On Tuesday this week I was walking in, Pego Marshes, which is one of my soulful places on the planet. The River Trent in Nottingham is another from my childhood and Pegdson Hills the final one for my adult years before Spain. Soulful places are places I go to find me and to be me.
On August 11th this year I will be 65. I have come through a lot over recent years. After 20 years of chronic illness with Multiple Sclerosis by soulmate Karen died in January last year. In November I met Dawn who took me out of grief and in to dance and fun. Then we discovered she had throat cancer so for the last three months she has had the most brutal treatment to cure it. She is now coming out of this and I am now able to consider what life is about now for me and those around me. We do this when we are children. We do it as adults. We will do it until we die as life moves on and presents us with our new ‘now’.
The good thing about my walk was I was fully present. For me this means suspending the judgement and analytical parts of my mind and just enjoying being where I am. As I wondered along a cloud of dragonflies circled my head. I was in wonder and awe and this is one way of me thinking about ‘I am because we are.’ It is impossible to suspend those parts of my mind but, for me, this is as good as it gets.
What I am wrangling with is what is my life about now and how do I apply myself to it. What is my purpose and what is my being? Does it matter is one question? One answer is no. Just experience it while I am here. It is not long before I am gone just like it is not long since I came here. The other answer is my mother’s voice. So say my therapists. I love all of them and my mum. I am full of my mum’s drive to get me to work hard to get more than i need because you never know when you will need it. Her mother died when she was thirteen so she became the woman in the house to her younger sister and daughter. Then the war came and in the village Siget i d Wart in Austria she experienced many horrors.
But now I am looking for something else. Peace, connectedness with community, the courage to be myself. I never have problems with curiosity or commitment to action. In the last 15 years I studied for an MSc in Psychology at UCL and more recently obtained an MA distinction in Photography at Falmouth University. I also love working with others and co creation. The highlight of my current weeks are talking with my neighbours daughters Maria, 15 and Neus, 13. It is practice in English for them but really it is working together on wonderful topics like ‘let’s talk about what we don’t want to talk about’, ‘what are our biases?’, ‘what are the boundaries we place ourselves that constrain us’ and very apt in this moment ‘what do we want?’
Let’s talk about compassion and caring. I have lots of both for all of those who make up my ‘we are’. What I don’t have enough of is my own compassion and caring for me. With the traumas life has sent me it makes no sense but I kept feeling I was a failure. Why could I not save my wife Karen. Why could I not comfort Dawn’s pain more. This has lead to depression and suicidal periods. It is not what I want more of now.
My middle son Tom has a good phrase which is the ‘first thing you need to do is to be a good friend to yourself.’ I like this and realise I need to be nicer to myself or I am never going to be who I want to be in the little time that remains. It is not straightforward as this is all work in progress at the moment and something I will work through over the coming three weeks in Nobantu’s Ubuntu community.
The good news is I am making progress. I am getting better at noticing the beautiful things around me if I only look I went back to photograph the dragonflies in the evening as the sun was going down. It was such a beautiful delight. I reflected on my need to produce photographs versus the immense joy of just being with such amazing creatures.
These are the thoughts arising out of our first meeting yesterday. For which a big thanks.