21 days away

May 12, 5.20pm UK time.

I’m somewhere over some snowy mountains between London and Abu Dhabi. My hangover headache is still lingering and the buzzy happiness of getting my plane has worn off now into just tiredness, but even though I have three seats to myself on this half empty Etihad flight, the sleep doesn’t arrive.

As I wandered through the departure lounge my London brother called for a goodbye chat and asked, ‘What are your goals for this trip?’

‘Good question,’ I said. ‘It’s pretty much to get strong and clear in my head, to recover I guess, and come back brave enough to make some clean decisions about what next.’

‘Good.’ he said. ‘I think you need to stop doing what everyone else wants.’

‘Yeah I know. That’s like, my whole problem.’

‘People who keep trying to keep everyone happy end up as….’ 

‘Victims,’ I said. ‘I know. I need a spine really.’

So maybe this is my quest to grow a new spine. I don’t even know what that will look like. All my strength has been directed towards what everyone else wants and I dont know what it feels like to stand in the integrity and strength of my own spine. The strongest thing I have done was said no to my job. Because it was all wrong for me. Still doesn’t mean I know what is right though.

Mum phoned as well, with some chat about times and stopovers and how lovely it will be to see my Thailand brother and my New Zealand brother. When she said goodbye she said, ‘Well I’ll be thinking of you. I won’t pray for you, but I’ll think of you.’ 

‘Oh you can pray for me mum, I’m happy to have your prayers, just, not those weird church people.’ 

‘OK love.’ 

So with my mum’s prayers – and an Islamic journey prayer that Etihad Airways offered us all just before the safety video – plus a phone full of messages of love and support and godspeed, I embark on this little adventure. 

I’m aware that having the space, money, time and brothers to enable such a trip is a complete luxury, but here goes the start of my savings for a house. I’ll have no mortgage for a long time, and no kids at any time, so I get to adventure away my savings in exchange for my mental wellbeing.

Heathrow Terminal 4 has about nine WHSmiths in it, and realising that – on a journey where I will spend a combined 53 hours in airports or planes – I haven’t brought a book, I wondered if one would jump off the shelf at me. Books on leadership, management, clever business, smart thinking…. no not this time. It’s not time to try to fix broken systems anymore. A bright orange ‘the art of not giving a fuck’ looked like it was going to be caught. Yes I like the idea, but it feels like the title is doing all the heavy lifting. Instead, in my search for peace and balance, I have found ‘Think Like a Monk’ by Jay Shetty, which contains the promise that it will ‘shift your focus from self image to self esteem’ which feels like what I need right now. So much of my life is built around what everyone needs me to be, and I have to let go of that and work out who I am without all the people pleasing pointlessness. I learned early on as a child in the Church that my safety and value was derived by how much I kept everyone else happy, so I can see where the pattern comes from and why it’s so deeply entangled in my brain.

Talking to Teresa the other day, I said, ‘You know, I am clearly not a fan of Rev Moon, but he’s the reason I exist, and all my siblings, and right now the fact that I can go to Thailand and new Zealand, I mean, that’s cos I have brothers there because my mum had loads of kids cos Rev Moon said to. So, like, thanks.’ 

The not great and the wonderful can be all a bit entwined. 

Lessons for today:

* The new Elizabeth line will take you free from the Heathrow Central bus station to terminal 4, but there’s a half hour wait that needs to be factored in.

* Do have a piss up with people you love in Melksham but maybe not the night before you have to get yourself to Heathrow at 7am.

* Do bring a water bottle. Even though you can’t bring a full bottle through security, you can drink it and then fill it right back up on the other side you silly woman.

*Do bring a few Berocca tablets. 

*There is a postbox in the departure lounge but you need to know the address you’re posting to. 

*Stop picking up your phone during the flight to check for messages. There are none. 

Grateful for:

Sue and Colin at the bus stop this morning, baffling the sleepy travellers with a flamboyant display of flag waving and frivolity that my partner had to join in with – before his coffee. 

The hug from my love like he didn’t want to let me go this morning. 

The lovely people who gathered in the pub across the night, and the card that everyone signed for me, and the 2000 Thai bobbin notes in the envelope. Wow. Thank you. 

Gloria for being an absolute angel of beauty and love, buying so many rounds and sharing plates and vegan snacks.

The many messages and texts today to make sure I’d got the bus and wishing me well

My love for letting me borrow his fluffy black hoodie as we were leaving the house and I realised I’d probably need it for the plane. I really do and it’s so snuggly. 

Leanne at Glow hairdressers for my surprisingly excellent new haircut. As she chopped off great handfuls two days ago, I grinned and said I haven’t had it this short since I was a teenager. 

When I was 17 I went to America to save the world. All my passion, energy and bravery was totally exploited by the Moonies, but I had it. It was real. It was me. I need to find that same strength and use it for what I want now instead.

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