Away With The Fairies: In Favour of Believing Magic and Dreams

As long as I can remember, I have been 'away with the fairies.' A chronic daydreamer, from a very early age I was constantly floating on a cloud of some kind of whimsy. Whether my fantasies be patched together from Alan Garner, JK Rowling, Eva Ibbotson or even Toy Story (at around 6, I had a thing for Woody the cowboy)…as a child I was always longing to be somewhere I wasn't. The everyday, mundane and minute details of everyday life bored me.  Admittedly, they still do, sometimes. Whilst on the surface throughout my school days I'd be attentive and quiet, mentally I'd be an age way, in a liminal time, a faraway place. I'd be deep in an enchanted forest, running down the spiral staircase of a rich King's castle, hanging out in the Gryffindor common room with Harry (wishful thinking – I am so blatantly a Hufflepuff…), or living with Tolkien's elvish folk in Rivendell. My favourite film today, aged twenty one, is Labyrinth. I am in love with the fantasy art of Brian Froud, Jasmine Beckett Griffith. I own unicorn candles. I have a miniature, mischievous brass Cornish Piskie that I almost unconsciously rub surreptitiously everyday for 'good luck.' I wholeheartedly embrace the concept of the seven chakras, and fully believe in the life-enhancing and calming properties of crystals. I have been described as 'kooky' by friends. I'm not entirely sure it was meant as a compliment. Don't get me wrong, I'm not utterly spaced out 24/7, but I can get so lost in my own thoughts/daydreams that I am rendered oblivious to those around me.  Whilst a vivid imagination can certainly be a blessing, it can also be a curse. I'm self-aware enough to realise that my chronic daydreaming can sometimes make me appear withdrawn, odd, or at worst, rude. I'm not. At least, I hope I'm not. I just don't always have the energy or the practicality reserves required to deal with some interactions, unfortunately. The left side of my brain has always remained firmly in control. Give me a cryptic poem to puzzle over rather than an equation any day. I might be able to think of something vaguely intelligent regarding the poem. The equation would be a lost cause -(Math is my Kyrptonite).

Although it's certainly got it's drawbacks, I think there are a few reasons that I should feel pretty okay about not being quite ready to hang up my fairy wings and plant my feet firmly on the ground quite yet. I think it's a sign of creativity. It shows hope – daydreaming is, to me, daring to believe that the world can be a different place; more magical, a place where anything can happen and dreams can be believed. I wrote earlier that the mundane details of the life bore me. In many ways, this is true. Most of us don't get a thrill out of online baking (unless your account looks like Richard Branson's), and to my knowledge I don't know anyone that particularly enjoys washing the dishes, dealing with energy bills, or hanging out the laundry. I am not a practical person. My head could definitely be screwed on a little more firmly. But crucially, it's the times that we are engaged with dull tasks that we can allow our mind's to wander, that give us the time for the spark of fantasy and wonder to be ignited. I once had a job, aged sixteen, where one of my main tasks was to lick envelopes. I'm not kidding, I was literally paid to sit and seal them up. Money for nothing, certainly, but soul destroyingly dull. I resolutely didn't care – it just gave me more time to daydream, uninterrupted. The rhythmic seal of the envelope, ceremoniously writing out the addresses in block capitals, acted as a kind of soothing backdrop for the riot of fantastical in my daydreams. I'm not suggesting that we all boycott necessary, everyday tasks or lose our grip on reality altogether. Daydreaming can rob us of just being present in the moment, and I'm a huge advocate of being mindful.  I just think it's important that we sometimes allow ourselves occasionally to escape reality, to not be consumed by trivial annoyances of everyday life. I'm a firm proponent of the idea that there is magic all around us, inside us. We must make an effort to see it, to create it, to cultivate the creativity inside us and refuse to let that sprinkling of pixie dust in our souls to rub off during the (sometimes eroding) difficulties of everyday life.

