I was sitting reading The Power Of Now, by Eckhart Tolle in a cafe in Havana when the person next to me asked what the book is about. Simon is Cuban and genuinely didn’t have a clue about what I was talking about. In fact he thought that it is was crazy to have to have this concept of now explained in a book. What kind of people are we in the developed world?
One that spends a lot of money on these books, I told him that the book is an international best seller and I first read it 18 years ago. I could see he was doing the sums and watched his jaw drop. I sort of felt a bit daft. Afterall what was I doing sitting in Havana with a stunning view, in a place full of colour and vibrancy reading how to be in the now when the now is now….know what I mean.
I said that sometimes we need to see the words that will remind us to be present and by reading we learn and we become aware of what can be a better and easier way of being. That in our busy lives we forget how to slow down, how to breathe and are so consumed with a drama in our head that we don’t know how to find ourselves in the present time, that is Now.
I was speaking a different language within a different language, talk about making a mess of the moment.
I just closed the book and made conversation instead.
Am back again with my theme of the gift of time along with doing what I enjoy and sharing my stories on collecting and where this takes me.
It’s about time.
Here I am in Havana, Cuba in February, a very welcome change to the weather at home in the UK and I am experiencing total gratitude for gifting myself with this time. “Thanks to yourself” I hear you ask. well yes, it me, my idea, my vision, my dream whatever you want to call it but I would say YES to gifting myself with time. In our world time is a currency, we either have it in abundance or not enough of it, time is measured and it is billed, it has a value that more often than not we do not connect to. We are aware of money and how long it takes us to make it without giving much thought to how long it takes to spend it. So what I am saying is this is a gift to me from an investment of time and money earned over my working life to invest in my dreams of a reality that I now want to live, experience and enjoy.
My first choice is Havana, and for me right now it was a right one to make.
Before coming here I had heard several opinions from people who don’t really know me about their experiences in Havana. I was shocked by their reactions, what I got was a projection of their experience which with some different levels of extreme was what I would call a toxic dump. Urm, I have never being one to knowingly put out someone elses fire but one persons reaction was visceral, they even used the word anger that I was staying in Havana for a month without seeing the beauty of the whole of cuba.
Hey ho, another persons visions of a dream is someone elses vision of hell, ce la vie.
I live in London, and am busy most of the time, there are things that have to be done and things that I like to do and things that must be done. Time is pretty much taken up with doing. To be honest I like doing and will be doing in Havana, in fact I am doing a lot here and I love it. The difference is ‘doing’ on my terms which by other people standards is that for me it will be a month to do what some people will do in 1 week or 4 days or less.
Which brings me back to time, in London, conversations have been reduced to text, not so much of the spoken word and text is now being replaced by imogis. All this smart phone technology and we are reduced to experiencing ourselves through a sticker designed by someone else. Oh Wow, evaluation……
Holiday time, by this I mean time at home, Christmas or whatever family time we might have. It’s a big deal because its one of the few times that everyone makes an effort to get together and talk to each other face to face, over meals that they make togther and maybe exchange a well-considered gift.
So here I am in Havana with a gift of time and what I am to do, or now after a week into my trip, what I am doing.
Well first question should really be hows it going? And I will say it is going good, thanks.
Any anxiety that I might have absorbed from others negativity was soon diminished by my own reality in feeling happy to be here. It is everything that I hoped and expected. I am comfortable and capable and time is my friend.
I am lost in wonder by the scale of urban decay, I am immersed in the layers of past revealing itself though worn out shades of colour, broken tiles, sun damage, sea damage and war damage. Buildings without roofs, people living in derelict buildings that chime with noise and vibrate with industrial labour. Peeping through the gaps in doors there are the picture post card images of what we know to be relative poverty compared to western standards, (why that is a photo opportunity I don’t know, I guess it’s a glimpse of a life been lived) old style shabby chic. Yes there are men sitting in shorts on PVC sofas eating food. Its grimy, choked up with exhaust fumes from the old cars, there is no sense of heath and safely. Behind doors I see what is left of a stair case, I see people restoring furniture, I see small factories with people at sewing machines, I see the interiors of homes with so little physical substance, I see an upholsterer at work and restoration on the scale of what looks like something from the italian renascence.
