What A Year!

solstice
The high plain where I greeted the rising sun on Solstice morning

It’s become fashionable on Social Media to post about how bad a year was when it’s drawing to an end. This year, it’s particularly poignant, with people honing in on worrying political developments and celebrity deaths in 2016.

Granted, some very popular people died this year – David Bowie, Prince, Alan Rickman, now George Michael, to name but a few. But the truth is that people die all the time. For me personally, the recent deaths of well-known people which affected me the most, all happened in 2015: Chris Squire most of all (I won’t write about it now or that’ll be all this entry is about), Terry Pratchett, and Lemmy.

I won’t go into political details here – those who know me, know my views, and this isn’t a news outlet – but the shift to the right in countries like the UK and the US didn’t just happen this year, it only manifested in rather concrete election/referendum results now after building up for years. Most of us didn’t want to believe it would actually get this bad, but the writing on the wall has been there all along.

These things are not what this post is about, though. No, I feel the need to share what 2016 meant for me on a personal level.

To spoil the conclusion: It was an incredible year. A year of re-awakening, of dreams coming true and others beginning to take shape on the horizon. A year of strengthening and growth, of ecstasy, joy, and passion. Of starry-eyedness and good sex and just the right dose of drama and hurt as well.

It was the year when I allowed myself to feel again.

At the end of each year, I review the goals I set on New Year’s Eve the previous year. I did that the other day and apart from one area (where I consciously chose to put a goal on hold for another while), I’ve reached every single goal. Some of them I completely blew out of the water. Life has a way of bowling me over, it just loves doing that. It’s part of our ongoing romance, and what keeps me hooked in a way I’ve never been permanently hooked by a human partner.

Here’s my review:

January

I started this year writing. My story was what brought me back to feeling my emotions. It was an intense and often sad time, but such a relief to be FEELING again. I’m proud to have finished the story (it’s the length of a novel), and it means the world to me.

February

The focus was my health, mainly by finding more foods I love and which are good for me, and beginning to strengthen my body. It was slow going but I stuck with it and saw some progress eventually.

March

This is when I started reaching out to what has become my archery club and my swordfighting club. In the last days of March, I started archery again and bought my bow. Almost instantly, I couldn’t believe I’d ever lived without shooting.

April

Finally started the longsword beginners’ course. Also participated in the Mayo Archery Club’s shoot after only two weeks of training, which was my first visit to Massbrook Woods, my favourite place in the whole world. So much happiness!

May

Life just kept unfolding like a fairytale. I reconnected with old friends and made new ones. The uncontested highlight of the month was an enchanted weekend in London with my wonderful Inga.

June

Midsummer, new friends, a beautiful affair, all senses a-tingle. Love, love, love. More archery and swordfighting, too, and those luminous nights full of promise.

July

Finally, finally got my tattoo, went to the club’s tournament weekend in Clare and met the rest of the absolutely loveable people there. I felt like a sponge soaking up all the human connections that month, together with good music, ecstatic dancing, and more archery and swordfighting.

August

More re-connection with old friends, lots of love and some sexiness as well. I also looked for a new place to live and said good-bye to Mayo. And I broke my rib, which was a huge challenge as it prevented me from honouring that kinetic energy of mine.

September

Moved to Gort, with Inga over here to visit, feeling incredibly right about it in spite of leaving behind Mayo. Otherwise, challenges began to pile up: my rib was healing but I injured my forearm and the resulting tendonitis still plagues me to this day.

October

An echo of the state of withdrawal I’d been in before this year, which I fought but couldn’t quite escape for a while. At the same time, I still met new people around here and managed to keep up at least a minimum of physical exercise.

November

A fairly dark month. Struggling with the tendonitis and a general absence of wellness, whole-ness, which I tried to numb – the worst thing I could have done, really! I didn’t even go to Mayo for archery practice.

December

Back in bliss. It’s been a month of renewed feeling and a demonstration of how much has changed this year. I’m getting out, I’m doing the things I love (with the exception of swordfighting right now, but I’ll get that back!) and I get to spend time with friends.

And here I am. The solstice was a celebration of love and gratitude for 2016. I was off work on Solstice Eve and made the rounds of friends’ houses, dispensing hugs and (healthy) cookies, and then I went home to decorate the tree and have my ritual. As usual, I took the Christmas days for myself to close off the year and prepare for 2017, and now I’m looking forward to actually getting there!

This entry has become long already, so I’ll write about my plans next time. Until then, I hope you’re having the holidays you dreamed of and wish you a lovely start into 2017.

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Life-Saving Checklist

feakle

People love stories like the one about my “coming back to life”. After being withdrawn and in a state of at least mild depression for over 5 years, I downsized my life and moved back West. I began to heal, wrote a novel-length story, and finally started to feel the full range of my emotions again. It was an uphill path, with lots of ugliness bubbling up, but also joy and ecstasy and love, so much love. Bathing in sensuality. Physical activity, kinetic energy – sheer bliss.

