Twenty years later…

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Twenty years ago, a second or a millimetre could have ended my life. I remember the incident like it was yesterday. I was watching my Mom break the ends off of beans when one of my best friends called asking if I wanted to go for a drive. At the time we thought we were so smart, but I’m sure my parents noticed the heavy scent of perfume hiding a faint smell of cigarettes whenever I returned. Or the quick “Hi Mom, Hi Dad!” as I ran upstairs to change my clothes before acting like I was an angel.

 

I waited for her to pick me up and we did our usual country road run. There were five of us in total, I was sat behind the driver’s seat. As we came up over a hill, I said, “Look! There’s Amy!” who at the time was a friend of mine and not such a friend of the driver’s. She asked me, “Where?” but by the time she looked, we were going down the hill and the symmetric rows of beautiful green corn stalks were obscuring her vision.  We came to a T in the road. It’s a country road after all, no one drives on here! We were distracting her and as she wasn’t expecting a car, yielded and the next thing I remember is waking up in absolute agony.

 

The two girls in the front turned around looking shocked. I could hear them talking amongst themselves, but the pain was so intense all I could do was scream and beg for them to help me. I tried to move and couldn’t. I started panicking. I asked the girl next to me if she was ok, she was crying and asking what happened. I wanted to get out, but the window was smashed and the door was bent into my side. I couldn’t move my legs. I asked the driver to get me out. She tried pulling up on my shoulder’s (obviously forgot the first aid we were taught!!) and I screamed in pain telling her to stop. I lost consciousness. I woke up vaguely when they were taking the girl next to me out. I remember because she was screaming and I didn’t want the same fate. I heard the Emergency services talking to me but I could barely respond. I don’t remember being taken out of the car and for that I’m grateful.

 

I woke up in the ambulance with an oxygen mask on my face. The EMT was telling me that he was sorry, but they had to do a full body examination which meant cutting off my clothes. I was just worried I would never walk again. I asked him if I was paralysed. He told me to move my toe. I couldn’t feel it, I started panicking. He assured me that my toe was moving and I would walk again (to this day I don’t know if that was a lie!). I was in and out of consciousness during the ambulance ride. I remember the sirens, I remember bumps in the road, I remember the comforting voices and touch of the staff that were in the ambulance with me.

 

I had lost a part of my memory as I thought that my parents were still on holiday although I had been at home with them half an hour before.  I called my sister and told her what happened. Meanwhile my poor parents received a call from the police saying there had been an accident and they didn’t know which hospital I went to. I’m sure they suffered the same gravity of emotional turmoil that I was experiencing physically. All I remember in the hospital was my sister’s scared and concerned face, nice nurses, a horrible Doctor who was yelling at me to stop screaming, being lifted from one bed to the next, the pain, the agony, please give me something, “No we can’t. We don’t know the extent of your injuries yet.” Drifting in and out of consciousness, the bright lights, the dark x-ray rooms, the relief when the pain medication was administered, the comfort of my Mother’s hand and the reassurance of my Dad’s voice…

 

The Doctor told me I was lucky. I had broken my pelvis in three places, my sacrum in two and punctured my bladder. No paralysis and they expected a full recovery, albeit with complications in later life (starting from my 40’s). He said if I was wearing a seatbelt, chances are I would not have made it out alive…

 

I think anyone hearing they have essentially escaped death has a deep and profound reaction. I was only 18 at the time and thought I was invincible. Well, I was!! I escaped death!! So I went crazier than I already was. Still disobeying my parents, who were changing their lifestyle to cope with caring for someone who couldn’t walk for six weeks. Disobeying Doctor’s orders. Of course I can walk! I’m only 18, I heal fast, I’m invincible. It can’t be any worse. I went to University only seven short weeks later. I was still on crutches and had to ask for my bed to be on the floor because I couldn’t climb up the stairs of the traditional loft bed. I went on a path of self-destruction that luckily never ended in destruction as much as I tried. I have always been surrounded by immense love from my family and beautiful caring friends. They always rescued me before I went too far.

 

Then the complications started… But I was only 27, please no! At one point it got so bad I could only walk 20 meters before I would stop to rest, often crying with frustration. I was living in England at the time and after waiting months and months for specialists through the NHS, my then boyfriend decided it was time to buy private health insurance in an attempt to try and ease my constant pain. I couldn’t sleep, I was popping prescription pain killers like they were sweets, taking valium as much as I could without gathering suspicion from Doctors and my personality had totally changed. What’s the point of living if I have the body of a 90 year old? I started to accept this was how I was going to be and that I could either spend the rest of my life being upset or fight and find a way to make life worth living whether I had pain or not.

