Back again..

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Photo via Pinterest

It’s a quiet wintry afternoon; I watch the sky bleed as the sun starts to set, with hues of orange and pink flaring beyond the silhouetted stark, bare, tree branches. A few geese ruffle their feathers and squawk half heartedly, and Platon, who’s snuggled against me, raises his head to check whether or not he needs to bark at them; and deciding not to, lowers his chin to rest on my leg again. He searches my face, as his expressive eyebrows bop about inquisitively; and I ruffle his voluptuous jowls, before stroking his velvety ears reassuringly. He sighs and we settle back into companionable silence; apart from the muttering geese, at the end of the garden.

We moved here a week ago, to a tastefully converted barn, on a working farm. It’s a temporary home, a stop gap in-between selling a property in London, our summer home in Greece, and an unknown future. It’s a haven for recuperation, a little time out from the normal stresses of life following an emergency surgery and a shock to the system. It’s my treat to myself as I digest and process a life-changing experience, and a peaceful place to heal and rehabilitate.

At the start of the year, after struggling with niggling back issues, I unexpectedly underwent emergency spinal surgery. I had a herniated disc that was impinging on the nerve root for the whole lower body, called ‘Cauda Equina” as it resembles a horse’s tail. If you google ‘cauda equina syndrome’, you’ll see how dangerous and scary it is; all I knew was that the risks of my condition were immense (loss of lower body feeling & function), and that I had been naively ‘soldiering on’, (since my GP hadn’t been too alarmed at what I now know are classic ‘red flag’ symptoms), walking my dogs and lifting heavy cases. I am incredibly lucky that I didn’t do more damage. Eventually, I was fortunate that a well-informed osteopath sent me straight to A&E (Emergency room), and I was soon signing consent forms that acknowledged terrifying risks, before swiftly being whisked to theatre for intricate neurosurgery. It should be noted, that I have always had a fear of hospitals, and have been terrified of General anaesthesia, but the emotional roller coaster I rode in this instance elevated me to a surreal state, a strange mixture of denial and resignation, that fear was neatly sidelined to a manageable degree. An experience almost as if watching myself in this situation, disbelieving it was really happening, a bad dream I couldn’t wake up from; yet coupled with an acceptance that nothing I could do could change the course I was hurtling along. I guess at some point, I mentally handed over responsibility for my future mobility to my medical team and God, the Universe, a higher power; whatever you want to call it, the name is irrelevant, in times like this you find ‘something/someone’ to have internal conversations with.

I am incredibly blessed, my surgeons were skilled and my nurses compassionate, and after several successful operations I am able to walk unaided. I have some numbness and a little nerve damage, but these are small, manageable issues compared to the potential difficulties I could otherwise face. I have found an online community, a support group of CES patients, and am aware of how fortunate I am to be one of the lucky ones. I’m also aware of how brave so many people are, quietly battling such a debilitating, and often invisible condition, that spinal injuries present. I’ve come through the initial trauma, feeling extremely grateful, yet also suffered anxiety associated with the fragility and vulnerability. I think that previously being relatively fit and fiercely independent, I have found the contrasting lack of mobility and reliance on others, particularly frightening, and understanding the risks, worry that every twinge could be dreadfully damaging. However, I am having physiotherapy, and each day is a step forward, and I’m gaining strength and confidence with each one.

My best medicine has been my darling dogs, their caring cuddles and unwavering affection have been comforting and heart-warming. It’s very difficult to feel sorry for yourself when you feel such love and loyalty. They are also very motivating, I can’t wait to walk them, or even be able to drive them to the paddock to watch them run. I have however been very fortunate to have some wonderful help looking after them, and am very grateful for everyone who has taken care of them. It’s in times of crisis we really find out who our friends are, and I have been very blessed with lots of love and support too.

As I write, I hear footsteps on the gravel outside, and Platon’s ears prick up in anticipation, as KG, my friend and current carer, returns from a walk with Leo (my other dog). Once he is sure, Platon launches himself off my daybed, and stands expectantly at the door, his tail wagging forcefully, like a metronome; until he can contain himself no longer and jumps up, bracing himself with his paws on the door as he peeks out the window. This means that the peace
I needed to write is about to cease, since my boys, thrilled to be reunited after a whole heart-breaking hour, will play exuberantly and require my attention.

