Thursday, 21 May 2009

The Smell after the Storm

Life is full of so many obstacles, sometimes it becomes impossible to navigate your way safely on a day-to-day basis. We experience one trauma, then another, which sends us crashing and spinning into something else and in turn we bounce from obstacle-to-obstacle like we’re trapped in our own life-size pinball machine.

When this happens and the moments of uplift are few and far between, how do we seek light? As Merlin once said to me; ‘I thought I saw light at the end of the tunnel, then I realised it was some bas**rd with a torch bringing me more work to do!’. Does light exist?

The last 6 months, plus recent developments and a setback in my rehab, have challenged me to find the answer to this. And I think I may have done.

Our imaginations are powerful tools. I had forgotten how to utilise mine. How to picture wonderful sights, sounds and smells, dream of exciting adventures and feel at peace. I’ve recently been losing myself in books and this has unlocked my mind once more.

Picture this….I’m sat at my desk at work, routinely working through the day to day tasks and wishing many things. I wish I had more money, 2 working legs, some food, a clean kitchen, no work and so on……..Suddenly, in a flash, the memory of sand running through my fingers came into my head. Dunno what made me think of this, or why? Warm, golden sand. Microscopic, fine particles, being poured from one hand to the next, my fingers digging into the sand, feeling the warmth of the surface and the coldness as I dig further…..memories of being on a beach, perhaps mid-surf session…..

The warm feeling this memory conjured up in my stomach, led me to seek further recollections that brought the same reaction. Memories that would give that fuzzy feeling inside and make you see how much easier the journey should and could be.

The smell of freshly cut grass, sat with the Captain in his parents garden. The empty streets of a dawn city centre, while me, the Boss and Merlin staggered home at 6am. The smell in the air after a heavy summer thunder storm whilst surfing in Croyde. The satisfaction of an ice cream on a hot day riding in the forest. A bottle of ice cold water when you are thirsty, the sound of waves crashing, early summer mornings, bathing in the warm shallows and so on and so on……

I guess my point is this. Life doesn’t need to be so tough and hard work. Light can and will be found in all the small moments. The simple but pleasurable moments are what brings us the light. All we have to do is……………..close out eyes and remember them.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

When You Wish Upon a Star

Remember that intense feeling of your own beating heart and the constant churning in your stomach? The realisation that you feel sick and there’s nothing you can do to make it stop? Like a ship without a rudder, all you can do is look up and make a wish.

Some people use this anxiety to their advantage. I know Merlin does in his martial arts training. A fight or flight response. In fact, he advocates that it is far better to feel nerves than not. Then there is no danger of complacency and it reminds you you’re alive.

Other sportsman use them too. To motivate or ‘gee themselves’ up for a big moment in their field. To turn it to their advantage, feed off it and use it to dominate.

I remember when Sampras got married and I was his best man. I don’t think I physically started thinking about the speech I had to make until the day before. Then it was sweaty palms time, shortness of breath, panicked thoughts and an impatience to get it out the way. Anxiety and nerves lead to stress, which in turn makes you feel like you are failing and useless.

What’s always funny about this situation, but I still never seem to learn this lesson, is whatever you are worried about, never turns out as bad as you think it will be. My best-man speech went down a treat, I got congratulations from strangers and hopefully Sampras, as well as his new bride, enjoyed it.

I’m the same with interviews. As I write this, I’m watching the clock count down the minutes until an interview. The nerves are increasing and I’m assuming I’ll get in there and have nothing to say. They’ll look at me wondering in astonishment what I am doing there and I’ll shrink, slowly, becoming smaller and smaller…I’ll have failed, I’ll feel paranoid that they are mocking everything I say and so it goes on and on…..

When I was young, I couldn’t talk to girls either. The same constraining feelings would leave me feeling emotionally crippled – were they laughing at me? Did they hate me?

When I used to skate with Merlin and the Captain back in the day. I had the natural skill to be at a much higher level than I was, but I was always held back by nerves. A fear of falling, of failing, or looking stupid, perhaps of not fitting in?

Experiencing nerves and anxiety about the direction of my life in general is a daily occurrence. I worry where I am, where I am going and how on earth I am going to get there.