 

That I did! Luckily the private health insurance got me in touch with top specialists who discovered the problem in a month and after a few months of treatment, I was able to walk long distances again. It wasn’t only until then that I really valued my legs, the freedom to walk, to move and to get things when I want. I can’t say I was exceptionally lazy before this point, but I’m the first one to get up and offer something and unless I’m ill, I don’t like to ask anyone to do or get things for me. I know first hand the ability to move is a gift given to us that can just as easily be taken away. This is something I never forget and at the end of my yoga practice, I always hug my knees into my chest and kiss my knees saying thank you. I may not have the perfect body, but it’s a body that allows me to move and dance and jump and feel good. To me, that’s a perfect body. Funny enough, since I started doing yoga regularly, any of the residual pain I had is gone. It only comes back if I don’t practice for a few days. Maybe the NHS should refer patients to yoga while they wait for specialists!

 

As I sit here writing this twenty years on, I know that I didn’t put that seatbelt on for a reason (other than I would’ve looked like the biggest loser ev-a). I was meant to be here and subconsciously, maybe that’s why I’ve always made ‘crazy’ or what I like to call, alternative, life choices. I move countries a lot, I travel often, I have had numerous romantic relationships and I change things if I’m not happy. This incident often pops up in my mind when I’m facing a struggle. I think, “Is it worth it?” Tomorrow something could happen that could end my life or drastically change it. This could make someone live in fear or live life to the fullest. I chose the latter because life is meant to be lived, is it not? I just want to make sure I experience as much of it as I can before I go, and what a hell of a ride it has been so far!

 

I am grateful for this day and each year I celebrate it. I’m grateful we all made it out alive, I’m grateful we are all able to walk and I’m grateful that it taught me how to live as though each day could be my last.

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A bit of yoga magic

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Well that was really interesting. I wrote my previous blog as we were cruising down the river. To be honest, Captain Dink was making comments throughout that writing which were really irritating me and helping give me some practice to repeat my newfound mantra over and over.

 

CD asked me to take over steering so that he could phone a marina. I’ve been steering nearly every day for the last two weeks so I’m not a novice. I haven’t driven down a river since I was a child and of course the rules are very different to sea rules, but there are some things that are common sense and related.  Anyway, we were going down river in a very fast current. I was steering rather well, or so I thought. Of course I was going a bit drunk like because it was the first time I had been in current so strong in this boat, but there were no other boats so I was ok. CD puts the phone down and says, “Jesus Christ! What have you been doing? You’re going to turn the boat sideways and then we’re going to lose all control and crash into the riverbank.” I found this quite dramatic since at no point was I steering the boat any more than 20 degrees off to one side. He came barrelling over, grabbed the wheel from my hand and corrected us, or should I say overcorrected us with his unnecessary panic.

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I calmly said that I was doing what he taught me to do yesterday and that if there was a new technique, can he please show me with patience as I’m still learning. I said there was no need to swear. His response was that he never swears and when I said, “Jesus Christ,” he said, “That’s not a swear word.” I remained silent. Then the cook/stew came up and sat next to me. I started telling her how I read the oven manual and am now an expert in Miele ovens so I will show her what I learned. I was looking straight ahead and not at her. At the same time I saw a huge barge coming in the other direction, CD said in a very angry aggressive tone, “Ok. Now there’s a big barge coming…” He didn’t finish because I interrupted him and said that he makes me very nervous when I’m driving because he has to comment on every little thing I do or don’t do. He started arguing with me saying that if he can’t say anything to me, there’s no point in me driving. I explained calmly (for I still had my yoga glow going) that he can simply say, “Do you see the boat coming?” or tell me to move to a different side of the river. I was already as far over as I could be, so really there was no need to panic and talk aggressively.

 

He stood up and said, “Ok, I’m going to take over.” I replied, “As you wish.” I sat for a few minutes and then explained to him that I may never have been a river barge driver before, but I worked on charters where I was steering in a busy channel with 15 people around asking me questions. I said I can see a big barge coming my way because I am paying attention as I was looking forward, not at who I was talking to. I told him that he is very aggressive when he tells me things and that it’s unnecessary. Before he could say anything, I said, “And I know you’re going to say you’re not aggressive, but you are.” Then I finished by saying, “or since this job is for only two more months, maybe I should just shut my mouth and deal with it.”

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Captain Dink remained in silence for hours, only talking when necessary during a manoeuvre.

