Don't Look Back In Anger
Oh hello! One week into 2019 and it seems everyone is still very excited and motivated to put 2018 behind us and forge ahead with all this ‘newness’. Before I share my new, I’m going to recap some of the old with you. My hope in sharing these experiences with you (which aren’t Hurrah! moments), is with the intention to show how we can learn to accept what is and move forward from it.
As each year passes, I find that I am not a resolution, intention or goals person. I’m simply about growth and evolution. Honouring my inner compass while keeping it linked to my north star, which is much more fluid and easy going. It’s that Island Girl vibe of learning how to negotiate my southern hemisphere roots with my northern hemisphere life.
I ended the year ridiculously happy even though I was also ridiculously ill with round two of the seasonal cold that was going around. To my own detriment, I never really stop when I’m sick, so I don’t I get over it entirely, but instead just sorta kinda rid myself of the apparent bad bugs. At any rate, after quite a social lead up into Christmas with family, friends and client lunches and dinners - I 100% cancelled my Christmas plans. This wasn’t difficult or sorrowful for me. Although a lot of people felt sorry for me. Which I found cute and sweet. It was, in fact, a certain kind of bliss! My big organic food delivery came, and instead of making a delicious vegan spread as planned, I ended up juicing the whole thing. If it couldn’t be juiced, I turned it into baby food. Everything was liquid or mushy because when I swallowed, it felt like my throat was littered with broken glass. Oh, and I caught up on Game Of Thrones. Which was a real heaven for me. I last started season 6 while on a flight from Chennai to London and made it halfway through. But that was in December of 2017! Catching up on all of season 6 and into season 7 felt like hanging out with old friends I hadn’t seen in a long time. I’ve never been so vested in a show before! And thankfully, a friend of mine turned me on to Vikings which has filled the void left by Game Of Thrones.
New Year’s Eve I was still recovering from a cough that started feeling like emails on LinkedIn from people offering me services I never asked for and don’t need - incessant. This led me to celebrate in the most middle-aged way I know - with my neighbours! We are fortunate to be living in a patch of London where we have reasonable sized gardens - this saw the boys (ahem, I mean men) purchasing fireworks, so it all went down with bubbly in the back yard. I was so happy to crawl into bed and wake up to a brand new year from under my duvet wearing cosy flannel pyjamas.
Here’s a brief catch up as to what really shaped my year last year. For starters, in January, I got super honest with a friend who has been in my life for over 20 years. We’re talking brutal honesty. What resulted is something that people who speak truthfully will be able to relate to. This person left, and I haven’t heard from her since. We left off with what felt like heartfelt hugs at the airport and request on her part to be in touch while she processed - which was strange to me because I never saw it as an ending but as a new beginning - and literally have not heard anything since. Basically, the friend equivalent of ghosting.
I practised a long overdue new behaviour. I just let her go, following her lead. Because for 20+ years it’s been me driving the friendship. Lesson 1: never use time to measure the value of anything. Use substance. I had clocked A LOT of time with this person, but I found I actually have no idea who she really is. And it wasn’t for lack of being curious, interested or asking. Some people simply don’t know how to share. When I asked, it resulted in me being left. This type of person has been a pattern in my life. Lesson 2: people hate honesty if they are not ready to get real. I mean, they hate it. Like, they will walk away from 20 years of friendship to uphold their hatred of it before getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. A word of caution to anyone who is embracing “getting more honest” or considering “speaking your truth” in 2019 - it’s not a crowded space. Upside - you have lots of room to play, grow & create what you want. The saying “the truth will set you free” is correct. You’ll have so much free time because you’ll have a lot fewer people in your life. It’s a truly liberating experience and not for the faint-hearted.
Then, in March, I was walloped with a flare-up of an old injury from 1995 brought on by a migraine. It reduced my mobility in my neck by 80% on the right side for nearly 6 months, which caused me quite a bit of ongoing stress both physically and emotionally. As someone who has always been active, mobility and flexibility is something I value most about my physical health. I found a private health care provider and committed to over 22 treatments of shockwave therapy and 14 treatments of spinal decompression. The spinal decompression didn’t go so well. When I slept the night after my treatments, I felt like my eyeballs were sinking into my head. It was terrifying. Come July, I suffered my first ever panic attack. It happened while I was in a meeting online with my Department Of New partner Christina. I had to go to my kitchen and grab some frozen veggies to place on my neck and feet to calm myself down. Writing about it now, I can still recall a smidgen of the anxiety from that experience. I literally felt like I was going to die. People who say this when they experience an anxiety or panic attack are not exaggerating.
