in life with a sense of adventure, fearlessly, with joy, confidence, compassion and love—the path to enlightenment. via Jivamukti Yoga
That’s it. That’s the realization that I am a victim no longer. There’s that joy that is just aching to be let out. I can be free to be real, without the burden of a victim label.
I’m finding the contentedness of a person who is finally finding her footing. I’m realizing that I may cry because it is cold (word from the wise: tears streaming down your face only makes you colder), but I’m focusing on those moments that are wonderful. Like finding a wine store across the street, or walking to work in 15 minutes, creating an inviting home with a wonderful roommate (of whom I met online), or buying winter boots that make the snow less scary…
But just when you think life feels all sorted… love gets in the way, or maybe it was like; regardless it happened (retrospectively) in the best kind of way. This evening, I read this, and it just felt right:
Sometimes the rug getting ripped out from underneath you is the best thing that can happen to you. It keeps you grounded. It makes you appreciate what you have. It also gives you a heavy dose of humility. So if I had one piece of advice, it’s to love as hard as you can. Give today everything you have. It’s better to feel worn out at the end of the day from being the best person you possibly could have been than calling in for a mediocre day – via The Better Man Project
And so, with humility of someone who has had my fair share of rugs getting ripped out from under me: I come at life giving everything I have. I’m shaking off mediocrity and finding the pure joy in, well, this life I have created.
The everyday is great like that.
When I came back to Calgary – it was all I could do to find signs and affirmations that this place was where I was supposed to be. In August, it all looked right on the outside. Amazing friends, a steady boyfriend and a new job.
And then, it started to crumble. The summer came and went, and so did the new boyfriend.
It’s autumn here, and I find myself almost in the same position as when I arrived to Canada: a feeling of unrest. And today, I am beginning to understand why.
I had forgotten that I still need to play an active role in my happiness. And to be brave enough to push further.
It’s the same in my yoga practice – last week while in wheel I yawned and scratched my head. Obviously I wasn’t going deep enough. I was just performing an asana for the hell of it. The next class, I pushed. And it was just me, the breathe, and my desire to go deeper into the pose.
Today I was talking with a dear friend, and he told me he believes that happiness is an active force. You can’t expect “happy” to come to you; hoping upon hope you will magically become the person you’re destined to be.
I had started to become passive in my own life. I know what bravery is – leaving my life in Canada to move to Botswana was courageous. But when I came back, changed, I had just been hoping happiness to come to me.
This autumn, I want to fight for that woman who wasn’t afraid to leave everything comfortable for the next adventure.
And once I begin that fight, that push to find what will allow me the freedom to be happy? There’s this essential piece: reveling in the moment.
Being present is allowing all of that active work to come into fruition. It’s the same glorious feeling as to be staring into the eyes of someone you fell for, being able to talk for hours and not noticing the time.
It’s reaching a new point in an asana and then settling into the new limit of your body. It’s the breath.
It’s been two months since I landed back in Canada.
I have the overwhelming feeling that this life isn’t as easy of a fit anymore.
I was walking through the suburbs of my childhood, getting lost in a place that was my home for years. And the incongruities between my two lives hit me: no fences or barbed wire allows me to see right into people’s homes as I pass. As I walk on the perfectly formed sidewalks, across the pedestrian crossings, I don’t get stared at or followed, and cars stop and wait for my leisurely crossing. Basically, walking through a neighborhood is easy: pedestrian crossings, perfectly formed sidewalks, dogs on a leash type of easy. I am not dodging mobs of dogs, or rubbish thrown on the side, rather I am consumed by the smell of freshly cut grass as it lingers in the air.
My brain hurts from the constant comparisons – honestly, walks here are far less interesting.
And so I start to wallow as I try to find healing and a sense of purpose. It’s that allusive glimmer of hope that I will eventually feel whole again. But I am taking baby steps in finding what is next. Each decision that I make, I first ask the question: will it make me happy?
And so, instead of pursuing a job in Oil and Gas or in another volunteering capacity, I took a job at Starbucks.
My new job as a barista continues to make me feel unsure of what I expect out of life. But there is something beautiful in providing a coffee and a smile. That’s it. That’s all I am responsible for. No newbie arriving from America and needing to be held through the process of orientation and cultural fit. No drunk mechanic requiring constant supervision and a development plan. It’s just coffee.
I needed this job. I am so burnt out from nearly four years of caring too much, and near the end feeling constantly unsafe and scared.
And so back in Canada my days are filled with learning the basics of a coffee shop, sun tanning, day drinking and learning how to be with a man who actually is decent and cares for me (something I have never allowed myself before).
I have decided my only mission this summer is to fall in love with life – here in Canada.
On some level I feel like I made this decision to leave my life in Botswana without my consent. Like there was nothing else I could do.
And so I come back to Canada, feeling more than a little broken.
But in true form Florence works her magic and these lyrics:
“And I’ve been a fool and I’ve been blind
I can never leave the past behind
I can see no way, I can see no way
I’m always dragging that horse around.” (listen here to Florence and the Machine – Shake It Out)
I feel that so much right now. Like it won’t be able to get ‘me’ back from the past.
More dual thinking. I feel suffocated by the hurt from the past, but there are glimmers of hope that I grasp onto.
N said this to me, “your past isn’t important, it’s who you are now”.
I can’t get that out of my head.
It’s ringing in my ears.
It gives me hope.
I do want to shake it out, move ahead, and keep the parts of me that truly matter. That yes, my past has shaped me today, but I don’t need to carry it around, burdened by it anymore. I will ‘Shake It Out’ and take it in on as my new mantra when the past rears its ugly head.
I can’t get away from this feeling of limbo. I have been back in Canada for too long to feel this way. But I re-read something I wrote while in NYC, as my first stop after Africa.
I sit here, in a Starbucks near Central Park West in NYC, my earphones in to block the ‘crazy talking out loud’ lady. I do not possess the ability to sort through everything I have gone through. My friend Shanley has become my sounding board – being patient with me as I say the whole thing over again, as I keep on asking, how am I supposed to say that again?
My vernacular is wrong on many occasions.
I wandered through Central Park today. Ambled through, watching the tourists and the locals come together embracing the sunshine.
And I wandered.
Maybe tomorrow I will feel like this decision to leave Africa was right. How it made sense. And realising that I am in transition, and don’t know where I fit anymore.