Warning: this blog post may contain some chanting.
Facing Fluidity… No, I’m not talking about my wine or gin consumption… Facing my fluids of an evening are the carrots that get me through the day. Nor am I referring to that post-children caution for jumping on a trampoline (only women will understand that one). I mean facing the fluidity of life.
I’ve been reading a lot about Buddhism over the last year (no mini cymbals needed, this is not the chanting part) and the most striking lesson I am taking from it – I would take more lessons but Buddhism and me is like trying to make a Type A personality become a spliff-soporific surfer dude…. It’s going to take time and a lot of mind-alteration – (See why mindfulness and meditation will take some time with me? That’s three different thought streams in one sentence – I don’t have the grammatical know-how to write my thoughts.) Anyway – the most striking Buddhism lesson learned is the idea of life being fluid. Of nothing being permanent….an idea that directly conflicts with how most of us in the West are brought up to view life. We are reared to seek permanence – a permanent job, a permanent home, a permanent relationship, a permanent waistline (and now with Botox, a permanent face.).
We strive to arrive. To reach that point where we can stop and relax (a little white lie that is told to us along with Santa and the Tooth Fairy, only meaner and it takes 4 decades rather than 1 to work out it’s a lie). There is no point where we can stop and relax. Life just keeps going…. On and on and on, with dramas and dullness, highs and lows, ins and outs. But still, we think life should reach a stage when we are ‘settled,’ when we finally have a grasp on what we are meant to be doing. But reading my Buddhism at night trying to calm my manic heartbeat I realise that the panic I have felt most of the last 18 months is that very fear of fluidity, that loss of stability, that utter crashing, crushing disbelief that actually nothing in life is permanent. As a chronic control freak, this has been rather seismic. My life has changed so much in the last couple of years – finding out my husband could no longer be married to a woman, realising I was a single parent just when I was emerging from the pressure of the baby years, losing my mum. Both families I had come from – the one I was born into, and the one I created, had altered. Permanently. It doesn’t get more permanent than death and divorce.
And for a while, holding on to what I knew was the only thing I could do. I clung on to what had been by my white-knuckled fingertips, so terrified of the unknown abyss below me I could have hung on there for ever. But it was letting go that saved me. Letting go of the past, and embracing the now, and the future, and discovering that along with the fear is excitement. Letting go and falling…. and realising that I am able to land. That fluidity is an essential part of life, that permanence is a trap, and that instead of striving to arrive, we should actually just strive to thrive, wherever our life takes us.
So I find myself back at Malaga airport. I write this in Starbucks on my own as I wait for my pick up to take me to a writing retreat in the glory of the mountains of Andalucia. And as the airport’s familiarity startles me, I remember.
I remember that I was here exactly a year ago, sitting in Starbucks on my own. Bizarrely, I’m even sitting at the same table, with the same order: a spearmint green tea and a freshly squeezed orange juice. But the fluidity of life, the fact that I am embracing instead of clinging means this time I am not crying. As I sit in this seat, I can almost touch the shadow image of myself across the table. The me that sat here last year is crying so hard, a kind lady comes over and touches her shoulder. She doesn’t speak English and I don’t speak Spanish, but her smile speaks the offer of love and support. The me that sat here last year has just had to walk away from her children. In a holiday booked before their dad left, we had agreed that I would take the girls for a few days, and then he would come out spend the last few days with them. So the me that sat here last year has just had to pack her bag and kiss them goodbye and walk down the path of the villa and close the gate on the family she is now banished from. The me that sat here last year stood on the road for a few minutes listening to the squeals of laughter as their daddy threw her children in the pool, knowing that his decision meant that I was no longer part of that family. The unfairness of that walk nearly broke me. Because of the actions of another person, I had to relinquish my children. The pain seared me hotter than the Spanish sun. So I sat at this airport exactly a year ago, at this very table, and I cried because the permanence of my life had been shattered, and I was incapable of understanding it’s fluidity.
But now I do. A full year later I sit at this table, and I am able to embrace the future. It still hurts me that my children and I are being forced apart for a week. It will always hurt me that they don’t like only being with one parent at a time. But the me that sat here last year crying, her knuckles white, hasn’t learnt to jump into the abyss yet. I have. I don’t like, or enjoy, being a single parent. But given that that is the situation I am in, I will make the best of it. Last year, the me that sat here crying could only feel the pain of loss. This year, that pain in still there, but I can also embrace the gain.
(Warning: Chant coming.). If I have to be away from my girls for a week so that they get to spend quality time with their dad, then I am going to do something for me. I am about to spend a week in a stunning old hacienda, at a writing retreat where I can indulge my own headspace for days. I will also be embracing the fluidity of Spanish wine no doubt, and reading and yes, chanting.
Facing fluidity is the only way we can strive to thrive. So as I stand up now to gather my bags, I look at the seat opposite me and I imagine resting my hand on the me that sat there a year ago crying, and I would whisper in her ear, my chant: “you will be ok… let go.”