Belonging

Nothing excites me more than the start of something new, and when there are a lot of things going on simultaneously within the same sphere, it is an amazing feeling. For me, this tends to happen when I move to a new place and meet new people, and so I have wrongly associated it with the love of the new, the fresh, the unknown. But now, I realise it is something else.

When I packed my bag (yes, just the one) and moved to Cornwall just over a year ago, with nowhere to live, no job and knowing literally nobody, it wasn’t at all daunting as you might expect, just incredibly exciting. The challenge of having to start from scratch and create a life for myself was deliciously inviting, and I couldn’t resist throwing myself into it headfirst. I decided to move to Falmouth;  it had a great music scene, gorgeous vintage shops and cute, quirky cafes. One walk up the length of the high street and I was hooked. So, I checked myself into a hostel room in one of the local pubs and set about trying to build some foundations. The flat, the job. The inevitable ups and downs of this process played themselves out as they must over the coming weeks, but that is not important in this story, the fact is that within three weeks I was renting a room in a flat and had a steady job, both of which I loved. I had roots. I forged connections with the lovely owners of my favourite cafe, who took a great interest in how things were progressing each time I stopped in for a latte.

I had a strong word with my self consciousness and put myself forward to sing at an open mic night that was taking place in the pub in which I was living, and made my first friend. The feeling of invisibility after completing that first social challenge was intoxicating, (more so than the scotch I would have been drinking) and I went to bed feeling invincible. Whole. The next day, it was another challenge as I tried to psyche myself up to go to a folk dancing event at another pub that I had heard of, and again, felt nervous and anxious all day as I tried to summon the courage to attend by myself. Another night of being welcomed by local folk and finding about another open mic the next night. It was at that open mic that I was welcomed into a group of musicians that would become my close friends. Each day the fear of what I was intending to do that evening was intense, but the reward, knowing I had conquered fear and doubt, forged friendships and utilised my creative energy was beyond inspiring. To be able to look around me in the coming weeks at my life, full, abundant and rich and think, “I made this. I created this from nothing,” was the most satisfied I have ever felt. I had believed that I was delighting in the attraction of the new experience, and that its intensity lay in the fact that I was experiencing so many different types of new at once, all beautifully fitting together to become my new life. But, now I see that while this was a huge piece of the puzzle, it was not it at its core. It wasn’t about new experience. It was about belonging. It is about belonging.

The reason that this hit me today with crystal clarity followed an unexpectedly inspiring afternoon. My previous blogs have gone some way to describing the emotional place that in which I have lived since returning from Cornwall. Intense heartbreak, shattered dreams, loss of focus and complete lack of direction. I was, in every sense, lost. I realised that whilst my real spirit lay trapped in this prison, my true essence lying dormant in a dungeon of delusion and disillusionment, that “home” was a good place for me to be, or, in my my lower moments, that my sentence here was likely to be long term. Then slowly, slowly, like a kitten creeping on soft paws, or at other times a tornado battering down defences and wreaking chaos, changes happened, within me and around me. Then one day, this day, in fact, it all happened. This idea, that idea, this nutrition workshop, that writing job. This song, that person. It was at this cafe, actually it was Sonic Kitchen Cafe in Boscombe, that all of these things happened at once. And it was as I left that it hit me. I had been endlessly debating the concepts of “moving on” as opposed to “running away” (I am of the former camp, though it is often suggested to me that they are one in the same) and pouring over maps, both cognitive and geographical, looking for this new home, to rekindle those old feelings. But here it was, clear as a Scottish highland spring.

