I’m just settling into bed with the first issue of my new subscription. Last month, I let my Vogue subscription lapse after fifteen years of faithful readership. Letting go of such a stalwart presence in my life had required some soul searching. The monthly thud on my doormat no longer generated stop-what-you’re-doing excitement and many issues simply lay on my table unread. Even so, the subscription had been part of my identity for such a long time, during formative and often tumultuous years, that admitting that it was no longer who I was – that I had moved on – was hard. Seeing the latest cover on the newsagent shelves without having seen the issue first at home was quite an odd experience, a bit like bumping into an old ex who you remain fond of but have no desire to still be with.
I had no wish to get into another relationship on the rebound, so to speak. Having always been a magazine junkie, though, I guess it was inevitable. Last week, I decided to take the plunge and get the Friend, the fortnightly Quaker journal. I used to read it many moons ago, borrowing it from my meeting as a teenager – way back before I even read Vogue. Going back to it again now feels like I’ve come full circle. Upon opening it, I turned immediately to the classifieds and other ads at the back, just as I had when I was younger. They always spoke to me of another world: one of ethical products and campaigning, retreats and activism, people living lives very different to my humdrum adolescent existence. Through the ads, I escaped to somewhere else, where I would be grown-up and self-assured and completely sorted. The Friend’s ads provided a dream world. Perhaps not so different to Vogue after all. I wonder what they’ll make me dream of tonight.
I came on my period today. Not remarkable in itself, but what is comment worthy is that it marks twelve months since I last used the standard forms of sanitary protection (namely tampons or towels). Instead I’ve been using a Mooncup, a little rubber cup with a stem attached that one inserts, empties, rinses and reuses (each one lasts up to eight years). I love it! It wouldn’t be going too far to say it is one of my favourite possessions. There are so many reasons why, not least that I object to paying VAT on towels and tampons. Nor do I like the constant gimmicks of the sanitary product industry, always trying to make women buy more and more. With a Mooncup, there’s no waste, no having to constantly buy more, no propping up large rich corporations. It’s just me, one item and my body. A year in, I’m still over-the-Moon(cup) with it.
On Monday night, I had a very long telephone coversation with an old uni friend. We rarely get chance to talk so much now, and despite the fact she wasn’t physically present, it took me back to the days when we lived together – both at university and afterwards in another city. Back then, we used to have lots of conversations. One that has always stuck in my mind was of all things about stretching. It was almost twelve years ago when we were freshers. Coming out of an aerobics class, she said “Doesn’t it feel amazing when you’re stretching after exercise?”. My brain comprehended what she’d said, but it was only this evening, when cooling down after my second zumba class of the week, that I understood. Somewhat belatedly, I can finally reply that yes, Sarah, it feels amazing.
In less than four hours since I originally posted this, the total donated to her justgiving page has gone up from £330,000 to over £407,000. It is absolutely amazing and it feels so good to see such an outpouring in tribute an ‘ordinary’ woman, not a celebrity – although clearly the way her death has touched so many people is far beyond ordinary.
The sad death of Claire Squires, a young woman who was running the London Marathon to raise money for the Samaritans, made the news in Britain. What has now also made the news is that donations to Claire’s JustGiving page have since passed £330,000. It’s an amazing outpouring of goodwill and generosity from the public, a small sign that society is not broken, and hopefully it will provide some comfort to her family and friends at a dark time for them. Good things can emerge from sadness.
Across all cultures, across all times and places, there have been stories about journeys. Whether we think of them as allegories for spiritual pilgrimage or metaphors for life in general, it seems that accounts where we follow a character travelling along a particular path hold universal appeal.
In the last year or so, I’ve become increasingly self-conscious about my own life as a journey in this sense. I’ve had several episodes where I’ve not only seen myself as the traveller, the quester on a mission, but have been very aware of those around me as other characters within the tale. These have been moments where I’ve wondered if the person in question really exists. These people have perhaps taught me a particular lesson or helped me along the way somehow, often then disappearing out of my life again or moving on in their own different direction – to the extent that I begin to think I’ve imagined it all. I’ve also had similar encounters with events that seem to be a turning-point or a sign-post, as well as objects that take on special significance or meaning. A book that’s lingered on my shelf for ages or that I’ve been reading only sporadically will contain a statement that so speaks to me at that moment that I know I was not meant to have read it before – or if I had, the passage would have passed me by as just words.
This happened to me last year, when returning from my holiday. The book that I’d planned on finishing whilst away,The O of Homeby Jennifer Kavannagh, had languished in my room the whole time. I opened it up again on the plane back and within minutes, hot salty tears were streaming down my face as the final chapter so spoke to what I’d experienced that week and how I was feeling right then. The book and I coincided, and it helped me travel further along my path. I’ve just had a similar experience with another book,Holiness in the everydayby David Cadman (fortunately no tears as I was reading it whilst having lunch at work!). Although only 88 pages long, it’s taken me a few weeks to get through, picking it up in odd snatches here and there. One of the final paragraphs made me realise why it had taken me so long to complete: I needed to read this passage today, right now, not on another earlier day. Cadman writes: ‘In a world so taken up with rationality and intent, with business plans and five-year strategies, is it not especially thrilling to be told that “the adventure” is always there and always about to begin; that we might stumble upon it when we least expect to?’
Having lost my way, I too have stumbled back upon my adventure and I’m now ready to continue along my path, my journey, my quest. I’m Alice in Wonderland.
Today I revisited my finances, taking a long hard look at my budget & what I can do with it in order to realise my new goals. At the point when I thought these goals would have to remain just dreams for a while, I stumbled upon a pot of gold. Admittedly mine was buried within an Excel spreadsheet, but these rainbows that appeared in the garden this evening look far prettier.
I’m going to begin this post with the comment that every person makes before then going on to describe a recent horoscope that they’ve read: I don’t believe in horoscopes, but…. today I heard my stars read out on the radio and it seemed particularly apt. I know that they always manage to do this by going for statements that are pretty vague, but this one made me sit up and listen. It seemed to so speak to how I’ve been feeling in the last day or two, and what I’ve been doing, that it spooked me a little. Maybe I’m just feeling suggestible. Maybe I’m looking for easy answers to difficult questions, or even simply signs that my thoughts are on the right track. Whatever the case, I know that the statement made for Cancer really hit home in a way that none of the nine that followed did – and I made sure that I listened hard to the others that were left, just to see if they were vague enough to apply to me too. They didn’t. It was quite creepy. Not that I’m going to be converted to believing in astrology anytime soon. As Stuart Maconie once put, to take astrology seriously requires two beliefs: one, that the alignment and arrangement of these enormous, great celestial entities mysteriously dictates the path of our lives and two, that the best person to interpret these mysteries of the universe is Russell Grant.
Having said that, here’s what Shelley von Strunckel said anyway (for Cancerians, w/b 15/04/2012):
After a period of unsettling but informative confusion, you`re reviewing elements of your life you`ve accepted unthinkingly. Now that you realise changes are possible, you`re considering your options. This is timely, since between certain arrangements coming to an end and intriguing new ones surfacing, you`ve numerous options, many of them unexpectedly inspiring. Explore them all but take your time over the decision-making process.