To say it’s a trip is an understatement. It is next level fear-inducing. It’s the first time since I’ve been in the UK that I had to use the 111 service. This saw me in the A&E (that’s ER for the North American readers) for the next 7 hours. Of course, no one could find anything wrong with me, and I left with some insider knowledge of A&E visits. The doctor who attended to me said if you have to visit A&E on a weekday and it’s not life-threatening, to come in before school is out and people are off work. That’s when it gets swamped. So aim for 10-2pm for the least amount of wait times. I noted for future with no plans of returning.
My panic attack was the scariest and most humbling experience. It led to me reaching out to good friends who have shared their daily struggle with anxiety, and it got me wondering “have I been a shitty friend to friends who deal with mental health issues?” The feedback was that no, I had not been a shitty friend. I felt I may have because never could I imagine what any of my friends who suffer this are going through before I went through it. To think that some wake with this crippling experience each morning truly made my heart sink. Because before my experience, I had no idea how scary or debilitating it was. I went on to feel very vulnerable for about a month afterwards while out and about. When I was underground on the Northern line (the deepest line in the London Underground system), I found myself a little nervous, feeling slightly trapped. But it all came to pass, and I’ve not had one since. What did last was my memory of it, which led to me taking stock of my life and really slowing down. Lucky for me, I had Mummyji in town with me for almost 5 weeks near the end of summer. We adventured, laughed and laughed some more.
Most days, I still feel as naive & excited as my 17-year-old self and as hopeful as my 24-year-old self. But the truth is, at 48 I needed to update my mental model of myself not to be one that is ‘old’ or ‘older’ but conduct a stock count like all the high street shops do after Christmas and New Year. Take inventory of exactly where I am now. What is leftover that I want to take into the new year and what do I want to leave behind? Which is what I’ve been doing the first two weeks of 2019 by exploring one of my favourite quotes by John Irving. Finding my courage to match the luck I have in my life.
“If you are lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it"
The end of my year saw my younger brother reappear in my life after a six-year absence. This is nothing short of a miracle because it was another relationship I took the risk to speak my truth in, and it came at a hefty price. One I had imagined, predicted and weighed but one that still held deep sorrow to live with. Because it wasn’t just losing my baby brother, but an entire family. I transformed the experience into another way of me practising yoga in everyday life. No resistance. Acceptance. Surrender. No attachment to any desired outcome. It was “Let Go, Let God” in motion.
What I can say is I learned that forgiveness happens in an instant. You cannot be incremental about it for it to be successful. I also learned the power of a heartfelt apology. Which is what my brother offered me. It takes profound courage to apologise, and for that, I have a deep respect for him and anyone who struggles with saying “I’m sorry”. I can and do apologise quickly, so learning how incredibly difficult this is for a lot of other people has been humbling and has grown my compassion. Speaking words that show our vulnerability, our mistakes, our misunderstandings can seem like death. And that is what happens, relationships literally die because of the truth or silence. Lesson 3: if you know in your heart or through time passing that you owe someone an apology - apologise. Everything you think you have to lose is based in image. Everything you have to gain is based on impact. Impact is where magical things happen. I always choose magic.
When December rolled around, and Department Of New closed out all our client work successfully, me, my business partner Christina and her husband took some time off. We work at building and sustaining a business model that nurtures our nature for not being slaves to work. I successfully stopped working mid-December for real in 2018 and decided I won’t be teaching any asana classes as a yoga teacher in 2019. I’ll be returning as a student to asana to build my physical strength and flexibility after being sidelined from my injury flaring up last year. I will only be teaching and guiding meditation and booking 1:1 or group satsang. This decision is directly linked to my panic attack because it was my meditation practice that helped me manage & recover from my wobble. The year closed out with me receiving the best Christmas gift of all, something I won’t go into detail now but was another miracle that happened in my life and has been something I’ve been working towards for nearly 3 years. I’ll share more about that in a separate post soon.
Moving forward when I’m back to work next week, I’m putting together a small team to build Brown Girls In Fashion (read the last blog post before this one to learn more about that) and I continue to do Brand Workshops with clients and companies. I’m also excited to be returning as a speaker at Universities and Colleges to inspire and motivate students who are looking for a career in fashion or the creative industries by sharing my vast and varied experience in fashion, film and media. Providing advice on what tactical skills they need to incorporate into their technical skills to start carving out the career they dream of. There is a way to be of service and earn an income. It merely takes courage and creativity.
I hope whatever went down or up or sideways for you in 2018 is all stuff you can transform into a lesson to build off of and take with you in 2019. I look forward to sharing and growing with you this year. Write to me and tell me what your year was like.