Just five more minutes…

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“Just relax, breathe, and focus on the next five minutes. You can get through the next five minutes, right?”

He was right. Of course he was. I could lay there, safe and warm and still next to him for a few of those said minutes then get up, walk the short distance from the bedroom to the bathroom, turn on the shower and, by the time I got out, that would be it; my five minutes would be up. But what about the next five? Or the five after that?

Five minutes can be a long time.

Long enough to watch the drama unfold; the headlines, the breaking news. Enough time to win the game. Or to lose. To make it just in time or all too narrowly miss it. Disappointment. Relief. It’s long enough to meet someone new. To find yourself face to face with a stranger and wonder who you have to be. Or how you might even begin to be them. A new friend. A lover. Your own child. It is enough time to say goodbye. To speak those simple words without ever realising that it is the end, the last chance. Long enough to get it wrong. To say something or do something that ruins it all. Or get it right and realise you might not be ready as you start to doubt whether you ever will be. Whether another five more minutes will ever be enough. Long enough to see the truth. To watch it spill from someone’s lips and realise that you might just drown in it. Or to spill it yourself. Long enough to be forced to face to consequences.

Life has taught me that five minutes is all it takes. All it takes to change things forever.

And I not sure I can get through that.

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How not to face the future

Writing

“We are back here again, aren’t we?”

I paused for as long as I could manage. I broke.

“I guess.” My voice cut the silence with a cool, steely edge. At least, I wanted it to.

“You just can’t believe that it might be true, can you?”

“No,” I replied, “Obviously I can’t.”

“Every time we get here, it becomes so clear you are in distress. You must see that that is real?”

“Is it?” I hoped sincerely that it was. “Or is it just an excuse? It sounds like an excuse.”

She stared straight at me. I wanted to get up walk away. I let my focus become blurred and tried my hardest to escape her gaze. I checked the clock. It was impossible.

“Ok, so, let’s assume I am. Let’s assume it isn’t my fault and I’m not to blame. It doesn’t change anything, does it?”

“Maybe it will.”

She sat there, silent and still, her eyes fixed on me. I wanted to run but, again, I stayed. Something always makes stay. Silent and still, I allowed myself a moment to try to imagine if things were different.

I couldn’t.

I had nowhere to go from here. I had nothing to say that hadn’t been said too many times before.

So I sat there distressed, silent and still, and waited.

Places I know…

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I am on holiday. Today the sun is shining, I have swum in the sea and my feet have found the comfortable groove in my flip flops. We come to the same Spanish village a few times a year and, after the first day, it starts to feel like home.

As I wander through the village I notice the same old sights and the familiar faces and it feels as though nothing has changed. I know my way around and have mapped these landmarks in my mind’s eye. These are the memories I carry with me on rainy Wednesdays at home when all I want is to drift somewhere far away. Over time, the village has slowly become a part of me.

But, as I wander further and look more closely, I begin to notice the details. The differences. Whilst we have headed home and rejoined the ‘real world’, this little part of me has not simply stood still. Time changes everything.

And, as I am on holiday and have the time, my mind leaves me to wander further still to the important places of my past.

Once, when I was at university and inspired by something I had read, I attempted to map the markers of my world. Not a map for tourists or visitors, just for me. A visual representation of the places that made up my world and meant something to me. The corner by the bakery where I would meet my friends on the way to school. An alleyway where we once lost my brother. The canal tow path I would trek along daily to visit my first real love. Secret short-cuts and discrete doorways found prominence over local landmarks. I never finished the map, and I guess I probably never could, but I think of it often.

Because I carry these places with me too. They have made me. And, all too often, I long to drift away and find my feet there. Many of them wouldn’t make the map of my world today, some are even no longer there at all but they all exist somewhere within me.

And I continue to wander and wonder how time has changed them. More than mere months have passed since I have visited most. They are undoubtedly different. But I am sure that it is me who has changed the most.

How would the person I am today feel to stand in these long lost locations? Would I still know them or simply notice how strange they seem?

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Competitive yoga and the ever elusive art of standing still

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A few weeks ago I cried in a yoga class. As I lay sweating on my sticky mat I squeezed my eyes shut even tighter and, between stifled sobs, battled with the voice screaming at me. A voice that simply questioned;

How did I become this person?

To me, exercise is about getting your heart rate up, not lying around listening to chanting. The mere prospect of putting on workout clothing makes me feel vulnerable and exposed so why would I want to further contribute to this by doing something I’m not ever sure I understand? After all, anyone can run, but I had no idea what an upward facing bow pose would even require me to do! I hate to be out of my comfort zone. And I would never describe myself as spiritual. Shallow, yes. Selfish, definitely. Superficial, all too often. Never spiritual.

I will admit, I had some very wrong preconceived ideas about what the practice was and who it was for and so, until now, yoga had never really been for me.

And then, after a year and a bit of the full time job that being a parent is, my sister in law offered me the opportunity to spend a cold and wet Saturday morning ‘laying around’ in 40 degree heat, child free, for an hour and a half. And didn’t care what I was required to do.

And so, dressed in my Topshop leggings and an ill-advised long sleeved top, I found myself here. My preconceptions accompanied me to the class and, as I lay down on my mat I began my interrogation. What if I can’t do it? What if I’m the worst in the class? What if I have to chant?! But, as always, these superficial fears were accompanied by something deeper; What if doing this makes things different?

Because, ultimately, I am terrified of change.

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I’m terrified of anything new. The unknown. Too comfortable with the familiar.

At once the teacher proved every thought I had ever had about yoga wrong (I have included a link so you can see why. Wow!). She was strong and powerful and reassuring and fun. And the class nearly killed me!

But I stuck with it. The trouble was, my sister in law is good at yoga. I, on the other hand, have the shortest hamstrings known to man. As she moved through her sun salutations and on to arm balances I saw her step up to the challenge. I, on the other hand, had found my comfort zone and was stopping there.

And then, mid-way through a Sunday morning session, I heard the word, ‘headstand’. And a little voice inside me squealed with delight. I had secretly been practising headstands alone in my bedroom for the past week. I could do headstands!

In an attempt to appear modest, I moved to the wall with the rest of the class. I took a deep breath in, placed the crown of my head firmly on the floor, pushed my bottom in the air and began to walk my feet towards my head. But they simply wouldn’t lift. And, as I started to force the matter by pushing off the ground, another little voice spoke up; you can’t do it, not here in front of all of these people.

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The rest of the class passed in a blur. All I can recall are those words. And the feeling as I lay there on the mat. I was angry for my judgments. Scared of letting them go. And frustrated at allowing myself to become this person. Someone ruled by judgements. Someone ruled by fear. Someone standing in the way of the change they claim to desperately need. And as the tears burnt hot in my eyes I began to forgive and look forward…

Because sometimes it is easier to root your hands and feet firmly to the ground, lift your hips and push your stomach skyward than it is to stand still.