 

I was starting to feel quite bad about my conversation and internalised it thinking maybe it’s me that just needs to chill out. That’s his personality so instead of trying to change it, I should just keep on working on ways to deflect negative energy. He’s not coming to me as a psychologist, so I should just keep my opinion to myself and find my own way of managing his at times very disrespectful behaviour. I quickly negated that thinking because actually he treats everyone that way and it would help him make friends if he could see his own behaviour.

 

Then the weirdest thing happened. When I asked him if he wanted the line on the port or starboard side, he paused a while then said, “Sorry, I had to think a minute which side was which.” I smiled and stopped myself from hugging him. That was the first time he had ever shown any vulnerability. It got weirder… He asked us what we were doing for dinner. If we were going to eat out or eat in. I said, “I don’t know, what do you think?” He said very timidly with a slight smile, “Oh no! Don’t do that. Answer a question with a question.” I laughed and said, “I said I don’t know first, isn’t that an answer?” He smiled and we all had a discussion about what we wanted to do.  The cook/stew and I exchanged a surprised glance. For the first time in a week, we all ate dinner together. For the first time since we started working together, we had a conversation where he didn’t one up the story and he actually asked questions. If I didn’t believe in yoga before, I sure do now!!

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CD asked us if we wanted to go for a drink that evening. I was waiting for a phone call and on the laptop with my Dad trying to recover my external hard drive which suddenly became unreadable (and has 12 years of photos). I said that I would just finish up what I was doing and I would be ready to go.  With a sad look, he said he would go there and sit by himself. The boat was parked on the same dock as the restaurant so he went down and shouted up to us, “Hey, if I’m not back by midnight, just toss a blanket down!” He looked so vulnerable and nervous. I explained to my Dad that I would really like to go so maybe we could do the recovery later.  At the same time I was writing that message, I received the expected phone call. I had a quick chat and went to the bar with the cook/stew to meet him.

 

The three of us had a nice evening together. He was still sharing his stories, but they had a different light to them. He was listening to our stories and asking questions. He was even bent over with laughter at one point. Any guilty feelings I had disappeared. This is exactly what life is about. Sometimes people are so lost they don’t know how to, or can’t, ask for help. Some don’t want it and it’s not worth the energy. That’s ok, eventually they will find their way. But as human beings, it’s our responsibility to stand up for our right to be treated with respect, show kindness to others no matter how they treat us and give some people a different perspective that may just help make bring some more peace to their lives.  

A yoga experiment

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I’ve been reading and meditating on an ancient scripture I still can’t spell, despite looking at it every day, called Vasistha’s Yoga (at least I think that’s the spelling, I’m too lazy to get up and check it). When I used to ask my Mom about things that were told to us in Church or Religious Education that I didn’t believe, she would sometimes say that it was in the Bible if I wanted to read it. I tried once because my sister was reading it, but I didn’t understand the language and found it boring so I just gave up!

 

Vasistha’s Yoga has become my Bible. I refer to it when I have questions about the yogic way of living.  The more I read, the more questions I have and funny enough, they’re all slowly starting to get answered the further along I get in the book. This is quite a round about introduction to a question I have right now.  How not to let other people’s negativity effect me.  I have some friends and loved ones who don’t seem to get rattled by such people and yet sometimes a touch from a very negative person can set me off balance and change my mood for the whole day, or every time they’re in my presence.  If you ever wondered why I want to live on the sea- I mean in the middle of the sea – that is the main reason why.

 

Let me explain my current situation.  In laymen’s terms, the Captain of this boat is a complete and total dickhead. In yogic terms, he is one of two types of lost souls.  One that is far away from reaching enlightenment with a heap of bad karma to work through or a soul in the middle where with patience and some guidance, he may find a lighter path.  I haven’t been around him long enough to see which one he is, but as a yogi, it is my place to give him a chance.  

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I have done my psychoanalysis on him (Captain Cool was right, I can never stop being a psychologist) which has led me to believe that his behaviour is a result of a certain life that is quite sad and I could try to show some empathy. Sometimes I can feel empathy in my heart and my kindness is genuine.  The other 98% of the time, I have to take a deep breath before I go up with a smile on my face and say in a kind voice, “Would you like a cup of coffee?” Because what I would really like to say is, “Fuck you. You think we’re your maids you can treat like shit. Get your own damn coffee.” I then receive a response of “yes please” or no with the same droned on boring explanation that never changes.  I speedily make my way downstairs to do an eye roll to the cook or just to myself if she’s not around. If I have to make the coffee, numerous thoughts of spitting in it or putting in other unpleasant things go through my mind. Then the yogi steps in and reminds me we’re all on a path, some have it more difficult than others and the only way forward is to treat everyone with kindness or ignore them as the Scriptures of Putanjali suggest.