Belonging. That is what I am searching for, I suppose that is what we are all searching for, and also what to an extent we may be running  from, missing, seeking, mourning the loss of, dreaming of attaining. Those of us who are lucky enough first experience belonging in our family units as children. You might be blessed enough to retain this bond throughout adulthood, by which time, of course you will have developed new communities to which you belong; relationships, friends, various social networks. I believe that this is why facebook, twitter and other social media are so popular and so functional; yes, it may seem like many of us are procrastinating, wasting our time, talking rubbish on a daily basis, but we are belonging. We create our own virtual worlds, we let in whom we choose, we exclude that and those which we do not wish to experience, and this of course is both a drawback and a delight when comparing the virtual social network with the real life one. I also believe that the people who complain that they loathe facebook, for example, are so vehemently opposed to it because they do not experience this sense of belonging, either through lack of desire to become so, but more likely because they do not have the resources (the friends) to make this possible.

You can experience the delirious deliciousness of the new and exciting on your own doorstep. All you need is an open heart and a willingness to welcome the ideas and dreams of others into your heart to dance with your own. Belonging is about acceptance, the desire to give of yourself and the love of being touched by the energy of others. There can, for me, be no more rewarding human experience.

From desperation to inspiration and back.

Today was a fairly typical day off for me, not in the things that I did necessarily, but in the way that my mind flitted between states of apathy and motivation, excitement and sadness, emptiness and fulfillment. I suspect I am not alone in swinging between these frames of mind, balancing precariously on the edges of this emotional windmill. I am not describing a bi-polar condition, nor any state of mania, just the normal routes by which we hover above an ever changing cognitive landscape.

First, I awoke hungover, undernourished by sleep and finding myself unable to face the first appointment of the morning -cognitive behavioural therapy. With the grim realisation that the previous night’s poisoning of my body would prevent the detoxification of my mind today came the self loathing that so often accompanies these hungover states, especially when you acknowledge your own self destructiveness. The hours that followed were spent trying to fall back to sleep, driven by a desire to hide from the day that I knew I could not now face with any strength or enthusiasm. I was pretty much prepared to write it off from the outset.  I nursed this mental state of anger towards myself until I had a text from my dearest friend, expressing almost the same experience and the same sentiments. Lethargy, self reproach, a sense of being lost bordering on despair. However, unlike my unforgiving attitude to myself, my response to her was compassionate and forgiving, urging her to view her feelings as temporary, transient, evanescent. Because, this is exactly the truth of the matter; no matter how strong these feelings of negativity, they don’t last.  These feelings are so strongly interconnected with our perceptions of ourselves and our place in the world, our sense of belonging, duty and worth; we are constantly in a state of flux. Of course, some people are more stable than others. There are those that seem consistent, unchanging, traits perhaps perceived as those of a “dependable” or “reliable” person. But for those of us that flit in and out of these worlds, dancing between the extremes, each day can be a whirlwind of colour and darkness, bleak desert and lush mountainside, raging sea and placid pool.

I went in to a new cafe and started chatting to the owners…potential opportunities discussed, giving  a talk on healthy eating, singing live one evening, guided meditation groups. I love the way that these things just seem to rain down upon you from nowhere. The point is, I left feeling inspired, for the first time that day. Then out of the blue I had a phone call from somebody who had found my business card, this time with an opportunity to get involved in an event, several events offering reflexology and nutritional advice. The synchronicity of the two events are so typical of the way things can go for me generally, the wind of opportunity whips me in an rapidly ascending spiral, a helix of hope catapulting me towards a horizon of health, happiness and harmony. Towards the “new” to which I am certainly hooked.

Hunger sets in, and I am starting to lose my foothold within this helix, I am beginning to lose my grip.  I know this experience well enough so I seek out (slow releasing) sugar. My recent achievements, however theoretical and potential, have created within me the desire to switch the sugary coffee to a healthy juice. These are the ways in which the spiral continues to propel us upwards, in exactly the same way that a feeling of failure might drive us towards the alleged comfort of junk food and alcohol. As the afternoon moves on, the inspiration will, I have no doubt, begin to wane, unless something occurs to sustain or drive it anew. I may not fall back into despair today, but I will be back there at some point; this is my nature and I accept it. Like many people, I cannot be inspired all of the time. But I can try to administer to myself the same forgiveness, tolerance, patience and acceptance that I would eagerly offer to friends, even strangers, dealing with the same issues.

