It’s a quiet summer evening. Raindrops are falling from the grey sky, there’s some light thunder in the background. A pigeon sits on a branch just outside my balcony, slightly hunched. In the distance I can see the lights of my neighbours garden. I’ve been given oceans of time just to sit, rest and dream. A few days ago I had an accident – a single unguarded moment and I fell down. The same way as I did exactly five years ago. When it happened, my first thought was: ‘not again!’ Last time my rehabilitation took almost six months. But so many things are different now. My life is so much richer, filled with the positive energy of beautiful people and animal friends. I’ve picked up new skills along the way, like the basics of first aid and where to get crutches. I’ve learned about healing trauma, how to follow the rhythm of my own body, the foods that nurture you, which herbs quicken the healing process, and about the magic power of touch. I’ve learned how to stop striving, always wanting to arrive in another place than where you are right now. Most importantly I’ve learned not to despair, but to trust in myself and the universe.
Retreats are wonderful things. I mean the ones where a bunch of people go to a beautiful location for an intensive experience of something or other, with lots of togetherness. I’ve been on quite a few. From summer art camps to meditation/yoga/martial arts retreats across Europe. Now I’m finally ready to stop forcing myself to sign up for them. You see, being in a group drains my energy and if I’m deprived of the time I need to restore that energy, I get ill. Surrounded by so many happy campers, I’ve always felt there must be something wrong with me. If only I would be stronger, less sensitive, more relaxed, I would be able to keep up with the others. But there’s nothing wrong with me. Where does it say that growth (or enlightenment) can only be found in this intensive group setting? I understand now that just because something is good, it does not automatically mean that it is good for me. To each her own way and her own prayer. Or as a beautiful voice once whispered in my ear: you only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. For me that is doing a little practice down by the river every day.
For me living at the beach is paradise. I’ve always had a magical connection with the sea, but it took me a while to get to this place. When I was a child we went Scheveningen once a year and I would play in the water for hours, until my mum would drag me out at the end of the day – blue lipped and shivering – and I would scream my lungs out because I didn’t want to go. In my twenties I moved to The Hague and found a small flat about ten minutes from the beach. How I loved it there! I spend every free moment at the sea side, going for long walks to Kijkduin – come rain or shine. Somehow I still thought it’d be a good idea to move to London. It would take me more than 4 years to find my dream again. Each day I wake up early and go to beach, still wearing my pajama shorts, hair tousled in the wind. I love it when the sea is calm, just a single line to the horizon. Absolute quiet. And then there’s the moment you dive in, into the cool glistening water. You float on your back and take in the blue surrounding you. When you dry yourself, letting the sun warm your skin, feeling rejuvenated, you realise that you are truly fortunate.
My whole life I’ve struggled with being sensitive. The outside world can be an overwhelming, loud, confusing place for me. When I’ve spend a couple of hours doing stuff, I need to go home and recharge. Growing up I always felt so different and weird. People telling me over and over: you need to toughen up! Things got easier when I learned that I’m not the only one. That it’s OK to be introverted; and that my sensitivity is in fact a strength. But I still find it hard to set boundaries. To always be the first one to leave a party. To decline an invitation to go an awesome festival. To tell people that I don’t have plans and I’d like to keep it that way. And so I usually end up feeling over-committed and overwhelmed. But then an extraordinary thing happened! I adopted a hypersensitive cat named Jet. Loud sounds, strangers, and changes in her environment upset her immensely and she can only be alone for a couple of hours. Our needs align magically. Now, whenever I’m tempted to ignore my needs, she’s there to remind me. I can’t stay out too long, need to go home and take care of her. Take care of me. What a blessing!