Sunday, 27 October 2013

To Fight, Or Not To Fight? That Is The Question

It has recently been brought to my attention, that two words more than any others tend to feature in my writing.  Those are the words love and fight.  I must wholeheartedly agree that I do use the word love frequently, since it is my belief that love is the driving force behind life, and as such, is one of the most important words ever written.  So then, what about the word fight?  Why would that word occur so often and is my use of it indicative of some deeper subconscious thinking, some underlying thought that shapes my life?

Fight.  I went to the internet and typed it into Google and I found this as the second part of a definition: struggle to overcome, eliminate, or prevent.  It is the first term used here that instinctively connects with me - the struggle to overcome.  When I write about the fight, I am writing about the need to overcome all of the barriers and impediments to achieving your dreams and your goals in life.  Given enough time and determination, it is possible to succeed, and to find yourself walking on your one true path, that path which will lead you to glory, and to the discovery of the light that resides within.  In his writing, Paulo Coelho refers to this as 'fighting the good fight', and it is this sentiment that I often echo in my own writing through the expression of my own thoughts and experiences.  Walking the path is not easy.  Many times you will find yourself challenged, banging your head against a seemingly impenetrable barrier, and these are the times when it is necessary to take a stand and fight for what it is that your heart would have you do.    
When I was first confronted with the idea that I am constantly fighting, my initial reaction was one of dismissal.  I try to live my life in as peaceful, calm and quiet existence as is possible, but at the same time, I also knew that the words that I read touched a nerve and rankled me.  They could only do that if there was an element of truth in them, and I knew, deep down inside that there was a real truth in them.  My whole life has been a fight, or perhaps it is better to describe it as a series of fights.  I fought for the love and affection of my parents; I fight to be accepted by my brother; I continually fight against seeing myself as overweight; I fought my way from working on a factory production line and to a successful career; I fought to give up smoking; I fought to gain recognition and acceptance from my superiors and peers at work; I fought against the voice inside of my heart that told me all I had to do was to be myself; I fought to win the heart of girls and women who perhaps did not deserve me; I still fight to see my own reflection as something other than unattractive; I fight to see my soul as better than worthless.  In short, my entire life has been and still is a fight, and the one fight that governs it all, the one overarching theme, is the fight for love and acceptance.    

My friend wrote that it seemed to her that I was always fighting for love and for life, and that perhaps I should try to see them as friends, rather than the fire breathing dragon against which I, like a knight from Arthurian legend, am always fighting.  I read her e-mail once, I went away and I read it again a little time later.  As I read through this second time, a ray of sunlight shone out from behind the clouds, shooting forth its life giving golden beam of light.  It was as though I had been stripped down naked and my soul laid bare.  A truth had been revealed to me and I felt the weight of its meaning and the repercussions that will surely come from the discovery of it.

Throughout my entire life, or at least for as long as my memory allows me to know, I have seen and portrayed myself as an underdog.  I am Rocky Balboa, plucked from obscurity to take on the heavy weight champion of the world, Apollo Creed; I am Luke Skywalker up against the might of the Empire; Ernest Shackleton and his men, lost and alone in the Antarctic, battling against hunger, the bitter cold, and the extremities of life at the South Pole; I see myself as the hapless guy from one of those romantic comedies that Hollywood churns out, who falls for the girl that fails to see him for all that he is, until finally the light dawns and he wins her over; I am the archetypal superhero, who must surely be counted down and out, whose cause seems to be all but lost, before rising once more to vanquish his enemy.  I have always had great empathy for the underdogs in life, for I count myself as one in their number. 

The way in which I have lived my life, can perhaps best be summed up by a verse from Walt Whitman's poem, A Song Of Joys:- 

O to struggle against great odds, to meet enemies undaunted!
To be entirely alone with them, to find how much one can stand!
To look strife, torture, prison, popular odium, face to face!
To mount the scaffold, to advance to the muzzles of guns with perfect nonchalance!
To be indeed a God!

