I’m so very grateful and humbled that so many of you have taken the time to read my first blog post. Thank you to those who have commented or fed back to me through all the various mediums we have available for us to do so. It means a great deal to me. It has felt nerve-wracking to put my thoughts and feelings out into the public forum – but that is what I have elected to do and I need to get used to it!
So … I arrived in New Zealand a little over a week ago. I’m staying with my sister and her family which gives me a comfortable base and the opportunity to enjoy both times of solitude and introspection and times of family banter together with the nuts and bolts of everyday living. As I wrote last time I found leaving my home, family, friends and animals to be a huge wrench. I have been so grateful to have been included into my sister’s family life over here – it has helped me enormously at times when both the physical and emotional distance betweeen New Zealand and the UK threatened to feel overwhelming.
Travelling to any new country is full of slightly unfamiliar experiences. Many of these are to do with the most mundane things. I suspect I can’t be the only one who when I first arrive in a new country will find myself handing over a larger denomination note rather than trying to negotiate the new and strange array of coins. Or has been slightly bemused by trying to work out yet another new system to operate taps and soap dispensers in a public loo. The other day I even found myself trying to prise the plug in my sink out of the plug hole with my fingernails until I realised you simply pushed down and the plug popped up. Everyday things are often just that little bit different. I took the picture at the top of this page because it’s only when you look a little more closely at it that you see it isn’t just a picture of everyday greenery that we might see in Britain – there are exotic looking trees growing right there in the middle of it all. And that’s how life feels at the moment – although things look pretty similar, everything feels just that little bit out of the ordinary – including that beautiful Kiwi accent!
In normal circumstances I would thrive on this sense of being in a new place. I have very vivid memories of that feeling when you first step off an aeroplane into the scent and heat of a new land, and of how my pulse would quicken with excitement at the exotic feeling of being “abroad”. I usually dive straight in to investigate the area I’m in with a spirit of exploration and enquiry. But travelling with ME/CFS, this time my experience has been rather different. Instead of feeling a sense of adventure and determination to explore it all, I have been surprised by how slowly I need to take things. I am much more easily fatigued and simple things feel just that little bit more complicated. My sister has kindly given me option of driving her car – but even though its an automatic, and in New Zealand they drive on the same side of the road as the UK with very similar road rules, I have yet to have the confidence to take the car out. I find that I am being forced by my own body to learn to take things slowly and to add new experiences into my daily life step by step.
And this going slowly is all part of my inner journeying work. I have discovered that in the same way that I am noticing differences in the external world, I am in new territory with my internal voyaging. Suddenly freed of the majority of my day to day responsibilities with time to focus on myself and my healing, I notice that I am very good at becoming busy. At procrastinating. At finding useful jobs that I could do for my sister in the house. Or fascinating articles to read on the internet. It seems that I’m equally nervous about the new opportunities to explore within as I am about those around me. And it is new to me to have uninterrupted time alone. To neither have the normal responsibities nor the everyday interactions that have become so much part of my life. I am in uncharted territory and at the moment I am feeling in need of some kind of a map.
And so I find new routines and small disciplines that help me to settle into this different phase of being. As well as the blessing of being able to join in with my sister’s family life in the evenings and weekends, I have signed up for a month-long writing activity where I’m being emailed a prompt every day for reflection and journalling. The prompts encourage some deep thought and introspection and are proving very helpful in giving me some focus. I’m continuing to meditate daily and am often incorporating a longer yoga nidra or relaxation practice to help alleviate the fatigue. I am also taking time to practice gentle yoga. Even this familiar practice feels like exploring a new terrain and I have to keep reminding myself to let go of judgement as I find my muscles tight and my joints stiff. But … with gentleness and patience the body begins to release. Tightly held muscles begin to let go, the breath deepens and the territory becomes once more a little more familiar.
So … I have discovered that at this stage of my life I am not the intrepid explorer I might once have thought myself to be. But I am slowly and gently beginning that process of finding my way around in new lands, both outer and inner, and I am hopeful that I will discover beautiful treasures to savour in both.