It kind of looks like it’s in transition, like it used to be more hippie-ish but has been taken over and is in the process of being changed. The toilets used to be compost ones, the instructions for them are still painted on the wall, although the toilets are all newly fitted ordinary Western style ones. The bathroom walls are decorated with murals of wildlife.
There’s an alternative pharmacy, now closed, and a very smart newly refurbished restaurant.
I found a ‘creative space,’ a big table, some art, positive messages on the wall, now unused. Nearby was another smaller table, I cleaned it up and made it my work space.
Each morning we go out to one of the cheaper places and get breakfast (beans on toast, fruit salad, the most enormous coconuts), maybe have a short walk, then we come back and I write (first) and do any internet stuff (second) for a couple of hours.
Then snacks, or chips and Sprite at the on site restaurant at lunch time; the only thing that stops me coughing is Sprite or water with copious amounts of ice. Then I rest in our hut for a while- I am currently watching Billions on Netflix. God knows why I like it, but I really do.
Then later we go out for dinner (vegetarian Khmer soup with tofu- a delicious clear soup with lots of veg). On the way home we pass a pop up stall selling vegan energy bars and, wait for it, vegan Snickers! (a homemade version of, but the most delicious, and guilt free thing I have tasted since March last year!)
One of the subjects my husband and I spoke about in the sea in Koh Rong (see previous post, and the red pill blue pill definition in The Matrix post previous to that one for more context/supporting info), was, is the whole ‘spiritual journey/search for meaning’ a trap, or at least, a cul-de-sac? There’s nowhere to get to, and nothing to find. Does even beauty fall into that category? Is even the luminous beauty that I notice and document every day all part of the illusion?
Maybe it’s okay if, like everything else, it’s not taken too seriously. So, like, ‘That’s nice, now get back to work.’ And maybe, well, ‘Whatever gets you through the night.’
I don’t know exactly what I believe right now, but here’s some pretty things I noticed about the place. I seem to have a thing about shells, specifically crushed shells under foot on beaches, or in the design of corporate hotel lino, but any shells will do, as well as mosaics. These all come up a lot in the book, I’ve noticed.
The above were all taken where we are staying. The photo below is of our bathroom door in Hampi, just to prove some kind of point about themes.
The end is in sight for completing a half decent draft of the Kerala section (23,000 words- that’s like two dissertations you know!). For anyone struggling with writing, editing or doing their dissertation, this is my advice: ‘Get yourself a cup of coffee, put your hair in a bun, and handle it.’ (I’m sorry that only long haired people may get that.)
We leave here (Otres Village, Sihanoukville province, Cambodia) on Friday night for a twelve hour sleeper bus journey to Siem Reap, where we will stay for six days before leaving Cambodia and going to Vietnam.
This weekend I have been pondering the balance between personal responsibility and ‘the matrix’. It is for us as individuals to keep our emotions in check, manage our thoughts, and stay positive. This helps us create our reality. At the same time, there is stuff happening all the time around us. This could be things that might affect us in different ways, which we need to manage and also includes opportunities being thrown our way. So people describe this as like learning how to ride two horses, one being fate, the other being free will. Then you’ve got people like Richard Branson, who appear to have boundless confidence and seem to see how everything works and ‘play’ ‘the matrix’ to their own advantage.
For me initially it began with realising (mentally) what I had, and what I could do, and then realising (as in making real, putting into practice) that.
I had anticipated that as I took the big steps of leaving work and selling the house I might be ‘rewarded’ with a burst of creative energy and opportunities. So far that has meant that I have experienced a kind of further expansion of my mind. I pictured myself looking back and reviewing this life amongst others and saying, Hey, remember that time when we sold our house and packed in our jobs and went off to India?
But as if that isn’t exciting enough, my mind has begun to come up with even more crazy ideas and possibilities, as if there’s this sense that this is it, this is your last time around, if there’s anything else at all you might want to do, best do it in this lifetime. Watching BoJack, I thought, hey, maybe it would be fun to go to Hollywood, maybe it’s kind of like somewhere to go for creative people who don’t fit in where they come from, like art school. To wander around, immune to the pressures of youth and thinness. How and why would we be there? Write a book, ‘Our Guide to Escaping the Matrix’ (just us, telling our story), find our very own Princess Carolyn (BoJack’s agent) and have our story made into a film starring George Clooney and Kate Winslet. It’s important to write things down, to spell them out, however crazy they may sound.
Anyway, to return to my point, if ‘the matrix’ is just a reflection of us and not a thing of itself, then maybe all you have to really do is the self management bit, not concerning yourself with the matrix at all, and everything will just happen. Is that an invitation to limitless self belief or a cop out excuse to do nothing? (But we’d still need to actually write the book) (and we need money/an income stream- we do need to eat after all- and you have to spend your days doing something)
Back to Richard Branson. Maybe if you have a really strong sense of self you just know what to do. You don’t have to learn how to read the signs or think about timing. You just know, and whenever you decide to do it, that’s the right time.