 

Sadly I can’t ignore him because he’s my boss. He is bullying the cook/stew, part of which includes giving me certain privileges she doesn’t have (which I don’t do once I discover them) and it just makes for a terrible environment. I often feel like I’m in middle school and have to change my strategy on a daily basis in order to stay sane and out of the middle of this nonsense behaviour. They spent two days not talking to each other. Yesterday I had a conversation with the cook about how people like him don’t have fuel when people are kind to them or just reply ok without discussion. I guess it worked because today she said good morning to him.

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I’m using the yoga scriptures to find a way to protect myself from this negative energy that I seem to have been ultra sensitive to since I can remember. I’ve seen a few shamans who have all told me that I hold other people’s negative energy and they see it inside of me. Sadly they haven’t told me how to get rid of it. I guess that means I have to discover it for myself. *sigh* I suspect my stomach problems are partially related to it as well since I seem to be able to eat more things without getting pins and needles when I’m in a good environment. As you can guess, I’m not only battling with how to manage the behaviour of Captain Dink, I’m also having to manage my stomach which as I write this, is in agony. Luckily the cook is very caring and wants to help so she is making me what I request. Sadly this means she cooks three separate meals because she wants something with more flavour than what I can eat and she doesn’t want to eat the processed food that Captain Dink eats. She’s a saint.

 

I keep digressing, how unusual… Anyway, I’ve wondered how people can become enlightened and still live in this world because people are annoying. Not everyone, but there are always some people in our paths who press buttons. Put simply, Vasistha says that the soul is contained in a physical body with a mental capsule and it will react how it wants to through laughters, tears and anger. Yes my readers, that means that even enlightened people show emotion and get irritated! The basis is that in the soul nothing is changed, the soul remains grounded and knows that this will pass and that indeed nothing is reality. We are just creating reality ourselves so why bother staying in any state whether it’s pleasant or unpleasant?

 

The other morning during my delightful two hour yoga and mediation practice, I pondered this notion of protecting myself because I want to run from this boat. Actually I’m seriously thinking about going back to Colombia and working with Captain Cool again. The money is half the amount, but so is the work and I get to spend time with someone who I am discovering is not only a soulmate, but one of the truest loves I’ve ever had in this life. However, I do have a tendency to run when things get difficult, as you may have noticed. People say life isn’t meant to be fun, well, I disagree with that so if I’m unhappy, I change my circumstances. Sure new challenges come up, but look at my life!! I wouldn’t change a thing.

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Back to the point… While I was in a focused state, an image of a white ball with pointy rays of light emerged from my chest and I felt so strong and so free. I imagined this ball encapsulating me and that the white rays were radiating positive energy, kindness and love to those who were willing to receive it.  The pointy bits burst all of the negative energy so it couldn’t touch my heart. With a somewhat quiet mind, I focused on this imagery and when a thought about Captain Dink popped up, I would use the white light to poke the negative energy and replace it with positive energy. I felt great. I felt like I was ready to face the demon!

 

Half an hour later that feeling was washed down the river when he shouted at me with impatience to take off a line I was trying to take off, but was stuck on the dock and the boat was too far for me to jump off without swimming to clear it. *sigh* Oh well. I found a new strategy so I guess it will take some practice to get it working.

 

This job is only until the middle or end of September so really I shouldn’t run from this. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very intense living with such a heavy ball of negative energy 24-7.  But I can use this as a lesson because there are always people who pop my chilled yoga bubble and quite frankly, I’m tired of giving other people so much power. It’s time to take the power back and use my energy to radiate positivity and kindness instead of using it to fight off negativity. Wish me luck…

 

    

 

No need to panic, the sea is here..

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I quickly stripped down to my bikini and ran towards the sea. Despite living and working on boats, it’s actually quite rare I’ve had the chance to go swimming. The last time was weeks ago when we were anchored in Sardinia and we had a couple of days to prepare the boat before the owners came. I welcomed the cool touch of the sea on my legs as it refreshed me of the intense heat of the day. I walked until it was deep enough for me to dive into a wave and wash away all the stress, all the negativity and all of the things that were no longer serving me. As the wave washed over me, I smiled under the water and started feeling free. I dumped the negative energy into the sea knowing that it would be swept away into the endless cleansing motion of the sea and after that, it was my choice if I wanted to pick it up again.