Until now.  The light that switched on in my head has revealed to me the errors that I have been making.  Why should I find myself fighting for the love of a person who is not reciprocating in kind?  A love not given freely is no love worth attaining.  Why should I persist in destroying the foundations on which my life stands, only to have to build it up once more?  What I realised is that there are certain times and situations that will require me to fight - the bringing to fruition of my dreams and the yearnings of my heart are those times.  In all other situations, I must cease my fighting.  There is a need for acceptance and through this acceptance, I believe I can begin to find some peace in my heart.  If I have to fight for the recognition of my achievements, if I have to fight in order for someone to see me for the person who I am, then these people truly do not deserve me.  They have no right to have a place in my life and my continuation with them serves me no purpose.  If fact, it is detrimental, negative, and hurtful.  Certainly things I really could do without.  There is enough to get on with in life, without having these kinds of people involved.  It does not necessarily mean that I will eliminate them entirely, for surely some of these people I cannot eliminate from my life, but it does mean that I have to ignore them and not to think of their reactions to me as a sense of failure on my part.  I cannot waste my energy trying to make people like me and want to spend time with me.  Either you do, or you do not and if you do, then surely I will know it, I will never have to question it, and I will never have to chase you.

That is a new realisation.  A sense of failure on my part.  Yes, that is exactly how I have always seen it.  That is why I fight so hard.  I try to show everyone that rightness of myself, my thoughts and my beliefs.  I feel a strong need to justify myself and my actions.  I am driven by this need to not be a failure, to be somehow better, stronger, more self-sufficient, more able.  I can see that now and I am able to see how it has governed and shaped my entire life.  I need to work on this understanding, to know that it is perfectly acceptable for someone not to like everything that I do or say, to accept that I cannot make everyone like me, that it is perfectly normal to fail sometimes, and perhaps most importantly of all, that it is okay to show weakness and vulnerability to others.  I cannot always be the rock, nor can I always be the shoulder on which others seek to lean.  If someone does not see me for who I am and all I can offer, that is not my failure, that is their failure to open their eyes fully and to see the person that stands before them.

I need to let things take their natural course.  I have to back off and allow situations to play out naturally and of their own free will.  There is no amount of force that I can bring to bear against another person's heart that could possibly alter what is written there.  Love either exists, or it does not.  There is either a desire to be with me, or there is not.  You can accept me, or you cannot.  Someone will either want to be part of my life, to know me, to understand the person that I am, or they will not.  What I have to be able to do is to find peace and acceptance with that, rather than perceiving it as a challenge, as another barrier to be overcome.  Perhaps this all sounds so simple and obvious, and I suppose it is now that I have written it down and thought it through, but when you live your own life, those things that you do out of pure instinct and old, rigid and habitual behaviours, are incredibly hard to see, let alone change.

Peace with love and peace with life.  It is for those things that I shall choose to seek and strive.  And it is my belief, that in so-doing, I will also find an inner peace within myself and most importantly, within my heart.  Perhaps it is the tormented soul that brings out the poet in me, perhaps I have not been alone in my struggles with life and how I have seen myself, perhaps I share that with other poets and tortured souls.  That does not necessarily justify that thinking, nor does it make it right.  So Walt, I say this to you.  You can keep your struggles against great odds, and you can indeed go alone to meet enemies undaunted, for I make this promise to myself: I will look for peace in love and peace in life and fight only for that next step which takes me just a little further along the path of my dreams.  If you want to walk with me, then do so because you truly wish to be there, for if not, I am done fighting to have you in my life and I bid you adieu.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Pledge Of Allegiance To Life

This morning, I happened upon a Facebook post displaying the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America.  The post was requesting citizens of the US to get behind the reciting of this pledge once more, as it has been fading out of use in the school system.  While I have absolutely no problem with the reciting of such a pledge to flag and country, and neither with the singing of national anthems for that matter, it did make me wonder whether perhaps it was now time that people dispensed with the notion of flag and country, and instead embraced a new kind of pledge: a pledge of allegiance to life. 

Let's face it, this planet on which we live has shrunk.  With the rise of commercial air travel and the dawning of the digital age, our world has gotten a whole lot smaller.  In fact, with space travel and the ability to understand the known universe, we now know that actually this planet of ours we call Earth, is just one incredibly, insignificant item in a vast cosmos, a cosmos that is littered with billions upon billions of other planets, stars, asteroids, comets and galaxies.  Take a moment and imagine a white sand beach stretching off into the distance, and then imagine a single, solitary grain of sand.  That one grain would be Earth, and all the other grains would represent all of the other objects in the universe.