The costumes are designed by Jean Paul Gaultier. They are all amazing but it got me thinking that if you have hands and fingers and you want to learn you could sew and make costumes. If you are interested in something, if you follow that interest, with dedication and devotion, then with practice you will get good at it.
This is such an interesting portrayal of creativity, particularly group creativity, as it follows a band making an album. In the woods, for about a year, with loads of craziness. It makes you realise how hard it is- by that I mean how much dedication it takes, and how it takes time and practice to become good at playing instruments and writing songs. It takes dedication, time and practice, and of course you need to be interested and want to do it, or why would you be there in the woods for a year otherwise, but it doesn’t mean you can’t do it. It shows you how it is done and what it takes. I found that to be encouraging rather than off putting, although I am glad I am not involved in a group activity like a band, I prefer the solitary creative practice of writing.
Netflix shows: The end of the f***ing world
Two young people. Such good acting and really well done.
In a stunning example of awesome timing, my husband bought this CD in a charity shop for 25p, put it on the iPod and gave me the CD to play in the car. I put it on for the first time as I left work for the last time. Tracks 1 and 3 did give me goosebumps.
On Saturday morning I was the body for my husband giving a massage lesson (I know, it’s a hard life…) As I listened to him patiently and professionally deliver a one hour comprehensive introduction lesson to a complete beginner, that was pitched just right, that created just the right atmosphere, and that in the time available, did everything it could; I reflected that wow, we know stuff. We know stuff because we have been around for a while, learning stuff. Because we are older.
I have spent such a lot of time thinking about what I don’t know and what I can’t do, that this weekend it was really nice to spend a bit of time thinking about what I do know and what I can do. I used to think I wasn’t very well read because I compared myself with Oxbridge educated Guardian journalists. But the other day I casually mentioned Rebecca (by Daphne Du Maurier, a book and films) in a big work meeting and no one had heard of it. No one. I was surprised; I didn’t think any less of the people, I just thought, okay, my reality is different to what I thought.
At work on Friday, someone was talking about starting yoga, and about how the teacher had talked to them about the chakras. I found myself talking a bit about them, and sending a link to a page so she could learn more. I don’t really do spiritual/chakra stuff anymore, but for a while I was pretty into it. Focusing on the different chakra points, their colours, their corresponding mental, psychological and physical aspects, is a very powerful tool for self healing and development. I used to think: Root Chakra (red) safety, security; Sacral Chakra (orange) drives, creativity; Solar Plexus Chakra (yellow) emotions; Heart Chakra (green) love; Throat Chakra (blue) self expression, communication with myself and others; Third Eye Chakra (indigo) direction and seeing my path; Crown Chakra (violet white) connection with above.
So I thought, be proud of what you know, not sad re getting old.
Of course, there are loads of things I don’t know, loads of things I haven’t learned, loads of things I have refused to learn, e.g. DIY and reverse parking. I feel totally okay about that. The longer you live the more things you find out about or hear about, so the list of things you don’t know how to do keeps on growing, even as you keep learning, because you can’t learn how to do everything you come across. You have to specialise. (Rather than feel bad about the things you don’t know about.) Knowing things, being good at things, takes time, energy and devotion. (I want to learn a bit of Hindi. So far I know about 5 words, and that’s only if I keep looking at them every day.)
I thought about what’s good about getting older, which is actually what’s good about me as I get older. And as I am older, I could just simplify that to say: What’s good about me. (Making this list was nice. I recommend it as an exercise in compassion and a little pick me up!):
What’s good about me
I have no inhibitions about my body
Yesterday I stripped off in front of someone I have only just met and lay on the massage table feeling fine with nothing on except my knickers.
I am sexually liberated
I had kind of a thing recently with a woman, and we can see each other and it is all fine, no issues.
I can say what I want in bed.
(in both senses of the meaning)
Sex just keeps on getting better and better.
That’s what no one tells twenty somethings. If you are in a loving communicating relationship, sex just keeps on getting better and better, in new and surprising ways!
I know: your art is the most important thing
More important than alcohol, socialising, FOMO, peer pressure, or any other ephemeral distractions. Your art is what makes you you. By honouring your art, you honour yourself. By spending time with your art, you spend time with yourself. By getting to know your art you get to know yourself.
I understand: ‘The matrix’ is really just your own thoughts limiting you
Re bands and art, you have to want it, and you have to stick with it, for ever if need be, enjoying the process not just aiming for the rewards of fame etc. If you are in a band you either all have to want it, or you have to be single minded enough to drive it yourself with interchangeable musicians.
It is a myth that it is too hard to make it. Like Charlie Higson said about writing, there’s no magic trick or secret doorway, if you are good you will be picked up. There’s so few people who can stick at anything, look at new year’s resolutions, diets, exercise regimes. All you have to do is stick at it, and want it, want it enough to stick at it (1% inspiration, 99% perspiration), despite all the matrix pressure to ‘be realistic’, etc etc.
