In a few days I will fly from this place. Although I will miss so many things about my stay here, I am ready to go back home. That’s what I tell myself, and what I tell myself is very important. I refuse to be at the mercy of my thoughts, unless they are chirpy ones, and, even then, I need to consider, mindfully, how much chirping I allow myself to engage in.
I will think often of my time here, the people, the animals, the wild bush life, the encounters and the learnings. Bizarrely, I will actively miss the daily check for scorpions and spiders in my boots, my wardrobe and my bedclothes. I might even find myself wheeching back the duvet at home, or moving ginger fingers through my drawers, specs on for safety. Going for a mid-night pee will be a very tame journey. I will miss early waking into the heat and the sun pushing brazenly through my curtains. I won’t have to shoo monkeys from the kitchen bins, nor will I find them bouncing through the trees or playing on the hammock or scooting through the tall grasses. The impala herd will migrate across the scrub without my eyes on them and the late night leopard will walk undisturbed.
The visual change from crazily painted blooms to dead winter will be very odd indeed. No more jacaranda blooms to fall on my head, nor their hard as concrete seed pods, the length of 2 bananas, nor a petaled ground as colourful as a Persian carpet, fit for a king’s palace. No more rainbow birds or insects the size of Dinky cars, no more black on white. Braais, or barbecues, will be paused for some months and big warm jumpers given air and light after a long hibernation. I will miss maid service in my bedroom. I will miss the maids, who arrive dressed for a party, in impossible shoes and wearing wildly coloured tight-fitting dresses over their curvaceous African bodies. Then, they change. Into uniforms for their work, work they are proud to have, and work they do to the highest standard. I know them by name, as I do the groundsmen and the cooks and we share a hug most days as they laugh their way through everything.
I will miss the space, the time, the peace.
However (and there’s always one of those), I am now reprogrammed. All I have experienced here, all I have read and studied, all of the encounters, conversations, observations and conclusions, will be my core strength on my return to base camp. I am lighter now, fleeter of foot, more in control of my mind, my choices, my beliefs. I see now how easy it is to turn into a tumbleweed, blown every which way and not going consciously forward at all. I want to go consciously forward. I will take all the gifts from Africa and make good use of every one, weaving them into my life back home, so that, instead of an empty wasteland, my life will be vibrant, exciting and dynamic. I will be vibrant, excited and dynamic. Now, what’s not to like about that?
Remembering the child in me is all about being mindful of the small things and to see them as big things. Whatever life sends is always rich in goodness, however hard it may be to see that on first looking. And, besides, what do I have to complain about? Nothing at all. If I have a richly fed soul (that’s up to me) and a strong set of personal ethics, mindfully attended to on a daily basis, then I am living a richly fed life. Of course, not everyone thinks they can take time out to reset. From where I am, I will challenge that. Everyone can, if they so choose. I am not lucky because I came here and stayed here. It was a choice and one that required a clear-headed plan of action. It was a huge mistake on my part to leave it till I almost cracked wide open and I am very fortunate to have had the healing I so needed in a safe, warm and loving place. But, what I do not understand is why we humanoids cannot see how dangerous it is to keep on keeping on when it is clear a soul is starving to death. I don’t understand it in myself. But I do know I won’t let it happen again.
We are taught that, if we ‘show’ any weakness, such as having a nervous breakdown or a collapse into addiction, we are lesser mortals, objects both of disgust and pity – and yet, it is we who let a bad situation get worse. If we could just unlearn this nonsense and care for our own well-being as brilliantly as we care for others, we could be heroes, every one of us. Instead, we pretend we are okay whilst neglecting our primary relationships, shouting at other drivers, eating junk foods, crumbling into secret addictions, abandoning friendships, exercise, nature, books and principles. We lose personal credibility and we don’t even notice it’s gone. We don’t rest when we are tired. We become isolated even among crowds. We lose who we are and then we bring up the blame finger. We forget that, in this one life, we have one shot at being our best, so we just stagger along without thought, without doing the work we need to do to be that ‘best’. And yet, we have all the power we need, not over others, but over our own choices and decisions.
I know that when I return to the island, it will take me a while to re-adjust. I know that things will upset or annoy or trip me up. Of course they will. This is life. But, because I have not wasted my time here, I have learned a new set of lessons, on self-love and compassion, on the extraordinary power of the human brain, on noticing thoughts and emotions, on making due diligent behavioral choices, on trust, on letting go and on gratitude.
I pulled on my jeans this morning, just to see if they still fit, in readiness for the long plane journey. I am smaller than when I arrived, a discovery that took me on a wee dance around the room. But, I am bigger too, although you can’t actually see that growth. It still fits neatly in my skull.
I am amazed that all that learning, all that information, information that can bring about a sea change, is quite invisible. How I look is nothing, dust, fleeting. Who I am is extremely powerful.
And that goes for you too.