But there is a very remarkable thing about this planet and it is one thing that sets it apart from every other known object in the universe - it supports life.  Our planet is a miracle.  As far as we know, it is unique.  Probability theorists would have us believe that the chances are high that other planets must exist that will also support life forms, but as yet, that is speculation and remains only a theory.  Earth is amazing, it is incredible.  Space travel has allowed humans to become the first animals to view their planet from afar.  And what a beautiful sight it is too.  Every aspect of this planet is extraordinary.  The mighty oceans; the lofty peaks of snow covered mountains; vast valleys and canyons; barren deserts and wastelands; jungles and forests; waterfalls and snaking rivers; frozen ice caps and glaciers; plains, prairies and steppes; lakes and fjords; seasonal changes, weather patterns, wind, rain, snow, hot blistering sun, clouds... It is incredible.  And I didn't even mention a single animal, fish or bird yet.  The sheer number of species of life form is staggering and scientists are still, even now, when we think we know so much, discovering new species and even in places that have no right to support life, like deep in the ocean, by volcanic thermal vents.  If I were to chose one single word to describe Earth it would be this: miracle.       

When you view the Earth from space, there are no visible borders between countries, no delineation lines that can be seen.  Country is a human invention, a term used to describe a group of people that occupy a certain parcel of land, governed by one single group.  The same is true for race and religion.  These are notions and concepts that exist only in the mind and as such, that thinking can be altered.  It is time to let go of these old ideas and it is time to embrace the new.  I propose a new view of life and I call it simply: One.

One planet
One life
One people
One heart
One soul
One spirit

With this in mind, I believe that it is now time for a new kind of pledge, a pledge that unites all peoples of Earth, all nations.  It's a pledge to life:-

"I pledge allegiance to the Earth and to the universe in which it exists. To all of life, I make the promise to always protect and nurture you, to the best of my abilities, to see fairness and justice prevail. I will take responsibility for everything that I do, and bear all consequences with humility. I acknowledge and understand that everything is one life and one life only, interconnected, interwoven, and intrinsically linked, and as such, I will make good on my duty of care to all of life, until the ending of my days.  For all things are One."

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Unrequited Love And Why I Deserve Better

Love, or rather unrequited love.  That's the stuff of which tragedies are made.  It's a hopeless situation when you're in love with someone and they do not return that love.  It's a self-inflicted, soul destroying, torture of epic proportions, that can have only one possible outcome.  And as if this were not enough, the path of unrequited love is fraught with the very serious danger of losing yourself entirely in a one-sided love affair that will consume you and that will devour your own soul, utterly.  It is a path that will eventually, not only break your heart, but destroy your heart entirely.  Trust me, I've been there, I know.

Why would someone put them self through this?  After all, unrequited love is a truly masochistic pastime.  It defies sound reasoning and is devoid of any semblance of logic.  One would have to be mad to do such a thing, wouldn't they?  The answer is of course, that love is not formed in the head, it is created with the heart.  With anything that is of the heart, it in tinged with a touch of madness.  The heart doesn't listen to reason, sound judgement and logic.  The heart flies free on a whim, it grasps hold of dreams and it speaks of love.  And love, once it has you in its clutches, is a very hard beast to escape.  The heart acts of its own free will, it does as it pleases, and if you allow it, it will lead you, or rather, it will pull you along at breakneck speed, right on down the path of love.  Once it begins, it becomes an unstoppable force, propelling you further and deeper, ever on, and like the light from a black hole, it is not possible to fight, nor flee the pull of its gravity.

In my own life, I have suffered greatly in the pursuit of what I believed at the time to have been love.  Of course, it could never have been true love, since the feelings were only on my side, a constant stream of one way love, projected outwards and very little of anything received in return.  All I ever did was to bang my head against the proverbial brick wall.  There was no way through, no matter how hard I tried.  The perverseness of the situation was that the more resistance I met, the harder I pushed and the more determined I became to succeed.  Something propelled me forward, it drove me ever on, in the process I took many knocks on the chin, but I just kept jumping right back in there.  My perseverance was surely going to pay off, my demonstration of my commitment and determination would succeed, after all, what woman doesn't want a man who will fight for her love tooth and nail? 