In fact the only thing people can stick at is what the matrix wants them to stick at, the everyday drudgery, the oh hi, another day another dollar, oh well, maybe I will win the lottery, soon be the weekend, I have a holiday to to look forward to, or oh look a charity jeans day or a Christmas jumper day, just enough to make it seem not too bad and everyone’s doing it so it must be okay right?
And every now and again they’ll scare you, a round of redundancies, or a crisis that causes stress so you take the whole thing even more seriously, you stay late, you give up the hobby class and exercise routine, or worse you never eat or sleep properly, you’re always at work, always unhealthy… and for what, not for personal freedom that’s for sure.
So the lesson is: Look at what the herd is doing and do the opposite. Look at what the herd believes and believe the opposite. As Jon Rappoport says, in this consensus reality we live in, the limits we see there aren’t real. I can be a writer. I am a writer. Or rather, I am a ……… as yet to be labelled…….. and I document it on my blog. But let’s get away from labels altogether. If we aren’t labelling, if we aren’t preoccupied with what people do for a living (the herd again), then we don’t need to say anything. I can just say, in answer to what do you do, I am a human, I live. (And I document it on my blog)
I have set up an Instagram account for when I am away followingthebrownrabbit
This Valentine’s my husband gave me something far more useful than flowers.
I could wallow forever in the dirty water where the fish won’t go. I could never get up again. I could say to myself, how can I live. I could rake over and over the past, looking for a possible way things could have been made different. I could cry forever and it wouldn’t change a thing.
I did everything I was able to do at the time. I remember us both going to the dentist in New Zealand and me buying us electric toothbrushes to use out there as we’d left ours in the UK. He was fifteen. Everything was okay then, teeth wise. But not long after, I stopped being able to make him do anything he didn’t want to do.
Since he’s been an adult, I have watched his teeth deteriorate, and no amount of encouragement from anyone in the family was able to persuade him to go to the dentist. Realising nothing I said made any difference, for the last few years I have stopped saying anything in case it actually makes him even less likely to go, and also because I don’t want to spoil the times we have together. But every now and again I’d think, am I being remiss, am I copping out, am I wasting opportunities… all the time they are getting worse and worse, and I am not saying anything.
But of course he has mirrors, and eyes. And as I write this I’m thinking, Oh my God, did we do this? Did we make him dig his heels in more by trying to encourage him to visit the dentist? But would a person really do that to themselves, not brush their teeth, not go to the dentist, just to be oppositional to their family?
I don’t talk about any of this to anyone but the night before Valentine’s Day my son messaged my husband and said he was finally ready to go through with the required treatment. This will involve sedation, anaesthetic, and because things are so very far gone, implants. So I ended up talking (and crying) about it until way past my bedtime and the conclusion I arrived at was that there is absolutely nothing whatsoever I can do. A person needs to psych themselves up to face dentistry, blood tests or open heart surgery themselves, no one else can do it for them. They need to be brave and they need to be a grown up. My son is 28 years old and anxiety or no anxiety, the only thing I can do is think of him as an adult who is capable of facing this.
It is time for it to cease being my problem.
The next morning I felt a little better, like the day after an argument has blown over, still a little fragile, but recovering. I still have CDs to go through so I put on The Jesus and Mary Chain album Stoned and Dethroned. Track one is above. It felt like the first day of the rest of my life.
Today, in an ironic twist I went to the dentist, which meant I got to sleep in and go into work late. I came out into the warm sunshine and felt… happy. I bought a birthday card and a box of vegan chocolates for my step grandma, and new spare cat name tags as they keep losing theirs. Getting these things off my list and not having them to do on Saturday when we are already busy gave me a sense of elation out of all proportion.
Walking back through the town, thinking, yes, the post office, the chocolate shop, the pet shop, the cute alleyway, yes, they are all nice, just as dressing nicely for work is nice, but, it isn’t everything. It should have been easier to walk away from our last place which was not pretty and was boring, but it’s been being in this lovely place that has inspired and propelled us to give up everything. Is it because we needed to be happy in order to be able to dream, whereas before we were just surviving?
We have both been unwell for what seems like ages, colds etc, plus last-minute wobbles re vaccinations/not, water purification options, malaria, plus a long to do list, a house to clear and work to finish.
But as I said to my husband, I’d feel really good right now if I wasn’t feeling ill. I had my bloods done and my doctor put my thyroxine up, which feels like it did when I first went on it, like the clouds clearing after a storm, everything shiny, wide awake, excited.
I said re our to do list, it seems as though simplifying our life is actually really complicated. That’s because the matrix doesn’t want you to do it, my husband said. The matrix wants everyone hooked into the complexity of everything, that is why it makes unhooking yourself feel so difficult.
See you on the other side.
I have set up an instagram account for when we are travelling followingthebrownrabbit
This could be viewed as a metaphor; on the other side of fear, or the reward for facing fear, is enlightenment.
Black Mirror Series 4 Episode 3 scared me for a couple of days, but I still went back and watched Episode 4. I am so glad I did.
