Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag…
Tomorrow we are handing in our notice for our house we had been renting for over a year. This place had always just been an interim solution. But it was more than interim to my heart, as it was the first place I actually felt at home.
We had lived in my flat in London before and my Landlord decided to sell the place, after I hd lived there for over three years, and we were forced to move out within two months. This coincided with a change of jobs. At this point in time I was working full-time for a consulting company in the city and had been studying law part-time. It was a tough four years. Not only because of my packed schedule and not having any kind of social life for a very long time, but also because I had worked myself out of a very unhealthy relationship during all of it.
I chose the words ‘working myself out’ on purpose as it wasn’t a regular break-up – one where two people just decide to end it, you go through a phase of heart-ache and move on. No. It was a pattern I had to break. A fear I had to conquer. A mind-set that needed to be changed. A person that had to be re-modelled. An identity to be re-built. And I managed. Somehow I managed to stay strong and not go back to the familiar unhealthy patterns which I had followed all of my teenage years and young adulthood.
It was only much later that I realised I was heavily co-dependant in relationships. I had thoroughly adjusted my personality – my every being- to the person I was with. I did not know who I was. And whenever one relationship started to crumble, I quickly found myself to be in a new one. Before this happened, I remained in relationships for way too long- always hoping everything would change for the better – but as a result continued to change myself.
I was a chameleon in search for warmth and love. I could not cope with ‘being alone’. Ironically, I repeatedly found myself to be with men who ran away from closeness. They could not form any deep meaningful bonds. And they could not be trusted. I had every right to be jealous or sceptical about what they said…but they somehow managed to make me believe that I was the one at fault.
Years and years of wishing for something better and finding myself in the same situation over and over again. I always knew though, the release – the way out of all of this- was by going through hell- to go through darkness for a while and realise that ‘being alone’ was the key to all of it- and it would teach me not to be lonely! Once I conquered my fear – once I knew who I was – once I realised that I don’t need a man or anyone else or anything else to be happy- things would change drastically. I always knew it. But fear is a funny thing. It is crippling your very existence. It is a constant battle between your heart and your head. The emotional vs. the rational. The conscious vs. the unconscious. The heart vs. the head.
Eventually, an ex- work colleague of mine introduced me to principles of Buddhism (like when Tina Turner was introduced to it…and you know the powerful effect it had on her life). I remember a quote from Eat Pray Love (and yes of course it was my favourite book during this time…and still is…because Elizabeth Gilbert manages to capture the intense confusion I was going through so brilliantly- it was like she had interviewed me. I knew exactly what she meant when she spoke about the drug-like state of infatuation and how people would comment about how I adapted to whoever I was with at the time):
A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave.
This is exactly what this girl did. She took me under her wing- shook me up (sometimes very forcefully as she was one of the most direct and sometimes most scariest individuals I had met in my life) – somehow managed to sit me down at 6am in the mornings before we went to work together to meditate and chant- taught me about life’s wisdoms and how to embrace one’s emotions- and she gave me the biggest gift she could have given me: she introduced me to Eckhart Tolle’s ‘The Power of Now’ and ‘A New Earth’.
I remember soaking up his words like someone who had been walking in the desert for hours trying to find water and eventually drink it. I was obsessed with his writings. I recommended it to everyone around me and could not understand if people were not interested. I just thought to myself: ‘if you only knew how much wisdom lies in his words. How much it will change your life’. Funnily enough this girl had just lived around the corner from me. Everyone who has ever lived in London would agree that this is a rather BIG coincidence…London is so ginourmously big…what are the odds that your new work colleague lives in the exact (at the time very unknown) part of London literally a 5min walk away?
So, I had enrolled for one of the toughest challenges in my life. Not only was I working full-time, studying part-time (keeping to my ambitious 2:1’s and 1st’s in every assignment or exam…I have no idea how I managed…I honestly don’t know!), but I also managed to tirelessly work myself out of a very destructive relationship. I was also sick all the time. My body was run down and the moment I healed from one disease, the next one would wait around the corner.
I suffered from severe migraine attacks, abdominal infections, bacterial infections, constant backaches and in November 2011, after just having recovered from two weeks of being at home with the flu, I fell back ill again with a pneumonia (which was one of the most awful experiences ever….especially if you are all alone. I think I was ill for about 8 weeks in a row. You can imagine the guilt I felt about being off for such a long time. I feared I was going to loose my job. My supervisor at the time, thank goodness, was very understanding and somehow always had my back. I won’t talk about her now, as I think she deserves her own post. Without her, much of the last several years would not have been possible.