I just wanted to pop in here, and let you know what’s been happening, by way of introduction to my current situation, as suddenly I find myself with time, and lots of material for writing again. I feel as if I have missed chatting with old friends and have lots to catch up on; the arrival of Leo into our lives will be a chapter, as well as our journeying between London & Greece. There are stories to share about my injury and the beacons of light that shone in the darkest moments, the caring compassionate nurses, the bravery of fellow patients on my ward, and realisations about life’s unexpected twists and turns that may actually have been necessary in guiding us to where we are meant to be. Meanwhile, two young and lively dogs are calling me with their playful antics, so I hope you are all well and I’ll write again soon, I promise! Blessings & love, Hxx

{Photo ~Via pinterest, sadly uncredited, words ~by me, Hayley Darby ©2016}

The ebb & flow of love

Nikki, Montalivet, France

When you love someone you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is an impossibility. It is even a lie to pretend to. And yet this is exactly what most of us demand. We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships. We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb. We are afraid it will never return. We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity – in freedom. ~Leo Buscaglia

{Photo credit: Jock Sturges, Nikki, Montalivet, France}

Waiting for the storm..

waiting

Today I woke late (again), to find that moody grey clouds, which hung heavily over the port, had replaced the sunny blue skies of yesterday. The almost glassy still waters had morphed into choppy waves that caused the yachts to bob up and down, jostling for a safe mooring; indeed many local boats have been removed from the water completely. We are waiting for a storm, and the storms we get here are quite a spectacle, trust me! They are fierce, dramatic, exciting, beautiful, and oh so humbling; a real reminder of how impuissant our existence is on this planet when nature unleashes her energy to the sound of Zeus’ wrath. Or as my dear friend Hilda says of the thunder, “There goes Zeus moving the furniture around upstairs again!”

I wandered around the quay, finding Kostas in much better shape than yesterday, in fact he informs me that rather than ‘better’ he’s in fine form; quite a spectacular recovery! We sat on the deck watching the storm come in with our cappuccinos and shared traditional pastries from the local bakery. The change in weather means more work for the locals, as umbrellas and canopies are tied down, outdoor seating (which makes up the majority) is stripped of its upholstery, and anything that’s not nailed down is stowed away securely. The bars and cafes are also preparing to be busy, as we all cram in to the limited space when the rain starts, to sit out the storm in relative comfort with company. Meanwhile the visiting flotillas linger in the harbour, rather than risk the white-capped waves that wait beyond the lighthouse, as their crews sit on deck patiently waiting.

I spent the day visiting friends, lunching with the lovely Tselenti family at the big house on the hill, MT having cooked a feast for her mother and 4 brothers, who all tucked in heartily, between shifts managing their two hotels. I called in to see my oldest friend ‘Speridoula’ and my special friend Phoebus at the taverna with the best view across to the neighbouring island. When we met 14 years ago, Speri didn’t speak much English, and I certainly didn’t speak any Greek, but we quickly became firm friends based on some serious feet-stamping laughter and a twinkle in the eyes that made words completely unnecessary. Now we manage quite decent conversations, despite poor grammar and including much gesticulation, which is an amusing and beautiful testament to our friendship. Phoebus is one of the most determined and inspiring souls I know, he suffered a life changing moped accident years ago that left him severely disabled, unable to control his body including his speech and capacity to manage tasks we so often take for granted such as dressing, eating, or bathing unaided. He is such a brave, patient, courageous soul, and I adore him. Today we hugged and laughed, and I felt his strength emanate from his body, he improves each time I see him, slowly but doggedly determined to stand on his own two feet again.

The air is thick and heavy, but it’s still warm despite the breeze that tugs at the awnings and canopies; the dark sky has been threatening rain for hours and I have been holed up in a favourite patisserie with my laptop, in anticipation of the rain that slashes horizontally. Several cups of coffee and pots of tea later, the light is fading and just as I wonder whether the storm will pass by uneventfully, the distant rumble of thunder creeps into the chilled out music currently playing.

I am not a patient creature by nature, which doesn’t always work out best for me, but some things simply cannot be hurried, and life seems to teach that acceptance is key. Aristotle reminds us that ‘patience is bitter, but the fruit is sweet’. So as I wonder how soon I will sink my teeth into the soft flesh to release the juiciest pleasure, lightening fills the sky, flashing across the water; followed by much closer, quickly advancing thunder, and a dirty great grin creeps right across my happy face.. oh I DO love a storm!! The clouds have crept in, hanging heavy and low, almost obscuring our neighbouring island. The temperature has distinctly dropped a few degrees, but I am still comfortable in my shorts & vest, after all the less I wear, the less laundry will be necessary. Skin is certainly a fantastic design element of the human body; thermostat controlled and wipe dry, perfectly suited to dancing in the rain, maybe! In all probability we will lose internet connection soon, so I will post this and just let you know I’m barefoot and ready. “Bring it on Zeus, I’m in the mood for dancing, just throw the rain at me!” ☺ Hxx

{Photo sadly uncredited, via Pinterest; words ~Hayley Darby ©2013}

Press pause

mermaid am

Good morning everyone! Today I woke late, slowly struggling to shed the layers of sleep that clung like wet seaweed as I slipped back from the surface several times, before eventually breaking into consciousness. I lay for a while as the final vestiges of fatigue drained away, and found myself washed up on the shore of a peaceful day with the gentle rustle of the breeze through the leaves outside my window. I drew the blind, to find a cloudy sky with big holes for the blueness to pour through, and feeling an autumnal ‘nip in the air’, wrapped up in my robe in search of coffee.