The only time I never experience nerves negatively, is sitting out back on a surfboard. Whether it’s the gentle rocking of the ocean or the feeling of being close to nature, I don’t know. I’ve paddled into some big surf, surf that was way out of my league, I’ve got caught on rocks many times with seemingly no easy escape, but during all these times, I’ve fed off any anxiety in a positive way. I’d almost go as far as to say I’ve embraced the feeling.

Perhaps with surfing, there isn’t a point where you have to stop and psyche yourself up for something. The energy in the water means you are constantly in motion, the waves shape and size constantly changing and thus you, the surfer, never have a moment where you pause like in other aspects of life and can take stock of the situation. There is never time to think about how good you are, how you look, who is watching or what you are doing in that moment.

I used to use alcohol and other substances to block out the feelings of anxiety, nerves, depression and despair. But that isn’t what I’m about anymore.

It could be that the Captain’s teachings are finally getting through to me? Maybe, it is seeing the Boss grow and make some of the best decisions he has ever made? Perhaps it is seeing Sampras become a Father? These guys inspire me and help me to grow. I know it is all of these things and more.

Pulling all this together, is StarGirl, who has given me more love, respect and advice than people I’ve know for years and has shown me how to see the world through new eyes. A tripod cannot have more than 3 legs, but it will always be there and perhaps I’ve found my lobster instead.

Life shouldn’t be about worry.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

What price to sell your Soul?

What price to sell your soul? Perhaps a pound of flesh for a pound of flesh or the undetectable loss of 21 grams? You shake hands with the devil, you have to be prepared to pay a price.

I always preach being true to yourself. Never sacrificing what you believe in and treating others how you wish to be treated. I've been trying to be a good person. How hard does that sound? Sounds like the easiest thing in the world right? Well, as I mentioned right back at the start of this journey; dying is the easy part, living is the hard part. Being true to yourself and others? Hard to say the least....

I've lived a selfish life. I've seen and experienced things that live in darkness. I purposefully chose to walk in the shadows of life for a while; to toughen myself up and lose some of the naivety and innocence that seemed ingrained within me. It was a conscious choice and ironically, sometimes, I wish I could go back 10 years and reverse that decision. It's my belief I sold my soul, to trade one lifestyle, that I felt wasn't rewarding or desirable, for another that on the surface had all the aspects I could dream of.

The thing is, there's certain lifestyles you lead that have consequences. There is only so many things you can get away with before someone decides to collect. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating being boring and I know how to live. But there is a line. I spent most of my time on the other side of that line. For me, it is all or nothing. Whatever you think you've done that's crazy, multiply it. I never boast, brag or show an ego, but I can assure you that whatever you've done in life, it is kids stuff to me.

So, I felt I needed to seek imrprovement. I accepted breaking my leg. The way it happened, the severity of the break and the length of recovery time. All with fairly good grace - though I've had my moments! I figured it was my time to pay. Dismiss it as rubbish if you wish, but karma exists. I was happy, willing and it was the right time to pay my pound of flesh. The time off allowed me to reflect on things and improve myself. As you may have read throughout this journey, I truly believed I had changed for the better and improved myself for my benefit and others around me.

Turns out that isn't true.

A leopard cannot change his spots that soon. Maybe deep down, there is part of me that truly is the boy I was 10 years past. Or maybe, I'm kidding myself and should just embrace who I am now? Maybe my quest for high-standards, over-thinking and perfection means I'm always doomed to fail. Whatever is true, I do know this. I've not served penance for the past and recent events have condemned me even further. I just wish I had the words or actions to show how sorry I am for the choices I have made and the people who have been hurt. Rather than blaming others, I should seek to put right those things within my control.

I know only 2 people in life to have never 'sold their soul' so to speak. The Captain and Sampras. Maybe, looking up to them, I'm just setting myself unrealistic targets to achieve?

But should we not at least try to achieve that which is out-of-reach? Last week one of my idols, Ricky Hatton, lost his 2nd bid for the title of greatest boxer in the world. Is he a disgrace for falling short of his target? No. But he at least had the balls to try.

I've gone from thinking I had it all figured out, to not having a clue. Jeez, does anyone or are they all just pretending?