I remember I was lying in bed coughing, sneezing, using my little inhaler which I needed as I could barely breathe, with pains so intense I thought I was going to die and then I decided to pray and said: — God. If you exist. Please take me now. End this life. I have had enough. I don’t want to live any longer. I don’t want to face another day of misery (this is material for a separate post yet again, but just to sum it up: I grew up in a domestic violence house-hold…in other words, my childhood wasn’t great to put it mildly…and well, I never ever had it easy in life. I was just one of those people who always had to fight – all the time- at this particular point in time…I was exhausted. Tired. You get it…). Just make it quick and painless. Just kill me now. — Whilst this may seem overly dramatic to you (we all feel like ‘dying’ when we feel terribly ill…), I honestly had lost the will to live. There I was in my bed, all by myself, thinking….what the hell is this life all about, if this is how it will always be? I had ENOUGH.
Then I proceeded to watch a clip from one of my all time favourite children movies. I watched Mary Poppins (or more Julie Andrews) singing ‘Feed the Birds’ – which made me sob uncontrollably. I felt so incredibly sad…I thought my heart was going to explode.
“Early each day to the steps of Saint Paul’s The little old bird woman comes. In her own special way to the people she calls, “Come, buy my bags full of crumbs. Come feed the little birds, show them you care And you’ll be glad if you do. Their young ones are hungry, Their nests are so bare; All it takes is tuppence from you.” Feed the birds, tuppence a bag, Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag. “Feed the birds,” that’s what she cries,
While overhead, her birds fill the skies. All around the cathedral the saints and apostles Look down as she sells her wares. Although you can’t see it, you know they are smiling Each time someone shows that he cares. Though her words are simple and few, Listen, listen, she’s calling to you: “Feed the birds, tuppence a bag, Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag.”
At tStrangely enough, at that time, I worked minutes from St.Paul’s Cathedral and I remember, once I was well enough to go back to work, I would pass St. Paul’s Cathedral every day, look up and speak to the saints that looked down on me and I would whisper…‘thanks for looking after me. I know you do’.
While I was still re-covering from my pneumonia and having realised that God was not going to kill me, I developed an intense anger. One day I decided to fight. Just out of the blue I felt so confident like I had never before. I was not going to die. I was not going to DIE. I’m going to live and I’m gonna show the world what I’m made of!!! I stood up on my bed, inhaler in the one hand, tissues in the other and I pointed towards the sky (actually the ceiling in my bedroom) and I said: No one is going to get me down again.
Ever ever again!
I had enough of men and needed time on my own. The year ahead was all going to be about myself.
A month later I met Ben. A totally random night out in London. Katja my friend had visited me from Germany and we just wanted to go for a quick drink before going home as she was exhausted from being up since 4am. I remember chatting away to her and I glanced to the other side of the Pub and like in a movie, I saw these gentle eyes. His eyes is what attracted me the most. He looked so kind. And boy did I need to meet a kind man for a change!
But I quickly looked away as I did not want to be in a relationship for a year, remember?! And I meant it. I really did not want to be in a relationship! 5min later Ben and his friend came over to us. I chatted to his friend and Katja to Ben and I have no clue what Ben’s friend said to me as I kept looking over to Ben. All of a sudden Katja grabs my shoulders and pushes me over to him and there I was standing in front of him. And then a band started playing in the background and we could not understand a word we were saying. So I started typing on my iphone and he would type his answers back in front of me. We stood there for a good 10min or an hour…I’m not sure…time stood still…until I decided to kiss him.
We had exchanged numbers and Ben had texted me a few hours later (a kind AND reliable man!) and so we started communicating with each other via SMS and yet it took me a good 3 weeks to agree to go on a date with him. I was scared. There I was not wanting to be in a relationship for a long time. But his eyes. His eyes were so kind. The wonderful thing about the start of our relationship was that everything was very slow. We only saw each other on week-ends and rarely would he stay over during the week as he lived outside of London. And this is how we kept it until he moved in with me 8 months later.
Ben is the most incredible person I have ever met. I feel so blessed and privileged to be his girlfriend. I think it’s the first time I really understood what love is. I never felt so loved unconditionally in a relationship. I’m glad I have broken my own covenant of not wanting to be in a relationship for a while. Because sometimes, in life, you have to break your own rules in order to find luck. If luck knocks on your door, you have to recognise it. Sometimes, life brings you what you want much quicker than expected. And that is ok. Adjusting your plans is ok.
So here we are, occasionally feeding birds in the park, holding a bag of crumbs and I look up and the saints smile back at me.
Have you ever had to work hard to leave a relationship? Have you broken a personal covenant and why? I would love to hear your thoughts below.
A true soul mate is probably the most important person you'll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave. - Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat Pray Love)