I wrote a letter to myself at the end of August on an afternoon so golden the sun melted my heart as well as my ice-cream. I scribbled it down and posted it to a friend in the UK, asking her to give it to me when we next see each other. She is one of the friends you can rely on to feed you cake and listen. She doesn’t realise her magic; her acts of kindness are not just like a buoy that stops you from sinking, she holds a lifeline out and sends the rescue boat to everyone in need she loves.
The letter might have been to remind me of things or it might have been to save myself from falling into old patterns. When we met up 6 weeks ago she handed the envelope over and I didn’t need to open it until now. Despite being my 36th birthday I hear a voice in my head that belongs to a 16 year old girl who is afraid of everything in a way that manifests itself in not just anger, but in a cloud of uncertainty. I knew I would need these words.
Maybe you’ll open this in late September – or wait a while longer till the days normalise and form their shapes around routines, trips to the station, supermarket – Friday night pizza and that whole bottle of wine you find comfort in. Whenever it is, now is the time to remind yourself, not of the past, but of potential. Like the sun bursting over the mountains at dawn, slow at first, lighting up the horizon and then spreading with earth’s energy that contains both light and warmth, the rays come slowly, but bring big, warming earthly impact. Steady yourself. Hold still.
(Did you find her now? or did you pretend she wasn’t there before?)
This is who you found. You found a woman who can run up a mountain. A woman who still freezes in front of a barking dog, but her pounding heart muscle knows it won’t end in death. She gets eaten alive by mosquitos and learns to stop scratching the bites, despite the weepy infections. She has happily forsaken TV and swapped them for books and contemplation. And this – the words that form worlds on a page.
A woman who against all sensible advice put her hands in the cold hard earth in Spring to grow plants from seed and worried about nothing more than watering, waste and nurture. All the while, the real Greek Garden entwined its roots deep in her soul. She looked at the wide expanse of blue in the sea and sky, feeling gracious, and small and humble and happy. That word ‘happy’ hangs on to greatness. The expectation of happiness like a leaded weight we carry.
A woman who found her steady solid love for Graeme grow new dimensions as he unseated himself from his fears and worries, strode out into the wilderness and looked forward. We dived into that ocean together and felt reborn in cold salty waters. Nothing was easy, but nothing was impossible.
There are times now, this minute, you need to hold on and remember this all. Close your eyes. First hear the wind in the pine trees, hear the soft waves. You are sat on the terrace in the soft light of an early morning, just a low hum and flow as the village awakes. A collared dove squeaks , a goat bell in the distance, a dog barks it’s lonely sound. Today will be filled with time used wisely. Together and apart you’ll both go about your day, fetching bread and supplies, sweeping, cleaning – the complete ordinariness of domestic life. The same rituals the world over. She takes time over food, considering ingredients as a ritual not a chore. More than just the necessity to fuel and nourish, it is an act of caring. Accept this isn’t her gendered role, it is a universally human and who she is.
A wave or greeting to a neighbour – passing pleasantries in a language that sits uneasily on your tongue and only just beginning to unfurl its complexities. There will be hours of work – silence – focus – transporting yourself to another world. Later, you’ll sit down on the beach together- slowly stretching out limbs and un-furrowing your brows from the squint of a phone screen and the clouded thoughts of work – toes in sand and pass comments on the beach goers, the usual faces; the lady swimmers in cotton hats and swimwear finery, gossiping and forming circles treading water; the children at play in the waves – kicking up water and making games up. You’ll swim, hesitant at first as you step into the chill of the sea – diving under to start your mission – your strokes trace an invisible map line of the sea floor out to the third buoy in the distance; past the clump of seaweed growing in an old tyre, the rock formation and then flat emptiness of wave marked sand on the bottom. You know this route well – a ritual of now well charted territory. Although you haven’t counted your summer swims like those true Greeks, in your heart you know it is enough to get through a winter and hope it will be enough to stave off illness. That swimming woman is brave. She can travel anywhere on her own and not be afraid of being alone. This life is just an adventure.
The words don’t come easy, but she tries, taking pen to paper to start a fire. It isn’t a new spark, it’s embers have always been there. Forgotten and disregarded, like a lamp gathering dust that is now alight. The words are a beacon to find your way in the dark seas, through choppy waves to rescue lives lost.
Remember how you really feel about ‘things’ – the ever growing piles of stuff that clog up your house and lives and weighs heavy on your mind. Having 2 bags of stuff feels free – pack up and go – the weightlessness of living simply. Don’t look for sanctuary or belonging in the accumulation of possessions, you have discovered how to live. Is that more valuable than anything new?
The woman you found feels freer with less. That’s okay – accept that money and status aren’t what drives you. It might feel revolutionary to say it out loud but this realisation has made you question everything. You are good, no, better than that, great at what you do, you can sail into any task and rescue it. Believe in yourself, your judgement and your abilities. Apply these rules to everything. Don’t be swayed off-course, you know you can do anything.
The woman you are knows simplicity is key: remove complicated thoughts, hesitation and time wasting from your day. Relish it. Here everything is reduced to this simple configuration of living quietly, life at low volume. Sleep, work, eat, rest, enjoy.
Compare that to your day now as you read this. How’s that daily journey? The lines on your furrowed brow etching deeper each day?
The Money / reward / life is something to worry on. Yet, life is made up of the currency of time – trade it wisely. It is all you have.
You are fortunate and recognise this. Think about the difference you can make. Work to keep the universe in a positive balance, don’t bow to expectations, limitations and others people’s egos.
You know you can’t change how some rely on the praise of others to give their own lives meaning. Don’t fall easily into that prison of weighted expectation. Wherever you end up, to walk away from your desk, walk down to the sea, look up to the sky and realise how insignificant your worries are. See how much time in the world has already passed and folded over into history.
Step outside – it’s the same sky the world over – grant yourself space to breathe, time to change, and a plot to grow.