Episode 4 just blew my mind, again. How many times can a mind be blown and still go on functioning? I suppose I will find out…
My husband said, they don’t have any friends, it’s all about being in relationships. That is always something I’ve been against, the idea of being lost in a relationship; it’s also a big part of my conditioning from my mother to be independent and not to set great store by romantic relationships and men in general.
But it turned out that only the two of them were real, and everyone else was just programming.
For me to more fully commit to the idea of it being total, total trust, just us and purely us, would smash some sizeable holes in the matrix. You have to Believe-Act-Believe to keep on rising up through the levels of awareness. The feeling: no rush, infinite- we set it up to feel rushy and as if time is short because really time is infinite, that’s the trick! None of it is real. EVERYTHING we’ve been told is a lie: No wonder he’s never in a hurry… Mission: To help each other with things the other finds hard and we find easy to smooth the way. Deal with stuff calmly, as it arises.
The last time I felt like this, that night in a hotel room in London, I got scared (just us) (just me, even scarier!). Why would you be scared, you just would Be, that would be your reality. We’d have to make up stuff to stop being bored. No point other than that.
Why now? It would have been so hard to keep it up all those years- all through twenties, thirties, forties, without succumbing, and now- it’s better. We are middle aged. We are invisible, no need to be cool, no makeup, who cares, I will go out in any old thing, immune, low profile, not distracted by sex, except with husband. So why now, why so late? Everything before was training.
What about when you get old, what about savings, what about this what about that. What about your family what about your commitments. Well what if, like in Black Mirror, none of it is true, none of it is real. What if, in the immortal words of The Matrix, everything you’ve ever been told is a lie?
This spacey awareness is already dissipating, but no matter. It is action that is mainly needed anyway, rather than thoughts. I feel this was just to show me/us that we’d ‘levelled up’; that we’d passed the recent tests of fear, stress, vomiting bug and been rewarded with a new level of awareness. All we have to do is keep on smashing it down with a sledgehammer, keep on tearing it up by the roots. (I don’t know what this metaphor of mine looks like, but that’s the action required.) I’d already decided to burn all my certificates. I knew that it went against everything, that no one would think it was a good idea, and yet I knew it was needed. Tonight’s feeling validated that. No half measures. It’s no good watching stuff like The Matrix and Black Mirror and going, oh that’s interesting, that sounds true, and then not acting like it/on it. It gets more believable, becomes more true, the more you act on it. Like how a cat gets softer the more you stroke it. You have to take practical steps.
Use blog to document, to remind me, and to have fun!
*with the exception of family members
But please don’t think I’m some kind of cool beacon of awareness. Only a couple of days ago I was completely undone by a long, cranky work meeting that lasted from 09.30- 14.15. Despite my best intentions, I got totally involved in it: I had many urges to contribute, I felt disappointed when I wasn’t able to (there was no way of speaking without interrupting and then the Chair moved the agenda on). I felt hurt and annoyed when someone disagreed with me and said something that I knew wasn’t true. I had the allotted fifteen minute break for lunch taken up by my manager asking me to find and print health and safety policies. No stretching of legs, no sunshine, not even for five minutes, not even for two minutes.
I’ve noticed that as my leaving date has got closer, when people ask me what I’m doing I’ve begun to answer more openly and in less socially acceptable ways.
I’ve started saying things like, we’re selling our three bed house and buying a narrow boat to reduce overheads so we don’t have to work so much. I’ve done the career thing but now I can leave it. I don’t care about what to say if people ask me what I do. I’m going to burn my degree certificate and registration card. I’m going to do cleaning. It’s (travelling around SE Asia) the only solution I could think of that would enable me to stop doing this. I should never have done this job, it’s been too much for me. It’s either leave, or go mad, or kill myself.
Whereas, I’m going travelling, yes, isn’t it exciting, would probably have sufficed.
And I am sure it is definitely not socially acceptable to say, I am Escaping The Matrix. No really, this whole thing is about me pursuing in earnest the idea of Escaping The Matrix. You know, Freeing My Mind. I’m going to write a blog about it, in fact I already do, you can read it if you want.
I am very excited about leaving work and can barely keep up the ‘I’m a professional’ act. All that energy I use at work will be mine, all this preparation… like a coiled spring, I can already feel it, my personal creative energy source.
Other people are talking about things with me, one with a four year plan to extricate herself, others realising our workplace is untenable and looking for different jobs. People talking to me is nice. Me talking to them is nice. Realising no one is themselves at work, not really. This idea of professionalism, a made up concept; we dress and act at least somewhat not like our real selves, and it stops us connecting at a deeper level. (You can see why that and the constant feed of sensational, judgemental and scary news stories to witter about around the water cooler helps The Man…)
I just can’t do it anymore. All I want from any future work is the opportunity to be myself. I mean, I’m friendly, honest, kind and I don’t swear hardly at all, so surely it should be pretty easy for me to do something like house cleaning or home help and just be me?
