I am once again a student, my official title of English Language Assistant in the Academy of Strasbourg is no more. Alas, seven months has passed.
I’ll challenge myself to use wisdom not fear, to speak words of encouragement not doubt. I’ll learn and grow, not with a spirit of fear but with one of intuition.
I’m sewing a garden bed of clarity.
I am now realising the extent to which, somewhere deep inside of me, I have a bias that the Caribbean, with all of its corruption, poor excuses for self-governance and traditionalism, is the BEST place in the world.
Ça mache? Yup! That’s life these days. Learning French, teaching English, weekends in Strasbourg, weekdays further south, day trips to Switzerland, camping trips in Germany. I have a lot of catching up to do because of my wishes to do things miraculously. While I only work … Continue reading PHOTOBLOG: Autumn Life in France, Germany & Switzerland | TAPIF Two Months Check-In
The paper-society that we have constructed frustrates me. However, in as much as I am in this environment, I’ve decided to take advantage of the opportunities presented to me.
Early on in the vacation, I lost an old friend and sailing coach in a freak accident. This death threw me way off course and affected me a lot more than I could have expected it to. While I did not like this person at first, I then went forward to have a teenage crush on him for a number of (years)…yeah.
This death, paired with other frustrations, caused me to head outdoors into the sunshine. I needed to deal with grief, anger, and sadness. So, I went swinging. Every weekend, I would go to a park in one of the neighborhoods that I was raised in. Under an evening sky, I would swing with my sorrow. I would rush back and forth through my pain. The blades of grass beneath my feet shivered as the disturbed air blew across them.
At the beginning of the vacation, I went about once a week, or once every two weeks. By the end of the vacation, I would go every few days. I cried on that swing. I thought of old happy times, I thought of my frustrations of feeling ‘stuck’ in situations, in Trinidad, in university. As the fading sun cast pastel colours into the Eastern sky, I looked around sadly. I sat and appreciated the beauty that my eyes beheld but the heaviness of my heart would not be solved by such brilliance. Perhaps, the answers that I needed were much simpler.
Too often, it was well into dusk before I left the park. I sat there thinking about death, about if there was an afterlife. Mostly, in these thoughts, I wondered if James, if he still existed in some sort of spiritual form, would visit the park. After all, his home’s backyard lay right onto it. As the trees welcomed the nesting birds for the night, I wondered if James walked in the grass. I wondered if he swung next to me. Quietly.
On every visit to the swings, I went through a wide range of emotions.
Sometimes, life really sucked. I felt as if I could not make the connections that I wanted to make. I knew that there were other people in Trinidad who were interested in similar things as I. Yet, I felt insufficient, I did not “move” in the same circles as these people. Their seemingly tight-knit friendships formed decades in the past didn’t seem to have room between the weaves for a new person. The timing was never right. That’s what I told myself. I didn’t even try.
Instead, I made friends with the blue sky, the setting sun, the worn earth beneath the seat of the swing. I could not help but smile when I flew forward to kiss the sky. I grinned as I swung backward, falling freely.
But sometimes, I would simply sit there not swinging very much. Sometimes, I would not think about anything. I would rest my head on the chain links that support the swing, and I would just be. Sometimes that was all that I was able to do. There, on the swing, I made peace with my existence.
It was on one such day, out of nowhere, that I made a very special affirmation. To myself, I very simply stated, that, even if the world came tumbling down around me, (some days it definitely felt that way*) literarily, or figuratively, I was going to be Optimistic and Brilliant. I was going to make space for the good. If everything else went to shit but there was a tree with green leaves, or a blue sky, or an open field left behind, that was what I was going to focus on. I was going to find my joy in that blue sky or in that one tree. Each minute that passed by was a minute of my life. A minute that I had invested in negativity, a minute that I could not ‘do-over’, a minute that I would never get back.
Each second that goes by is a second less of your life that you have to live. If every day you are in inevitable traffic, and every day you are upset because of it, you are letting precious moments slip through your fingers. Find something simple, something insignificant, study it and make it a source of happiness. Make it a source of bliss. Find it!
[*Some things are greater than me, they are not only my problem, or my issue. There are other people in the impact zone. As a result, I can not discuss them freely here, however, I can talk about how those situations that I experienced made me feel. I’ve done as such. The situation calls for me being elusive. ]
I did not go to counseling this summer, but I went to the swing. Swinging implies movement but you remain in the same place. It gets you off of the Earth, you soar with the stars, the clouds, and the planets. Amidst all of the celestial entities, you find a space. I have not a clue why I enjoy swinging so much. To be truthful, I would get extremely motion sick swinging, in the early days of my park visits. However, I realized that as my visits went by, I was less sick each time. Eventually, there was nothing. By the end of the summer, a lot had changed.