 

It didn’t work out with my ‘dream job’ and so I quit, quite abruptly but with a huge sense of relief that I didn’t have to spend my summer as a slave. When I told friends, they asked with worry if I was ok and I would always smile. Yes! I mean, don’t get me wrong when your job is also your home and you have three hours to sort out a new place to live, it can be quite intense, but I am a survivor and I have been in this situation before so I am well rehearsed.  

 

I spent a good half hour swimming and floating on my back looking at the rough and ragged rocky edge of the cove. I was by myself in the water and enjoyed the time I had with my true love.  I took in deep breaths filled with love, peace and hope knowing that all will be ok as long as I keep breathing and trusting.

 

I reluctantly walked back to my towel where my hours old friends were sitting. I sat down with a smile and told them how refreshing it was. I leaned back and as they chatted away in Spanish, I stared out towards the sea. There was good wind so there was a plethora of sailboats with their sails full of air sailing away in the distance. I suddenly felt a deep wave of sadness, panic and disappointment that I was on the ‘other side’ looking in. The crazy monkey in my brain was telling me I was missing out, that I will never find a job and that I should just give up this stupid dream of mine to live on the sea. As quickly as those thoughts and feelings popped up, I quickly calmed the monkey. For as I said above, it is my choice to pick up the negativity. I didn’t want to for there is no need.

 

I reminded myself to enjoy the moment. I have an unknown number of days off in a row, something I haven’t had in four months. In fact, I hadn’t had two consecutive days off in the last four months and when I get a new job, it will be the same. So why stress about the future when there is a now to enjoy? I laid back, closed my eyes and took a deep breath in as I smiled and vowed to allow myself these moments of panic, but to always come back to the present. I started to tune into the Spanish conversation and took advantage of the present moment by engaging in the conversation so I could practice my Spanish. From time to time, my gaze would wander to those beautiful sailboats moving with nature.  I smiled knowing that I will get back on one, when the time is right and when I have experienced exactly what I’m supposed to experience right now.

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The future is unknown, but I will be exactly where I’m supposed to be when I’m supposed to be there. That’s all that matters. 

Finding that peaceful place

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The other night I was sat on the boat getting a new perspective of Palma since we are up high on the dry dock, and I noticed a beautiful old city on the horizon. A horizon which is within walking distance and always has been. I finished my evening meal and decided that Sunday was going to be spent exploring.

 

As I walked through the narrow medieval old streets, seeing Palma in a new light, I realised that I was so busy not liking the city, that I didn’t even try to find something I liked. That was so unlike me. Normally I see new places with open eyes and find lots of little things I like. I spent two weeks here with the catamaran and I only went to the places that were around the marina we were in or wherever my crew mates wanted to go. I really enjoyed twisting and turning through the narrow streets, looking at the buildings, taking photos and imagining what life must’ve been like when this was first built. There were so many flowers, lots of bright purple which seems to be the flower colour of the Mediterranean. It’s beautiful and really stands out against the clay coloured buildings.

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I came up to a really old Church tucked away in a corner of the old city. There was no one in that street. I could hear the TV of one of the flats echoing through the tunnel the narrow street created. As I entered the courtyard, I saw an old man quietly talking to someone in a car which was parked in front of the church. They were too involved in conversation to notice I was there so I quietly sneaked in to the Church. Ahhh….a deafening silence. I stood there for a moment breathing in the musty smell that old churches have and letting my eyes adjust to the darkness. It was a hot day, yet the Church was nice and cool. I tip toed to the nearest bench in the back and involuntarily took a deep breath. Then the tears just started flowing. I didn’t even know they were there.

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Religion has always been very important to my family, so I went to a Catholic school, mass 1-2 times a week and religious education classes when I switched schools. I hated it. I didn’t understand why anyone could want to be a part of this.  To me every second of being in a Church was pure torture. I had to sit and listen and just be quiet. Then I had to go to confession once a month and confess my sins – a list that never varied because I wasn’t ever going to tell the truth of what I really did!! Not only that, but it was full of rules. Those who are close to me know that any rules I’m given will be purposely broken as soon as I can manage it. Give me freedom and I flourish.

 

I don’t know how my Mom put up with it, but she was persistent. Years and years and years of fighting to get me up and going to Church every single Sunday. I would argue, say horrible things about her faith and make up excuses of why I couldn’t go.  The only response I got was, “When you turn 17 and have your confirmation, you can make your own decision, but while you are still a child in God’s eyes, you will go to Church. ” I must’ve started the countdown when I was three years old!! Sure enough, I had my confirmation and that was the last time I went to Church on a weekly basis.