How did I ever get myself into these situations, and more importantly, why would I allow this to happen?  Yes, that is deliberately plural, for I have found myself in these situations on several occasions.  Each time I said it would be different, I would succeed, that I had learned the lessons of my previous failures.  I was wrong.  Even when I did not want to become involved, even when I understood clearly that the situation would be toxic to me, some how, at a certain point in time, I discovered that it was already too late - I was caught, unbeknown to me, my heart had secretly been at work.

I have never found love easy to come by.  I've spent long periods of time without even a hint of a romantic encounter.  It's was never that I was not looking, I always was, but opportunities were few and far between.  I lived my life with the constant feeling of being unlovable, I viewed myself as unattractive, and I had a shyness around women, a feeling that they would never find me remotely interesting.  Words would catch in my throat, nothing would come out.  If opportunities had been there, I never saw them because I could never believe someone would be interested in me.  This is exactly why, when someone did show me just a hint of interest, I jumped at it and seized upon it, grasping on and holding tight, even if that meant that the situation was far from ideal.  When one of these women told me that they had a barrier to letting someone in, a barrier to love because of the hurt caused by a previous relationship, or that they already had a boyfriend, I told myself that I just needed to be patient, that eventually they would see the qualities I could offer, that I was the right person for them and eventually they would see it too.

Looking back, I suppose I could view these situations as a form of teasing.  I was being given just enough attention to keep me interested, but never being given anything close to anything truly meaningful.  I was dangling on a thread and they were toying with me.  And like an idiot, I stayed there and let them do it.  It was wholly unfair of these women to do that to me, but perhaps they did not know, nor did they understand my vulnerabilities.  How could they have known, since I never showed them, and I did not know them myself.  Each one of these women must have seen something in me, each must have wanted something, needed some emotional connection that was lacking in their current life and relationship, if they were having one.  I became the person that would fill that void for them, perhaps even to reaffirm that the person they were with was right for them, to get them through a sticky patch.  It just occurred to me that I had a complete lack of respect and sense of dignity for myself.  This was all I believed I was worth.  No.  This is all the love that I believed I was worth.

Each time one of these situations arose, I invested great amounts of time and effort, giving up my own life in the process, and sacrificing time with friends and family in the pursuit of this conquest.  All my thoughts were bent on it.  The longer that the situation persisted, the more it would slowly and inevitably consume me, until I was utterly lost in it.  I firmly believed that eventually my love and the attention that I was giving would break down any resistance to me, that I would over come the barrier to mutual love.  I imagined it to be like water slowly eroding away rock until given enough time, the rock wears away, the dam breaks, and the water flows free.  Of course, I was wrong.  At some juncture, out of a huge frustration and desperation, I would push as hard as I could and I would bring everything to a head.  I could take it no more, it was win or bust. And bust it was every time, and I was inevitably left alone, nursing my broken heart once more.

There is perhaps another reason why I let these situations occur in my life and it was only last year that I finally uncovered this truth: I have always felt that I was undeserving of love.  With this knowledge, I have been able to clearly see where I have gone wrong throughout my life.  It makes it abundantly clear to me why I pursued and persisted in these situations that were extremely damaging to me and that never had a chance of working out.  I felt I was wholly unworthy of being loved in the right way, the true way, and so I immersed myself in a toxic and negative kind of love, because that was the kind that I believed myself to be deserving.  My life has been an endless pursuit of love in one form or another and I am sure that this is also a contributing factor to why I settled for something less than perfect.  I just needed something, anything, just some form of attention and to know that I was wanted - something for which I have been bereft my entire life.  When I think about it now, I rue the time that I lost in these situations, time that I could have spent with someone who actually accepted me for the person that I am and who would give their love freely to me.  I might have met them, if I had not been so completely and hopelessly caught up in the wrong kind of love with someone who did not truly want me.  I have been such a fool, but I cannot regret my actions, since they brought me to here and to now, and to the person that I have become.

And here I am.  Finally I understand all of this.  I know now why I did these things, why I put myself through such torture and torment.  I have learned to love myself, to forgive myself and perhaps more importantly, to accept myself.  I am at last at the place where I needed to be in order to discover the right kind of love, the kind of love for which I am deserving.  I will never allow myself to go down the road of unrequited love again.  I will never be tricked into following that path.  For I am worthy of being loved and if you do not see that, then you have no place in my life.  Do not waste my time. Don't even try it.  Unrequited love is the path of doom, and I for one, am done with that path forever.  I know that somewhere out there, there is a person that carries the right kind of love and who wants to give that freely, with no impediment.  She is searching for me, seeking me out, as I am seeking for her.  Her heart calls, as mine calls.  It is only a matter of time and circumstance, because I know that we will meet.  