Is inspiration even useful if it is so short lived, offering perhaps an even bleaker perspective when it has abandoned us once more? Arguably not.  An old friend of mine once became a Buddhist monk, and I distinctly remember him telling me that there were two types of people that chose that life; those that arrived through desperation, and those that arrived through inspiration, and that without doubt, the latter candidate was the quickest to leave and move on. In fact, the Buddhist idea of non attachment is significant here. Both conditions are perhaps as illusionary as each other, it is attachment to either state which causes us unhappiness.  While one is more likely to invigorate and inflame us, its loss leaves us deflated, depleted and hollow. Forsaken. Inspiration is of course a useful tool, but even here, the distinction between the two is unclear. I only ever write songs when I am feeling down and desperate, like many other artists, my creativity comes from a dark, lonely place, thus blurring the worlds between desperation and inspiration. They are really mirror images of the same thing. Mirrors of us, as the complex creatures that we are. The problem arises when we become attached to either idea.

Of course we would generally have a preference towards insight and illumination over gloom and hopelessness, but one can certainly trigger the other. The best thing we can do is to accept that inspiration is a fickle lover, she blesses us with her kiss but then takes flight and in our quest to follow her, we find ourselves lost in a dark cave of cold silence. It is at this point that we should perhaps take comfort in knowing that if we are are prepared to listen to the silence, we will hear that bird’s song again, and if we are wise enough to follow, she will lead us into the light once more. For a while.

The many faces of a broken heart.

Heartbreak is not just a human experience; it is a human. A living, breathing organism; it evolves, it develops, it grows and it changes. It impacts the lives of the people it encounters, and is, in its turn, affected by the people and experiences which cross its path. Give it fuel and it will burn brighter and more ferociously, leaving a trail of devastation viscous and paralysing. It incapacitates, suffocates, buries, and its destruction potential is limitless.

Heartbreak wears many faces, assumes many forms. Like a person, it may be aggressive, timid, a victim, a drama queen. It may be quiet and hard to notice, hard to hear unless you are really listening. Only the most sensitive of people might notice it when it enters a room, or it might have such a strong energy that only those entirely wrapped up in their own feelings would fail to feel it when it is within their radar. It might embrace pain, immersing itself in the agony of loss and sorrow, or it may try and hide, distracting itself with other things in the vain hope that anything might succeed in diverting attention from the all pervasive sorrow, the all assimilating torment of regret. In the brutally raw bitterness of the freshly broken heart, this would be like trying to remove a tattoo using a pencil eraser, or trying to mop up a flood with a cotton bud. In the weeks and months that follow, when obsessive self interrogation gives way to acceptance and false hope becomes resignation, the broken heart becomes less of a raging fire and more like a stone which lives inside the solar plexus; the afflicted can still work, socialise, and generally go about their business, but there is sits, a heavily weighted burden that is carried with you everywhere you go.

At first, the raw pain of heartbreak is intensely violent, venomous,  immeasurably cruel. To the bearer, it is an acid which viciously corrodes every thought, every hope, every dream.  You can’t eat, sleep or hold a conversation about anything other than your pain. It feels like you could never, ever cry enough. At the worst moments, you outcry even your own tears; they have run out, but still the endless sobbing continues, wracking your body and heart. This crying may exhaust you into sleep, but by no means extends the mercy of keeping your pain dormant in slumber. Too early in the morning, you’re hit with a sledgehammer of sorrow, shattering your emotional skeleton and incapacitating you. As the horror of memory slams into your consciousness, fear and panic burrow beneath your skin and invade your tissues. He’s gone. He’s gone!! And there is nothing, nothing you can do.  Over and over you replay every scenario you can think of, or just the one you are sure was the kiss of death, the one solitary conversation that you are sure, had you not had it,  would have allowed you the bliss of being in his arms right now. But, it happened, and you are full of self blame, self loathing and self pity.  Throughout the day, you are unable to focus on anything else. You can’t look at certain objects, listen to certain things. Music becomes the enemy. You might hide or eradicate all of the visual associations with him; photos, gifts, clothes, souvenirs of a life lived and a love lost. Of dreams shattered into shards so small, they could never be pieced back together. It is of no importance that you dreamed, loved and lived long before this man existed in your universe, none of that ever meant anything, it was him all the time. Him!! Nothing holds any meaning, the only meaning now is the pain which saturates your tissues and screams through every nerve ending, every fibre.

