On an island floating away from the continent

 © Jenn Shallvey

© Jenn Shallvey

A mentor recently invited me to reflect on and meditate on where I belong. This activity is beyond relevant for me at the moment. I have of recent pulled away from effectively every group except my immediate family. But even in that my family has pulled away through growing up and maturing into adulthood making it seem like we are farther apart.

About six months ago, probably earlier in reality, I started to feel like I was on an island drifting away from the continent. I wrote about this in my journal a lot. Spoke about it with some I trusted.  What it looked like was me breaking off from the familiar, the known the origin and formation of me. I was in unchartered territory. Being on an island I was also self sufficient and able to hold my own. I was very clearly NOT just me swimming and flailing in the water. No this was a conscious choice of exploration to find me, to find the essence of me and where I belonged.  

Why an island? From the island I can look back at the continent. It is distant enough to be objective and free of emotion. I can measure and review my experiences on the continent in this safe place.  Then I look further and see who else is with me. No one at first. They do not even realise that I am on the island. this is the truth of life. When you hide many do not even see that you are hiding. In our society of ‘being busy’ all the time we often are so caught up in our own lives that we don’t notice the non events. Someone slipping away into the background is effectively a non event. It is not one shared on social media or posted about. It is the antithesis of this public showing and disclosure.

Retreating to the island is not the same as going into a cave. I also like that analogy. In fact a dear friend of mine and I can speak of this actual analogy as code for taking time out and need to be by our selves.  It is a no judgement way of saying I need a break but will be back so don’t forget me but don’t bother me.  Often there is this experience in my life of going in the cave consciously and unconsciously. It is like the mystics of old. You are hidden, womblike, in the earth. You feel nurtured and supported. There are no distractions. Just you, the ground and the walls of the cave. You are also hidden. Hidden completely from the rest of the world. No one else can see you or even find you. Interestingly in real life when someone is lost they are often told to find or create a cave to stay safe and warm. So symbolically the cave can also be life saving in times of transition, uncertainty or not knowing. It is the place of holding.

So taking these two metaphors I feel it is also an important point to note which place am I in. Having been in the cave so many times prior in my life that this island feels very different. For one I am in plain sight. I am just surrounded by the vastness of the ocean. For me the ocean is a symbol and metaphor of possibilities - of direction, connection and so much more. I am alone but not hidden. Just at a distance. A self insulating distance.

Staying on the island is fine for a time but not sustaining. At some point I know there are aspects of life that only come from being connected with others. It is this knowing that also reminds me that my island experience is temporary not permanent. I am not self banished or retreating into hermitage.

So what do I do from this new vantage point. Much and not much. The interesting aspect of this ‘floating away’ journey is that it happens without me doing anything. I simply made a choice, or I should say a series of choices, and then pushed away. As I drift and let myself be taken away then I notice what I pushed away. It is only as I get farther away that I can look at everything with fresh eyes and a new take. It is only after a period of time as well that my emotions are processed, released and let go that I can come to a place of contentment and knowing.

It is in this place where I sit now. I sit content, alone but knowing I am still connected. I am enlivened by the freedom of choice, the freedom of choosing to be me. It is a new feeling only in that I am more committed that ever. Compared to my past cave retreats I now feel empowered rather than reactive. In the past I know that I retreated to the cave to heal, lick my wounds, hide from the hurt. Whether it was a failure in my business, a loss of a friendship or relationship challenge or a passing of a family member, the other times were genuinely cathartic rites of passage of life. Some were my responsibility and some were simply what happened in my life.

The other aspect of my cave versus island experience is this feeling of wonder, curiosity, excitement and deep knowing. I trust in the process. I somehow, somewhere feel deep inside of me that all is ok. This sounds so counter intuitive but in fact that is what it is - intuitive. This is the guiding part of me that is holding the space.

Another aspect is a feeling of coming into alignment. I am aligned with me more and more these days. Not because I am perfect. No. I am aligned out of a genuine self acceptance of where I am at - warts and all. So as I am on this island for all to see but by myself I can not hide from the truth. The truth is in my face. Where I am at is where I am at. I see the successes and failures as defined by traditional terms. And then I see all in my life differently. When I take away the judgement and only see ‘what is’ then I accept the learning and the journey not failing. There is a lot of opportunity to weep and moan over what could have been. There also is equal measure of invitation to celebrate the advancement.  The choice is mine.

Some days I chose to wallow in the what could have been. Oh how fun! Yes it is like choosing on purpose to go see a movie that you know is going to be a tear jerker. I rock up to my day, box of tissues in hand and let loose. I journal or rant to myself. Why didn’t I do it this way? Why did I not take action there? Oh it’s all my fault! They must think I am crap or an idiot. The list goes on. In this spiral of self demeaning destructive tear down it is all a spiral to your lowest common denominator. Yes wallowing. For in this I can be indulgent. I am letting the part of me that is victim have a voice.

Yet over the years I have learned that I am NOT the victim. Whilst in the past I perceived the victim and I as one in the same now I see the victim simply as a part of my experience. If I do not acknowledge and listen to the victim in me then the victim gets louder. So now we are in relationship. Though instead of being a Victim with a capital ‘V’, it is just the victim aspect of me.

When I identified as the Victim I could never get out of the wallowing. I wallowed for days, weeks, months even years. I can go back in time and recall entire periods of my life where the Victim was in charge.  It required naming this persona and working with it for me to shift it. That was the first step and the biggest step.  How I did this will be revealed in other ways. For now let’s just say it has been a lot of work, a lot of time and whole lotta self love!

So for now I am sharing a snippet of the journey. Not the whole truth but enough of a glimpse for others to maybe recognise the same in their life.  Maybe it’s an age thing? No. I don’t think so. I feel more it is a byproduct of a lifetime journey of learning and personal growth.  I am now coming into me, or actually remembering the whole of me.