Hello there. I am in Santa Catalina, the surf capital of Panama. Phil is here enjoying some “sick” waves, and I am spending my days reading, relaxing, and making friendship bands of course.
I feel I owe the readers of this blog a brief explanation. If you’ve been paying attention, you may have noticed a change in tone over the last few months. Whereas previously my sea tales have been, philosophical musings and all, nothing less than swashbuckling, the general tone, if not the content, of my last few articles has verged on the melancholic, and perhaps better represented by an image like this:
Let me backtrack a little. I knew when I left Portugal a year ago that I was giving myself some much needed time and space to think (as well as sail across the Atlantic). I never anticipated where it would lead.
Granted, thinking isn’t for everyone (you know what I mean). I know some of my friends think I think too much. But I’ve discovered I like it that way. I don’t want you thinking I’ve gone all sanctimonious and am trying to persuade you to down tools and join me in meditating towards global consciousness. I’m not. As always, I’m just shaaaaaring.
It is difficult to describe what happens to you when you give yourself time and patience to observe your own mind; only that in an open and relaxed space it becomes naturally exhilarating to feel the effects of identifying negative thought patterns and changing them.
But man, are there lows. Trying to become more at peace with yourself and life means learning to accept all aspects of both, including all the nasty, ugly, annoying, depressing and stressful bits; even grisly old Death itself.
You’ll already know some of the details of this last low patch. It was weird. It wasn’t even like sadness or depression. It was just a…nothingness. Almost a peace.
One thing I have learnt is that real growth is a very gradual process and takes time, discipline and patience, but occasionally you get these “switch moments”. Usually in benign situations such as lying in bed or sitting on a bus, there’s a sudden quiet feeling, like when a sound stops you didn’t even realise you could hear. You suddenly see a clear, open pathway or idea which leads you somewhere you needed to be. It’s all very quiet and low-key at first, but then it grows, and an astounding, wide-open space of possibility and a sense of satisfaction appear as another jigsaw piece fits into place. I feel the same way about these “switch moments” as I do about musical inspiration and I think these moments, which can bring so much good, deserve the time and space they need to grow.
So I was lying in bed a few nights ago, thinking about how I felt a bit chirpier but I was still feeling the shadow of this last low; I was still in a state of mourning, a stasis, a pseudo-coma. In the silence I heard a quiet voice inside my brain.
“How long is this going to go on for?” it said.
It had a sarcastic, impatient tone, as if it knew me far too well. And despite being disembodied, it managed to fold its arms and tap its foot condescendingly.
You’re right, I thought. How long do I need to feel sad for, according to Emma’s special enlightenment rules? How long do I need to spend “accepting” all the evils of the world before I disappear in a puff of useless apathy? I’ve got a life to live, and suddenly I’m spurning all the stuff about positivity and love and gentleness and joy in favour of actively choosing to indulge in an extended period of blergh. Well, enough is enough. It’s time to get on with the next chapter.
I’ll always be a thinker, I’m afraid. Well no, I’m not afraid. I can understand why the last few months were so important (these things take time after all. You can’t force them. You’ll only end up with piles) but only now that that switch has flicked and I can see a new picture; subtly changed from how it was before. That’s what I love about exploring your own mind; the surprises. I love the feeling of doors appearing and opening that I didn’t even know were there. However, I have also learnt that soul-searching of this nature can become a distraction and even a very strong attachment itself, and (if you are prone to Olympic-standard wallowing as I am) it makes sense to check for that from time to time. If all else fails, I can always go to my dad, for a good dose of this:
“Ooohhhh for GOD’S SAKE stop bloody MOANING and GROANING”
Spoiler alert! I’ve just finished reading this book
And I’d like to tell you how it ends.
Yes it’s an old book, but it’s a wonderful one. The book ends with the author and his son removing their helmets for the first time on a long motorcycle trip, enjoying the wind against their faces and the sense of freedom. The gesture symbolises not only a new freedom in their relationship, but the author’s acceptance of a previously feared aspect of his own personality.
As I was reading it, I smiled to myself. That’s what I’m doing, I thought. I’m taking off my helmet. And it feels great.
Expect Hammocks of the Azuero Part 3 soon, as I continue my intrepid adventures through Panama and maybe even beyond…
Thanks for reading and your support.