But even in the early stages, a broken heart takes many forms. There are times when out of the despair, comes inspiration; out of the ashes, new fire. Some kind of survival instinct kicks in and spurs you forth into action. If you are so inclined, you might find meaning where others see only an inanimate object; freedom where others see duty; horizons where others see…nothing. You are free! The emotional roller coaster of the last…6 months is done, over! No more analysing every word spoken or unspoken. The truly wonderful feeling of finding the inner strength which rises like a new dawn within your perhaps not so broken soul. But after the glimmers of hope which bubble to the surface dissipate, the inevitable descent back into despair feels even more tragic, as hope for release is lost.

And what face do the people around you see when you wear your broken heart? Sometimes, deep sorrow and pain that they cannot bear to look at, less they have to face and reflect upon their own grief, perhaps suppressed long ago. Sometimes, a chirpiness which in no way reflects the dismal feeling of emptiness in your heart. Sometimes they will see determination, a valiant attempt to rise above the pain and soar to new heights driven by self preservation and self respect. Sometimes, the broken heart will wear the same faces many days in a row, sometimes, it will change and mutate many times within the same day, within the same conversation or period of obsessional reflection.  Energy cannot be destroyed, only changed, and the abundant energy the broken heart demands changes from anger, to compassion, to emptiness, to overwhelming regret, to hope, and back again. Each of these emotions wears a different face, imagines different scenarios, wishes different outcomes.

Whichever face your broken heart wears today, there is one certainty, it will change, at some point, at many points, and back again. A broken heart lives, it breathes, it mutates. It is the dog and the master, the organ grinder and the monkey. It is the ocean which cruelly and callously washes over the stone, leaving it drenched and alone as it crashes back into the depths; and it is the stone which tries in vain to grab onto those waves, each time remaining as empty handed as the last. It moves, it dances, it laughs at you, but then clutches around your waist and begs you to never leave it alone. It pushes you into battle and keeps you hidden from the rest of the world; the world which goes on as if anything could matter as much as this pain. It taunts you and protects you. Heartbreak keeps us in the shadows, but also shows us the light. It is dominates and submits, leads and follows, lives and dies. A death that is unique in that it brings hope and happiness once more.

Yes, a broken heart wears many faces. And each face is both terrible and beautiful.

According to me.

It’s an intermittently rainy and sunny afternoon,  and I am sitting in a gallery style cafe, drinking infinitely better coffee than the last place  (although that had floral curtains which made up for  any  culinary downfalls.) And here, it begins. My new blog.  As I type these words, the sun literally has broken free from its cloudy prison,  and I need no further sign that this venture is well placed, well timed and well overdue.

What is this blog going to be about? Well, it’s going to be about life as I, Antonia Edgeley-Long, see it. The things that I see, feel, experience and reflect upon frequently (perhaps too frequently) revolve around; love, or lack of same, relationships, heartbreak, running away and moving on, and the difference (is there one?) between the two  perspectives. Romantic relationships should not perhaps be the core of every girl’s world, but they often are, and if this is a crime, it is one that I am certainly guilty of, and if it is a crime which takes victims, then the victim is most certainly myself. I have found ways to cope, but also many ways to perpetrate and perpetuate these crimes against myself. These ways are  essentially what I will share in this blog. Maybe my perspectives are crazy, my experiences unique, my ideas off the wall, but, I suspect not. I think that perhaps some of you might identify with what I am saying to some degree, and anyway, these are stories which need to be told.

Welcome to my world.