~ ~ ~

Unrequited Love Poem
On the bed
Lost and lonely
There I lie
Listening to the falling rain
Drops of life
Pitter patter to the ground
Dejected, rejected
It's happened again
I let myself belief
What a fool!
Always a fool
Dear precious heart
Do we never learn
Will we ever learn?
Or to go on
Blindly stumbling
In the dark
The long cold night
It bites at us
Seeps through our skin
A wind blows
Tinged with bitterness
I don't regret
Won't regret
That I tried
I believed
And here I am
With the rain
That falls in my heart
And one drop
Runs down my cheek.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Barbaric Yawps And Why They Are Absolutely Necessary

The sun beats down upon me, it's relentless heat seeps into my skin, causing droplets of perspiration to form on my brow, on my neck, on my chest.  I'm breathing hard now, sucking great gulps of air into my lungs, fighting for my breath, in desperate need of oxygen.  I'm standing up on my pedals, my legs continue to push hard, one, two, one, two, over and over, as I sway the bike from side to side, in the rhythmic dance of man and machine versus gravity.  I look up the road ahead and finally I am able to see the crest of the hill approaching, tanterlisingly close now, I can sense that this hill is conquered, and the feeling spurs me on.  I push harder, dance a little more and I'm there!  The hill is mine at last but there is no time for celebration because now begins the wild exhilaration of racing down the other side.  As I hurtle down, bent low over the frame and handlebars, I sweep around a bend at great speed, and as I do, I let out a great yell, an untamed roar, an expression of freedom and of deviance.  I feel a deeply intense moment of joy and well-being, as my soul soars and my heart flies free. 

In this moment, when I yelled out, I was experiencing a moment of absolute love.  Love of life, love of my path, love of the possibilities, love of myself.  As this wave of love washing over me, I could not help myself.  I felt a strong impulse to shout out, to let the world around me know that I was in a moment of pure and unadulterated happiness.  I was reminded of a couple of lines that Walt Whitman wrote, in his poem entitled, Song of Myself and that feature in the movie, Dead Poets Society:-

"I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable, I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world."

I understand you truly Walt.  These are the moments when heart and soul are completely free and unshackled from the physical body.  These are the moments when a primeval sense of pure joy and freedom engulf you, sweep through you.  You transcend the physical and become your true spiritual self.  These feelings do not come from without, they come from within.  They surge through you, an unstoppable force that no one can control.  These feelings are your true soul, you true self, your true power and beauty.  In these moments, you truly become a god.  For in these moments you are the mountain, the river, the lake, the forest, the valley, the ocean, the bird, the fish, the beast, the clouds, the wind, the sun, the moon, and the stars.  In these moments, your spirit returns to the centre of all things, and all things become one thing only.  And that one thing is love.

I had experienced another moment before this, a moment that was the complete opposite.  A moment of incredible deep serenity, peace and calm.  I had spied a rope tied to the bough of a tree, with a large knot on the lower end, just perfect for swinging on.  Grasping the rope in my hands, I stepped backwards, one, two, three paces, then ran and launched myself skywards, pulling my legs up and locking them around the rope in a tight grip.  Whoosh! Back and forth I swung, slowly twisting around one way and then the other.  I lent back, taking the weight of my body against my arms, pushing my legs forward, and I gazed up at the tree top above.  It was mesmerising.  Through the small gaps in the foliage of the leaves, the sun broke through with a shimmering light of radiant brilliance, glittering and sparkling like a million diamonds.  As I swung, so the angle changed and the light appeared to dance, reflecting off the deep green of the leaves.  Here was a beauty that was hard to surpass, here was a miracle of nature playing out above me, here, in this moment, I felt blessed, and I knew I was witnessing a special moment.  An upwelling of joy came to me and I felt such pleasure, lost in that moment, a moment of sun, leaves, bough, rope and me.  I wonder now, as I think back and picture it once more in my mind, whether the sun looked down upon me, and felt the same joy that I felt in that moment, to see a heart that was so full of love.