I also see colour and feel the vibrancy of the people and the sunshine bouncing off the buildings, there is music and dancing everywhere.
I see progress, it’s on a collective scale, everyone is in this together, there is something for everyone. As the historical restoration replaces what has been, and still is a demolished city, it is a city is in transition, whilst been true to its identity and community this is a time of change. The romance and the old style charm is not just been replaced but enhanced, drawn out from the rubble that has held its memories, nothing has but everything is changing.
Oh for the gift of time, to immerse myself in this vision, lost in the decorative beauty, the long conversations and laughing with exchanges in a different language, taking time to try, to be vulnerable to understand myself better through experience. taking time for change.
Ok out there, who has too much stuff, so much you just can’t even face opening the cupboards? It’s normal to put things at the back of the any the wardrobe or cupboard or our mind for that matter and it is going to take a lot of effort whatever the size of the project be it material or other to clear it.
It’s almost five years ago now that I decided to down size my whole life, sell my home and move my family into a smaller place. It wasn’t just the stuff of family life and 17 years in one spacious house that was going to have to be edited but like many others I have things from my whole life so far that I want to keep let alone all the things from my children’s life. Our history is important and memories are the stories and rituals often re-connected through an object of association. What to keep?
I carry within me an inner Buddhist, I find it easy to let go and move on. Although I like to have nice things and love to create a beautiful home which reflects my sense of style and desire for both harmony and balance in my life. I am though not attached to the material, I enjoy it but can leave it all behind. I tend to be happy anywhere.
I am not a hoarder but I do collect. It’s a life practice on harmony, what gives me pleasure isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, but that is of course OK.
When I moved into my apartment I shoved what I didn’t need to unpack into the space that had once been a wardrobe. Over the following three years I squeezed more into it, work projects, fabric and clothing. After living through a total refurb of the apartment and delaying the kitchen refurb, all of which had to also be lived through it has taken me a while to find the energy to tackle this last project.
In here squished between work that I must keep is a selection of memory boxes kept from our previous home. These memories are items of baby clothes, clothes from my teen years, my small vinyl collection from the 1970’s and 80’s, family photos and bits of ceramics made by my kids, oh and my first mac compeer which I still love. There will also be in here five years of tax returns which I can now shred 3 years of.
A LOAD OFF – trip to the tip.
First stop was to drop off a table, yes a table had been in my wardrobe. Re-homed at my friends newly rented place that she only found out that it was unfurnished when the previous tenant took the furniture. Also a large mirror, stored under my bed post my house move and a friends original sex pistols poster which I had housed for the past 10 years or so. It’s not just our own stuff that we hold on to.
The car is refilled with the remains of the soon to be replaced wardrobe interior and my first cull. Time to let go of my art school history. I can’t even bring myself to open the dusty portfolios knowing that my kids art work is much better and of course present, current and fresh. I have dragged this stuff around too long. Then there was a box of old yoga books, stored for three years but smelling like 10. They say if you haven’t worn it or looked at it for over a year……So as I dump even more of my past and happily let it go and I feel lighter, this stuff is what I felt defined me. My study of yoga and my love of having being a student at art college. There is almost a desire to say, ‘time to start again” but I have eradicated the word again from my vocabulary because again means repeat. The Wikipedia page says, to return to a previous position or condition. Neither are relevant and therefore I chose only to start.
THE FINAL EDIT
Now for a final edit and the joy of selecting what I want and need to keep. I love this process of chaos to order and the effort in the middle. The bit in the middle is all about finding the treasure of memories, a connection to the past and its place in the present.
This isn’t just a clear out and a cull of a build up of clutter, whats left is actually what I have kept my whole life. Three years ago I down sized from a large family house with lots of space for storage. That was a major clear out, seventeen years worth of stuff. Now I am arranging whats left into a series of shelves. I have a few boxes of the kids primary school work and baby clothes. I have a few boxes of photographs but it looks like I have to get rid of two cases of clothes from my punk and new romantic era. This bit will be hard. The final edit of my life lived so far.