My time in Trinidad was melting away. One month, then three weeks, then, five days.
It seemed that all of the time spent floating with my celestial kindred had delighted the universe. It scooped me up like a newborn infant. It cooed at me, it fed me, it nourished me. The universe showed me that it saw me, it knew my plight, my tears were not in vain. They were part of a process.
Over the last epoch of my time in Trinidad, things began to change. In stories, novels at least, the writer begins to pull the plot together. Problems existing long before the start of the story, begin to get solutions. Characters start to see their way through, the pages in your right hand are as thin as a newspaper. If you’ve enjoyed the story, perhaps it is a bit heart wrenching to be soon leaving the characters behind. If it was a thriller, very soon the suspense will be over.
Those were my last days with the swing. Each time I visited, something new would be solved. I would come to peace with something new.
The moments after swinging were what I would have liked to imagine occurs after the Holy Eucharist is consumed. The connection between me and ‘that which IS’ (the universe, God, Allah, etc. etc.) was so powerful that I could very obviously see its influence. In these last weeks, it was even more intense.
Since James’ death, I wanted to speak to his parents, I wanted to send them a letter, or draw them a picture. James was the first person that I ever sailed with and my very first sailing instructor. James’ work made an enormous impact on me. At that point in time, I was not fond of him at all. We had not launched the 420 thirty seconds before I told him that I really did not like what I had seen of him so far. I was ten years old. Things changed. His parents lived mere meters away from the swing but I wouldn’t go. I couldn’t bring myself to go.
On the day that I was to return the paints that I borrowed to paint the piece for his parents, I went to the swings, as I often did. The piece was not painted and I left in less than a dozen days. I swung for a while, then, very suddenly got up, left the swing and went towards my truck. Pulling off from the curb that I was parked at, I drove at a much higher than usual speed around the back of the neighborhood. I marveled to myself. This all felt very strange. Why did I leave the swing so abruptly? Why am I driving faster than usual?
I didn’t have the answer until a few seconds later. I had come around the bottom of the circular, approaching the other side of the park when it was explained to me. I passed James’ old street just as his mother was closing their front gate. I pulled breaks suddenly and stuck the gear stick into reverse, then first gear as I turned onto their street.
At that moment, on that evening, I was to be sharing my heart with James’ parents. It was the way of the universe, it was was the destiny of ‘that which IS’. I had gone as I was led, I trusted the vibe within, I was carried, and I was delivered to the door that I needed to be at. Something that weighed heavily on me was resolved. I did no work, I only followed the guidance of ‘that which IS’.
At these swings, I always sat in the same seat. However, a few days before I left, it was time for me to expose what was once a wound but had healed. On that evening, someone who managed to hold a significant space in my life, sat on ‘my’ swing seat. I sat at their side.
(this is so hard to write- …. mehh, bah,)
I’d say this: Take time to heal if you were hurt, take time to forgive others and to forgive yourself. Take time to grow. Take time to understand, to form new opinions, to challenge old opinions. Understand that the future will only unveil itself as it happens. Do not hold on tightly. If a relationship ends, a relationship where you truly cared about each other, you should be coming out of it better people than when it began. During that time you should have learned about yourself, you should have expanded your understandings and you should have grown. In love you should never lose, you should always grow. Even if it ends.
Into the darkness, we shared with each other where the last year that we had not spoken for, had taken us. We found that the ego, at least, serving the ego, can keep us away from that which our being truly wants. A bone may be mended, wishing to be used but you may still want the convenience of the wheelchair.
Healed but tender were our hearts, first with fear of rejection, then with the heaviness of addressing that which needed to be said. And at last, they were tender from the laughing, the feeling of forgiveness, acceptance, and love. It was refreshing to speak with someone who had known me, in the capacity of a friend for a long time. Someone who knew the past to my current realities. It was satisfying to see that we had both grown since we were last on speaking terms. It was relieving to finally be able to discuss some of the thousand things that had occurred, things that I would have shared, things I would have asked. Things that I wanted to ask even though we were no longer friends over that year. Things that my being wanted but my ego denied.