I haven’t been me for so long- twenty years or more- that it’s going to take a bit of practice. I automatically go along with people. My step-grandma was a teacher here, shall we walk , shall we go through here, and me all yes, yes, all cheery. ‘You don’t have to say yes you know’, she said, but I thought about it and I did want to do it, I wanted a walk and anyway, she’s having the cats, it’s no big deal. But the ability to notice when I am doing something I don’t want to do and then deciding do I want to do it for some meta reason or not, and am I being myself. Do I start conversations about my own topics? When I disagree with what is being said do I say anything aloud? I have had twenty years of brainwashing, of not feeling like I was good enough, of feeling that I had to pretend, hide, and over-compensate: Twenty years of pretending, hiding and over-compensating. From wearing stretchy bandages over my tattoos at my very first job (we had a short sleeved uniform), to not knowing who I am anymore.
I mentioned to someone at work about having a blog and she said, ‘Let me know the details and I’ll follow you’.
‘It’s a personal journey type thing, about how I managed to do this,’ I said. She said, ‘I’ve got to keep going a bit longer, I’m still too conditioned.’ (She’d mentioned ‘conditioning’ to me before, the only person at work I have ever heard say that word).
‘Watch The Matrix, that will help,’ I said.
‘I did, I didn’t understand it.’
‘Nor did I when I first watched it, but then I watched it again and it blew my mind.’ (not for the first or the last time as I think I’ve already established).
So in a way, if this blog is for anyone, it’s for her. If it’s for anyone, it’s for people on the cusp of waking up. I’m not meant to try to wake people up, at least, I’m not meant to go around trying to wake up individuals in person. But just putting something out there, for people to find if they are looking, I feel like that’s okay.
And in a lovely demonstration of universal reciprocity, I had this email from my friend David Walker. It feels so good to have another person understand and validate our choices:
What you’re both about to do, I believe, in our consumer-stuff-mad western world, is one of the most difficult things that anyone can undertake.
Our whole society is now designed to keep people working and spending all their money on mortgages, loans, credit cards, utilities and lots and lots of stuff. It’s the actual foundation of our entire economic system and we are literally being brainwashed to believe that there is no other reality
It is really a fucking matrix. And it’s really difficult to escape from it.
You need a lot of strength to just be able to firstly make that mental leap, followed by the actual physical actions required to make it a reality.
So, dismantling your home is stressful. Selling a house is stressful, with last minute things such as electrical safety tests, extra expenses, and we won’t even know it’s really happening until contracts are exchanged, which could be weeks away. But the buyer has been round, she brought her kids, they ate Foxes Party Rings (vegan) and picked out their bedrooms, and their mum and I vowed not to pull out.
I’m working out my notice and in true me style trying to cram as much in as possible. I’ve even got a student right up until I leave, but luckily she is awesome. I want to enjoy it as it’s my last hurrah, but I don’t want to enjoy it too much as I intend to literally burn my career and never go back to it once I leave. So when stuff happens that I don’t like such as stressful things I have to deal with, I feel pleased in a way because I can say, well that’s to remind me why I don’t want to do this anymore. (I am perverse, I know.) And there’s been matrix tests, you could call them, such as a new IT system installed so that I was locked out of my computer for a week. Or was it just a good opportunity to take my foot off the gas and empty out my filing cabinets, which had to be done at some point?
Outside of work, an uncancelled insurance policy took £700 out of my account, we got it back but not before we’d spent several hours applying for an overdraft extension and a credit card (both declined), extending the credit union loan and getting a payday loan to survive January. But we sorted it all out without panicking.
I got ill, me, who never gets ill, actually sick with a vomiting bug and two days off work. Both feeling super stressed but not sure why, just the move, the process.
And of course we’ve been ‘planning our trip’. We are actually getting out of the living room and going on an actual trip, involving flights and visas and cards and travellers cheques and slinging a load of first aid supplies and a few clothes into a small-medium sized backpack and going off to see the actual world! Our main preoccupation has been how to avoid the super hot heat and although our plans have changed multiple times, and probably will again, we currently have a rough plan sketched out. Firstly, go straight to India as soon as we can.
The white rabbit is inspired by The Matrix film, which is twenty years old next year. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend it. If you have seen it, I recommend watching it again. Just a peony to go on my right arm to cover the old tattoo there and I am all set!
In cultural news:
We at last finished watching Walking Dead, so are up to date with that. I was ill and so watching it made me feel better, my husband wasn’t ill so watching it made him feel worse. I don’t know why we do it to ourselves but we’ve invested so much time and energy in it that it seems a shame to just stop watching, even if it isn’t exactly enjoyable.
Blogging, I’ve been having so much fun reading people’s blogs, just spending a couple of hours reading people’s old posts. So much better than tv, newspapers or magazines. Actually, a million times better than magazines. I have been introduced to someone new to follow, and someone else I’ve just spent time reading her old posts. I just have so much respect for the people whose blogs I read, for their honesty, bravery, authenticity, and for giving me the privilege of being shown into their worlds.