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New Life: Birth and Rebirth

Last Sunday, I wasn’t having a particularly great afternoon. The morning had started off pretty well, in all fairness. The weather was beautiful, a blissful, balmy 28 degrees, more tropical than typical UK weather. I’d gone to yoga for a particularly sweaty session and very much enjoyed it. The afternoon took a turn for the worst, however, when I learnt I’d been rejected for a job I’d been pretty confident I’d at least be elegible to be interviewed for. As usual when I feel inadequate, my thoughts inexplicably and uselessly turned to regulating my food intake and exercise levels. I felt uncomfortable – it was Father’s Day and we’d had a buffet lunch. I suddenly felt weak, out of control and greedy. I felt that I’d over indulged and old, restrictive thoughts started to swim menacingly, shark-like around the peripheries of my mental space. Altough I’d been lounging in the garden with my family, basking in the (rare) sunshine, I’m ashamed to say that I gave in to compensatory behaviours and sneaked off to excericse. My mother followed me and rumbled me in my attempts. I was embarrassed and annoyed with myself – as much as I feel I really have managed to forge a much healthier relationship with food on the whole, some aspects of my mentality surrounding my consumption and my body remain strange. Her calling me out on the ridiculousness of surreptitiously isolating myself in order to ‘burn off’ lunch when I should be enjoying relaxing family time made me realise how selfish I was being. It also made me realise how far I still have to go to feel ‘normal’ again in regards to my thoughts and behaviours. I let my insecurities get the better of me, yet again. 

So I was feeling pretty subdued, on the whole. Tired. Tired of battling with myself day in, day out. Tired of job hunting. Tired of being afraid. 

Things certainly got a hell of a lot brighter when my cousin casually informed me via text that she’d given birth, three weeks early, to her second child. A baby boy. She invited us to go and visit them in the maternity ward of the local hospital. We jumped in the car, eager and excited to do just that. 

I saw him and thought immediately: he’s perfect. He has a dent in his ear at the moment (forceps – ouch). Perfect. He has a slight scratch. Still perfect. He’s healthy. Beautiful. I watched his chest rise and fall, watched his hands curl into into little fists. I traced the oval shape of his tiny fingernails. Perfect. So alive. Babies are the opposite of tired. They are so awake, so raw. They are painfully, stunningly, beautifully fresh. New. I sometimes wonder if that’s why they wail so piercingly. Why wouldn’t they? Everything is a first – every sight, every sound, a sensory overload. Baby L was patient as he was passed around like a beloved, tiny, precious parcel from one adoring, cooing relative to another. I held him in my arms and as he blinked those blue eyes open, peering into mine, the afternoon’s feeling of being irreversibly tired just melted away. He was placid and strikingly peaceful while we held him. He was so content, and holding him, a bundle of purity pernsonified and encased in a teeny babygrow, I felt content too. I looked at my cousin, who’d been so brave in what was, by all accounts, a pretty horrendous birthing experience. I watched her smile down at her first son, and got a reality check on what’s actually important in life. Love. Family. 

Sunday was a day of gains, on the whole. I may have lost a job prospect. Lost some peace of mind, some perceived ‘progress.’ So what? Life is not linear. It has ups and down, and the day’s gains outweighed the losses. I gained a new member of my family. I looked down at him and saw the world through raw, fresh eyes. I gained perspective. I looked at him and felt love: I gained extra room in my heart, as corny as that sounds. A new person to love. 

Last weekend we welcomed 7lbs of joy into our family and into the world. I hope baby L soaks up life. I hope he looks around at the simpering faces cooing down at him (I imagine we look simultaneously idiotic and fairly menacing), and that he is able to sense how much he is loved. I’ve only met him once, in the three days he has so far experienced. He has already made my life better. He has already made me appreciate life more. He has already made me less tired. 

Life is precious. New life is the even more so. Here’s to living like the oversized babies that we all are – curious, soaking up new senses, surroundings, and experiences. Here’s to loving without limits. Here’s to family. Here’s to realising what the important things really are, and taking comfort in the fact that every day is a second chance; an opportunity to be born again. 

A Love Letter To Yoga

Some days I’m a Warrior, Some days I’m a Worrier, but everyday I’m glad I found yoga (or that yoga found me).

If you’d have told me 18 months ago that I would be a fully paid up member of the yoga fan club I would have probably laughed in your face. I have all the grace of a baby elephant, and firmly felt that yoga was best left to Kombucha slurping supermodels living in Southern California. I could barely even touch my toes, never mind do a successful forward fold. And yet somehow, without even really knowing how this transformation has happened,  I have become that person. I will happily wander around campus, yoga mat tucked cheerily underarm. I own yoga leggings. More than that, I actually wear them for the purposes of yoga, rather than for optimal comfort whilst binge-watching Netflix. Mostly. When I thought of yoga in the past, I’d always been a little downward facing done with the whole concept. Why indulge in some restorative stretching when you could treat yourself to hours of gruelling cardio on the treadmill? Who knows?! Almost like it’s good for the soul, or something.