During this one morning, I beheld two very different experiences, and one thing linked them both.  Through letting go of our conscious thought, we can find moments of intense emotional pleasure.  Moments when we are able to connect to everything that surrounds us.  In these moments, we transcend the physical and we enter the place where our true spiritual self resides.  These are moments when we feel an undeniable connection to everything that surrounds us, a connection with life itself.  When we experience these moments, our hearts journey to the centre of the universe, to the place where time and creation itself began.  And in that place, in the great heart of all things, is found the one thing that connects every other thing and makes all of life possible.  That one thing is love.

The next time that you find yourself in such a situation, in a place where you feel an intense connection to all that surrounds you, when you know that your heart and soul are flying free, do not be afraid, give voice to your own barbaric yawp, share the moment, and shout it out across the roofs of the world.

Monday, 7 October 2013

A Poem Called Me

This morning, words came to me in a fast flow that, from one single broken sentence, quickly evolved itself into a poem.  I called it simply, Me.  These words flowed straight from my heart and fell from my fingertips in a cascade of droplets.  Perhaps here, I am, revealed on this page, my simpleness thrown wide open to all.  I hope you will like it.

I am
An enigma
All things
Are found in me
And at the heart
There I lie
The real me
The true me
One heart
One soul
One life
One path
One love
Like all things
The beginning
The end
Complete and whole

Saturday, 5 October 2013

The Only Way To Discover True Happiness

The sound reverberates through the ocean. It's strong and powerful, like a bow pulled achingly slowly across the strings of a double bass, a deep, sonorous tone, that resonates through the water.  Powerful and strong, definitely, but there is something else too.  It's hauntingly beautiful, majestic, it feels almost sad, like the call of a broken heart reaching out across the vastness of space and time for its lost love.  But this is no broken hearted soul, this is the call of a humpback whale and I am lucky to find myself here, immersed under the ocean, bearing witness to this miracle of life.  Is it a question of luck, or is it perhaps something else that brought me to this moment of incredible beauty?

Some days I wonder.  No, let me say that again.  Every day I wonder, but there are some moments when I think to myself whether there is something special about me and what I have done with my life.  I really do not think so.  I am no braggart, in fact, I am nothing if not humble about everything that has happened to me.  My life has been mixed.  I've suffered some debilitating lows, perhaps too many, too often.  I am no different to most in that.  Each time I found myself in those situations, something has spoken to me, called me back from the bleakness, pulled my eyes around to see the small flicker of light, a flame that might wax and wain, but will never be truly extinguished.  It is my heart that called to me and it always spoke to me in these moments of despair, and when it did, it spoke to me of hope.

I clung to hope.  Sometimes desperately, as if I were cast adrift in the vast dizziness of open space, and this one small thing was all that kept me from falling into utter darkness.  There were times when I contemplated suicide, when I thought that perhaps it would be the easier option, the way out.  I felt in these moments that my life would never amount to anything, that I was desperately unlucky in life, destined to live a cold and lonely existence, full of sadness, full of regret for not being all that I could be, if only I had the chance.  The problem with depression, and for anyone who is unfortunate to have been there, is that you are swallowed by it, utterly and completely.  Hopelessness takes a firm hold and there seems to be nothing that you can do, even though there are answers and there are ways out of the abyss of darkness, back to the light once more.

What I failed to understand was that I was the key.  My happiness didn't depend on someone else, it depended on one person, and one person only: me.  I always looked to someone else to make me happy.  I thought that the path to my happiness was going to be found in love for another person, that this was what would make me finally fulfilled in my life.  I put all of my efforts into this one thing and in the process of doing so, I forgot about myself, my true self.  Each time I met someone, I wanted to please them, I wanted desperately to make the relationship work, and I would alter myself to fit to the other person.  I stopped being the real me and I become some other form of myself, an altered state that could only ever be temporary.  That could never work in the long term because at some point, my true self would begin to resurrect itself, to assert itself once more, to shake off the shackles in which I had bound it.  As I write this, I've just had this realistion: that I did exactly the same with everyone.  I altered myself to fit with the preconceived ideas I had about how I should act.  I did it with my parents, my brother and my sister, with friends, teachers, colleagues.  It was not until I moved overseas that I was able to find the real me and to have the confidence to let him come out.  That process began in Budapest and it continued through the years that followed, as I allowed my true self to emerge from its cocoon.  It is when I do the things I love, that I truly become myself, when I let my true soul fly free.  