 

I haven’t found the Catholic faith, but I’ve found the yoga philosophy. I quite like it because it has general guidelines of how to live life that I can interpret and incorporate into my life in my own way. This suits me much better! Now I’m grateful that my Mom stuck with the fight, because I get it. It wasn’t until a few years ago when I was saying in the teenage voice, “Do I have to go to Church with you on Christmas???” when my Mom said, “It’s my peaceful place and if you don’t want to be there, it won’t be peaceful. I’m not going to make anyone go who doesn’t want to be there.” It all the sudden made sense. She wasn’t trying to stick the religion down my throat, she was trying to teach me that we all need a peaceful place where we can go to when we need to breath, feel comfort, cry or just be. Sounds like something I believe in… What a beautiful gift she gave me. I’m sure she’s happy that her efforts were fruitful, even though it was years and many battles later.

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For me, that place can be my yoga mat depending on where it is. I have had many a breakdown on my mat.  I have spent lonely times sat in child’s pose for extended periods of time focusing on my breathing and feeling some comfort from my mat and the earth below it. However as yoga has no temple to speak of, I discovered that churches can give me that peace too.  

 

When I went travelling, my boyfriend at the time broke up with me over email and I was devastated. I was sharing a room with three strangers and had nowhere to breakdown. I wandered around the city with my sunglasses on hiding the tears. Then I stumbled upon a church and thought that was a good place to cry. So I went in and just sobbed. That was the first time I went into a church without hating it and feeling as though I was going to instantaneously burst into flames due to my sinful ways. It was so quiet, calming and had a warm energy. It became my go to place when I was feeling lonely, sad or lost whilst on my travels.

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Actually, recently, a good friend of mine reminded me of that fact when I was feeling down and lost. She suggested I go there to find some comfort. I was drawn to that church on Sunday. This lifestyle can be very lonely at times and I’m really feeling it at the moment. Stepping into that Church reminded me I’m not alone and that all I have to do is trust and keep going. It also gave me that space to have a moment to not be ok. Something I don’t always do when I’m in new situations because I “must be strong!” I thanked the space for giving me comfort and walked out feeling much lighter and dare I say, with a gentle smile on my newly relaxed face…

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The Magic of the Spanish Coast

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Last night around 8 pm, we could see the continents of both Africa and Europe. To me, it was completely surreal. Two totally different continents that are so close yet have such different cultures, landscapes, economic statuses, races and religious practices. There was something very humbling about that view. They were both mountainous yet one side was full of lights and the other almost nothing.

 

Unfortunately we went through the narrowest part of the strait and past the Rock of Gibraltar when it was night time so I wasn’t able to see that beauty this time. This will not be the last time I do a crossing so it’s better that I don’t see all of the magic the first time.

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I had been doing yoga on the sofas upstairs in the cockpit, but this morning I pulled out my yoga mat and did yoga on the deck as the sea was calm and there was hardly any breeze. I could feel the energy and power of the sea and the mountainous Spanish coast seep into my lungs as I inhaled deeply. I exhaled out all of the negative energy I was holding and let it go into the sea. Spain and the Spanish people have always taken care of me, they will do it again. There is no reason to worry or stress, I am in a beautiful place with beautiful people. I will be taken care of and there is something great waiting for me here, I know it. I don’t know what it is, I will be patient and just breath until it comes my way.

 

When I was on my 2-6 a.m. night watch, I suddenly realised that we would be passing the coast of Nerja. Nerja is a place where I holidayed for four years when I was with one of my ex-boyfriend’s. It’s a very very special place to me and my stomach got butterflies thinking that I would see it again after an eight year break. However I would be seeing it from a different view, with a different perspective on life and with different company. I estimated about when we would arrive and I set my alarm perfectly.

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I woke up at 9.10 and I jumped up to look out my cabin window. I could feel it, Nerja was right there. I got dressed and popped upstairs to look at the GPS chart. Sure enough, we were just coming to the edge of it. I ran up to the cockpit with excitement and shared why I was so excited with the crew members that were up there. As we slowly passed it, all of the memories came back. The days lying on the same beach chair owned by the same guy who always remembered our names. The yummy paella and pasta that we had at the beach restaurant served by a waiter who never forgot my ex-boyfriend because he had been going there for 10 years. The run to the shops to buy vodka and orange Fanta for the beach. The romantic walks in the city along the cobblestone streets. The tapas and beer we had after a day on the beach and a nap.  I remembered his friend’s villa where we always stayed. Perhaps the fondest memory I have of Nerja is when my parents came with us. I had never seen them so happy and carefree, so in love and enjoying all of the new experiences we were showing them. It was the first time I had the opportunity to show them a new place, to take care of them (I speak Spanish, they don’t) and to show them a part of my world. They looked so beautiful and alive and I was so happy to be able to bring them this joy.