These shelves are now housing my current life, design projects and of course clothes and accessories. Memories are held in small boxes and a small collection of vinyl. I intend to up and travel and am getting ready to fly the nest. My kids might end up returning to live here whilst I am gone on adventures or that I rent my place out for others to enjoy.
Looking at what I have left it’s not much to show for a life but I don’t believe life is about holding on, it’s the reverse, letting go is where it’s at. I have to admit though this last bit feels nervous. It’s that feeling of being on the edge of change. But the over all feeling is so light and tinged with excitement that its worth it.
Whilst sifting though photo albums I found lovely pictures of my ex husband and some of the two of us pre kids. To be honest I knew those pictures were there but I hadn’t been able to look at them before now. I found a beautiful photo him when we were in India just before we got married. I found family photos, and a portrait of my mother and me as a little girl.
Its been physically exhausting (yoga and dog walks have had to be missed) and challenging my emotions. a literal tipping point of letting go. At the tip I saw two men picking over my life just dumped with a long stick, that felt sad.
When I got back the caretaker told me there is storage available on site! Theres a lesson.
l love a bit of spontaneity, so when a friend invited me at the last-minute on a trip to Swanage in Dorset I jumped at the chance for a weekend away by the sea-side enjoying great company and also this years sensational sunshine. It was a treat to get out of London and into to some fresh air and was I in for a surprise? I have never been to this part of England before so to soak up the sea front view after a long drive having dinner in a roof top restaurant with a very cool glass of wine was absolutly perfect. Then pinch me if you will but Swanage is packed with vintage shops, junk shops and some every good charity shops. Also plenty of artist selling ceramics along with regular shops selling very stylish home wears for less than what I would pay in London. Therefore most of Saturday was a lot of fun meeting shop keepers and artists.
Lunch of a crab sandwich and half a pint of pimms in near by Corfe Castle which we got to by old school steam train. A trip down memory lane albeit I was a very small child when the steam trains were replaced in my home city of Leeds. But there is such an air of romance about going back our childhood.
Armed with gifts and 1970’s ceramics and a host of new contacts for furniture and interior design ideas we grab a glass of cider and a pasty and continue to make friends in the pub. I felt like I had travelled a million miles away, it’s not so far to get to but the experience takes you back in time.
Shops that I loved
Meet my friend Amanda, a super cool woman and great friend to have.
Back in the 80’s when I was a fashion student at Jacob Kramer art college in Leeds Amanda was studying fine art at Leeds Poly. It was decades later when we actually met, when our kids were all at primary school together. The first time Amanda came to my home she saw a piece of her art work that I had bought years before. Kind of cosmic I think. Our kids were not in the same classes, we just met through other friends and here we are many years later happily walking our dogs and sharing our interest in creativity often over tapas in Tooting Market, London.
Like many working mum’s, getting the work life balance is not even a consideration when the kids are young. There really isn’t time to think about what you might do for yourself when you have to do so much for everyone else. But much to our surprise we slowly start to reemerge from under the pile of laundry and washing up, post exams and teen angst to observe that the little people have become bigger and better versions of themselves and can more or less get on without you doing it all for them.
I was thrilled when Amanda started to re-connect to her natural creativity and carve out time to work on her own art again. I know from my own experience that brushing the dust off our previous life is exhilarating but it can also be scary. No matter how successful we have been in the past, and with all that life experience that has brought us to this present moment, we will invariably feel vulnerable starting out again and putting ourselves on show.
I have seen Amanda go from creating small pieces and gift cards to bigger canvases full of colour and texture. Paintings that demand you stop and immerse yourself in the moment, taking time to experience the enjoyment of engaging with something original Something that someone has taken time to create.
In our world of instant fixes, works of art can be reproduced quickly and can be a colourful accessory to a room, picked up cheaply in the supermarket without much consideration to any aspect of where it has come from. For me original art is there to enhance my need to be connected to colour, texture, themes that excite me and to be motivated by. Original art holds the energy of the artist even if you never know who created the work you will have a visceral connection to it. The art work that catches our attention takes you on a journey, it evokes memories and cultivates desire.
To live with anything less than that would be foolish.
We might not be buying but we can enjoy, most artists that I know love to share the inspiration behind their work. I hope you enjoy Amanda’s, she can be found here.