This is who I have come to know as myself: someone who loves regardless, someone who forgives, someone who will not switch compassion off. Growing up I would get into the absolute worst, horrible fights with my brother (mom & dad can testify) but afterward, I would still share my secrets with him. Knowing that we would soon hurt each other again, but also know that we were each other’s keepers.
On this journey, I have found other ‘keepers’ as well. Keepers are people who hold space for you. The special thing about keepers is that they don’t stop holding space for you overnight. You don’t stop holding space for them either, even after a year has passed.
PSA: This is in no, no way an endorsement to return to someone who has a history of hurting you, being abusive or threatening. If someone, a friend, partner, whatever, is being abusive, GET THE FUCK OUT! This was one situation that was very difficult to experience but it was not at all in that arena. If something that you are dealing with, is in that arena, don’t use this blog post as “confirmation” or “as a message” that you should return to that relationship that hurts you but you still care very much for the person. No, GTFO. ❤
In Montreal, I had an amazing counsellor, I was able to process things that needed to be processed. I got through some gnarly bouts of depression. I was so grateful for this. The actual dollar value for the quality was much more than I would have been able to pay. Back in Trinidad, I did not start back. I went to the swing. I dealt with an ugly depressive episode in the earlier half of the summer and increasingly worse anxiety throughout. Returning to this swing, time and time again established a ritual for acceptance, self-centering, and resilience.
Just before leaving Trinidad, I was paid a visit by one of the lights in the universe. The person was with me for initially one, then an accidental second day. While I showed them the way to the park, I did not visit it then. A portion of me now wishes that I could have shared that very special place with them. Not as strong as a regret but not as soft as an “oh well..” I know that there is a way and a course that this river of life will flow through, I’m an active participant. The future will be as it is and it will be revealed to me as it occurs. I rest in this, all of my almost regrets, hopes, wishes and loves do too.
In my new home, I’m far away from my swing but perhaps I will find it’s equivalent here. I hope that you find your swing in the park. I hope you spend time with the celestial beings. I hope you work on yourself and love wholeheartedly. I hope you follow your being and do not give into the ego. If you feel ‘that which IS’, I hope you flow.
I can almost remember this time one year ago. Exactly one year ago, this was my first night in Montreal.
I had a plan but not much of one. I booked the last room, in the last hostel with space in Downtown Montreal. In addition to that, I was booked for only one night. After this night, the 1st of September, 16, there was no more room. With not enough money to pay for a lease, I’d have to wait until my scholarship funds got released to me. Only, I needed to have a lease for the funds to be released.
Around this time, I was making my way up Saint Laurent Avenue trying to find number 3655. The street bustled with bars, restaurants, more hipsters than I’d ever seen before and half drunk freshmen enjoying the ‘frosh’ activities of whichever of the four major universities they now belonged to.
Why was I heading here? A friend that I made a year before in Trinidad, while he was on a student exchange had just moved in. I carried two, half dead doubles for him. Of course, my phone had died and I was a wee bit lost. In those first few days, I was more lost than ‘found’. I had walked 40 minutes West or East in the direction opposite to the one I should have been walking in when trying to find Boulevard Saint Laurent. Now, on the street, I was just as lost.
When I eventually figured out how the numbers ran and which side of the street I should be on, I found the address. Out in front, as with most other buildings, there was a mountain of debris left behind by August 31st movers. Looking up at the old brick building, there was a window open with twentysomethings moving, smoking, chatting and drinking. I wondered whether to call out my friend’s name. I decided against.
Being lost humbles you in so many ways. Being in a large, loud, bright, city, makes me shy. I hung around the door that I couldn’t enter. I had no fob and the apartment number rang with no answer. I hung around because things work themselves out. Doors eventually open for you.
The person to open the door was a tall, lanky guy with a not very Canadian accent. I entered and tried to find the apartment. I got directions after knocking at the wrong door, then entered a place that unbeknownst to me at the time would become my home. Its inhabitants, my people. Its floor, my floor.
But on first days you don’t yet know these things. With my stale doubles and a gift of grapes, I sat there and chatted on chairs that I would sit on for many more times. On first days you don’t know. The people, the culture, the streets, the administration. You don’t know but you soon will. On first days you don’t know if you’ve entered a space that a piece of your spirit, being, vibe, heart, soul, whatever you wish to call it, will never leave.
On first days, you don’t know.
Very soon I’ll be having another first day. If you check back or follow this blog, you can be a part of that journey as well.
Stay in, stay adventurous, stay wild,