The path to true happiness is simple.  Be yourself.  It sounds simple enough, but it is not.  I could not be my true self until I began to walk my path, my true path.  In the moment that I did, everything changed.  I chose to follow the voice of my heart, I listened to my inner voice, the voice that will only ever guide you true.  My luck changed, not because of anything that any one else did, not because the stars aligned above me, it changed simply because I opened myself up to the possibilities of life.  And the moment that I did that, life found me and enclosed me in all its wonder.

I am no different to anyone else, I do not see myself as special, nor do I possess a unique gift or talent.  What I have done, you can also achieve.  Everyone has this potential.  You too have this ability.  Do not be afraid to be your true self.  The person that you find will surprise and amaze you.  Listen to your heart.  Hear its message and its call and do not be afraid to follow it.  Wherever it takes you, it will change you forever and will give you the opportunity to discover true happiness.  Forget what others will tell you of the foolishness of your idea and plans, forget what the society tries to tell you is the right way to live a life.  There is only truly ever one way, and that is the way of your heart.  Go follow it.   

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Eight Years And Still Going Strong

It is the beginning of October 2005.  I do not yet know it, but my life is about to change forever.  There is an idea in my head, there is an opportunity to do something completely different in my life.  Perhaps it is a fools opportunity, but it remains an opportunity nonetheless.  In one hand, I have everything that I wanted: great job and career, business travel, nice apartment, sports car, platinum cards, no debts.  I did not come by this easily, I had to work extremely hard to achieve it, to have a little luck on my side, and to strive forward purposefully.  And now, I sit in that same apartment, staring out across the city, crushed under a leaden sky, to the cathedral spire that rises so majestically to the heavens, and I contemplate leaving it all behind, throwing it all away on some whimsical chance of adventure, to go backpacking to South East Asia.  Was I out of my mind?  Eight years later, I know the answer.

Why would anyone in their right mind even contemplate doing such a thing?  The answer to that question is that I believe they would not.  You see, decisions such as this are not made in the head by someone who is thinking rationally and logically.  A decision like this is made in the heart, and as such, it defies logic, since it was made with love.  I turned my back and walked away from a life that offered me financial security and stability, that offered me a pension plan, the chance of early retirement, healthcare, paid vacations, and other benefits.  I held in my hand the kind of life to which we are taught to aspire towards by our parents, our teachers, and our governments, that we are sold on a daily basis by advertisers and the media, the life that society as a whole, has decided is the right kind of life, the successful kind of life.  My problem, if that's what it is was, was that my heart held a very different view of what it deemed to be a success in life. 

I think this is a very important point.  Not everyone shares the same dream and that is a good thing.  Some people are born to be doctors, nurses, teachers, farmers, priests and many other occupations besides.  You know these people because they are the ones who exude passion for what it is they do.  I was not born to sit behind a computer, to stare at spreadsheets, no matter how important the decisions my interpretations of the data might be.  I had no passion for what it was that I did.  I just happened to be good at it and to thrive on the sense of importance and belonging that it gave to me.  These were nothing more than false idols and in my heart, I knew it.  I always had.  I didn't want to sit and discuss business at the restaurant, on the plane, in the airport lounge, on a Sunday evening teleconference.  I wanted to be away, to be free, to shake off the costume and the facade I wore and to be my true self again.  The further my career progressed, the more invested I was, the harder that became.  I saw my colleagues and I regarded them almost in an out of body way, as if I was not really there, I was looking on remotely.  These were, on the outside at least, different creatures to me.  Perhaps I was the wolf in sheep's clothing and they were the genuine article.  Perhaps, now that I think about it, they were exactly the same as I was, they too wore their masks, recited well rehearsed lines, and acted out their own part of the play.  Maybe they saw me in the exact same way that I saw them? I never thought about it in that way before.  But I saw them as company men and company women and I was not one of them.  I was different, I knew that I would break away from it, I felt it within me, had known it for so long, for too long, and I simply waited for the right moment, the right opportunity.  Whilst I waited, I positioned my life in such a way that when the opportunity came, I would have no reason to say no.

