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Last week I spoke of the tears we all shed during the Olympics – tears of joy, of wonder, of warmth. And only this week I spoke of some funny situations that perhaps only a transitioner would find themselves in. But it’s not always fun and games, and the tears of a transitioner are not always ones of joy.

Since my last blog post, I’ve been crying quite a lot; in fact, I’m in a perpetual state of holding back tears. Maybe it’s all that anger that the Qi Master told me, after an acupressure session, that I was holding in my stomach, along with any other emotions stuck there that are now releasing themselves, often against my will. The absence of any of my regular routines of yoga, Tai Chi or dance classes in the last few weeks since I had knee surgery probably hasn’t helped and has thrown me off kilter. My belief that getting wasted at the weekend would somehow be a good idea in this state of imbalance may well not have helped either.

A poem by Julia Cameron. Last week I finished her book ‘The Artist’s Way’, a 12 week course in unleashing your creativity (but it actually does a lot more than that). I think I’m having withdrawal symptoms!

Whatever it is, a transitioner’s tears are often letting out a whole lot more emotion than is easy to define or attribute to one particular disappointment or grievance. I cried today when my friend told me she got married. That’s not really the reaction a friend expects when giving such news (and luckily this was an online exchange so she didn’t have to know…although now maybe she does. Sorry, I hope I haven’t caused offence with such spontaneous tearfulness). Yesterday I read the poem attached to this blog post, and burst into tears; and carried on crying for a good solid half hour, my parents blissfully (and thankfully) unaware in their other rooms.

Call me ungrateful, or blind to all the good things I have in my life. But actually I have been seeing those things, and reminding myself religiously of them, every day. I have a safe and welcoming house to live in, and two very supportive parents, and some wonderfully encouraging friends. I have time to be creative, to write my blog and discover new and exciting projects to work on. But when you’re going through a bad patch as a transitioner, all these positives get pushed out by the so-called negatives; or, to use another term, those nasty little demons of anger, resentment and fear.

In my case, I start looking at the last ten years of my life. All that time spent fighting injustice and extreme poverty in various countries (or at least that’s what I hoped I was doing, but in these dark moments even that is thrown into serious doubt). The organisations I worked for with such commitment, often with little appreciation or support. The year I spent studying hard for a Master’s degree whilst living in a squat. All that hard work, so how do I find myself here, in my thirties and living with Mum and Dad? No matter how well you get on with your parents, such a situation can never feel quite right; I thought I’d grown out of depending on my parents years ago. Added to this my continuing dread every time I look for jobs – any jobs – and find myself despairing because I actually have no idea what I want to do. The self-doubt that accompanies longer term visions – mine being to write a book or to do a Phd – and which can take over if any person questions my motives or expectations. And then there’s the gaping hole that is my private life; my desire to go out and have more fun often dampened by the reality that this is not so easy whilst living in suburbia with my parents and with no income.

A cure for those emotional or creative blocks: bake a cake. I baked this yesterday – it’s a blueberry and hazelnut muffin cake.

At times like this, the transition can seem like a long, dark tunnel with no light at the end of it; and one in which everyone else appears to be whizzing past, apparently able to see the light more clearly than me, despite all my efforts at ‘knowing myself better’. Whilst others have been working on their jobs, their careers, their marriages, their children, I’ve spent a whole lot of time working on myself. But am I any wiser? Searching for my inner truth appears to be a much longer journey than I had anticipated, and not always one that brings fulfilment, or even clarity. There are days when everything simply seems terribly unfair, when one can’t get past the loneliness or emptiness of a life of uncertainty. We’re only human after all, and tears are natural, even healthy. Maybe I’m making up for all the tears I’ve held back and buried in the pit of my stomach over the years. Tears release what sometimes dare not be admitted or publicly revealed – our vulnerability, our desperate need to be loved, to be appreciated, and ultimately to be happy.

Two weeks have past since I wrote my blog. Apparently this is very bad practice for a blogger, if you want to keep your audience interested. But what’s a girl to do when she’s spending half the time knee-deep in mud, the other half cleaning it all off? This will be explained below…

And I keep reminding myself that ultimately the purpose of this blog is to see how writing it helps me in my journey of transition. I am truly touched and so reassured that some people want to follow me on that journey, as they go through similar experiences and can offer support or words of encouragement and understanding. But no transition is the same, and there may be times when what I have to say doesn’t really resonate with anyone. I’m still going to say it anyhow.

So here goes….