I climbed back into bed with my latte, and noticed my thoughts drifting towards some projects on the horizon, feeling a little nostalgic for my mornings watching the ocean, as I sat on the beach steps with my coffee, admiring the surfers and adoring the dolphins playing amongst them. Meanwhile some online messages interrupted my thought process, and some discussion about business direction inspired some creative thinking and enthusiasm, so that I was soon wide awake and firing those inquisitive neurons again.

I have several areas I want to explore; yet there is hesitancy, an undecided direction, and reluctance to commit just yet to tying up my energy. And as I write I realise it’s because at this moment in time I am enjoying the stillness, the feeling of being exactly where I am meant to be in this instant, and that my life will continue to unfold accordingly, as I dwell in possibility.

Previous to my trip to California I was feeling frustrated and disappointed as I tried to swim upstream, and fought hard to make something work in an environment that actively sabotaged my efforts. It’s no surprise that since my departure several newly appointed nutritionists/dieticians have met the same resistance and left the company already. My carefree Californian summer gave me space to recover from my dismay, reconsider my goals, and ultimately the realization that I could ‘dream much bigger’ darling. Trust me, ‘big’ in this context is an understatement!

Sometimes the most constructive thing we can do; is to do nothing, to wait and see what will be revealed. When we take time out to listen to our hearts, and hear the melody of our souls singing, we are more open to finding the answers that really matter, to seeing our dreams and feeling them draw us, rather than searching for solutions that will allay our fears, albeit temporarily. My three months in California have given me a beautiful fresh perspective, not to mention a relaxed happy vibe with which to enjoy it, and for now I’m just loving each step as it unfolds in front of me.

I wonder if there is something you are struggling with that would benefit from taking a step back too? OK, maybe not three months, but perhaps 3 days, or 3 hours, or even 3 minutes will help you accomplish more by truly looking at the situation, rather than ploughing ahead determinedly without checking your direction. I hope that whatever you do, that you can take some time to quiet your mind and listen to your heart, and then have the courage to follow it. You never know, it might just send you to California, and if it does, I’ll meet you on the beach, watching the dolphins amongst the surfers, because I’m pretty sure my heart is sending me back there soon! Blessings & love, Hxx

{Photo sadly uncredited, via Pinterest; Words by Hayley Darby ©2013}

Heartbreak

heart break

Hearts break, that’s just what they do. Lungs breathe, livers detoxify, stomachs digest, brains think (from time to time), and hearts break, and ache, and bleed inside, they drive us insane with questions we can’t answer; oh yes, and they pump blood too! I think maybe our hearts break to teach us things that we’re too stubborn to take from the brain, whose teaching is logical, which our hearts aren’t at all. At least I like to think they break for a reason, that the pain we feel isn’t all for nothing, because wouldn’t that be an awful waste? I think my heart first broke to teach me humility, kindness and compassion, that relationships aren’t easy and shouldn’t be taken for granted, and that probably loving myself was a big part of the equation. Well I wish it was just the one, tough, terrible lesson; but it seems I had more to learn, because I somehow kept enrolling in that same class, and managed to flunk it again and again.

I believe our hearts are fragile for a reason, so that we know to handle with great care and respect, those of others that we are given. I suspect that hearts break to teach us resilience; so that we come to understand that once they’ve been busted and hurt and trodden in the dirt, that they will scrape themselves together eventually, dust themselves down, and hopefully be brave enough to risk it all again. Because the amazing thing about hearts is, that no matter how bruised and battle scarred they get, they have an amazing capacity to keep on working, and will love indefinitely if we let them.

I think hearts break to show us that no matter how bad it seems, that love is stronger than the worst we can imagine, and then we can truly appreciate what a wonderful gift we have been given. So please don’t hide your heart away, or protect it too tightly for fear of pain, because hearts are masters of recovery, and each time they show us a different reason for whatever they drag us through. Have a little faith, be brave, because yes, hearts break, but they keep on loving

{Photo sadly uncredited, via Pinterest}

Morning medicine

lue cup

Good morning everyone!! Today I woke slowly, from a series of dreams, invaded by a presence that swanned through my thoughts as nonchalantly as it wanders through the chambers of my heart; feeling I admit, half delighted at the sight, whilst half annoyed that it continues to permeate those layers of protection and sanity we all attempt to surround ourselves with. I lay in the mists that seemed several times about to lift yet descended again with sleepiness, despite the attempts of a cough to waken me, as I spluttered from the depths intermittently before drifting off again. I surveyed my internal terrain, noticing the soft spots of vulnerability, pretending to myself that I am perfectly fine, yet truthfully feeling a little less courageous, on a dark wintry morning waiting for spring to return.

