Getting lost on a train and finding more voice (2011)

There is a writer within all of us.  For some of us, there is a Writer, with a capital W who helps guide and determine our story. Some of us live and dream good stories, some of us even tell good stories. But as Donald Miller wrote, what is it that we want our stories to be about? And are we aware that we get to find critical opportunities for conflict, change and opportunity or are we simply daydreaming about one that can fill pages in a book?

I got muddled up by train stations and caught a train to the south of Israel. I got to see Orange fruit orchards that were flooded. Silos.  Industrial areas.  Fields & vineyards. Flocks of birds.  All because I got a station name wrong. Rather than ending up in Tel Aviv, I got off a train in Ashqelon. A hour away from Hashalom station where I should be. A kind conductor stuck me back on the train and told me not to worry, it’s not my fault. It actually was. Ironically I read about Ashqelon that morning in a prophecy by Zechariah. Now I know what the place looks like.  I am also very grateful for peanuts, a donut and BIG cappuccino which constituted all my nutritional input for the day. Did I mention it was Christmas day? Love it.  I think that despite checking I still have visible cheek bones – I have told all my Israeli friends that they are feeders – they still there (both my cheek bones and my friends)– this is the first Christmas ever which has not been about food n feasts and frantic last minute shopping or organising social outreach projects.  It’s been all about life and love and heart attitudes for me.

Henri Nouwen wrote “You don’t think your way into a new kind of living.  You live your way into a new kind of thinking”.  I love Henri Nouwen’s way of wording things – so often he takes something so deep and yet so simple and manages to say it in one sentence.

Last Tuesday we walked around Jerusalem at night – and all I kept thinking was that there were so many possible stories waiting to happen around me.  Then I read some more of Donald Miller’s “A million miles in a thousand years” and realised that it was possible that I was looking into other people’s stories and wanting to write them, or make them up or create an amazing dream world, but that I needed to be mindful of what WASN’T written in my story yet. My kind of living has been so neatly put in chapters when it comes to aspects of my world, that there was something missing.  It wasn’t the content itself, it was allowing for the romance of a story to develop.  See, I love that life holds passion, depth, that I like dancing under stars and swimming naked under the moon – even if it involves switching lights off in a suburban garden to make sure that our ‘curious’ Greenside neighbours are oblivious to my relationship with the moon and water… fact the last night of 2011 I spent in Africa the pool, the moon and the night skies were all engaged!    Having said this, I realise though that it is too easy to let moments get lost….and for someone who lives and experiences the world through sight, sound, movement, touch and taste that’s not great – it means that life gets missed out on.  I know that this happens when I am too busy, too tired or too stressed.  I know that when this happens it means I lose sight of people and get too caught up in purpose – which rather than coming across as a person living from a place of freedom, it means that I am inflexible, and stuck – often stuck in a cage I made. It also means that often when I think I am making a decision for the next chapter so to speak based on my gut, or intuition – maybe it’s not an informed gut decision – and life has been filled with amazingly colourful stories – but I wonder how much romance of life I have missed out on due to my purpose rather than living with simple passion?

I am not talking about passion associated with sex…I am talking about living fully alive, that wild abandonment we have as kids – when we used to ride our bikes down hills with our eyes closed –despite a mate getting concussed in the process, when chasing tadpoles and running through forests barefoot was a part of being alive.  It’s the passion that comes before we make life complicated.  It’s the passion I find in my work, but get stuck when it comes to translating into my personal world always.  It’s the sense of my brain, heart and body lining up together and life being filled with joy even in despair. It’s being fully alive.

For the longest time, and on reflection on trains, specifically the trip that wasn’t meant to be, I realised that for the last while I have been shifting from survival mode back into life mode.  It’s been good.  It’s been a transition from an identity based in needing to be safe in relationships to actually I am safe in my own skin and can make choices from there – it’s been a shift that was initiated when through some personal processing in prayer, with a professional mentor and friends, something suddenly clicked.   The fact that I am typing this from a couch in a friend’s apartment in Tel Aviv is evidence of this.  I am not a New Year person – unless I am out in the bush, on a river or up a mountain somewhere…. I don’t get the hype or the resolutions thing…. My reflection process starts in September/ October and by the time December rolls around my head has realised that shifts need to happen. I don’t do resolutions.  I want it to be life. I don’t find resolutions fun – I can’t engage with things unless I can live them.  When I have in the past, it’s meant reflecting on a year of not achieving or my life not looking the way I wanted it to – and a large part of this has been due to observing, dreaming and sort of, rather than fully engaging with life.

What does this mean for my story?  It’s meant being willing to spend my entire time off work in a place where I know little, can’t read or speak Hebrew, have had to practice putting my own thoughts and ideas aside at times and listen – the on-going activity in my brain has had to stop.  It’s meant being a part of families whose structure and sense may be a lot like mine and yet I can’t verbally communicate hopes, dreams and heartaches with them without simplifying these, or asking for a friend to translate.  It’s also meant at times having NO idea what the next day holds – I know I can’t live like this when I work with clients on a schedule – but it is teaching me to slow down my sense of urgency about life.  This morning I woke up feeling panicked at the thought of a) needing to extrovert and b) wanting to work?!  I am on holiday and I was missing brain time – until I realised actually, it was creative time….time to try find words to engage my senses and being about where life is at…

Prior to coming to Israel, a friend and I were chatting and she said to me that she believed that Israel held something for me that I needed to be prepared for else it would catch me unawares –I think that she was right.  But I also think that what it is, is a process unfolding and that my biggest gift has been just being…has been letting go of needing to be in charge, in control and know everything tomorrow holds, and rather be open to experience.  This has meant NOT sitting on the couch daily and waiting for life to happen, but rather being open to engaging with friends, some old, some new and some who feel like they have been in my world forever, but actually haven’t really at all….and letting the whole experience happen – of moving, tasting, touching, listening and seeing…’s reminded me of how exhausting and yet how fulfilling life is when we live in this space.

Henri Nouwen’s comment on living your way into a new way of thinking sums up the shift that has happened simply as this year I chose to be in a place with no big New Year hype.  Israel celebrates New Year in keeping with Jewish tradition in September.  My new way of living into a new way of thinking meant giving me permission to not be around NY parties on the 31st December. It meant booking an unplanned holiday. It meant trusting my bookkeeper to chase up all the outstanding accounts rather than stressing about them. It’s meant being okay with much actually.

I can honestly say that for the first time in 15 years, I am not dreading the emotional rollercoaster I usually experience from the 26th December about what New Year means.  For the first time ever I know that I have no idea what the weekend holds and that no one actually minds that I am not fussed.  It’s insanely liberating 🙂






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