 

I sat in the cockpit by myself away from the others just reminiscing about those times, how good they were, how good all of my life has been. As we passed Nerja, I continued to think about life and how good Spain has been to me. It’s not just Nerja that has a piece of my heart, it’s also Toledo where I spent three weeks on a University course studying archaeology. In those three short weeks, I made friends with some of the locals and felt like I was a part of their community. Then there was Madrid and Barcelona, where I had to smoothly talk a Police Officer out of arresting my boyfriend (same one as discussed above) for mooning cars while we were going across a crosswalk. I had forgotten how many special memories Spain holds for me.

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I couldn’t stop admiring the view, I was totally mesmerised by the breathtaking view in front of me. Sailing along the Spanish coast was the absolute perfect way to end the sail of a lifetime. The sunshine was shining brightly, the water was calm with sparkles of sunlight dancing on the surface. I was sitting up top with the sun warmly kissing my windburned smiling face. I was in pure meditation mode, I didn’t notice who was around me, I was so involved in the scenery. The Spanish coast is gorgeous. The Sierra Nevada is similar to the Colombian Sierra Nevada. It’s peaks jagged and rough reaching up to gather the energy of the sun and towering over the sea. Some of the peaks look like crinkled suede or  intricate woodwork carvings. There are hills upon hills within each peak creating tiny valleys for rivers to flow. They are full of different shades of brown and green.

 

A bit further down are many towns and farms. The farms are polytunnel farms so they can grow food throughout the year and faster. This requires a canvas, quite often white or light green which is spread out in sections over the sides of the mountains, close to the coast. One of the crew said it was an eyesore and maybe it is, but I could feel the energy of the nutrient earth. All of those vegetables that are (controversially) grown to give nourishment for bodies to function in this chaotic world.

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Those nourished bodies were in the cars I could see driving along the highway snaking around the mountainside. In between the hills there are bridges for them to pass over quickly. I saw lorries, cars, buses and trucks speeding along carrying people to work, a holiday destination or vehicles bringing goods and products to another part of the country or continent. It was so much life to see after so much endlessness of the sea. It didn’t feel overwhelming this time, it felt like I was an observer to a beautiful system of living. A system I wouldn’t mind being in for a short time before setting sail again.

 

Further down the mountains were the beautiful coastal towns. Some authentic and original, others built up with hotels. There were lighthouses on the scattered capes that reach out into the ocean as though they are drinking in the purity and vitality of the ocean water. These points are the connection between sea and land. I always find these capes so beautiful in their raw ruggedness. Their ability to be connected to both land and sea at the same time. What a powerful energy to hold. From time to time a brown sandy beach would pop up, sometimes with visitors sunning themselves and others only with the crashing of the ocean waves.

 

I am looking forward to the new story that awaits me in Palma. I will accept whatever opportunities may arise, however positive or challenging they will be. For there is always beauty, there is always the memory of a beautiful life I have had to date. In fact, it’s been so incredible that it’s hard to remember all of the beautiful times until I am placed back there. Life has such an amazing way of bringing us to where we need to be at exactly the right moment.

 

Why I love the sea

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I am surrounded by absolute endless beauty. Beauty of the deep blue sea, beauty of the occasional bird that comes to play with our sails, beauty of the vast and enormous 360 degree view of the amazing sky, beauty of the soothing and sometimes violent movement of this giant catamaran, beauty of the people I am with and the beauty of my soul as it opens and relaxes into pure bliss. Due to my watch, I have two sleeps during a 24 hour period.  I go to bed after sunrise and then again a couple of hours after sunset. I wake up each time with a childlike excitement to see what the sea and sky have in store for me when I go up to the enormous flybridge cockpit that is my office.

 

Many people ask me why I would want to do a crossing. My favourite response was from my 6 year old niece, “All that time on a boat? You can’t get off? How boring!” I don’t find anything boring about this experience. In fact, we’re in day five and I’m already worried I’m not going to complete everything I want to. Which is reading, writing, yoga, meditation and soaking in every breath taking moment of this truly magical experience.

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Sailing on the open sea is a form of meditation for me. A very deep and peaceful meditation. I find that everything in my surrounding is a metaphor for life and with this, I feel connected to the universe. It gives me a chance to clear my head and re-evaluate life. I feel privileged that I get paid to have this unique opportunity that every human being could benefit from. Maybe not in the form of the sea because not everyone is a sailor, but in whatever form makes you feel grounded.

