The awkward turtle

Celebrating the failings of a successful person


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The Funeral

She died. My grandmother. On March 4th 2015, my 25th birthday. She died. I was not there because I had moved my life to Barcelona less than a week before. I did not know because by some strange chance I had received my new spanish sim card, cementing my intention to be here, and in my excitement had changed it straight away unknowingly halting any messages from finding me. In the end Facebook told me the news. The day after my birthday I was scrolling through my news feed having thanked all those people who had taken the time to wish me happy birthday – an ever dwindling list – and I caught sight of a status a cousin had posted: “RIP to my grandmother the strongest woman I have known”. Part of me thought she was referring to her other grandmother, the one we do not share. But then I remembered that my grandmother has been dying for a while now. It was her.

I asked my sisters, “Did I really find out grandmummy is dead from Facebook?”, and most importantly “Is it true?”. Yes. Sorry but nobody could get through to you on your birthday. Whilst they were all converged in my grandmother’s room in my aunty’s house, next to her freshly dead body, I was frolicking around Barcelona looking forward to starting a new life here and contemplating what my 25th year would bring me. I had missed the event.

Her body is not fresh anymore. Its been on ice for a month waiting for the church calendar to be freed up after the Easter festivities. Soon they will hold her funeral and put her in the ground and I will miss it. This is a decision within my control but one  I have made nonetheless; for selfish reasons, out of fear. I don’t want to return home to inter my grandmother who died once that day and not again. I’m not sure what a funeral has to offer me, closure, solace, companions in grief? I’m not even sure I experienced grief. As if in missing the event of her passing I had missed the time to grieve. Part of me believes the grandmother who I knew is not the same as the grandmother who is no longer tied to her failing body and this other grandmother doesn’t need to a funeral to be dead, nor a soft bed in the ground to be in peace. I believe she found it in the moments before her last breath left this world. She found her peace when she escaped the pain of her body by shedding this life. And as she lingered between the realms of here and the beyond she called out to her own mother whilst her children looked on.

There she found peace. I am left to believe that whilst it may be my grandmother’s funeral it is not for her; she will be the last person in that congregation seeking solace in our being there. The funeral is for us, the spectators. So that we can be witness to the life that was lived and say that we saw it. And we take comfort in the knowing that when we die we too will be remembered, because what is more scary to any living person than the idea of nobody knowing you had existed in the first place, that eventually you shall be forgotten? The dead do not fear.

Cemetery

 

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I can’t hear myself

When the daily traffic finally subsides inside my head there is no sudden reconnection with my inner self, there is no hearing of the very beat that pulsates through my body. And there is no nothingness. I don’t know what there is but I reach the frontier where my inner self resides peacefully beneath all the noise and still I cannot hear myself.

Instead I am met with fantastical new fears, obsessions, dislikes and disappointments. My imagination plays a slide show of recently collated images of a funny joke, a friendly face, an embrace; a skillful trick to distract me from hearing myself speak.

And what do I hope to hear you wonder? I hope to hear my true dreams; not the false ones that are centered around the gratification of my ego who is forever seeking adoration and victory. True dreams that once upon a time may have looked me in the face in a pure form without my anticipation of failure clouding any attempt to fulfill my destiny. (Everybody has a destiny and the Universe helps anyone who strives towards their own.)

I hope to meet my true feelings. There are times when I don’t even know what I’m feeling after straining my ear to the door behind which my inner voice resides. I don’t know what I truly feel so I make it up. I ascribe something that I think I must be feeling and take this impostor as truth. My true feelings I imagine to be like an intuition; an organic gift which we are all blessed with. One that if we were to listen to carefully could prevent us from veering off our chosen path getting tangled in the forest of lost time and wasted energy.  There are some mistakes that we should never regret making and those are the ones where we have learnt something more invaluable than whatever we may have lost.

But who should I blame? I can’t blame my inner self, she has always been there inspiring me, healing me, encouraging me to be brave loving cautious. Even in those moments when we are both aware that I have some free time I reject her company in preference to catching up with my TV shows, a duty I take far more seriously than living my own existence. I get lost in books, the very incarnation of those who could hear their internal voice. And when all avenues are exhausted and I come to the realisation that I am bored I sing and dance in front of the mirror.

Next time I hope to simply sit and have a conversation with myself.


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Appreciation

 

I keep a gratitude diary. It pretty much reads “Date xxx. Today I’m grateful for xyz.”

The entries range in banality but I keep it to remind me of all the blessings that I have in my life in the form of family, friends, love, possessions, opportunities. The simplicity of the gratitude diary is that every night before I turn off from the world I put the world back into perspective once more. If I spent the day complaining that someone didn’t make me feel good about myself, I’d write that I was grateful for all those people who make me feel wonderful, if I was annoyed that I couldn’t buy that really overpriced coat to add to my collection, I’d write that I was grateful to have a collection at all.