The coughing eventually won, waking me to the realization I have a temperature, my body aches, and my head is pounding, illness is always so inconvenient isn’t it!? It seems I have a flu, which curtails my plans for a while, as I’m not one to martyr on and generously inflict my contagion. I believe that when the body communicates it’s struggling, that the best course of action is to listen and spend energy on healing quickly. This hasn’t always been the case, I have previously subscribed to soldiering on, dragging it out as I refused to make my health a priority. The truth is I’m not very good at being ill, in fact I’m absolutely rubbish, I’m not terribly brave and impatiently wish the time away, waiting to get better.

However, I remember a favourite lecturer from uni, a kind soul who told me once that being ill was something we should embrace, a time to stay in bed and read all day without feeling we should be doing something more constructive. He taught me that nothing is really so important it can’t wait for us to get better, and it’s an opportunity to gain perspective and assess our priorities. So I’m remembering his words of wisdom today, and taking time out rest, sleep, and be kind to my body; not minding the grey skies beyond the windows as it’s cosy inside, and refusing to feel guilty for all the things I ‘should’ be doing. I hope that you’re not sick today too, but if you do happen to be feeling under the weather, please be patient with yourself, as your body is busy repairing. ❤ Blessings & love, Hxx

{Photo sadly uncredited, via pinterest}

Affirmation

peaceful feet

If I choose to dwell in gratitude that focuses on peace in my heart, harmony in my relationships, health in my body, abundance in my life, and love in my soul; then I won’t let any fear, doubt or anxiety distract me from the business of being happy and thankful for my blessings. ❤

{Photo sadly uncredited, via Pinterest. Words ~Hayley Darby (2013)}

2013 Please be awesome : ))

013 awesome

2013 Please be awesome : ))

Happy New Year everyone! I hope that it will be a wonderful year, that it will be filled with love and laughter, that you will chase your dreams and have the courage to dream bigger ones. I hope that you will have much happiness and find moments of joy, and peace amongst the quiet ones; that you will always find hope in your heart, and that from time to time it will burst with gratitude for the life you are living. I wish you the strength to overcome the challenges you will face, and the wisdom to forgive yourself the mistakes we will all doubtless make. I hope that you will dare greatly, love deeply, adventure bravely, kiss sincerely and laugh insanely. I hope it will be a year of kindness and compassion for everyone, because really life is too short and too precious not to make room in our hearts for the stuff that really matters. I do hope that we will all make 2013 awesome for everyone, for all the right reasons! ♥ Blessings & stacks of love from me : )) Hxx

Good morning!

cable knit

Happy Saturday Everyone! This morning I woke late, falling abruptly into consciousness as I became aware immediately of a familiar pain that grips my left shoulder blade. I tried to doze, twisting and turning looking for a comfortable position in a pile of pillows that fill my bed; but to no avail so I got up in search of coffee, and ibuprofen. A glorious sunny start was waiting to greet me, with endless blue skies stretching to eternity, and pools of light spilling through the windows, gleaming with hope as they sprawled across the sofa and slipped onto the floor. I sat with my latte and let my feet bask in the warm sunny patch as I smiled at my thoughts that wander through landscapes I’ve travelled often before. Whilst I toured through familiar territory, I noticed from a new perspective, aspects of myself previously ignored. Sometimes it seems we focus so much on the things around us, we don’t always notice the changes within us, which are those subtle shifts in our beliefs and understanding. And yet some things persist, beyond our control and endless fathoming, things we’d dismiss if our heads ruled our hearts, mine doesn’t, clearly!

My shoulder is tightly held in a spasm that radiates upwards into my neck, restricting movement, and seizing painfully each moment I forget. Accumulated tension expressed in a protective hold that prevents me from moving on several levels, an old wound resurfacing that serves as a reminder of what I’ve survived before. I’m aware of the emotional element that inflicts this injury, and experience has taught me that it’s just a moment in time, a temporary reminder to caution me. So I’m clinging onto wisdom borne out of experience as my silver-lining this morning, that and dwelling in possibility as the day unfolds. Besides, it’s such a beautiful day, a gorgeous gift of crisp, fresh, winter; and a cheerful reminder of the spring that will follow. Life is never static, gradually evolving, waiting for us to notice it after all!

I have a weekend of parties, festive celebrations with friends and family, and I’m still fighting off a cold, so I’m making time today to take it easy, snuggling on the sofa, listening to my heart, and being patient with my body. I hope that you find some relaxation time over the weekend, and support yourself through the festive season. Much love & blessings, Hxx