I was stuck pounding the treadmill – literally and figuratively running up a slope and never quite seeming to reach the peak. A sweaty little hamster determinedly running away at its wheel, no matter how long I managed to jog I never quite felt satisfied. I was all about any exercise that promised to torch a whole bunch of calories, and enjoyment didn’t really factor into the equation. I locked myself away in our garage/gym in order to run daily until I was exhausted, and afterwards I could barely walk up the stairs as I was aching all over. Not exactly soul-nourishing. I’ve come to realise that this is actually not only pretty sad, but also acts as a form of self-punishment and is an abuse of exercise. Exercise should be a celebration of what your body can do, not a penance for what you have eaten. Your self-worth should not depend on how many minutes you can stand running at speed 11 at a steep incline before you go dizzy.

The holistic nature of yoga is something I’ve really come to appreciate. The focus on breathing and on management of the breath, paired with an emphasis upon mindful movement of the body, has been immeasurably helpful to me. Yoga is incredible for managing anxiety. For one hour, my mind is quietened, and my worries seem smaller. In yoga, you do not see quick results, and one day a pose your body has no problem with you may struggle to get into the next. Your body fluctuates daily, in flexibility, in capability, in strength, and that is something that practicing yoga on a regular basis has made me realise. Keep at it and you will find that every day some aspect of your practice gets easier or more rewarding. For me, there is nothing better than being able to get into a pose which I couldn’t previously reach. Equally, I am slowly learning that I do not have to be the ‘best’ at yoga. I’m not a failure if I can’t manage the poses that dedicated Yogi’s that have practiced for years have no trouble with. Everybody is different. Every body is different.  This difference should be celebrated, and everyone is the proud owner of a yoga body. There is a practice to suit every person.

The idea that there is no judgement in a yoga class is something I’ve come to really love about group practice.  I first came across yoga by stumbling across some Youtube Videos which, trying to control my compulsion to do cardio exercise excessively, I thought I’d give a blast. To my surprise, I loved it. So when I heard my university was offering yoga classes for as little as ¬£5 for the whole term, I figured I should pull on my big girl yoga pants and give it a go. I was pretty anxious before my first ever class. What if I couldn’t do any of the poses? What if everyone laughed and privately thought I was ridiculous? What if I was barred from class and told never to besmirch the name of Yoga again?? Turns out, the world doesn’t actually revolve around me. Shocking and confusing, I know. But seriously, I think this is an issue a lot of us struggle with, be it in the gym or in on the mat. It’s not a sign of self-obsession or arrogance, I don’t think. It’s more an anxious fear of judgement. The more I went, the more my flexibility increased and my transitions became smoother. For the first time in my life, I felt (dare I say it) almost…graceful. I loved it. Nobody gave a flying f**ck if I was the wobbliest tree in the forest, or if my cat/cow transitions were more ageing moggy than lithe kitten. Everyone in class is focused inwards and is, or at least, should be, rooted in their own practice. That’s kind of the whole point. It’s to make you feel better in yourself, and enables you to acknowledge and deal with your emotions whilst moving in a way that makes your body feel good.

As time goes on, I’m working to navigate a healthier relationship with exercise. I firmly believe that in the right circumstances, intensive exercise is rewarding and enjoyable, whether that be on the treadmill or doing circuits at your local gym. I feel that the enjoyment probably largely comes from the glow of satisfaction right after you’ve finished, but still. But this post is not about celebrating one form of exercise over another. This post is a love letter to yoga. I would recommend anyone to give it a try. You may just be surprised at how empowered it makes you feel, from the inside out. It calms my mind, it calms my soul, and it stretches my back out after I’ve spent the entire day huddled at a computer resembling the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

See you on the mat.

Namaste.

Young beautiful woman on the beach making yoga
Warrior lll.  *beach not included in price of yoga mat. Image courtesy of: http://www.ourfitnesshouse.com/yoga-warrior-poses.html

yoga-tree-pose2-200x300
A tree doesn’t worry if it’s taller or thicker than the one opposite it. It just is.  Tree pose courtesy of https://cleancuisine.com/relaxation-techniques-for-anxiety-and-stress-this-holiday-season/