Simples 🙂

So even if you might find it hard to show your gratitude sometimes, why not write it down on a scrap of paper? It can be a little secret between you and the Universe

 


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Up shit’s creek with just a paddle

I was on a four-day trek en route to Machu Pichu during which I survived climbing through dense jungle foliage in the rain, mountain-biking down dirt roads (also in the rain), and using my bum to shift along mountain edges following the Inca trail – I am terrified of heights and the path was about 2 feet wide, on one side I had the mountain face, on the other, a long fall down to the Urubamba river, singing Lion King’s ‘Just can’t wait to be King’ was the only way I could go on. Also it was raining.

Me looking pretty casual way up high above the Urubamba river. The path only got narrower from here

So there I was having survived all the forseeable challenges of my trek only to be tricked by fate to go on a spontaneous rafting trip down the Urubamba river and almost drown. We had just parked up in one of our stopover hostels, I was already wet, you know from all that rain, and so when the rafting guy came to gather a group together I figured I’d go along. You only live once right? Or at least die trying. We were in the raft being instructed by the instructor. I was sat in the middle – I’d heard this was the safest place – opposite a German man. By the end of our introduction to rivers and rafting I had learnt that we were in a Level 3 river (the danger scale goes to 5), the signals for the crew to jump inside, what to do if you fall overboard etc. I was having an amazing time, I was literally smiling to myself with that conscious thought; the sun was shining, I was – in my own opinion – a natural at this rafting jig, and I was in my element (I’m a water sign I take this stuff seriously). I was so euphoric at this spontaneous gamble that upon seeing some fisherman at the river bank I couldn’t resist a wave.

Moments later the instructor warns us of a rip that was coming up, we had already cruised through one earlier so I was confident that this one would be the same procedure. Yet as the raft lulled into the rip I could feel the difference this time around. The force of the water running in multiple directions was turning us around at a faster rate than we could compete with. The instructor gave the signal for all in-board and as we obeyed a scene unfolded of which I can still picture in slow motion. The raft flipped over and all I can remember is the flash of yellow of the raft, and the cold rush of water that swallowed my body. All I could think of was surely I would die because we were told what to do if one person fell out, not everyone! As chance would have it, the raft recovered itself to an upright position with the other five passengers still intact, it was the passengers in the supposed safest seats who were catapulted completely free of the raft. I found myself barely afloat in Peruvian river, the contrast from being totally content moments before to fighting to keep water from filling my lungs was overwhelming. I realised I hadn’t planned for death.

In the moments – and I say moments because my whole concept of time as I knew it was lost to me – that passed I went from sheer panic, to despair, to survival. Initially I tried to swim my way across the river’s current to the bank. It didn’t seem too far but I was soon to learn I had no control in this element. Although I was wearing a life jacket rapid waves threatened to drown me as I gasped for air. I thought how this couldn’t possibly be happening because I hadn’t told my parents I was here, it was impromptu, no one would know what happened to me I had only know my fellow trekkers for a day or so. As I skipped through the irrational thoughts I remembered our earlier instructions: in the event of falling into the river lie flat on your back FEET first. I ran out of patience with this tactic as I saw the distance between myself and the raft increasing. I took a risk, stupid one but one I’m not want to regret; I turned around to be propelled head first and swept down the river pass the abandoned German. At the sight of him my panic returned as I realised how desperately I wanted to survive and how alone I had felt for those seconds, minutes, lifetime? I grabbed him, a human rock in the midst of this motion. I latched on to be rescued by a man just as helpless as myself. I could have drowned him. Shocked by own actions I released him from my death grip back to the river.
I had managed to keep hold of my wooden paddle the entire time that I had spent flailing (drowning), as if it would save me from the monstrous river. It was my last defence. But the instant I touched the raft and felt an infinite number of hands grab hold of me, I no longer needed the paddle. I practically pushed it away with disgust; in my mind I must have imagined there was only room enough for one of us. I was determined it would be me. The look on the instructor’s face as he saw me cast out the stiff competition was painful. I have the rest of my life to be sorry I chucked away his livelihood, but that’s the point: I have the rest of my life.

The rest of the ride was spent chasing down the missing paddles. The sun was shining once more. My shock of a near-death experience manifested itself in the form of a manic smile and the distinct feeling that electricity was charging through my body. I had no time to process the experience, I was too busy apologising profusely to the German guy who I almost killed whilst simultaneously straining to avoid eye contact. He reminded me too much of my ugly survival instinct and I was ashamed.

We can never tell what will be just around the bend but to continue walking is to live, to stop still is no life.


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Thursday Philosophy

A good friend sent me this snap to start my day…

I’ve always been a firm believer in what is meant to be will be, and this thought echoes the same sentiment. This reminds me to stop looking at all those imagined alternative paths in life, the what ifs and feeling like I’ve missed out on opportunitites, because ultimately everything that we decide is right in that exact moment of deciding it, whether we like the outcomes or not there is always some reason to the chaos.

 
**My friend’s amateur photography cut it out but the quote is by Edith Bowman