And writing. How many times must a lesson be repeated until it is learned? Writing makes me feel better.
I finished work and walked to my car. For a few moments I sat in the driver’s seat with the door still open, feeling the fresh evening air, aware of the big tree nearby and the fields surrounding me. I felt the pull of the outdoors, a longing to stay there a little longer. But I also wanted to get away from work so I drove home, still feeling torn, wistful for the cool air, the big tree.
I decided it would be a disservice to myself and to my husband to arrive home not feeling right, so I parked outside town and went for a walk. (Previously I had written off the idea of going for a walk after work when it is dark, except for around the town. In the summer I sometimes go for a walk across the fields after work, and of course even in winter I can do this on my days off.) I walked out of town along a footpath and down little lanes and roads, a circular route that we often do in the daytime but that I have never done in darkness. I stopped to hug a tree, feeling its body against my belly and resting my cheek against its bark. It was such a little thing, but it made such a difference, doing something different and realising I can have a proper walk after work even in wintertime.
So the next day I thought, that was so good, I’ll do that again. Likewise, with doing a good yoga session, not eating late, and continuing writing an article, I made plans for the evening based on the previous evening. But when the end of the working day came, I was tired and hungry, and it was raining. I didn’t feel like going for a walk. I went to the fish and chip shop and bought chips. At home, I ate a whole portion of chips, followed by two vegan ‘magnums’ (from Morrisons). Too full of food to do yoga now, so I sit down and write my article.
Yesterday it felt easy but today it feels hard. I feel in a funk. I’ve also got the bathroom to clean, as someone is coming round tomorrow, and duvet covers to change. I think, should I do all that now, and come back to writing later, should I stop altogether for today. Because writing is the most important activity, I keep writing and I do break through to a place where the work feels like its going well and I am back, enthused. I clean the bathroom, change the duvets, then, breaking more of yesterday’s rules re don’t eat late or stay up late, I eat a plate of nuts and sultanas, have a cup of tea and stay up writing. When I eventually feel like it I do plenty of yoga and really enjoy it and feel good afterwards. Everything gets done, I feel good and apart from the early part of the evening, I enjoyed the whole thing.
Trust the process… I don’t want to not enjoy my evening; enjoying the evening is more important than completing a manuscript; the two are interconnected; I want to enjoy the evening at the time of living it, not just afterwards in retrospect based on what I have achieved.
I can assist The Process by altering the order of tasks, by eating snacks (trail mix seems to be the thing to sustain me through an evening of writing, even though the little pieces of coconut are impractical and messy).
Learning to play the evening, not like a game, but maybe like a musical instrument, or like making something out of words…
Managing the dialectics of making and following through on plans versus doing what you feel like at the time. Every day is a day to both make and rip up the plan.
Because, what is more important? To enjoy the evening or to get things done? Same re life. Maybe by being a bit aware and a bit flexible, it’s possible to do both.
A little over a year ago I took ketamine for the first time and experienced the falling away of everything. I knew that the carpet was red and we had a woodburner, but those things were very far away. Lying curled up on the sofa, unable to move. In the centre of a sensation of nothingness/awareness that at the time I conceptualised as being like one bubble within a sheet of bubble wrap. Nothing physical was left, only feelings. Lying curled up on the sofa with my husband, I said: This is what love feels like.
Since then, we discovered the person I have referred to in previous posts as my ‘awareness advisor’. From there we realised that beyond all emotions, beyond love even is awareness, and made that the goal. Whilst raising our awareness we also explored the ideas around why we are here, what is the world, what is the real truth, and so on. The central idea is that we are living in some kind of generated reality, some may call it a computer simulation, some may call it a dream. Right now, I can believe that this world is a creation.
(If I were going to label myself, I could call myself a vegan, a minimalist, a hippy, an atheist, a creationist. But it’s probably best not to, as I doubt there’s a club for me to fit into).
A creation made out of my thoughts, and/or the creation of mine and others’ thoughts. At the height of being deep into all this theorising, I did spend some time contemplating everything being a creation of my thoughts, meaning, everything is in my head. Everything, even all the people I know. Now, when trying to embed a theory or wrap your mind around a strange new idea, it is useful to be completely immersed in it. This particular belief is also really handy for dealing with difficult people, and for encouraging oneself to look inside at ones thoughts, responsibility and actions. It can create more of a sense of personal agency, and that’s useful. It also helped me conceptualise my reality.
But, then here’s the thing: life is a richer experience when you regard it as real (even if you don’t believe it is). Riding these two opposing horses is I suppose what it’s all about for me right now.
And so by being really there within an activity or when with a person, it’s possible to engage completely, to have an experience to cherish and value whilst at the same time maintaining an underlying belief that one is living in a dream of one’s own creation. Because if that’s true, one has the agency to make each person to person and activity experience even richer.
But beliefs are objects too and it seems that as we declutter our possessions our beliefs seem to fall away too.
My husband saying that right now he does not believe in anything. Although it felt true, he felt disconnected and unsettled for a few days.
