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.

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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.