I’m founding my own church. Can I get an AMEN! Who’s in? *claps, whoops and cheers*. I am so on board with the flowing robes and kitsch iconography. I might even consider growing a beard (not such a stretch given current crazy hormones), and wearing a top knot, a la Russell ‘born again’ Brand. But probably a turban will be my headgear of choice. Honestly, I’ve been looking for a way to lever those bad boys into my wardrobe for a while now and what better and easier way, than to form a new cult. Amaright?! ‘Wwhhooaa there Pank, what’s going on?’ I hear you ask…… Well, here’s the thing. It’s been an interesting and challenging year, but little by little I’ve started to understand the value of self-care. What a revelation! There is absolutely no shame in taking time out, a step back, asking for help – whether the problem be physical or emotional. Who knew? And really it’s me I am convincing here; as a woman who slept upright in a chair for three nights for fear of dying in her horizontal sleep rather than call an ambulance, finally discovering she had pneumonia – it’s a lesson I could really have used, decades ago. That was back in Liverpool.
So, almost a year ago I started to have fairly regular sessions with a psychotherapist. I also stopped drinking three months ago, certainly in the vast quantities that had become run of the mill, (now strictly one, strictly in company and strictly only on very special occasions), and around that same time I stopped dating and took up meditation. That last habit has been the biggest revelation. How did I ever live without it?! Sorry Dad, I take it all back. And yes, I do feel better for it. For all of it. Hooray! It’s the first question people ask when they discover I drink little and practise meditation. Well, when I say discover what I mean is, when I SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS AT THE VERY FIRST AVAILABLE OPPORTUNITY (crowbarring) DURING ANY CONVERSATION. Oh good God, NO! *grabs face in style of Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone*, I’m one of ‘them’ now. I am part of that lactose/gluten intolerant/vegan/ex-smoker-cum-new-non-smoker tell-everyone-at-the-drop-of-a-hat gang…….. God bless (and help) my friends. I love you all and I’m sorry in advance – but I am going to be advocating all of the above for the foreseeable future.
As a young child growing up in Australia I dallied with meditation a little, due to my father’s obsession with the Maharishi and the Beatles’ reinvention. I was encouraged to meditate for twenty minutes when he did and jeez was I bored. Around this stage of my life, see also: Uri Geller, pyramid power, Arthur C. Clark’s Mysterious World, etc. etc. After he went away (my dad, not Arthur) on a five day banana-eating, steaming, fasting, meditation retreat, he came back full of the joys of finding a higher plane, (and I suspect, the possibility of creating a child genius). I’m only glad it wasn’t me he put into the balsa wood and plastic pyramid he built on the patio, to accelerate my growth; just some tomato plants. They bore fruit so yes – they were tomato plants. No bigger than normal, draw your own conclusions about that pyramid schiz…….. And if you really want to mess up the cutlery, dad – you focus, FOCUS! on bending the head off the fork. Back then, it was pretty baffling. I was only five or six.
It was a couple of years ago that I first decided to nip up the coast on the last weekend before work kicked in, full throttle. Just me and my book. You know I like my own company – maybe a little too much sometimes – so any opportunity to disconnect even more, and I am there quicker than you can utter, Usain Bolt. Here in Catalonia it’s their national day on the eleventh of September, so we have a long weekend and I took the opportunity to escape again. The little town of Tossa de Mar on the Costa Brava, is pretty, has a rich history and a Hollywood connection (Ava Gardner fell in love with it, while filming Pandora and the Flying Dutchman in 1950). It is gentle and quiet and perfect for re-grouping. A smattering of restaurants and bars, and a medieval walled town up which is the perfect walk and vantage point to take in the views, and breathe. It has a very special feeling for me. So in the absence of enough funds for a month long Bali spiritual escape with the Strength Temple (swoon) – I’m happy to treat it as my own personal retreat and it’s always very welcome. Armed again with only a book, Ruby Wax – How to Be Human and a notepad, I swore off social media for the entire weekend. And the detox was complete. Literally everyone should do it! Do it. Do it. Do it! Do all of it and do it now! The not drinking the not getting hung up on relationships, the shrink, the solo time, the regular meditation……. DO IT! And therein lies my evangelical preacher. Think of me as a modern day Billy Graham: without God, the penis and millions of followers and dollars.
It’s been so very peaceful. Social media seems to have stopped being the fun place we all joined for and has become such an angry, buzzing hive of bile and anger, that we should give it a wide berth now and again; as we would if we ran into the real thing. No-one in their right mind would stick their hand, or worse their face, anywhere near a real hive of angry wasps, so why this metaphorical one. Looking at Twitter sometimes feels like being stung a thousand times in the eyeballs – and we’re doing it by choice. And I know, I know, I am the worst perpetrator; this Brexit stupidity has been the end of me. A very real fear of losing my lovely life, just won’t let me permit an idiot regurgitating campaign sound bites onto my timeline, go without a couple of links to fact-checked government documents, to set them straight. And the hateful Wotsit over the water and the armchair activists’ talk of ‘rising up’ and ‘there will be consequences’ and ‘taking up arms’……. apart from being mildly amusing for approximately fifteen seconds – ultimately it’s all so. bloody. exhausting.
So, after my breath of fresh Tossa air I’ve vowed to take a step back, to take a regular day out every week and simply stay away from the book of face, Twitter et al and have an hourly digital detox everyday before bed, and keep on the human reconnection trail. This last year has been a great big, long-drawn out exercise in finding my feet again. I don’t plan to quit my new habits any time soon, they’re great, I love them, they’re now an integral part of how I keep it all together. And they’ve dropped very nicely into the spaces left by the more self-destructive ones I’ve cast off along the way over this last year. I’ve written about it before, but I will say it again (and again and again, probably): Autumn has always been my favourite time of year for its feeling of new beginnings, and this year is no different. It may just be that little bit more peaceful too.
Now fire up the organ, Jean, while I pop on me golden robes and you people over there, you get your hands in the air – we got us some songs to sing and some praise to give! Oh LORDY! Come on! *grabs microphone, struts across stage, does the claw hand at random people in the congregation, casting out demons*. See you in the newly formed church of Pank? No?
ps. I may stay here forever. Ssssssshhhhhh, don’t tell anyone, they’ll never notice.