In the late summer of 2005, that opportunity arrived.  As the words were voiced to me one evening down at the pub, over a pint of the black stuff, I knew the answer without a moment of hesitation or doubt.  Here was the chance to make a change, to have an adventure, the likes of which I had only dreamed.  A few weeks later, under pressure to make a business trip to Chicago, to attend an important client meeting, I found myself talking with my boss on the telephone and I heard myself resign from my job.  What had I done?  I knew that even though I had resigned and was working out my notice period, I could get back in again.  I knew I was well respected and liked, that all I had to say was that I had made a mistake, and everything would go back to how it was before.  But I never did.  Even after I left, during the period I was selling all of my material possessions in readiness for my adventure, I still felt sure they would take me back, it was still not too late.  I could cancel the ticket, call up my old boss, say sorry, negotiate my way back in.  The thought did occur to me, it was just not as strong a pull as the pull of adventure.  I was finally out, standing on the verge of something new, something terrifying and I was about to find out whether my dream was just a fool's wandering mind and nothing more.

I gave up everything I had known, I took away all the securities of family, home, comfort, income, and known routine and forced myself into a life unknown.  I had a round the world plane ticket that would take me from London to Bangkok, to Sydney, to Auckland and then back to London.  I had a place to stay in Bangkok for my first few nights, with a friend of my sister.  Other than that, I had no plan, no idea where I was going to go, no idea what I was really doing.  In many ways, this is exactly what I wanted.  I didn't want to know.  Not because I was afraid of it but rather because I wanted to live on the edge, to go from place to place and have my first priorities those of food, water and shelter.  I wanted to get back to the basic needs of humanity, to throw off everything else, and to see what exactly there was inside of me when I exposed myself completely to life.  And so I did.

My adventure would unfold in a random, rather haphazard fashion, until at some point in time a few months later, my heart found the very thing for which it had always sought: a paradise island of white sand and palms, a turquoise ocean that lapped at its shores, wooden huts on stilts close to the waters edge.  A picture postcard version of my heaven.  I discovered like minded people, I found myself with fellow wanders and adventurers.  And in this heaven, I discovered the thing that would change my life again, I discovered scuba diving.  But more than this, I found a place where I could be completely and utterly free, where I was able to be my true self, to indulge myself in my fantasies, to get up close to nature and to witness her miracles, a place where I discovered the meaning of life.  That place was under the ocean.

In scuba diving, I found my passion.  I discovered something that no one had ever talked to me of doing before.  Had someone recognised my love of the ocean, of being in the ocean, of playing around down at the beach, then perhaps they might have suggested it to me, but being from England, and despite living at the seaside, scuba was not something I knew, other than on some old Jacques Cousteau documentary.  I had to take a chance on life in order to make this discovery.  If I had not, perhaps I would still be looking for my thing, perhaps I would now be sitting in an office, spreadsheet in front of me, jiggling numbers, and not writing a blog post from my bed in Costa Rica, with the sound of early morning calls from the birds as company.

Now here I am, eight years later and I am still going strong.  Eight years of dreams and adventures.  I returned back to England after Asia and four months later, I was sitting in a lecture theatre on campus at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, for my first ever lecture.  I graduated three years later with a bachelors degree in Information Systems and an A grade average across all eighteen papers that I sat.  On another whim, I travelled to South Africa, where I rekindled my love of scuba diving and there, made the decision to become an instructor.  A decision that brought me across the Atlantic, to the Caribbean and to Central America.  In the process of all that has happened, I made perhaps the biggest discovery of them all: I found my true self, and I came to an understanding of my life, of who I am.  I still do not know what the future holds in store for me, no one can ever truly know that answer, and I do not wish to know, since that is the mystery and adventure of life. 

So, eight years later, was I out of my mind?  The answer to that question is an unequivocal yes.  Completely and utterly.  You see, I had to be out of my mind so that I could accomplish all that was required.  I used to be described as being headstrong and stubborn, but that was never the truth.  The truth of my life is that I am heartstrong and for me, that is what has made all of the difference, that is what has allowed me to go on this voyage of discovery.  Of course I was out of my mind, there can be no doubt of that, because I was in another place entirely.  I was in my heart. And there I shall remain.