The last two weeks have mostly been about pleasure-seeking and connecting with old friends. But given that I took a conscious step back from job-seeking, and from reading any bad news, I somehow filled the resulting extra time with other thoughts, experiences and lessons learned. Here they are:

1. I learned how to survive a muddy festival – whose unfortunate name and tagline was ‘Sunrise Celebration – another world is possible’. OK, so this wasn’t the first muddy festival I’ve been to. Glastonbury 1997 was probably the worst, followed by Bestival 2008. And, like previous festivals, survival relied mostly on tequila, cider and whatever else we could lay our hands on. This was unfortunate, as I had gone to Sunrise full of good intentions – to take advantage of the array of yoga, life-coaching and healing that was on offer in the Serenity Field , and maybe go to the odd talk on how to make the world a better place in the Village Green. But when faced with endless rain, wind, and a thickening mud soup which we had to wade through to get anywhere, we went for the easier option – the nearest tent with some live music and a patch of warmth and dryness. I did however dance a lot (albeit in wellies covered in what felt like several kilos of mud) – always a good release for me. And big respect to the organisers and all the talented musicians for keeping the punters happy and upbeat despite the weather conditions. There were moments of darkness and despair, but these were matched by moments where the mud didn’t matter anymore.

2. I saw the Dalai Lama at the Royal Albert Hall. It was quite a privilege to see His Holiness in the flesh – this modest and funny figure, who talked gently and cracked jokes to a mixed audience of several thousands. I have to admit, I went there with rather high expectations after having read his book ‘The Art of Happiness’ when I was in Thailand. I was hoping that he would lead us into a group meditation and have the entire audience sitting in contemplative silence. This wasn’t the case, and in many ways the content of the book was far more rewarding than the content of this two hours with His Holiness. The focus of the talk was on bringing positive change in the world, and how this can only happen from the heart. The message was clear, and a familiar one if you’ve read his book: no political, social or economic change is possible until we work on ourselves and our own sense of love and compassion. This entails releasing anger and seeing each and every person on this planet as one of us – with the same desires, fears, hopes, and insecurities. The emphasis was on the importance of having love and affection in our lives in order to give love and be compassionate. This must start from childhood if we are to succeed in playing a role in changing the world for the better – the love and affection our mothers give us is fundamental to how we relate to others and the world we live in.

Above all this, I think what I was most moved by was seeing in real life how, despite all the tragedies and injustices he has no doubt witnessed as the spiritual and political leader of the Tibetan people, His Holiness applies modesty and humility every step of the way, stooping down to help the stage assistants clear the space for him after some Tibetan performers had left the stage. He was able to hold his audience as if we were sitting together in a small living room drinking tea; the polar opposite to the formality of the politicians and their rhetoric that we’ve become so accustomed to in the West.

“When we are motivated by compassion and wisdom, the results of our actions benefit everyone, not just our individual selves or some immediate convenience. When we are able to recognize and forgive ignorant actions of the past, we gain strength to constructively solve the problems of the present.

Dalai Lama XIV

3. Now on to a few more personal and emotional ruminations. I still feel moments of anger and pain. Certain names, conversations, places, leave me with an aching heart, bringing back good and bad memories from my recent past – in Uganda, in Palestine, in London. When the memories arise, then follows questions of whether I truly want to put the past – my work, my relationships, my lifestyle choices – behind me and move on to something completely new and different. I still find myself dwelling on my past as if it’s some indicator of my future and what I should be doing next. The past is so familiar, and I’m still not sure what I truly need to let go of in order to embrace this transition. Is it OK to turn my back and walk away from situations and conversations that no longer serve me?

4. I need to get out more. For the last few months I have spent most of my time at home with my parents – helping them around the house, baking cakes, cooking interesting recipes, watching TV, reading. I’ve ventured out for Tai Chi and belly dancing classes (more on that later) and for the odd cup of coffee or glass of wine with friends. Going to a festival, and a few days after that going out in Brixton for the first time in a while, has made me realise I seem to have lost the ability to socialise and talk with strangers. And yet this is very important if I want to move on with my life and form new relationships. My ability to talk about myself and what I’m doing with confidence, and to the opposite sex in particular, needs further work!

5. In an ideal world, there are two possible things I’d secretly like to be when I grow up (as, being a thirty-something in transition, I’m essentially like a child discovering a whole load of new exciting and scary things). One is a writer. Well, many of you could have guessed that one. I also would secretly like to be a dancer. This realisation has been a long time coming – starting from when I was eight or nine years old and fell in love with Hollywood musicals from the 1940s and 1950s, and developing recently whilst going to Five Rhythms in Vauxhall and weekly belly dancing classes. Last week in class we performed a dance sequence all the way through from start to finish for the first time to the Arabic song Zaalni Mennak by Carole Samaha. My effort was as clumsy as I would expect given my lack of co-ordination and ability to pick new skills up with any speed or grace; but this was an achievement nevertheless. Part of my transition seems to involve being like a child again – trying to let go of the embarrassment and fear that comes with learning something new, and just embrace the fun of being carried along by the experience.

Use what talents you possess. The woods would be a silent place if the only birds who sang were the ones who sang best.

Henry Van Dyke (Writer, poet and essayist, 1852-1933)

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