 

All of the elements of this experience relate somehow to life. Let’s start with the boat. The boat is like our bodies that hold our souls as we walk through this life. The boat is carrying us to a new destination, just as the body does in daily life.  If we care for it, maintain it well and feed it properly, it will do all that it can to get us to the next destination safely. Love it we do! We are all happy with the comfort this boat provides. We are amazed and grateful for the capacity and strength it has to hold the sails that carry so much force. We all do our part to keep it clean and organised, the salt water is washed off every few days and she looks beautiful. I am honoured to be crew on this beautiful boat with such caring and loving people.

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The wind is like our energy. The speed fluctuates depending on the day and the hour. Much like our energy levels naturally fluctuate during the day. The wind also changes direction, like humans change their minds. There is nothing wrong or malicious about it. Sometimes the direction of the wind means that we have to change our course.  People in our lives change their minds and it means we have to alter our course. For example, the end of a relationship or a death of someone close to us. We have been going on one path and suddenly, the wind changes and we’re forced to make a new path. The beautiful thing is that we will always reach our destination, it may take a little longer than we thought. It will no doubt bring many beautiful experiences and people into our path we may not have met if the wind hadn’t changed direction.

 

With the wind changes, sailors have to adjust the sails. Much like we have to adjust our attitudes to what’s happening around us. Often times we don’t have control over the actual events, but we have every bit of control over how we perceive them. Sometimes we have to reduce the sails or take them down all together before putting them back up. This is true for life too. Sometimes we have to hit rock bottom before we can climb the mountain again. Then we are on top of the mountain and we may have to trim our sails to the wind so we can live life to our fullest ability.  One thing is for sure, the wind is always changing in some sense and we must always be aware of how the sails are and what we can do to prevent damage or losing them altogether. To be a healthy human being, it is important to be aware of how we are feeling, thinking, behaving towards others and towards ourselves. A content peaceful human being is constantly performing these checks and adjusting when necessary, in order to prevent harming others or themselves. It doesn’t mean to say we won’t hit rock bottom from time to time, it’s only to say that we accept this will happen and know what we need to do to lift up the sails again.

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Then there is the sea. The waves are like events that happen in our lives. Sometimes we can predict them and prepare for them, other times a squall comes from nowhere and knocks us out.  During certain periods of our lives, the sea is calm and we gently sail over the waves comfortable and happy. Then the seas become rough and we start to move out of our comfort zone, maybe into panic, anxiety, fear, anger or depression. When the seas and wind get really rough on a sailboat, the best thing to do is to lower the sails and wait it out. Putting more sails up or turning the engines on to barrel through the storm will only lead to disaster. I think this is what us as human beings have forgotten. Life will always throw us challenges and we can’t change it. The best thing to do is accept it and ride the waves.  Somehow we have developed this mentality to get aggressive, to change it, to storm through it until we get the results that we want. Results that often don’t come when we are in this mind frame.  Stay on your boat in the storm and accept it.  Fill your boat with people who bring you comfort and joy and offer you support. Yes life is hard sometimes, but there is always something beautiful, no matter how small and for how short or long it happens. I can’t tell you the amount of times a stranger has smiled at me when I most needed it and that 5 seconds brought me enough comfort to lift my head.     

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I look out all around me and see this vast endless beautifully unique blue sea.  Then I look up at the sky and admire it’s beauty and always changing endlessness.  The clouds represent opportunities that present themselves to us. They will pass with the wind if we don’t grab them.  The never ending sea reminds me that we never know what is around the corner. It’s easy to forget there is land. I haven’t seen it for five days now! It’s easy to forget I have another life where there are other people who’s dynamics I have to manage with my own. Yet at the same time, it reminds me that there is so much opportunity in land life and that with open eyes and the right attitude, I can call whatever I choose. Yes, life can be a challenge sometimes, but if it wasn’t, we would never appreciate the beautiful times.

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All in all, it’s about acceptance. I am completely powerless on the open sea and I find it completely invigorating.  I am powerless to the weather, the waves, to when we arrive, to stopping and getting a food or drink that I am craving. It’s a beautiful way to learn acceptance and patience and to truly learn to appreciate what is in front of me at this given moment. What I see is incredibly beautiful and I know that it has to end one day, but I’m just going to focus on the beautiful moments of each second I am here. Now if I can accomplish this in my land life, I will be exactly where I want to be and hopefully help other people reach it too.