The ketamine experience, me desperately trying to hold onto the red carpet and the woodburner. If all we are left with is nothing, no possessions, no beliefs, what do we hold onto?
The Minimalists is a Netflix documentary. It is what I watched last night whilst trying not to cry about the cats.
I remember reading some time ago that people as they get older tend to stop wanting to read fiction and instead turn to autobiographies. I understand that, although it is hard as in my experience a lot of autobiographies aren’t that well written, or else the best and only really good bit in it was the bit that was read out on the radio that got me to buy it.
That said, even if there’s one good bit in a book, if the bit is really good, it’s worth it. Chris Packham’s bit about suicide in his book Fingers in the Sparkle Jar, about all the wonders that he’s seen, which encouraged him, and then about his dogs, which stopped him. Guy Martin’s description of the big crash, that was the bit that was read out on the radio. But the bit I really liked was him walking home after a hard day’s work mending trucks and seeing all the houses with people sitting around a big screen tv and him saying: You don’t get that time back at the end you know. I love, love love that, and I say it to myself regularly.
Anyway, maybe the visual equivalent is getting into watching documentaries on Netflix rather than watching films.
My husband said that maybe everyone has to experience capitalism and materialism before they can begin to reject it, and so it is fitting that this documentary is American and the movement is being started by super successful people. These people are smartly dressed, ex high powered career people. They are not scruffy unwashed hippies.
Oh, and to go off topic for a moment, their teeth! How do Americans have such incredible teeth (or why do us Brits have such bad ones? What is the American situation with fluoride? We have it in our water and in most toothpaste, but some people think it blocks your third eye.) My teeth are considered good by British standards, but they are not white like kitchen paper, or white like a thick blanket of freshly fallen snow. It is one of the few things that annoys me about the Walking Dead, although it’s not unique to that show. Their teeth are still perfect, wouldn’t they be stained and worse, have some missing either from decay or having been knocked out in battle? Are they all still flossing? Have all the dentists survived? I have to suspend my disbelief about the teeth, I complained to my husband. What, that’s the only thing you have to suspend your disbelief about?! my husband said.
So back to the message of the Minimalists. I agreed with everything. It was just what I needed. If anyone thinks what I am doing is weird, I can feel reassured. I could even say, ‘I’m a minimalist, there’s a film about it on Netflix’. I love Netflix.
The people in the documentary had fewer clothes, but they loved them all, and they tended to be better quality, thus showing how we should be both less and more materialistic: really value and take care of the things we have.
Obviously this would be terrible, but I used to say that I’d like to lose everything in a house fire, so that I could just start again. This shows what a gloom merchant I was, but my husband is saying he isn’t going to keep any of his clothes (aside from ones he’s taking travelling) and I’m seriously considering doing the same. I was going to keep work clothes and warm clothes. But if I’m not intending to do the kind of work that entails shapeless black trousers and modest frumpy tops (a lot of the patients I work with are sex offenders), and my warm clothes are all either poor quality/worn out, isn’t this my golden opportunity to fulfil my long held dream and get rid of everything and start again, with a few well chosen quality items from Cotswold Outdoor? Alongside my more recent dream of getting rid of everything and just being left with a backpack? (Plus duvets, pillows, blankets and a few essential crockery items left in someone’s loft or garage for our return.)
It’s not just stuff, it’s ideas I’m realising might be superfluous distractions and worth shedding: my step grandma picks up litter everywhere she goes, with no gloves, then eats cake at the cafe. No wet wipes, no alcohol gel. I’ve never heard of her being sick. Spending time with her also made me wonder whether all this concern about nutrition is really worth it. She eats a cereal bar for breakfast, then goes out to the cafe for coffee and cake, followed by a good walk. As far as I can tell she doesn’t eat lunch, I know she never cooks at all anyway. She grazes on custard creams and chocolate chip cookies and in the evening she has white sliced bread with organic lettuce and tomatoes.
I’ve been wrapping my mind around letting go of my career, and what that means, prompted by interactions with three separate people on the subject. At work, one of the admin staff told me to ask the admin people for help. We’re not here to have a career, she said, so we just want to be busy, it helps the day go quicker. She is a smart, interesting person, with whom I had a good chat about Christmas and minimalism. We’re not here for a career, rang in my ears. For so long, I have been all about the career, but what if I could just become the kind of person who wasn’t bothered about all that?
Then there was this blog about changing attitudes to work and different ways of working, and our happy little exchange in the comments section. Lastly, me and my husband working out that if we lowered our overheads by living on a boat and sharing a car, maybe we’d only need to work an average of 2-3 days per week each. We bounced around ideas, cleaning houses for letting agents, especially really filthy houses. Neither of us is bothered about cleaning up shit.
Just think, he said, if you weren’t bothered about it being a career, then you’d be free to just do anything that came along. It made me think that the whole career thing is a trap, you think you’re getting something special and even feel superior sometimes, I am very sorry to say, but really, by letting go of all that, I’m free to make my life, rather than my career, the centre of my life. And that is what The Minimalists are trying to teach us.