What’s not so sexy is the fact that life is rarely as straightforward and clean-cut. I wasn’t always in a state of depression over those years (after all I did my Coaching diploma during that time and those weekends of learning and practising were a blessing, full of insight and gentle touch of human souls). And when I came out of it all and started to grow stronger physically and get into shape again, as well as stabilising emotionally, it wasn’t all smooth sailing from there on in, either.

It began with my broken rib in August and got worse when I managed to get tendonitis in my forearms in mid September. I haven’t been able to hold, let alone swing, a sword or other weapon since – nothing heavier than a teacup, in fact. And it’s been eating away at me. I hardly worked out anymore and rarely danced. I didn’t keep in touch with newfound friends or those old friends I’d just re-connected with again. I ate crap that doesn’t do my body good, out of sheer frustration. And I noticed what was happening and tried to pull myself out, but only occasionally was I successful for a day or two.

The breakthrough came on Friday. You see, I’d known all this time that having pain in my forearms wasn’t really a reason not to dance. I also knew that my problems are in no way the end of the world. However, it’s not helpful if you already feel crap about yourself, to also feel like you are really bad at dealing with it. On Friday, I finally realised what the missing piece was: I’ve been feeling like I constantly had a slight cold for a while. I wake up every morning with a stuffy nose, I am exhausted all the time and could sleep nine hours a night (but rarely get more than seven, being in a semi-detached house with neighbours again). I feel bad and just, well, off, and have done since – wait for it – the last week of September. Co-incidence? I think not.

I can’t prove a connection, but I think it’s reasonable to assume that having a constant inflammation in my body – tendonitis – could have something to do with feeling feverish and groggy all the time. I concluded that it might be time to stop beating myself up about it and allow myself the rest I need to heal. I also resolved to finally do something about the tendonitis in a consistent fashion, so today I went to Galway and got a re-usable cold pack (frozen peas or ice cubes are nice, but not if you need an ice pack three times a day), an omega 3 supplement, and a bandage for the time when I’ll slowly start handling a sword again.

More importantly, I started crying and finally truly feeling my helpless desperation about being inactive, with its horrible similarity to the bad years. It hurts, but even that feels wonderful because I’m feeeeeeeeling! Almost instantly, all the bad food cravings and self-loathing fell away and the joy came through once again. I spent the rest of Friday dancing, and yesterday evening I went out despite not getting much sleep again, and ended up having a great time at a fundraiser dance for Haiti. I danced in my socks which felt amazing. All evening, I felt like a sponge soaking up all the wonderful human connection to real people, people who are alive and present. I had deep, funny, meaningful conversations with several people I know and others I’d just met, and hugs aplenty. When I drove home a good hour and a half after I’d meant to, all my senses were tingling, and the feeling hasn’t left me.

So, I’m back. Again. Apologies if it gets boring to read about it; I assure you, there’s nothing boring about repeatedly living it! And I thought, after experiencing how the state of being cut off can sneak up on me, that I’d put together a list of things I need to watch out for.

  • Music. I’d all but stopped listening to “high-emotion music” in the past two months, music like early Marillion (probably the most raw, ravishingly emotional music I know).
  • Emotion. If I don’t cry, or laugh until my sides hurt, for a week, it’s a warning sign. I really need to remember this one, as it’s probably the most immediately recognisable red flag.
  • Sensuality. When I stop savouring vibrant whole foods, sighing with pleasure at the softness of my silly hideous Tesco slippers, or cuddle into my bed practically moaning with delight, there’s something amiss. Yes, I really do these things, all the time, at least when all’s well with me. It’s my “normal”. As is desire and sexuality, dance and movement. A prolonged absence of any of these things, means trouble

There will always be fluctuations, of course, times when I’m more intensely joyful and in love with life and with people, and that’s why it can be hard to recognise symptoms of deeper problems. Hence the list. It’s something I can refer back to in times of need.

sibylle-back
Exhausted. And happy.
For now, I’m deeply grateful that the veil has lifted once again. Life is so heart-wrenchingly beautiful. There are so many things I want to do and create and make happen. I floated through Galway today, getting instant radiant smiles from every last shop assistant and person I met, because I was just oozing with love. I don’t usually like big crowds, but today I purposely immersed myself, which works when I am not in any rush and not staying too long – a couple hours usually do it for me, at least on a pre-Christmas weekend day in the city!

I got the supplies to treat my tendonitis with, I bought a present for a friend who reached out to me over those difficult two months, and I bought myself a beautiful, soft black velvet tunic, just because. Then I drove home crying and laughing and singing along to “Clutching at Straws”.

Overflowing joy? Check. Explosive dancing? Check. Happy, silly, cuddly hag? Check, check, check. All’s well.

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