Like many people I am looking back on the year, to see how far I’ve come and to take stock of where I am right now.
This time last year was pretty wild. I spent Christmas alone with my husband and we over indulged in everything, especially sex. We would not have believed then that this would end up being the year that we started practising karezza and abstinence (well periods of abstinence anyway).
I had grand plans regarding work and my career, there’s a list in the back of my work diary that begins with ‘be the best at my job that I possibly can’ and included all sorts of personal and professional development plans that never really came to fruition as we got short staffed and other stuff demanded my attention. I still developed though, I just did other things, and I have completely got over my regret that the progression I had planned didn’t happen. I’ve never planned my career, and even if I had the chances are I would never have done everything or achieved everything I wanted to, stuff just happens as it does in life.
Still, I never would have thought that this was the year that I would be leaving not only this job but my career. (It is my intention to burn my degree certificate and registration card when I leave, if I can be brave enough, as a show of faith that there’s something else out there for me. If this sounds crazy, well it’s not as crazy as keeping your dead dog in a solid wood coffin that you drag from room to room so it can be with you while you watch television or do the dishes, as my mum’s neighbour does, and she’s out there, surviving.)
My relationship with my son is much better than it was this time last year: as near as it can be to two adults who meet now and again and talk about their respective interests. He is doing much better which makes everything easier, it is very painful for mothers to watch their children suffering, no matter how old they are.
My own mother is not totally on board with all my plans, even though I am not suffering and am in fact, when I am not worn out or run down as I have understandably been lately; very, very happy, and soon to be ecstatically excited- I can feel it brewing!
Apart from my wild teenage years I have not really gone against the opinions of my mother (except for having a baby at 19 and more recently getting married, and the tattoos…) but generally, I’ve gone to work, I’ve recycled, and on a day to day basis I’ve not done anything to provoke discord. Which is why this is probably quite hard for both of us, but the sooner it’s past the point of no return, the better.
I was thinking this morning, when we are teenagers and can’t wait to leave home and be free of our parents, we have no idea that we’ll still be under their power and influence in our forties and beyond, not all of us, but definitely some of us.
I have photographed all our furniture and sent the pictures to friends to see if they want any of it, before the man who is buying the house comes round to decide if he wants anything. Anything left is going to go to charity. Tomorrow we are tackling the sheds and garage and making trips to the dump, as long as it isn’t raining.
I have also spent some time thinking about India. I have written down the names of places we want to go, some for an extended period of time, some just passing through or for a brief stay, others in between, with a rough route planned whilst knowing we will be open and flexible to going with the flow when we actually get there. I am happy that two hill stations that a friend recommended are in Tamil Nadu, where we want to spend a lot of time. I am a little apprehensive about the heat*, so knowing about them gives me reassurance. Plus they look beautiful! – Ooty and Kodaikanal.
*Mind you, I’m not doing so well in the cold of the English winter, yesterday we had all the heaters and about seven layers of clothes on but it wasn’t until the woodburner was roaring that we finally got warm. Just as long as we didn’t venture outside…
Clothing from proper outdoors shop: one super warm, waterproof and windproof coat. Two very warm funnel neck fleece type tops, two pairs of lined trousers, two long sleeved tops, two sets of base layers, all quick drying. Extra warm socks, hat and scarf. Bootie style thick lined slippers with proper soles. Guest slippers. A very warm dressing gown.
Buy/have made proper seating that converts to a guest bed. Buy large Moroccan style floor cushions. Buy electric heater(s) from chandlery (for when there’s not time to light the stove). Buy an electric blanket. Buy a MyFi internet box from BT. In order to save space, instead of having dinner plates, side plates (which are pretty pointless anyway) and bowls, buy dinner plate sized bowls, shallow enough for dinner and sandwiches, deep enough for cereal. (I am hoping such things exist outside of my imagination, if you have seen them do let me know!) Buy proper working gloves.
Get bilge pump fitted. Buy a new centre rope. Buy and fit a horn. Buy and fit cratch cover to keep wind off the doors (thank you to writer, blogger and narrowboat dweller Ian Hutson for this). Paint walking board with paint and sand to make a non slip surface. Add a rope for safety when walking around the outside of the boat, if possible. (Did I mention I am Little Ms Health and Safety?) In the/a summer, get boat taken out of the water and blacked, and also paint outside if needed, if not just give it a good wash. Attach tyres around the outside as extra bumper protection. Upgrade the solar panels.
To summarise, I have two lists on the go: a going travelling list and a living on a narrowboat list. The narrowboat is for when we come back, although we may spend a few weeks on it before we go, just to make it real. I also have notes for a new about page and plans to upgrade to a paid plan (is this a good thing to do fellow bloggers? If so, personal or freelancer business package?) once I leave my job and can be both more dedicated and more open; there won’t be thirty intense hours of my week that I can’t write about, and I won’t have to worry about protecting my professional reputation.